Monday, May 22, 2017

How Houdini didn't vanish an elephant

As a follow up to my post about the German Houdini booklet and Modern Mechanic' bogus explanation of Walking Through A Brick Wall, I thought I'd share that magazine's equally incorrect explanation of Houdini's vanishing elephant. This appeared in the December 1929 issue as the conclusion of a three part series by the mysterious "R.D. Adams."


Unlike Walking Through A Brick Wall, we actually don't know for certain how Houdini vanished his elephant. But we know it wasn't as shown above. In fact, even the presentation is incorrect here. Houdini vanished his elephant from a large cabinet, not from behind a screen. The best theories of how Houdini may have accomplished this feat appear in Jim Steinmeyer's brilliant Hiding The Elephant and Patrick Culliton's essential Houdini The Key.

Curiously, even though "R.D. Adams" offered explanations that today appear to be false, both Leonard Hicks and Houdini's close friend Joseph Rinn claimed Adams' did indeed reveal the correct methods.

Related:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Master Mystery Episode One lantern slide

An original glass slide for Houdini's The Master Mystery Episode One sold at Heritage Auctions last weekend for $1,015.75 (including buyer's premium). A terrific image that I've not seen before.


During the days of silent cinema, glass "lantern slides" were used to announce coming attractions and advertise products while film reels were being changed on the projector. For more on the history of lantern slides, check out the excellent Silent Cinema Society.

Related:

LINK: When Harry Met Teddy: How Houdini Fooled a President

While there's nothing new here for the seasoned Houdiniologist (hey, word invented!), this is still a well-done article by Sean Braswell about how Houdini fooled President Theodore Roosevelt aboard the SS Imperator in June 1914.


Click the headline to have a read at OZY.com.

Related:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hardeen appeared on television in 1945

Reader Bill Carter recently sent in a discovery that I'm excited to share today. On Thursday, January 25, 1945, Hardeen made a television appearance on station WCBW. I don't believe this has ever been mentioned anywhere before. Below is a review from the January 27 issue of The Billboard.


Bill points out that WCBW was a local New York area broadcaster. In early 1945 there was not yet a CBS Television network. WCBW later became WCBS-TV.

This was only five months before Hardeen's death on June 12, 1945. One wonders where this stands as far as a first appearance by a magician on television?

As with Houdini's radio broadcasts, this was probably too early in the history of the medium for us to have any hope that a recording was made. The criticism of Hardeen's speaking voice is interesting. I'm not sure what the reviewer, Marty Schrader, didn't like about it, but you can hear Hardeen's voice for yourself in this 1939 radio broadcast.

Vaudeville, Broadway, radio, film, and now television. Dash did it all!

Thanks Bill.

Related:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Houdini in Heavy Metal #286

Houdini is featured in the new issue of Heavy Metal magazine (#286). Below is one of three variant covers of this "Magick Special" along wth a preview of "The 1,000 Deaths of Harry Houdini" by Neil Kleid, Michael Avon Oeming, and Taki Soma.

Since mankind's earliest days and stories told around campfires with the darkness of night encroaching on the light, the stories we tell one another have been tinged with magic. From mighty warlocks commanding the forces of nature to gentle fables of urban fantasy, magic is all around us, and in this issue, Grant Morrison and the writers and artists he select explore the magic that touches our souls and fills our nightmares.

You can buy Heavy Metal at the official website or in stores.

Related:

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LINK: An expose on the King of Card act of Harry Houdini

The great Dean Carnegie has a must read post about Houdini's card work on his blog The Magic Detective. Anything the sheds light on Houdini's magic is always welcome, and Dean has uncovered some terrific info from a wealth of sources.

"It's very clear by viewing existing video of Houdini presenting card flourishes that the man had skills! There are some moves he was known to do that seem impossible today, this to me is thrilling!"

Click the headline to have a read at Dean's site. While there, you also might take a look at his report on the recent Obscura Day Houdini event in Washington DC: HOUDINI Takes DC 2017.

Related:

'The Book of Houdini' combines the books of Houdini

Three works by Houdini have been collected and published as The Book of Houdini by Nevetz Azraz. I normally don't buy (or cover) public domain reprints, but I do like how Nevetz has put effort into creating a book with a unique title and cover, so this one might make it to my shelf. Here's the description.

