Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Houdini's hands

Here's a rare close-up look at Houdini's hands. This incredible unpublished image comes from the collection of Mario Carrandi, Jr. Mario shared this on his Facebook group, THE MAGIQUARIAN, and generously allowed me to share here as well. The photo is from the 1920s.

Click to enlarge.

I don't believe I've ever seen a better shot of Houdini's hands, certainly not with a palm up. You can also see what appear to be long scars running down and across his inner arm. Souvenirs of years of damaging handcuff escapes maybe?

Speaking of Houdini's hands, in 1900 a Kansas City newspaper reported that Houdini had his "hand examined" by a local palm-reader named Professor Paul Alexander Johnston (reproduced in Houdini His Legend and His Magic). The article featured an image of "Houdini's palm", and the professor was reported to have prophesied:

"Unless you are exceedingly careful during your thirty-seventh year a violent death is written in this Line of Life," said the palmist. "Your money making period began, I should judge, last year. Provided you save, you will attain great wealth."

For the record, Houdini turned 37 in 1911, a year notable for no close calls. I guess Houdini must have been "exceedingly careful"!

Thank you Mario. 

Related:

23 comments:

  1. Wow, great photo! It also looks like scarring on the left side of the palm, just under his thumb. Almost looks like burn scars. But probably just years of metal rubbing against his skin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it does look a little funky there. Possibly scarring.

      Delete
  2. Could the scar have anything to do with the wrist fracture he suffered during the filming of the Master Mystery?

    Didn't he break it again while filming the Grim Game? HH was photographed with his arm in a sling while standing in a group that included his stunt double Kennedy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, that's a good point. And it was the left wrist. He broke it during The Master Mystery. It wasn't properly set and needed to be rebroken and reset. Then he broke it again during The Grim Game. He never regained full strength.

      Delete
  3. Okay--so it was the left wrist. I haven't checked the photo in Christopher's Pictorial Life to see which arm was in the sling. That long scar looks like it was cut by a scalpel.

    This is an amazing photo. I never would have suspected a close-up shot of HH's hands and wrists existed. HH really put his body through the wringer throughout his life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can see the cast in a pic I shared here:
      http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2013/08/seeing-double-on-grim-game-set.html

      That scar does look like a scalpel cut. But I don't think they cut you open to set a broken wrist. Although who knows what they got up to back then.

      Delete
  4. Hhhmmm. This got me to thinking. With HH's interest in Hollywood, makeup, etc., could HH have used a fake--or even real--scar to hide, say, a lock pick? He would often escape from jail cells nude or close to nude. I'm sure he was examined prior to it, including his mouth. That's a pretty long scar, which would likely result in a lot of blood loss and need for urgent stitching. Thus, one would think we would have heard about how he obtained it by now if a real long cut occurred. Just thinking out of the box.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting notion. Scar tissue can be utilized in sideshows acts. Isn't that how you put a needle through your cheek? And that's something HH was known to do.

      Delete
  5. The idea that Houdini would walk around with fake scars on his arms when he is posing for photos does not seem very credible to me. Maybe going into a jail escape but even then I doubt it as makeup technology was not so advanced to pass a close up visual examination. His jail escapes where he was strip searched are a puzzle as I am very skeptical that these were in any way faked.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Houdini was no longer doing challenge jail escapes by the 1920s. That's a real scar we're seeing. The doctor may have had to install a small metal pin in HH's wrist to stabilize it. It would explain the scar.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Again, a pick could be hidden in a real scar. I wonder if the scar shows up in earlier or other photos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At one point in his life Houdini was shot in the hand with a revolver and the bullet never removed which could account for one of the scars.

      Delete
  8. Apparently HH was shot in the hand--not the wrist. I'm convinced this scar came from the repeated wrist injuries he suffered as a movie star.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm actually a little skeptical of the bullet in the hand thing. The story feels like Houdini fiction. And recall Houdini had Leo's x-ray machine at 278 and would "play around" with it. He could have easily cooked up that x-ray which shows the bullet. But it's a fun story.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Does anyone have any other pics showing HH's arm? Again, a scar like that would have resulted in a lot of blood loss, if accidental. That's a long and deep scar. I would think we would have heard how it happened. If he was hiding a pick in it, maybe this accounts for the lack of photos and why we have not heard about how it happened? HHmmm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think hiding a pick in a scar is a little improbable. Let's not run wild with this idea.

      I've seen another pic taken at this same time and this scar, if that's what it really is, isn't visible. Could it just be his tendon?

      Delete
  11. That looks like a surgical scar to me. You can see the cross lines, which indicate stitching. Is that just shadow on his left wrist or discoloration of the skin? Hard to tell.

    ReplyDelete
  12. How did you confirm the date?
    How do you know it is Houdini?
    When I look at what little we can see of his clothing
    I would guess early 1900s.
    If you own a copy of The Wizard Exposed, it has many close
    up shots of his hands and arms.
    Jon Oliver

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is another photo of him taken at this same time (he's holding a watch). In that pic you can see it's HH and that he's older. I'm guessing 1920s based on his hair. But even without, I'd know those knuckles anywhere. :)

      Are you talking about The Wizard Exposed the magazine article? I actually have a whole post on that ready to go. Arthur Moses sent me nice clear images of the original pages. Yes, you do see his hands, but nothing quite this close or with this detail. I'll get that up this weekend.

      Delete
    2. Here we go: http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2016/09/exposing-wizard-exposed.html

      Delete
  13. All right everybody. Take out your magnifying glasses and see if you can spot a scar on HH's left wrist in this photo:

    http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2012/02/new-photo-of-houdini-and-his-water.html

    ReplyDelete
  14. Obviously it's possible he had scars because of particularly grueling challenges earlier in his career like Hodgson, but I'm not convinced there's any scar tissue visible at all in that picture. Some of it looks like vascularity, and some like simple striations in the skin. As for hiding picks in fake scar tissue, anything is possible, but it's highly unlikely considering other methods he almost certainly used while doing nude demonstrations.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Tom--click on the photo to get a larger image. That's not a vein running down his wrist, it's a straight line scar. He had to have surgery on that wrist a few times from injuries.

    ReplyDelete

Translate

Receive updates via email