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."

Related:

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.

Related:

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!

Related:

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.

Related:

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.

Related:

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.

Related:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Houdini and Doyle among 'Stories To Tell' at the Ransom Center

The story of Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is part of the current Stories To Tell exhibition at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin. Among the items on display is this spirit photograph of Houdini with Jim Collins and friends (right).

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, fiction’s most rational protagonist, was an ardent proponent of spiritualism, the belief that departed spirits communicate with the living through a medium. Harry Houdini, the world’s most convincing illusionist, was not. Learn about the story of how Houdini confronted Doyle and sought to debunk spiritualism in our current Stories to Tell exhibition. On view through July 16.

For more information visit The Harry Ransom Center website, Facebook and Twitter. Next year the Center will have a special exhibition devoted to Vaudeville that will showcase more items from their extensive Houdini collection.

Related:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Houdini's great radio debate


I'm always excited to run across evidence of a specific Houdini radio broadcast because I continue to hold out hope that one day a recording of one of these will surface. And wouldn't it be nice if it was this one?

On Wednesday, July 22, 1925, Houdini engaged in a panel discussion and debate on station WOR. Below The Brooklyn Daily Eagle spells out the particulars.


While broadcast from New Jersey, in 1924 WOR established a studio in Manhattan specifically so stars based in New York would have better access to the station. It's likely this was the studio Houdini visited on this day. As you can see from schedule itself, "Houdini, interviewed by scholars" was broadcast at 10:05 PM and lasted 30 minutes. 

Click to enlarge.

WOR is still around today (home to the Mets and the likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh). I'm not sure if they made recordings back in 1925; but if they did, you'd think the Houdini broadcast would have been something to save. Any WOR radio archivists out there what to find this recording and make history?

Below are links to more Houdini radio activity, including a transcript from my own collection of a radio address he gave on WTIC in Hartford, CT on December 3, 1925.

Related:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Unused Houdini miniseries poster art

At the risk of bringing on traumatic memories, here are some unused posters that I recently stumbled across for the 2014 Houdini miniseries starring Adrien Brody. These were created Progressive Productions in Hungary. You'll notice that each promote the series as airing in "Spring 2014." It ultimately aired at the end of summer.


Progressive also produced the concept poster below. This one did find its way into use online (I first shared it HERE), but it was never an "official" poster. You can see it carries the wrong air date as well. Below is a photo of Brody doing the photo shoot for this poster with Creative Directors Michael Scalere & Steph Sebbag.



Progressive was also responsible for the final poster as well as several character stills. To see all their work on Houdini visit their official website.

In other Houdini news, noted English actor Tim Pigott-Smith, who played Houdini's (entirely fictional) spymaster "M", passed away last week at age 70. You can read his obituary at TV.BT.

Related:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Killer first selection for the American Museum of Magic Book Club

The American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan kicks off their new season this month. Along with a host of Spring activities, the museum has launched a book club with the first selection being Don Bell's The Man Who Killed Houdini.

This groundbreaking 2004 study investigates the life and mysteries behind J. Gordon Whitehead, that McGill University student who punched Houdini in his Montreal dressing room on October 22, 1926.

The American Museum of Magic is located at 107 E Michigan Ave, Marshall, MI. Many Houdini artifacts are on permanent display, including a Houdini-Hardeen Milk Can and Houdini's original overboard box. You can keep with the latest via their official website and Facebook page.

The Man Who Killed Houdini can be purchased on Amazon.com. Click the image above for details on how to join the American Museum of Magic book club.

Related:

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Bessie's brooch pins down $72,000 at auction


An emerald and ruby encrusted "Royal Crown Brooch" that once belonged to Bess Houdini sold today at Potter & Potter's Spring Magic Auction for $72,000 (including buyer's premium). It beat the auction estimate of $30,000 - $40,000.

Legend states that Bess received the brooch from the Czar of Russia during Houdini's one and only tour of the country in 1903. But it's more likely she received if from Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich in Moscow as the Houdinis never performed before the Czar himself. There are several photos of Bess wearing the brooch, including this color photo.

Bess gave the brooch to Geraldine Larsen, wife of William Larsen, Sr., in the 1940s. The brooch remained in the Larsen family -- it was worn by Arlene Larsen, wife of Milt Larsen, at Magic Castle events -- until today. The identity of the buyer is unknown (at least to me).

This latest Potter auction contained many other Houdini rarities. A historically significant photo of Houdini, Bess and Mama in Europe in 1901 (which I blogged about here) took $2,280. Three pages of rhyming verse written by Houdini sold for $12,000. A "Is Houdini Beaten?" broadside found a buyer at $4,320. A "scathing letter" from Houdini to the editor of Scientific American regarding the Margery case brought in $9,000. (All quoted prices include the 20% buyer's premium.)