The Book of Houdini contains three publications, all focusing on magic, and the great work of Harry Houdini. The first volume was authored in 1922 and is titled Houdini, The Adventurous Life of a Versatile Artist, and is a glance at just that. The second installment was written in 1908 by Houdini, who penned a work on The Unmasking of Robert Houdin, a study of Robert Houdin's alleged magical abilities. Book III, written in 1920, and the final volume in The Book of Houdini, is called Miracle Mongers and Their Methods, where Harry again analyzes and exposes the tricks behind magic, while sharing the secrets behind some of his own.

You can purchase The Book of Houdini at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

Related:

Monday, May 15, 2017

Look what's inside David Blaine's magic lair

The New York Post has an article about David Blaine's "magic lair" in New York City where he creates his illusions and is currently preparing his upcoming tour (begins May 30 in San Diego). The article also contains the following photo and a paragraph that will be of interest to Houdini buffs.

Fifteen years ago, he bought his Chinatown den, the walls of which are covered with vintage posters featuring his favorite magicians, including one that pictures Harry Houdini and that Blaine purchased for an undisclosed, record-setting price. Hidden out of sight are treasures such as Houdini’s handwritten and unpublished show notes.

I expect the poster they are referring to is the Water Torture Cell poster directly behind David and his team. That poster sold in a Potter & Potter auction in February for a record breaking $114,000. So now we know who got it! As for those "unpublished Houdini show notes"...interesting.

David Blaine is a self-acknowledged Houdini fan. He credits seeing the straitjacketed Houdini on a book cover as the thing that sparked his interest in magic -- "the beautiful struggle."

You can read the full article online at The New York Post.

Related:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bess Houdini: "If I Had A Son"

Here's one for Mother's Day from the collection of David Charvet. Enjoy.

Click to enlarge.

Thanks David. Happy Mother's Day to all the "Mamas" out there.

Related:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Houdini pinball machine brochure

Here's a brochure for American Pinball's new "Houdini Master of Mystery" pinball machine. Nice artwork. The company unveiled the game at the Texas Pinball Festival on March 24. Click images to enlarge.


You can learn more about "Houdini Master of Mystery" at the American Pinball website and Facebook page.

Related:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

ARTE Houdini documentary now on YouTube


The Houdini documentary produced in 2014 by ifage filmproduktion is now available to view on YouTube. This is the version that aired on the Franco-German TV network ARTE and is dubbed into French.

Directed by Jens Monath, the documentary contains several well-made reenactments with various actors playing Houdini and Bess at different ages. The documentary also features escapes by Jan Rouven (with a textbook straitjacket fail), and interviews with Bill Kalush and magician Murray SawChuck.

Below is the YouTube embed. I'm not sure if this is licensed, so you might want to watch now before it disappears.



Thanks to Tom Interval for the find.

Related:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Houdini's other elephants

Chuck Romano at My Magic Uncle has uncovered an interesting account of Houdini's 1922 performance at the Time Square Theater in New York. Houdini appeared in conjunction with his movie The Man From Beyond, and for the occasion he revived his vanishing elephant illusion. It's been said Houdini used a smaller elephant for this venue, but according to this clipping, Houdini actually used two!

Of his two elephants, only Lucy came on for her act. Fanny was captivated by the bright lights of Broadway and refused to enter the Times Square Theatre. Meanwhile, Lucy suffered from an attack of temperament and liberal rations of gum drops were necessary before she could be induced to do her act."

I love that we get the names here, Fanny and Lucy. Also, Fanny refusing to enter the theater recalls this post from last year: "A story that never has been told."

Check out the full article at My Magic Uncle where Chuck also has several other interesting Houdini related posts.

UPDATE: In The Sphinx [Vol 21 No. 3 May 15 1922] Clinton Burgess reported:

"…This is the same illusion Houdini presented with such success at the New York Hippodrome and is startler of the first water. While the cabinet of enclosure used to house or temporarily imprison the elephant prior to its mysterious disappearance is roomy enough inside to accommodate a large elephant, is was only rarely that the large one in readiness for the effect would enter the theatre owing to its extreme timidity over the glare of the footlights. On this occasion it was necessary to use another but somewhat smaller elephant, loaned to Houdini through the courtesy of John Ringling. This elephant is named ‘Baby’, while the larger one is called ‘Fannie Ringling.’ "

Thanks to Joe Notaro.

