Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Audacity Jones meets Houdini

Today sees the release of Audacity Jones Steals the Show, the second Audacity adventure by Kirby Larson. This time the young heroes lend a helping hand to, you guessed it, Houdini!

Audacity Jones and her best friend, Bimmy, are setting off from Miss Maisie's School for Wayward Girls on an extraordinary adventure! In the glittering city of New York, the girls meet Harry Houdini, the world's most famous magician, as he prepares a new spectacle: Houdini plans to make an elephant disappear from a crowded theater.

But Audacity and Bimmy discover a nefarious plot that puts Houdini's illusion in jeopardy. Who could be trying to sabotage the master magician? Audie will need all her smarts, the help of friends new and old, and even her best juggling skills to solve this mystery. Will she manage to save the show in time?

Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson brings readers a magical romp of a mystery that will delight and thrill to the very last page.

You can purchase Audacity Jones Steals the Show at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

Thanks to Janet Davis.

Related:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Houdini in LIFE's Sherlock Holmes special

On newsstands now is this special edition of LIFE magazine devoted to Sherlock Holmes. The magazine includes a couple pages on Houdini in a larger article about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's belief in spiritualism.

This has certainly been a month filled with Houdini/Sherlock Holmes connections!

LIFE's Sherlock Holmes special will be available through April 21, 2017.

Related:

LINK: Haldane of the Secret Service, or, “Harry Houdini’s Howling Whodunit”

The blog Movies Silently has an amusing "Lobby Card Dissection" of the below from Houdini's Haldane of the Secret Service. It's fun to hear an outsider's take on the oddity of Houdini's movie career. The site also gave the film a raucous review HERE.


This lobby card sold in auction last year for $1,900 along with 10 other Houdini lobby cards. No laughing matter about that.

Related:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Airship 27 releases 'Holmes and Houdini'

Ron Fortier's Airship 27 has released Holmes and Houdini by I.A. Watson. The excellent cover art has a double Houdini connection. Holmes is modeled on Peter Cushing, who not only played the great detective, but also played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in The Great Houdinis.

They call themselves the Far Edge Club, a mysterious cabal of rich, sadistic hedonists who live only to create pain and fear in others. Just one man has ever bested their perverted schemes, the world renowned magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini. London becomes the stage for their final confrontation.

The Club has recruited an army of killers in their maddened goal to destroy Houdini. But they are unaware he is not without his own allies. Joining the fray at the American’s side is none other than the Great Detective of Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes, and his loyal companion, Dr. Watson. Together these exceptional heroes will battle an insidious evil and attempt to solve the mystery of the Ghost Mask of L’Inconnu.

Writer I.A. Watson delivers an incredible adventure mystery that will keep readers up till the wee hours of the night. Homes & Houdini is New Pulp fiction at its finest.

This is Airship 27's second Houdini release. In 2015 they published a collection of "new pulp" stories called The Amazing Harry Houdini.

You can purchase Holmes and Houdini from Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK). Both pages show a July 2 release date, but it's actually in stock now (my order has shipped). You can also buy direct from Airship 27 Hanger.

Related:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Harry and Bess hit Ceylon

The photo below sold in Haversat & Ewing Galleries Winter Auction today for $749 (including 17% premium). This is an unpublished shot of Houdini and Bess in Ceylon, which is today Sri Lanka. The Houdinis visited this and other exotic ports of call while en route to Australia in 1910. They look like a proper pair of colonialists, don't they? I love Harry's pith helmet.


You can see other photos from this trip in Doug Henning's Houdini His Legend and His Magic and Milbourne Christopher's Houdini A Pictorial Life. Christopher says Houdini planned on issuing an illustrated book about this "trip around the world" using photos such as the above.

Related:

LINK: "The 3 most famous names in history are Jesus Christ, Sherlock Holmes, and Harry Houdini"

Garson O’Toole's clever blog Quote Investigator today tackles a quote by George Bernard Shaw who identified the three most famous names in history as "Jesus Christ, Sherlock Holmes, and Harry Houdini." But did Shaw really say it? Did someone else? Did anyone say it? Click the headline and have a read.


