Thursday, February 4, 2016

Inside Houdini's 278 today (update)

Actor Alec Mathieson, who is currently touring as part of the ensemble of Ragtime, is a Houdini buff and fellow 278 obsessive who discovered these these incredible images of the inside of Houdini's New York home from an old real estate listing. I'm guessing this is from 2012 when the top floor unit became available. These are the best shots of the inside of 278 I've even seen. And while the original brownstone's interior had been substantially remodeled, you can still see some moldings and features that must have been there in Houdini's day. Enjoy.

Thank you Alec!

UPDATE: Ryan Whelan, a former resident of this unit, has posted to his Facebook page what it was like living in Houdini's house:

"I lived here for a while. Had some wild times, and some down right creepy ones. But if you can imagine furniture in this place, its just the same as in the photos. The sunroom was his office and the living room was his library. My room was his, and his wife had a seperate one which was my roommates. The bathroom was super different. The rest of the house was amazing. Three floors, I lived on the top. The second was used for maid quarters and the first floor was for parties and a giant kitchen at one point. Fun looking at these. I never took one picture when I lived there."

Thank you Ryan!



  1. Brilliant. You can just imagine HH in these rooms.

  2. Breathtaking! Photos 3 and 4 seem to be back rooms facing the rear of 278. The first two photos seem to be the main floor room. The fireplace is the big clue. The last bottom photo looks like a top floor corner room.

    A big thank you to Alec for these. It's the first time I've had a tour of 278. The inside décor may have been altered, but undoubtedly Harry, Bess, et al. had the same views of that white apartment building across the street that we can see in the photos.

  3. I wonder if the 4th picture with the wall of wood was Houdini's 3rd floor office?

  4. I believe what we're looking at is only one part of one floor of the original house. If this is the unit that became available in 2012, then it's Apt 3 on the top floor. Houdini's office (or what might be better described as an office cubby) was at the top of the stairway and might have been in the back of house -- his window would be looking out into the backyard. But I'm not certain of that.

  5. I can imagine Mamma walking around 278, prepping the latkes, folding sheets and clothes, and tidying up the place while looking out these windows.

    BTW--the rear windows have bars on them. I guess that over time, as the neighborhood got rougher, 278 needed some beefing up.

  6. Wow, thanks for posting these, John! It's exciting to get other people's input. I hope one day we'll have access to more of the house, but for now we're one step closer to uncovering it's secrets!

  7. Thank you Ryan! That was some great info! I wonder, what was the creepy part about living in 278?

    So the top wood paneled room we see was HH's office?

    1. I'm not entirely convinced that was Houdini's office, only because you can see in photos that the top floor sundeck/balcony was still open in Houdini's day. But maybe Houdini enclosed it himself at some point and moved his office in there?

  8. I've been studying the front outdoor photos of 278. There's a sundeck/balcony on the second floor of the house that's still open to this day. I don't see one for the top floor.

    Also, in the photo of that wood paneled room, I think we're seeing the reflection of the front windows on that side window. There can't possibly be another room next to it or a balcony.

    1. Check out THIS POST for a good comparison shot of 278 in Houdini's day and now. Check out the top floor.

  9. Oh dear, you're right. I forgot about that post. The front part of the top floor was indeed open in the early days. As you wondered, HH might have closed it at some point and turned it into an office.

    Who was that peeking out the window? The ghost that would eventually spook Ryan Whelan?



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