Related:

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mysteries at the Museum reveals "the real ghostbusters"

Houdini is once again the subject of a new segment on Mysteries at the Museum. This time the show pays a visit to the Houdini Museum of New York where owner Roger Dreyer tells the tale behind the museum's recently acquired set of Houdini's spiritualism lecture slides.


The episode again features Jonathan Shade as Houdini in reenactments that dramatize his crusade against fraudulent mediums, his partnership with his "spook spy" Rose Mackenberg, and his 1926 testimony before Congress. Seeming to play to the current mood, the show lays blame for Houdini's failure to pass the anti-fortune telling legislation on Washington's secret involvement with mediums, even suggesting that spiritualistic influence had reached the White House.

The episode is Season 14, Episode 13 ("The Girl Who Fell to Earth, the Real Ghostbusters and Eclipsed by Columbus"). It's currently in repeats on the Travel Channel with the next airing on May 11 at 7pm/6c. It's also available to stream at Amazon Video.

This marks Houdini's 7th appearance on the show. Other episodes have looked at the Mirror HandcuffsMargery, Arthur Conan DoyleHoudini's bust, Eleanor Fletcher Bishop and Dai Vernon.

Related:

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Escapology exhibition in East Kilbride, Scotland

A special exhibition devoted to escapology is now on show at the East Kilbride Arts Centre in East Kilbride, Scotland. The exhibition is presented by escape artist Andy Robertson and includes artifacts related to Houdini and escapists such as David De-Val. It also includes the famous "Glasgow photo" of Houdini and his Water Torture Cell.

The exhibition runs through May 28 and admission is free. Below are images from Friday's opening.



The East Kilbride Arts Centre is located at  51 - 53 Old Coach Road, East Kilbride G74 4DU. For more visit the official website.

Thanks to Andy Robertson for the photos.

Related:

Saturday, May 6, 2017

William H. "Bill" McIlhany (1951-2017)

A sad loss to report. William H. McIlhany has passed away at age 66. Bill was a major magic collector who specialized in historic magic film. In 1994, he became the Film and Video Archivist for the Magic Castle.

Bill's great contribution to the Houdini world was the release of The Master Mystery on two VHS cassettes in 1998. This was the first time the Houdini serial had ever been made available to the public. Likewise, Bill arranged for the release of Terror Island on VHS in 1996, paired with the only surviving fragment of Howard Thurston's own 1920 film, Twisted Souls. He also released the 1970 BBC documentary The Truth About Houdini.

In recent years Bill worked with Todd Karr to release various DVD collections of rare magic footage, including Vintage Magic Films, which includes Houdini's card manipulation footage and rare film of Bess.

I've long heard that Bill owned a near complete version of Houdini's 1909 film, Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris. However, the last time I spoke with him (at the time of my Hollywood Heritage lecture), he was in declining health and wasn't sure where it was among his vast collection.

Bill lived in Los Angeles with his wife, Bobbie O'Toole McIlhany, who survives him.

Bill's The Master Mystery and Terror Island on VHS.

Thanks to Kevin Connolly and Phil Schwartz of Thayer Magic.

Related:

Houdini Takes D.C. TODAY

Just a reminder that a special Houdini event is taking place from 4-6pm today in Washington D.C. as part of Obscura Day 2017. "Houdini Takes D.C." features a lecture by Houdini collector Ken Trombly and a performance by Dean Carnegie.

Join us at Tivoli's Astounding Magic Supply Co., nestled inside the historic Tivoli Theater, where we will delve into the collection of Ken Trombly, attorney, magic enthusiast, and Houdini collector. In an interactive presentation, Trombly will illuminate Houdini's rise, legendary performances, crusade against spiritualism, death, and the rumors of his return from the great beyond.

In the second act, enjoy cherry pie (a Houdini favorite) as escapologist and historian Dean Carnegie recreates Houdini's stunts: liberating himself from ropes and handcuffs (an authentic pair of Houdini-owned cuffs will be on display), among other devices. For his greatest trick, he'll ask a volunteer or two from the crowd to participate... if you dare...

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the Obscura Day 2017 event website (sale ends in 5 hours).

UPDATE: Dean Carnegie now has a report on the day at his blog: HOUDINI Takes DC 2017.