Related:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Houdini's favorite hotel seeking redevelopment

The Hearld Democrat reports that the Denison Development Foundation is hoping to bring new life to the historic Hotel Denison in Denison, Texas. Why is this of interest to us? Check out what they have to say about the hotel's history:

The Hotel Denison first opened its doors at the corner of Chestnut and Burnett in October 1924 as the Simpson Hotel. This followed a fire in 1920 that destroyed the original Hotel Denison.

In the Oct. 14, 1924 edition of the Denison Herald, famous illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini was quoted as saying "nowhere in my travels have I found a hotel any better equipped and with better accommodations" about the Hotel Denison.

The hotel continued to offer daily rates until 1986, when it shifted to monthly rental rates.

Houdini was in Denison during a seven-day tour of Texas with his spiritualism lecture in 1924. It was at this time that he infamously appeared at a Ku Klux Klan Auditorium in Fort Worth (although not at a Klan event). These were his last appearances in Texas.

So was this really the best hotel Houdini ever stayed in, or was he just giving the new hotel a friendly plug? Another Houdini mystery!

Related:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Houdini's Coca-Cola connection

Reader Bruce East recently alerted me to a connection between Houdini and Coca-Cola that I've never heard before. The following comes from the book The Real Ones: the First Family of Coca-Cola, which discusses Asa Candler Jr., a.k.a. "Buddie," son of Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler, Sr., and his interest in magic.

Asa "Buddie" Candler, Jr.
Buddie arranged to meet and get to know Houdini, from whom he learned several tricks. He would do these tricks for the rest of his life. His grandson Tommy Thompson recalls that, "PaPa was in the Society of American magicians or something like that. They'd put on a show and he'd participate. He did quite a few card tricks. A lot of people didn't realize how talented he was, but he had some card tricks that he would perform like a master. He entertained us. I'd always sit there, and he'd do a trick, and I would ask him how he did that, and he would say, 'Nope, nope, don't ever tell anybody how you do a trick. Nope.'" [...]

Buddie had learned the tricks from Houdini with the promise to the master magician that he would never divulge them, and he never did. The other magician that Buddie knew well and admired was Howard Thurston, who was famous as a card manipulator and also for his large stage illusions such as the "floating lady." It was from Thurston that Buddie learned and purchased some of the illusion acts he proceeded to perform -- usually using his daughters, Helen and Martha, as his assistants. Buddie kept these elaborate magic boxes stored in the ballroom on the third floor of Briarcliff. He could cut a person in two or make them disappear and then return whole, plus many other tricks.

Houdini and Coca-Cola. The real thing indeed.

Below are links to more connections between Houdini and famous American brands.

Thanks Bruce.

Related:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Quirkology vanishes Houdini's elephant

Here's something fun from Richard Wiseman's Quirkology blog. I'm not sure how to describe it, so I'll leave it to them to do so below.

We have teamed up with Magic Magazine and Water Closet Press to create a vanishing elephant! Simply download the PDF here, cut out the four pieces, and arrange them so that Jennie the elephant is in the middle.

Then read through each of the pieces, turning each of them through 180 degrees as you go. You will discover the story of Houdini’s vanishing elephant. At the end Jennie will have vanished! Not only that, but if you drawn a rectangle around the original configuration, you will see that the pieces still fit into the rectangle even when Jennie has vanished!

We hope you enjoy turning back time and making Houdini’s elephant vanish again and again!

Download Quirkology's free vanishing elephant PDF HERE.

Related:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Houdini (1953) matte paintings by Jan Domela

Before computer generated imagery (CGI), physical "matte paintings" were used in movies to create larger spaces and landscapes where there was none. The blog Matte Shot celebrates the lost art, and in post last year shared "a mammoth amount" of golden age matte paintings, including two by Jan Domela for Paramount's 1953 Houdini.

While I encourage you to click on over and view the entire post, here are the Houdini mattes as seen in the film.


The first painting will be recognizable as the opening shot of Houdini's overboard box escape in the frozen Detroit River (1:19). Less recognizable the second image, which was used during the first "European success" montage (1:02).