Potter & Potter's next magic-themed auction will be The Grossman/Nicholson Collection II on June 10th, 2017.

Related:

Friday, April 7, 2017

September 29, 1911: "Saw Houdini"

A diary from 1911 that belonged to an Alice M. Ellison of Boston sold this week on eBay for $11.50. What makes this interesting to us is that on September 29th Alice noted that she "saw Houdini" at Keith's Theater in Boston.


As you can see from the auction photo above, it's just a one line reference, but it's still exciting. The person who wrote those words had in her head a fresh first-hand memory of Houdini. It's also worth pointing out that was an historic week for Houdini in Boston. It was during this same engagement that he accepted the famous "sea monster" challenge on September 26.

According to Houdini His Life Story [page 229], on the day Alice saw Houdini he accepted a wet sheets challenge. "He permitted hospital attendants to bind him on a cot with sheets and bandages until he looked like a mummy, and then pour a dozen buckets of water over the cloths."

Alice also records that it was raining that day. Between the rain, sea monster and wet sheets, this was one soggy week for Houdini.

Related:

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Houdini's handcuffs come out of their case

In honor of Houdini's (adopted) birthday today, The Houdini Museum of New York at Fantasma Magic allowed visitors to try on a pair of authentic Houdini's handcuffs. Our great friend Colleen Bak made the trip from Queens and got to wear the holy shackles (Bean Cobbs), as you can see from her Instagram pic below.


The Houdini Museum of New York in located in Manhattan and houses one of the largest public displays of authentic Houdini memorabilia in the world.

Thanks to Joe Fox for the handcuff identification.

Related:

'Houdini Takes D.C.' on Obscura Day, May 6

A Houdini event in Washington D.C. will once again be part of the nationwide Obscura Day 2017 on May 6. "Houdini Takes D.C." will feature rarities from the collection of Ken Trombly and a performance by Dean Carnegie. Below are the details.

We hereby invite you to Tivoli's Astounding Magic Supply Co. for an afternoon of treasured collections, Houdini history, and—of course—magic.

Houdini always drew immense crowds when he performed in the nation's capitol, which was a frequent stop on his East Coast tours. It was said that he attracted over 15,000 witnesses along Pennsylvania Avenue in 1916—at the time, more than any other event in D.C.'s history aside from an inauguration—to see him attempt a death-defying escape while hanging upside down in a straitjacket. In 1926, he also came to D.C. to testify before Congress on the subject of spiritualism and the city's fortune telling laws.

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.

Thanks to Julie Seigel.

Related posts:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Houdini hangs in L.A. 94 years ago today

Check out this tweet from Esotouric's Lost LA (@esotouric). A sensational photo of Houdini's suspended straitjacket escape from the Examiner Building 94 years ago today.


The Examiner Building still stands and is currently undergoing a major renovation. Below are links with more info and images of this escape.

Related:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Try on an original pair of Houdini handcuffs, April 6

If you're a Houdini fan who can get to New York City this Thursday, April 6, The Houdini Museum of New York at Fantasma Magic has an irresistible offer:

Get handcuffed! In celebration of Harry Houdini's unofficial birthday this Thursday, we invite you to come try on an original pair of Houdini's handcuffs. Admission is FREE! This offer is only valid on 4/6/17.

The Houdini Museum of New York has is located at 421 7th Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, NY. The museum houses one of the largest public displays of authentic Houdini memorabilia in the world.

Related:

"It's a simple thing to Houdini"

This vintage postcard sold on eBay yesterday for $1,522.44. Not only have I never seen this particular postcard before, but I've never seen this image of Houdini! Here he's holding the famous French Letter Cuff (now owned by Jon Oliver). According to the back, this postcard was made in Frankfort. No date, but certainly from the early Handcuff King days.


Congrats to the winner of this beauty.

Related:

Monday, April 3, 2017

Did Houdini try to buy the Oakland Oaks?


Here's one for the start of baseball season today. In doing research for his new Houdini book, Joe Posnanski, executive columnist for MLB.com, uncovered this curious newspaper clipping that says Houdini was interested in purchasing the Oakland Oaks, then part of the Pacific Coast Baseball League, in 1919.


Houdini was interested in sports and did on occasion manage athletes, notably wrestlers. But his interest seemed largely confined to individual sports such as track, boxing and racing. Team sports did not seem to interest him as much. Houdini was also investing heavily in motion pictures at this time, so it seems odd for him to be branching out into the business of sports.

The article below from the September 28, 1919 Los Angeles Times, also uncovered by Joe, puts Houdini's inquiry into better perspective.

Click to enlarge.

So it seems that expressing interest in buying a sports team -- serious or not -- was a popular way of generating publicity among the Hollywood set at this time. Houdini was indeed in Hollywood in 1919 making The Grim Game and Terror Island and he was assigned a studio press agent. So maybe this was all the press agent's doing?

