Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The saga of Ponzi Gwynne

Kevin Connolly Collection
Joe Notaro has uncovered the story of Ponzi Gwynne, a bantam rooster that worked with both Houdini and Hardeen. I've never heard this story before. The photo to the left shows Hardeen and Ponzi, who was billed as "the only talking rooster in the world."

Here are links to all three installments at Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence:

Houdini and Ponzi Gwynne Part 1
Houdini and Ponzi Gwynne Part 2
Houdini and Ponzi Gwynne Part 3

Houdini appears to have enjoyed working with chickens. In the book The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini, author Bruce MacNab uncovered the existence of "Banjo", a trained chicken Houdini used in his earliest days named by his mother.

Related:

12 comments:

  1. The entire "Houdini and Ponzi Gwynne" story appeared long ago in the 1965-6 Ireland Year Book. The yearbooks were published by Magic, Inc. (Jay & Frances Marshall).

    Bess gave Jack the bird vanish. Gwynne gave the prop to Ken Diamond, a Chicagoland protege of his. From Ken it went to Marshall Brodien (of TV Magic fame). Marshall had the box for many years. I saw at his house many times and had the pleasure of handling it myself. It is a crudely built box. Workers like Gwynne built their props to look good from afar, but often upon closer examination they are pretty rough. They were built to last.

    A few years ago Marshall sold the prop to Norm Nielsen. Norm then sold it to Roger Dreyer of Fantasma. Today the prop sits in his New York Houdini Museum.

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    1. Maybe The Ireland Year Book is where Joe got this from? He prints excerpts from something printed. Never heard this story myself.

      Didn't know the bird vanish is in Roger's museum. That's great. Thanks, Chuck.

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    2. I won the 4 page item on eBay. Complete images of all four pages of the tan colored brochure were listed on eBay with the comment that it was Circa 1950s/60s.
      There is also mention of the chicken Ponzi Gwynne in the The Untold story (page 219) and the Three in One Show (The Key, Page 397).
      And Chuck is correct that it did appear in The Year Book Reader by Laurie Lowell Ireland.

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  2. Thanks Chuck! How's that for a great postscript to this story?

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    1. My thanks as well to Chuck for completing the story on the bird vanish prop.

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  3. No. Thank you. I love all these "nuggets" of Houdini/Magic information. Keep 'em coming!

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  4. I just found a photo of the prop. http://www.houdinisattic.com/images/bird%20cage.jpg

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    1. Cool. Thanks. But this isn't the Ponzi vanish, is it? My understanding is this was just a "favorite" bird vanish Bess gave Jack Gwynne as thanks.

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    2. Yes. This is the bird vanish, not Ponzi.

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  5. I recounted the story of Houdini, Gwynne and Ponzi in my book, "Jack Gwynne" back in 1985. I also describe the details and working of Gwynne's Vanishing Chicken box. Like Chuck, I got to handle the Houdini "Bird Vanish" box when I visited Ken Diamond in Chicago in 1980 while doing research for the book. To me, the box appeared to be more of a birdcage production, rather than a vanish. I later saw it at Norm Nielsen's home. Glad to hear it is now on display.

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  6. John,

    Please give me a photo credit when you can. Thanks.

    http://houdinihimself.com/?p=2713

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    1. Ah, shoot, I didn't know this was your photo, Kevin. I just had it sitting in a Hardeen folder (instead of my Kevin Connolly folder). Will credit with link. Sorry.

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