Thanks to Peter at Matte Shot for letting me share these and to Bill Mullins for the tip.

Related:

Monday, January 23, 2017

The birthday girl knows all

Today is Bess Houdini's 141st birthday. To celebrate, here's a nice clipping from The Pittsburgh Press dated March 6, 1922. It announces "hubby" Houdini's return to the vaudeville after a two-year absence making films. It also notes that The Grim Game's "death drop" footage will be shown before his performance. (I wonder if this was the Desperate Chances short found on the Kino set?)

Did Bess know the secret of the "death drop" -- that it was not Houdini in the crash?

Of course she did.


Happy birthday Bess.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

'The Magician and the Spirits' to haunt in August

Heads up for yet another new Houdini book headed our way in 2017. The Magician and the Spirits by Deborah Noyes is aimed at middle school readers and will be published by Random House Viking on August 22. I have a proof in hand and the book is packed with photos (including one of Bess I've not seen in print before) and very nicely laid out. Description below.

A century ago, the curious idea that spirits not only survive death but can be contacted on the “other side” was widespread. Psychic mediums led countless séances, claiming to connect the grieving with their lost relations through everything from frenzied trance writing to sticky expulsions of ectoplasm.

The craze caught Harry Houdini’s attention. Well-known by then as most renowned magician and escape artist, he began to investigate these spiritual phenomena. Are ghosts real? Can we communicate with them? Catch them in photographs? Or are all mediums “flim-flammers,” employing tricks and illusions like Houdini himself?

Peopled with odd and fascinating characters, Houdini’s gripping quest will excite readers’ universal wonderment with life, death, and the possibility of the Beyond.

The Magician and the Spirits can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK). You'll also find it in the Wild About Harry aStore.

Below are links to more upcoming 2017 releases.

Related:

Friday, January 20, 2017

A magical visit to the workshop of John Gaughan

Last week I had the great pleasure of visiting the workshop of master illusion builder all around good guy John Gaughan. I went with Joe Posnanski, a National Columnist for NBC Sports and New York Times bestselling author of Paterno, who was in town researching a new book on Houdini. Joe's book will take a look at "Houdini and his impact on the today's world" and will be released in 2018. Definitely one I'm excited about, especially after getting to know Joe.


Among the many Houdini-related items in John's world class collection is his Houdini Automaton, who provides guests with a signature (Joe and I each got one). John also has the original Psycho, gifted to Houdini by Harry Kellar. John's famous Water Torture Cell reproduction is now a display case for his Houdini collectibles (including a scrapbook Houdini made of items related to his mother). Also on display is an original flower production table and a "Houdini for President" lithograph. And Q the Automaton was in the house (no pic, but you can see him here.)



Hey, look, there an original Houdini traveling case up there!


When we were leaving, John uncovered his working Water Torture Cell. This was originally made for the 1980 film The Escape Artist. It has since appeared in numerous television projects, including Young Harry Houdini. When the weather warms up, John offered to fill it and put me inside. Yes, please!


A big thanks to John Gaughan for the fantastic visit, and to Joe Posnanski for a great day talking non-stop about Houdini.

You can read about my first visit to John's shop, which included a nice Water Torture Cell surprise, HERE.

Related:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

'The Great Houdini His British Tours' coming in July

Great news. Derek Tait's highly anticipated The Great Houdini: His British Tours is now available for pre-order at Amazon.co.uk. The listing shows it will be a 304 page hardcover with a UK release date of July 30, 2017.