Related posts:

Meet ROUGH RIDERS creator Adam Glass

Adam Glass, creator of the ROUGH RIDERS graphic novel series, will be appearing from 11am-12pm at Hi De Ho Comics in Santa Monica, CA, as part of Free Comic Book Day today. Adam will then be at Things From Another World at Universal Studios Citywalk from 1-3pm.


ROUGH RIDERS teams Houdini with Teddy Roosevelt, Annie Oakley, Jack Johnson and Thomas Edison. The first series was a hit for publisher Aftershock Comics. A second series, Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm is currently running with Houdini set to grace the cover of issue #4 in June.

Related:

Friday, May 5, 2017

"Houdini's old haunt" going up for auction May 19


The New York Post reports that the former Ridgefield, Connecticut home of Houdini's brother Dr. Leopold Weiss is going up for auction on May 19. The 10-bedroom home is known as Sunset Hall and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was recently on the market with an asking price of $4.75 million.

It's debatable how often "Houdini used to chill" (as The Post puts it) at this property. He and his brother Leopold had a famous falling out in 1917. Leo eventually left this house as his fortune and health declined. He ended his days in an apartmet in Inwood.

You can check out more photos of this house at www.6sqft.com. Happy bidding!

UPDATE: Historic Ridgefield estate sold one day before auction.

Related:

Thursday, May 4, 2017

German Houdini booklet and the brick wall exposure

Arthur Moses recently uncovered this 20 page German "Harry Houdini" biographical booklet from 2014. It runs 20 pages and is #8 in "Personlichkeiten" series. According Arthur, the booklet is nicely done with many photos and illustrations.

One curious thing the booklet contains is an illustrated "exposure" of Houdini's Walking Through A Brick Wall on page 18. The explanation is pretty far out. It includes mechanical hands and Houdini disguised as a brick layer to sneak around the structure.

This actually first appeared in the November 1929 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions in an article that professed to be an exposé of Houdini secrets by his "mechanic" R.D. Adams. I've never heard of R.D. Adams, and many of the explanations were wildly inaccurate, including the brick wall. This is all the more amusing because the real secret of Houdini's Walking Through A Brick Wall is one of his most widely known and published.


This booklet can be purchased as part of a bundle with The Houdini Code DVD at the website www.magiccenterharri.de.

Thanks Arthur.

Related:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Houdini 'Timeless' episode repeats Monday, May 8

The episode the NBC series Timeless that features Houdini ("The World's Columbian Exposition") will repeat this Monday, May 8 at 10/9c. The episode is set during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Michael Drayer (below) plays the young Houdini.


Timeless is about a team of time travelers who protect the present in the past. It's currently pending renewal by NBC (#RenewTimeless).

Related:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Terror Island screening TONIGHT in St. Charles, IL

I'm sorry this is such late notice, but Houdini's 1920 feature Terror Island will screen at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles, Illinois tonight at 7:30pm as part of their Silent Film Series. The film will include live musical accompaniment by Jay Warren on the Arcada's historic 1927 pipe organ.


The Arcada Theatre is located at 105 E. Main St., St. Charles, IL 60174. For more information visit their website.

Thanks to William Pack for the alert.

Related:

Houdini & Doyle one year anniversary rewatch party

It was a year ago today that the U.S. premiere of Houdini & Doyle aired on FOX. I had the great pleasure of Live Tweeting the premiere alongside star Michael Weston at Fox Studios (where I also stopped in at the 278 of the West). The series ran for 10 episodes, each of which I reviewed and fact checked HERE.

Even though the series was not renewed for a second season, it still has an active fanbase via the HouDoyle fansite and the Houdini & Doyle Fan Group on Facebook. Now those fans are celebrating the one year anniversary with a "Houdini & Doyle rewatch party", starting this week with episode one, The Maggie's Redress.

You can join the fun on Facebook and HouDoyle. All episodes of season one can be streamed via Amazon Video.



Related:

Monday, May 1, 2017

Neil McNally launches The Doug Henning Project

Our good friend Neil McNally, who in the past has provided us with several excellent Guest Blog posts, has now launched his own blog devoted to the great Doug Henning. Neil has been working at this for some time and has amassed a fantastic amount of information and exclusive interviews. I'm very excited about this, not just because I know Neil will do great work, but I think a blog celebrating Doug Henning is long overdue. In many ways, Henning was as significant a force in magic as Houdini was in his own day.

So click the link below to begin your wonder-filled adventure at...



