Monday, August 1, 2016

Site of Houdini's last publicity stunt

The Worcester Telegram has posted a short article about how on September 30, 1926 Houdini remained sealed in a glass-topped air-tight coffin while up on display at Summerfield's Furniture store in Worcester, MA. This was Houdini's third air-tight container test, and the only one done for the public. This was also likely Houdini's last publicity stunt.

While the Telegram article has less information about this stunt than what I posted here back in 2011, it does have a nice photo of the store from that time.


Read: Then & Now: Do you know where this is?

As revealed in the Telegram's follow-up story HERE, the building, known as the Thule Building, still stands at 184 Main St. in Worcester.

16 comments:

  1. I was the one who saw that Houdinis fingers appeared to be tied together in that photo of him in his coffin liner. I was adamant at that time that this proved this was a dead Houdini. I am now rethinking that idea. Look at the photo of Houdini in his coffin liner. You will see what looks like a reflection which includes a very straight "pole". It also looks to me that you can also make out in the reflection people standing about. Now if you look at that photo of Summerfields you do not see, or so it seems, a telephone pole or light pole that aligns itself with one of the Windows. BUT......look at the third set of Windows where someone is standing. See that reflection in that window of a very straight pole like object. I think this is the window in which Houdini performed this stunt. You are seeing that line in the glass as well as the reflection of people gathering about watching. Although it's an interesting premise that this is a dead Houdini there is no way they would display a dead man especially a famous dead man in this manner.

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  2. Actually thinking about this further the coffin liner was probably propped up to the right of that window against that large pillar. This would put the casket right in line with that pole hence the reflection of it via the glass top. So what you are seeing in that photo is probably a live Houdini performing his last outdoor stunt. The reflection of that pole and what looks like people standing about that pole is what you see when you look at the top section of glass. The person with the bow tie is standing to one side of the casket in the recess to the left of the pillar it is propped up against.

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  3. Thanks Anon. Great observations! I also keep swinging back and forth on that photo. If only we could get another photo from the Summerfield's test and see what HH is wearing.

    For those who don't know what photo we are talking about, click "Houdini death photo keeps us guessing" in the related links above.

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  4. There is no circumstance where Houdinis dead body would be put on display. This has to be Houdini performing his Worchester stunt in from of Summerfields.

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  5. How about a Houdini fan living near Worchester visiting the city library to view the newspaper archives? Look the day of any several days after the stunt took place. Can't imagine photos were not taken and published in local newspapers.

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    1. Mark Russell, who first uncovered the Summerfield's test, did just that. He found newspaper accounts that publicized the stunt, but none that recorded it.

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  6. It's pretty sad that by 1926 A stunt performed by Houdini did not command a newspaper report of the event!

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    1. But the Shelton test just a month before garnered nationwide news coverage, so...

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  7. It makes sense that the casket photo could be the Worcester stunt, but why would his fingers be tied together? What would be the reason for that?

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    1. It is possible that the interlocking fingers and position of hands etc. was just to relax and help to minimise movement, to conserve the oxygen within the casket.

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  8. We must be mistaken that his fingers are tied together. Logically no one is going to display Houdinis dead body. In my wildest imagination I cannot think of a reason the family would allow it. I am sure Houdini was a complete mess after so many days so ill and two major operations. I would think he would be practically unrecognizable. It appears to me his casket is purposefully being displayed at an angle which is what we would expect at Summerfields. A dead Houdinis casket would have been enclosed as he was as he arrived into NY.

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  9. I'm amazed that building is still there. Architectural history is a bonus feature on this blog. You can see that the structures on the right side were eventually torn down to make a parking lot. That red SUV in front of the building is in the exact same spot as the Model T.

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  10. Including the Shelton practice tests, Houdini did several of these taxing oxygen depravation stunts in the course of just two months. I wonder if this kind of strain on the system could have had anything to do with creating appendicitis?

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  11. Those punches to his body probably pushed fecal matter into his appendix which initiated an infection. Inflamed appendix led to a ruptured appendix days later. I would doubt laying in a box very still at times with limited oxygen would cause much physical trauma aside from exhaustion.

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  12. I spent the last few hours scouring newspaper archives for the days surrounding this event. Not one word of it ever occurring. Why would it be completely ignored?

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    1. It was a local stunt. I doubt it would be have been reported outside of Worcester. Maybe the one reporter who would have covered it overslept. :)

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