Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Houdini's magic theater

On February 3, 1918, the New York Tribune reported that Houdini was planning to open a "Magic Theatre" in the city. The theater would feature magic performances from different eras, and also house items from Houdini's collection, including automata. While not named, the article twice refers to it as a "Temple of Mystery." Here is the article from the Tribune spelling out Houdini's ambitious plans.

Click to enlarge.

Houdini's magic theater never materialized, but the idea did not go entirely unrealized. In 1935, Hardeen opened "Houdini's Temple of Mystery" in Atlantic City, which may have been modeled on Houdini original magic theater plans. Unfortunately, Houdini's Temple of Mystery only latest a few short years.


You can read more about the Houdini-Hardeen Temple of Mystery at Dean Carnegie's Magic Detective.

12 comments:

  1. Many people over the years wanted to open a ongoing magic show spot in New York City. As I recall Howard Thurston, Harry Houdini, Doug Henning, David Copperfield, etc. I am proud to say Dorothy Dietrich and myself, Dick Brookz, were the first ones to do so with The Magic Towne House 1026 Third Avenue, North of 60th Street, New York City that ran for 15 years. It was originally the brainstorm of Ed Davis who shortly turned it over to us. Some of the people we helped start and gave their early or first shows included Jeff McBride, Johnny Ace Palmer, Eric DeCamps, David Regal, Meir Yedid, Robert Baxt, Michael Chaut, Devlin, Imam, Jeff Justice, Peter Kougasian, Landis & Company, Levent, Charlie Mount, Otto and George, Joe Monte, Joe Raven, Rocco Silano, . Established pros who performed there included Harry Blackstone, Jr., Bobby Baxter, Jack London, Slydini, Frank Garcia, Milbourne Christopher, Daryl, Fantasio, Walter B. Gibson, Wesley James, Presto Earl Johnson, Lou Lancaster, Bill McQueen, Max Mavin (Phil Goldstein), Ben Robinson, James Randi, Richard Robinson, David Roth, George Schindler, etc. The list is endless. Two other magic showspots opened later that were offshoots of ours, Imam, who we started, would after several years break away and form his own competing club downtown in Greenwich Village, Mostly Magic, and after we closed in NYC, Monday Night Magic run by Michael Chaut along with Peter Samelson, Frank Brents,Todd Robbins and Jamie Ian Swiss that is still successful today. We helped start Peter Samelson who brought along Jamie, and gave Michael Chaut his very first magic shows.

    I also searched and pulled sinister bizarre performance artist Brother Theodore, whose career had waned, out of retirement in the late 1970's to do several seasons of special midnight performances, and helped to bring him back to prominence. This resulted in a resurgence of interest in Brother Theodore that brought Brother Theodore success in his later years. The show was a big hit and continued for several years. This led to Theodore appearing on The Tom Snyder Tomorrow Show, The David Letterman Show, and a long series of TV and movie appearances. An ad for Theodore at the Magic Towne House ad that appeared in local New York newspapers such as the Village Voice and The New York Post can be found at http://www.shockcinemamagazine.com/brother.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the link to my article!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Experienced theater people talked Houdini out of this project because the time wasn't right with the First World War raging. It was envisioned to be something out of Disneyland--before Disneyland existed: Seats that moved and automata that talked, and recorded voices coming out of nowhere. Harry was ahead of his time by about 37 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Leo. Good stuff. I don't recall these details. Is this in the Kalush book?

      Delete
  4. No, it's in the Silverman book near the bottom of page 228. The things Houdini wanted to create in the Temple of Mystery is all Disney. Silverman doesn't mention that but it's clear Houdini was thinking along those lines (no pun here) of a Disney ride with audio animatronics, moving seats and all kinds of special effects.

    This could have been the ancestor, a crude early version of what we now consider theme parks like Disney and Universal Studios. The technology obviously wasn't there yet in 1918 but Houdini was getting there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good old Silverman. Thanks. I didn't remember this.

      Delete
  5. I always amazes us what a visionary Houdini was!

    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz
    The Houdini Museum
    Scranton, PA
    The Only Building in the World Devoted Totally to Houdini

    ReplyDelete
  6. Absolutely D & D! Houdini was indeed a visionary and a bold one at that. But then, boldness is part and parcel of being a visionary. It's the visionaries that defy inertia and take things to the next level whether it's aviation or magic or...

    ReplyDelete
  7. We try in many ways to use him as a role model.

    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz
    The Houdini Museum
    Scranton, PA
    The Only Building in the World Devoted Totally to Houdini

    ReplyDelete
  8. I couldn't have picked a better role model at the age of 12:

    1. Honored his parents.
    2. Was charitable to the poor.
    3. A non smoker and drinker.
    4. Loved magic and escapes.
    5. Stressed the importance of good physical conditioning. The best P.E. teacher I ever had.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You're welcome John. It appears many of us looked up to HH as a role model. I preferred him to the professional athletes so many of my schoolmates revered.

    ReplyDelete

Translate

Receive updates via email