Related:

Piper Houdini book 2 now available in print editions

Glenn Herdling's second Piper Houdini adventure, Piper Houdini: Nightmare on Esopus Island, is now available in hardcover and paperback. (It was released last year as an eBook.) The books tell the adventures of a fictional Houdini niece.

After running away from Houdini and his wife, saving wild animals from a raging inferno, and a breathtaking showdown with a vampire named Flapper, Piper settles in with the performers of the Coney Island freak show only to discover that she may be the greatest freak of all.

As the summer of 1926 heats up, Piper continues the quest for her dark legacy. Along the way, she will encounter a variety of real-life luminaries from the 1920s, including the erudite author H. P. Lovecraft, the occultist Aleister Crowley, and a Rudolph Valentino zombie. Piper will need to use all the valuable skills she learns from her new friends to confront the lunatic who has been murdering sideshow performers.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to the tale begun in Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island, author Glenn Herdling takes readers from the rousing backdrop of the legendary Brooklyn amusement pier to a mysterious island on the Hudson River, where a sinister rite takes place that could enslave the human race--unless Piper and her unusual friends can stop it.

Purchase Piper Houdini: Nightmare on Esopus Island at Amazon.

Related:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dave Koenig makes the case for Houdini's Ghost

Dave Koenig aka Professor Slim King was interviewed on the Shadow Nation podcast today. Dave takes the controversial position that Houdini really did return from the grave in the Arthur Ford seances of 1929. I'm a skeptic, but I like Dave, so have a listen and maybe you will...believe.


You can check out more at Dave's Facebook page Houdini's Ghost. Below are some links related to the Arthur Ford seances.

Related:

Second 'Houdini Pizza' opens in New Jersey

A new Houdini Pizza Laboratory has opened in Fanwood, New Jersey. This is the second "Houdini" pizzeria. The first opened in 2013 not far from Houdini's grave in Ridgewood, Queens.

The new Houdini Pizza Laboratory comes to Fanwood though a partnership between Max Bartoli and Joe Mortarulo. Like the original, it features a wood-burning brick oven that produces traditional thin crust pizza.

Houdini Pizza Laboratory is located at 25 South Avenue, Fanwood, NJ 07023. For more visit the official website or Facebook page.

Thanks to Joe Posnanski for this delicious discovery.

Related:

Saturday, April 29, 2017

LINK: I had a heart attack, but Houdini saved my life

Here's an article well worth reading at David Kaye's SillyMagic.com. This will appear in the August 2017 issue of Genii.

This is not a story about my heart attack. It is a story about your heart attack . . . and Houdini.

You may also want to check out this post from 2015 that seems to shed new light on Houdini's reluctance to seek medical attention for his own fatal illness: Did a contract clause kill Houdini?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Houdini, Penn's mom, and a "nut" in England

In a recent episode of the podcast Penn's Sunday School, magician Penn Jillette told a story about how his mother one day mentioned that she saw Houdini when she was 9 years old. At this point Penn has been involved in magic for some 30 years, so he was a little surprised that his mother had never thought to mention this before! So he decided to "be a smart ass and fact check my mom."

Penn contacted Ken Silverman, author of Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss--which Penn called "a serious Houdini biography" (and I certainly agree)--to see if Houdini ever performed in Turner Falls, Massachusetts as his mother claimed. Silverman referred him to someone whom Penn affectionately described as a "nut in England" who was attempting to document every day of Houdini's life. Penn does not reveal the name of this "nut," but I suspect it was the late Frank Koval, who in 1993-94 produced the phenomenal six volume The Illustrated Houdini Research Diary (which I use constantly and, being a "nut" myself, have been updating for years).

The upshot of the story is that Koval (if he was the "nut") was able to confirm that Houdini did indeed perform in Turner Falls around the time Penn's mother was 9 years old. As far as Penn's mother not telling him, co-host Michael Goudeau quipped, "This raises the question. Who does you mother truly not give a shit about; Houdini or you?"

Of course, Penn tells the story much better and much funnier that I just did here, so I'd recommend giving episode 282, "First Liar Doesn't Stand A Chance," a listen.

Below are all six volumes of Frank Koval's The Illustrated Houdini Research Diary.