Between 1900 and 1920 Harry Houdini toured Great Britain, extensively visiting many of its major towns and cities. Whilst there, he escaped from jails, jumped from bridges into rivers whilst bound up in chains, performed amazing escapades, tricks and illusions, and delighted everyone who came to see him. Everywhere he performed, he issued challenges to local workers to either make a chest, box or other contraption from which he wouldn't be able to escape. He was always triumphant and his feats amazed his audiences. Many of his shows have long since been forgotten and many towns and cities have no knowledge that he once appeared there this compelling book seeks to remedy that. Houdini was, and remains, the best-known escapologist of all time. At the height of his career, he was the highest paid entertainer in the world. 
The Great Houdini: His British Tours successfully pieces together Houdini's appearances using archive material, old newspaper clippings and extensive research. His friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is also documented, along with his involvement with seances and spiritualism. The book gives the most comprehensive account of his time within the UK and brings to life the excitement and thrills of many of his appearances. It contains many photos and adverts from his shows, some of which have not been seen since they were originally published over 100 years ago, and offers an insight into the life of one of the world's greatest entertainers.

Pre-order The Great Houdini: His British Tours at Amazon.co.uk (UK) and Amazon.com (U.S.). This is going to be a must have!

Related:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lives of the Conjurers, Volume Three

Houdini is one of four performers profiled in the new paperback Lives of the Conjurers, Volume Three by Professor Solomon. The book also contains a profile of Larry Weeks. Here's the description:

* Houdini (Part I)--The story of the escape artist who became the highest-paid performer in vaudeville. From his early days as a newsboy, to his years struggling in beer halls, sideshows, dime museums, and other lowly venues, to his success as the Handcuff King, to his rise to international fame. 
* Larry Weeks--A master juggler, he dwelt amidst a chaotic collection of magic memorabilia--including the sole surviving copy of "The Grim Game," Houdini’s lost film.
* Martin Sunshine--Every summer for 35 years, he donned a fez and performed at a resort as Kismet the Magician. 
* Lung Tung--Once the Court Magician to the Empress of China, he had been reduced to passing the hat in hotel lobbies. But he could still hear the sounds of the court and the reverberations of the gong.

You can purchase Lives of the Conjurers, Volume Three at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK). Free PDF downloads of the first two volumes are available at professorsolomon.com.

Related:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Watch Houdini's 'Timeless' appearance online


Houdini appeared on the NBC series Timeless last night in an episode called "The World's Columbian Exposition" set during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. It was great fun. Actor Michael Drayer played the young Houdini as fearless, resourceful and heroic. The episode also contained a few surprises, including an appearance by Dash played by Leo Beckwitt (now the 6th actor to portray Hardeen on screen), and even a mention of Bess; a heads-up for Harry from our time travelers.

For those who missed it, the good news is the full episode is available on the Timeless page at NBC.com through May 25, 2017.



As far as the history goes, Houdini did indeed perform at the Columbian Exposition in 1893 at the start of his career, although it was with his first partner Jacob Hyman and they were billed as The Brothers Houdini. The set designer created some mock-up posters based on King of Cards and Metamorphosis, mixing in images of Houdini from later in his career. Houdini being forced to unlock a door at gunpoint reminded me to his Coffeyville exploit. And for those who felt bad for Harry when Lucy rejected his proposal to "team up" at the end, know that Bess will come into his life the following year (1894).

The episode also featured Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan and serial killer H.H. Holmes. But Houdini was clearly the favorite of the team.


Timeless is about a team of time travelers who protect the present in the past. It airs on NBC on Mondays at 10/9c.

UPDATE: It appears it was Dash who performed with Harry at the Fair, so kudos to writer Lana Cho for getting it right while I got it wrong!

Related:

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Houdini on 'Timeless' tonight

    Just a reminder that Houdini will appear on the NBC series Timeless tonight at 10/9c. The episode is called "The World's Columbian Exposition" and is set during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Houdini is played by Michael Drayer.


    Timeless is about a team of time travelers who protect the present in the past. Episodes have featured Abraham Lincoln, Benedict Arnold and Bonnie & Clyde.

    Related:

    Saturday, January 14, 2017

    A new vanishing elephant pic appears

    Check out this image of Houdini with Jennie his vanishing elephant on stage at the Hippodrome theater. This comes from Houdini's The Adventurous Life of a Versatile Artist pitchbook and is an image that we are all familiar with. Or is it?


    Now look at the image below. This is actually the familiar photo we see in books, etc., and it's pretty clear that it's not the same image as the above. Houdini is in a very different position. However, Jennie is in the exact same pose, although she's in a different position in relation to the background. That means she's one well trained elephant, or this famous shot is not what it seems.