The Oakland Oaks were eventually sold in 1920. For more on the team check out Wikipedia and the Oakland Oaks Baseball. For more by Joe Posnanski visit Joe* Blogs.

Now play ball!

Related:

Sunday, April 2, 2017

LINK: RARE METAMORPHOSIS PIX

Here's one from yesterday that wasn't an April Fools Day joke. David Saltman shared on his blog The Houdini File four remarkable images of Houdini and Bess performing Metamorphosis. These appeared in the January 5, 1901 issue of the British magazine The Golden Penny. Smaller versions appear in Bruce MacNab's The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini, but here we get a much better look at Harry and Bess in action.


Click the headline to see these amazing photos at The Houdini File. And, yes, that is the sub trunk once owned by Patrick Culliton (I've been in that box!).

Related:

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Magic Castle announces name change

The World Famous Magic Castle in Hollywood has announced that it will rebrand as "Houdini's Magic Castle." The name change was proposed by general manager Joe Furlow who felt the Houdini name would attract a younger, Criss Angel-like crowd. The name "Criss Angel's Magic Castle" was rejected in an earlier vote for fear it would attract a Criss Angel-like crowd.

A new sign greets guests and AMA members to "Houdini's Magic Castle."

Changes will include replacing the Open Sesame Owl with a Houdini bust. The Palace of Mystery will be renamed The Palace of The Master Mystery. Irma the resident piano-playing ghost will be retired because spirits do not exist!

The name change was embraced by AMA member Mike Caveney who was overheard to say, "It's about time Houdini got some recognition." The only hold-out was member Patrick Culliton who felt a more accurate name would have been "The Houdini-Hardeen Magic Castle."

Additionally, the Castle dress code will be amended to allow straitjackets.

The new name is effective as of today, April 1st.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Houdini (1953) will air three times in April

The 1953 classic Houdini starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh will air three times in April on MOVIES. Times are Friday, April 7 at 12:00 PM; Wednesday, April 12 at 1:30 AM; and Saturday, April 22 at 10:30 PM.


MOVIES airs Houdini complete and uncut. Sure, the film is available on a whole host of other formats, including a brand new Blu-ray release, but there's still something satisfying about watching this first great Houdini biopic on broadcast TV, like the old days.

Related posts:

Houdini eBay fraud alert

This 1st edition of Houdini's A Magician Among The Spirits is currently on eBay for just .79¢. Too good to be true? Indeed. This is a scam. Front sellers from what appears to be China keep generating multiple listings using these same photos. Don't bite!


Thanks to Kevin Connolly.

Related:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Houdini meets Benny Hill

Reader William Uchtman, who runs The Benny Hill Show Wiki, points out an amusing Houdini reference in a 1981 episode of the show. This is a new one to me, so I'll let William explain:

On the February 11, 1981 episode of "The Benny Hill Show," Benny has a sketch called "The Poster Girl." In it, he tries to woo the very lovely Allison Bell, who was one of his "Hill's Angels," and at one point heads to the cemetery to get some flowers for her. Benny just happens to pluck them from Houdini's grave whose tombstone has several dates on it, a reference to Houdini as a great escapologist. I've included images from the sketch.

Thank you William. We salute you!


Related:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A taste of Houdini horror from Italy

Lisa Mannetti's 2015 novella The Box Jumper will be released next month in Italy as Houdini Passione Oscura ("Houdini Dark Passion"). The publisher is Astro Edizioni. Below is the rather intense cover art and a description (translated via Google) from the website Horror Magazine.

 
A disturbing tale of madness and mystery. Lisa Mannetti leads the reader into a maze and illusion scandal surrounding Harry Houdini, world famous magician. Elusive like a magic trick, the story unfolds through the memories of one of his former assistants, Leona suffering from various mental disorders. The words of the novel entice the reader to explore an obscene liars and lust world. As soon as the layers of intrigue unfold, the reader is forced to keep reading...

I can find no links to purchase this Italian edition, but the English edition of The Box Jumper is available on Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK). For more on Lisa Mannetti visit her official website.

Related:

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

LINK: Antiques Roadshow Houdini letter

The PBS show Antiques Roadshow recently featured a Houdini letter from a collection in Palm Springs, California. The letter has some pretty interesting content. It's dated July 21, 1910, shortly after Houdini's return from Australia, and in it he talks about using his "bi-plane" to fly from city to city during his upcoming British tour. He also mentions having a car in New York, which nicely debunks the oft-repeated notion that Houdini never drove after Australia.


Click the headline to check out the full story and letter at Antiques Roadshow. There you can also watch the segment from the show and join in on the discussion of exactly who Houdini is writing to here.