Related:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

'Harry Houdini - Nº 17' gets a 2017 refresh

Harry Houdini - Nº 17 is a 64-page French Canadian Houdini biography/comic by Johanne Ménard and Denis Poulin. It was first released in 2014 as Connais-tu Harry Houdini (Do You Know Harry Houdini?).

This refreshed edition from publisher Michel Quintin was released on February 27 of this year. It can be purchased at the Canadian Amazon.ca.

Related:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Close Encounters of the Houdini Kind

Today sees the release of a new piece of Houdini fiction with the premise that the Handcuff King was a space alien! A Small Medium At Large by Stephanie Osborn is the second book in her "Division One" series. Description below:

What if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was right all along, and Harry Houdini really DID do his illusions, not through sleight of hand, but via noncorporeal means? More, what if he could do this because...he wasn't human?

Ari Ho'd'ni, Glu'g'ik son of the Special Steward of the Royal House of Va'du'sha'ā, better known to modern humans as an alien Gray from the ninth planet of Zeta Reticuli A, fled his homeworld with the rest of his family during a time of impending global civil war. With them, they brought a unique device which, in its absence, ultimately caused the failure of the uprisings and the collapse of the imperial regime. Consequently Va'du'sha'ā has been at peace for more than a century. What is the F'al, and why has a rebel faction sent a special agent to Earth to retrieve it?

It falls to the premier team in the Pan-Galactic Law Enforcement and Immigration Administration, Division One -- the Alpha One team, known to their friends as Agents Echo and Omega -- to find out...or die trying.

A Small Medium At Large can be purchased at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

Below are links to a few other Houdini science fiction excursions.

Related:

Monday, April 24, 2017

High Schoolers bringing Houdini and Doyle to life


High Schoolers in Maryville, Tennessee will perform an original play that combines the story of Houdini and Conan Doyle with a Sherlock Holmes adventure. The Game is Afoot will be presented at River Oaks Community Church in Maryville on May 5 and 6.

The play by written by Blount Home Education Association drama instructor Kate Clabough, who was inspired to write the play by last year's television series, Houdini & Doyle.

"In my play, Doyle sees Houdini do this performance, and he disappears at the end and reappears," Clabough said. "Doyle comes up on the stage and he tells them, 'This is awesome. Bravo! You have inspired me, and I am going to go home to write a new Sherlock Holmes story.' So Doyle and his wife and Houdini and his wife meet for tea, and Doyle tells them, 'I’m going to write the story of The Case of the Disappearing Brides.' So it’s a story within a story."

The cast for The Game is Afoot includes 37 high school students, ages 14-18. Each cast member has a speaking part.

Clabough encourages everyone to attend and support the talented young thespians in the group. Admission is free and the play is appropriate for all ages.

What: The Game is Afoot presented by the BHEA Players
When: 7 p.m. Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6
Where: River Oaks Community Church, 1220 Brown School Road, Maryville

Thanks to the Daily Times.

Related:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Houdini's free show for Buffalo's newsies


Houdini's good relations with the press went from top to bottom, including that staple of turn-of-the-century city streets; "newsies." On Saturday, October 24, 1925, Houdini gave free show for the newsboys of Buffalo, New York. He explained:

"Having been a newsboy in Milwaukee and living among them in New York, if affords me great pleasure to give the newsboys of Buffalo a show and at the same time impress them that loyalty will put them at the top of the ladder of success regardless of what professiona they may choose as their life's work."

The show was held at the Shubert-Teck Theater where Houdini was playing the first season of his 3 Shows In One. The Buffalo Evening News gave a remarkable account of the show that provides what might be the best description of Houdini's stage magic, right down to some of his patter. In fact, it's so good, I thought it worth reproducing in full below. How many tricks can you identify by name?

The Teck theater was filled to capacity Saturday morning when the curtain went up for a special two hour entertainment which Harry Houdini, world famous mystifier, psychic Investigator and wizard of escape, is giving for the of boys who carry the Evening News.

Admission was by ticket only, distributed to the youngsters Thursday through district agents of the News. Long before the scheduled opening of the theater doors at 8:30 o'clock, Main street in front of the theater was packed with the carriers, all eagerly awaiting one of the biggest treats of their lives.

Houdini's program was prepared especially for the newsboys. More than 28 feats of baffling magic were performed in addition to the manipulation of ordinary playing cards and sleight-of-hand in the tying and untying of knots in scarfs and streamers of silk, satin and other materials.