Related:

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Houdini birthday present from Kevin Connolly

Friday might have been Houdini's birthday, but it was Houdini fans who received the gift. That's because mega collector Kevin Connolly shared on his Facebook group CONJURING HISTORY - BUY, SELL AND TALK this remarkable press photo of Houdini from his collection. I've never seen this shot before and it's a stunner!


This photo probably gives us our best, most detailed look at a Houdini straitjacket. To my eye, this appears to be the same straitjacket that surfaced on Pawn Stars in 2011. It later sold at auction for $46,980. There is a very distinctive V-like dip in the leather across Harry's upper chest that occurs on both jackets (you can also spot this in some film footage). So it looks this pic is also a gift to whoever now owns this jacket!


Thanks to Kevin for letting me share his share here on WILD ABOUT HARRY. Below are a few other gems from the Connolly Collection.

Related:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Houdini Torture Cell photo escapes with $889

A terrific original photo of Houdini inside his Water Torture Cell sold for $889.20 (including 17% buyer's premium) at Haversat & Ewing's "Houdini's Birthday Auction" today. The photo shows the cell on stage flanked by assistants Franz Kukol, Jim Collins and James Vickery. (The fourth assistant is unknown to me.)


What makes this shot extra special is we see Houdini inside the inner cage, or what he called "the steel grill." This appears to have been later removed from the escape. I believe this photo has only ever appeared in Milbourne Christopher's' Houdini A Pictorial Life, and that image does not have the clarity seen here.

This latest Haversat & Ewing auction contained several other nice Houdini lots. A two-page letter on rare stationary with excellent content ("Do you know in my hardship days I NEVER borrowed a single dollar!!!!!!!!!") went for $6,142. A pair of vanishing umbrellas owned by Houdini took $1,099. Even I was able to land a 1925 "Beware" pitchbook (I've been after one of these).

Related:

Houdini finds 'Guilty Pleasures' in Columbus

A Houdini skit is part of the new sketch comedy show Guilty Pleasures now playing at Shadowbox Live in Columbus, OH. A review in The Columbus Dispatch calls it "a tightly structured tale of what happens when Houdini (Jimmy Mak) comes home to his impatient wife (Leah Haviland) after yet another near-death experience."


Guilty Pleasures plays on Fridays and Saturdays through June 3. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.

Thanks to @ShadowboxLive for the image.

Related:

American Pinball unveils 'Houdini' in Texas

American Pinball unveiled their new "Houdini Master of Mystery" pinball machine at the Texas Pinball Festival yesterday (Houdini's birthday). This is an all-new design from what was shown in Las Vegas last year. Below are photos from @TOpinhead on Twitter.


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

Related:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Happy Birthday Houdini!

Today is Harry Houdini's 143rd birthday. He was born Ehrich Weiss on March 24, 1874 in Budapest, Hungary to Mayer Samuel and Cecilia Steiner Weiss. As I do each year, I will gather a collection of birthday greetings from around the web and link below. (Send me your own link.) Also check out Twitter #Houdini, #HarryHoudini and #HappyBirthdayHarryHoudini.

"Is this any way to treat a guy on his birthday?"

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Houdini direct from Hollywood

This autograph album page sold at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury‏ today for £1,612 ($2,018). I love the inscription. Houdini had just completed Terror Island and was embarking on his first tour of the UK in six years. Bradford was his first stop. During this tour he took pride in presenting himself as a freshly minted movie star -- "direct from Hollywood."


This image was shared on Twitter @DreweattsBlooms.

Related:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ed Saint considered holding a Houdini seance at the Winchester Mystery House in 1938


Recently collector and magic dealer Jim Rawlins showed me a fascinating letter from Arthur Hinson, Vice President of the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians, to Edward Saint. The letter is dated May 24, 1938, and in it Hinson mentions that Saint and P.C.A.M. president Caryl Fleming recently discussed the possibility of holding a Houdini seance at the famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. He writes:

I think the idea as far as publicity for the P.C.A.M., Mrs. Houdini and the Winchester House, would be very fine and all probabilities handled right, might hit the press syndicate. Will you please advise me as to your idea on this matter? Also the time and date of such proposed seance.

This is interesting for a few reasons. First, it's yet another connection between Houdini and this famous landmark of spiritualistic folly (which Houdini himself visited in the 1920s). But it also shows that Ed and Bess might not have been all that committed to the idea that the Final Houdini Seance, held in Hollywood in 1936, was all that final. We know Saint was tempted on more than one occasion to revive the Houdini seances, legit and otherwise.

But considering this seance never happened, it's possible Bess and Ed decided it wasn't right to do another seance after the expiration of the 10 year compact.

The Winchester Mystery House eventually did host a Houdini seance when the Society of American Magicians Assembly No. 94 held what they called a "50th anniversary" seance in 1977. As far as I know, Harry stayed away.

Thanks to Jim Rawlins. Be sure and check out Jim's recently redesigned Magic Collectibles website.

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