His opening feat was to transfer back and forth eight French coins from an ordinary water glass to a crystal cabinet suspended in midair. The glass stood on a table in full view of the audience. The boys thought it was great and applauded enthusiastically.

Then Houdini caused a lighted lamp with a flimsy shade to vanish from one table, and re-appear, still lighted, on another stand on the opposite side of the stage. He caused a large stand of artificial flowers to be transferred from a solid pot of pewter to a crystal bowl of water. From Pandora's box he brought forth a live rabbit, which he told the boys laid all the Easter eggs, then he made the bunny disappear before their eyes.

A live rooster, which crowed lustily, was produced from an apparently empty tin pan and then made to disappear from a solid wooden cabinet. Large bowls filled with water in which goldfish swam, were produced and whisked away. Pigeons fluttered from a picture frame on which only tissue paper was fixed. He changed a colored handkerchief from one water decanter to another. He did all manner of sleight-of-hand tricks with knots in kerchiefs, scarfs, etc.

One of his tricks was designed only this week for the special entertainment. He called it Noah's ark and caused figures to shift from one cylinder to another without being seen and without touching them. Then, from the ark which a moment before had been empty, a live pigeon appeared. From a huge, solid funnel, he made a pretty young girl disappear. In her place a huge bush of flowers appeared. He showed them Dr. Linn's [sic] trick, which he said was 78 years old. It was the apparent dismemberment of a human form in full view of the audience.

Houdini next cut a long strand of cheese cloth and burned the ends. But when the youngsters who assisted him in the trick pulled the cheese cloth straight again there was no sign of a cut or of the burning. He changed a big wooden dice from a hat to a box and back again and then caused it to vanish. He tied two thongs about his neck—so tightly he appeared to be choking—but when youngsters pulled opposite ends, the bands slipped from his throat.

One of the most popular of his tricks was performed with an ordinary appearing oven pan He showed it empty, covered it a fraction of a second with its own solid metal top, removed the top and it was filled with a peck of candy kisses, which he tossed into the auditorium to his guests. He made a pretty girl appear in a radio cabinet, where only a moment before there were nothing but wires and coils and tubes.

For a finale, he drew from a small crystal bowl of colored water hundreds of yards of silken streamers and lastly a string of flags of all nations—enough that when folded and packed tightly would fill and ordinary wardrobe trunk.

Notice there is no mention of the vanishing elephant, so this helps debunk earlier reports that Houdini was featuring this famous effect at the Shubert-Teck. And even though the article has a terrific photo of Houdini being bound by the newsboys (above), it sounds like this was a magic only show.

Thanks to Gary Hunt of Magic Footnotes for sharing this find.

Related:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Become immersed in Houdini


A Houdini-themed combination of escape room and immersive theatre is playing at The Silos at Sawyer Yards in Houston, Texas. The Man From Beyond is a 90 minute experience created by Strange Bird Immersive. It opened in January as Houston's first permanent immersive theatre installation.

Madame Daphne cordially invites you to a private séance to contact the spirit of Harry Houdini. But all is not what it seems, and when the ghost appears, things take a dramatic turn. Unravel mysteries a century in the making, and you could find yourselves doing more than escaping a room.

Visit the Strange Bird Immersive website for more details and to book tickets.

Below are links to more Houdini-themed escape rooms and immersive attractions.

UPDATE: I just received this very kind comment from Co-Artistic Director James Cameron Cooper on Facebook:

"We found Wild About Harry to be invaluable in building The Man From Beyond. Thanks to John Cox for the notice and for keeping Houdini alive."

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Handcuff King and The Tramp

An original photo of Houdini and Charlie Chaplin sold on eBay this week for $550. The photo shows the two men in Los Angeles in 1915 when Houdini was making a Vaudeville tour of the U.S. A great image of two entertainment giants of the time.


On page 117 of Doug Henning's Houdini His Legend and His Magic you can see a photo taken at this same time that includes Bess.

Congrats to the winner.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Unknown 6-sheet Master Mystery poster surfaces

Exciting news. David Haversat of David Haversat Magic has uncovered a hitherto unknown 6-sheet poster for Houdini's silent serial The Master Mystery. Details below.

David Haversat has recently located an unknown image of Houdini's Master Mystery! The lithograph is also special as it's the only six-sheet lithograph of the Master Mystery series known to be in existence. 
The Mastery Mystery was produced in [1918] with Harry Houdini starring in all 15 episodes. 
The pressbook for the series boasts an extensive list of Otis lithographs; one, three, six and twenty-four sheet posters. The image discovered by Haversat is labeled as Episode 14, yet it's totally different art from the one-sheet lithograph from the same episode. In fact the image depicted on this six-sheet is actually a scene from Episode 15, the final production of the series. 
This poster was the only magic related item among a number of antiquities including other silent film posters found in Canada. The poster's survival may be due to the fact someone had taken the time to mount the lithograph many decades ago. It will now be scheduled for modern day conservation.


In 2013 David uncovered a rare German one-sheet for Houdini's Water Torture Cell. In 2015 he uncovered an "American's Sensation" poster in California.

Congrats to David on another amazing find!

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Did Houdini revive the vanishing elephant in 1925?

Our good friend David Charvet sends over an intriguing newspaper clipping from the Buffalo Evening News, October 21, 1925, about Houdini's engagement at the Shubert-Teck Theater in Buffalo, NY. This was during Houdini's first tour with his 3 Shows In One and the article covers familiar territory, until this remarkable paragraph:

One of the biggest mysteries of "vanishing" which Houdini offers in his performance at the Shubert-Teck is the disappearance of a mammoth elephant from the stage. Another is his East Indian Needle trick.

The vanishing elephant!? This is the first time I've ever heard of Houdini performing this outside of New York City and beyond the years 1918 and 1922. It's also the first I've heard of it being associated with his full evening show. It seems remarkable that Houdini would be able to take something this large on the road. But the Shubert-Teck was an unsually large venue which could accommodate the illusion. So did Houdini really perform the vanishing elephant here in 1925?


According to Koval (The Houdini Research Diary, Part 6: 1921 to 1926], Houdini performed at the Shubert-Teck on October 19-24. During this week Houdini gave a special performance for the city newsboys. He also performed at the School for Crippled Children on East Ferry Street.

The Shubert-Teck was converted to a movie theater in 1945 and became a Cinerama theater in the 1950s. It was abandoned in the 1960s and finally demolished in the late 1980s. You can read about the theater history HERE.

Thanks David.

UPDATE: Gary Hunt (Magic Footnotes) has uncovered a review of the free performance Houdini gave for the newsboys on October 24. The article spells out in detail many of the magic effects Houdini performed, and there is no mention of the vanishing elephant. (The article also includes a terrific photo of Houdini with the newsboys which I will feature in an upcoming post.)

It's now seems likely that the mention of the vanishing elephant came from pre-show publicity -- listing Houdini's past feats -- and that the Buffalo News reporter misunderstood and thought the effect would be performed at the Shubert-Teck. So unless we find a first hand account of the vanishing elephant in 1925, I think we should leave Houdini history as written.

Thanks Gary.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Russian Witch of Lime Street

According to the website WorldCat, this is a Russian edition of David Jahre's 2015 book about Houdini and Margery, The Witch of Lime Street. But I'm not entirely convinced. I don't find Houdini anywhere in the book's Russian description, and who's that supposed to be on the cover? A Russian Houdini?

Still, the title does translate to Witch of Lime Street and the book description does include "Tainstvennaia Mardzheri Krendon" (the mysterious Margery Crandon), so this has something to do with our gal.

You can buy this on Amazon.com.

Thanks to Arthur Moses (who else) for the find.

UPDATE: Arthur Moses, who now has a copy in hand, has confirmed that this is indeed the David Jahre book.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

'Death & Harry Houdini' returns to Miami

The acclaimed play Death & Harry Houdini will return to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, April 26 through May 21.

Written and Directed by Nathan Allen Magic by Dennis Watkins Reappearing by popular demand following a sold-out run in 2012! Bold, visually stunning and highly entertaining, Death and Harry Houdini delivers a roller coaster ride through the life of the legendary Harry Houdini! Death and Harry Houdini is reappearing on stage with The House Theatre of Chicago, the great Chicago company that presented The Magnificents! House Company Member and award-winning magician Dennis Watkins performs Houdini’s original magic including Houdini's most renowned and dangerous escape - the dreaded Water Torture Cell! This dark and tumultuous story is guaranteed to keep audiences on the edge of their seats!

For more information and to purchase tickets visit the Arsht Center website.

Thanks to Stacey Zimmerman.

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