    I've always looked this photo with some skepticism. Not only does it seem like an improbable moment to capture on camera, but the light on Houdini, Jennie, and the cavernous Hippodrome does not seem achievable. The Hippodrome appears to be a backdrop. But is Jennie herself artificial? That is not as clear to me, but these two photos seem to suggest that she is.

    This photo is credited to the famous White Studio, and was likely taken in the studio itself. In the un-cropped version one can see a person standing just off the edge of frame. The audience directly behind Jennie's right foot also appears to be painted, possibly onto the negative itself. So what's going on here? Break out the magnifiers!


    No matter how the photo was created, it's still a great shot, and it's exciting to see an alternate version (which has been hiding in plain sight). These two images remain the only known photos of Houdini's vanishing elephant illusion.

    Thanks to Perry from New Jersey for bringing this photo to my attention.

    Related:

    Friday, January 13, 2017

    Houdini's Hidden Theater

    Houdini's Hidden Theater is a Houdini-themed magic show inside a "hidden room" at Mandolin's restaurant at The Radisson Hotel Celebration ​in Orlando, FL. Shows are held at 8:00pm every Saturday.

    Comedy magician Erick Olson mixes magic with Houdini history during the 60 minute show. Erick tells some whoppers in a video clip at the official website, so let's hope those aren't part of the history lesson. But his wrist breaking gag is great.

    The Radisson Resort and Mandolin's Restaurant is located at 2900 Parkway Blvd, Kissimmee, FL, 34747.

    For more information and tickets visit houdinistheater.com.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017

    Kevin Mitnick's secret identity

    Some of you will remember Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker who evaded the FBI for years before finally being arrested in 1995. While watching the 2016 documentary Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, I discovered something about Mitnick that I never knew. Check out the clip below.



    Mitnick appears to still be a Houdini fan. When Google celebrated Houdini's birthday with a Doodle in 2011, he tweeted out the following:


    Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World can be streamed on Netflix and Amazon Video or purchased on DVD.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2017

    Houdini/LeRoy signed souvenir sells on eBay

    Here's a unique one. This souvenir card from a 1925 Cleveland Magicians Club event with Houdini and Servais LeRoy sold on eBay over the weekend for $2,080. The card is signed by Houdini, LeRoy, and Bess "(me too)." Houdini was performing at the Palace Theater in Cleveland at this time.

    Seller description: For your consideration is this rare original signed card from the Cleveland Magicians Club featuring Harry Houdini and Servais LeRoy.

    LeRoy was a Belgian magician, illusion designer and businessman. He was credited as the inventor of the classic levitation illusion called Asrah the Floating Princess. He performed for many years in Belgium, London, and the US, among other places. He was a true innovator and inventor in the field of magic.

    It is rare to find signed Le Roy items, but in combination with Houdini's and Bess's signatures, this makes this a historic and likely a one of a kind piece of history. It would make a fantastic addition to your collection.

    Well, it appears it did make a fantastic addition to someone's collection! (Our friend Dale from Cleveland perhaps?) Congrats to the winner.

    Monday, January 9, 2017

    LINK: Harry Houdini Was an Ingenious Inventor, He Just Didn't Want Anybody to Know

    Check out this excellent article by Jackson Landers about Houdini the inventor. The piece includes some good observations by Teller and a few scatterbrained quotes from yours truly (I need to get better with phone interviews). It also includes some very nice photos from National Air and Space Museum Archives, including the infamous "photo Houdini didn't want you to see."

    Click the headline to read at Smithsonian.com.

    Sunday, January 8, 2017

    Houdini Museum announces HOUDINI-OPOLY

    Our great friends Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA have launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new HOUDINI-OPOLY board game. Below is a pic and description.

    Houdini-Opoly is an exciting hero board game for 2-6 players built around the life of one of the most exciting personalities in history. To make the game more thrilling and up to date all of the prices and values throughout the game have been increased proportionally. The largest bill is now $5,000! As you go around the board you will learn about the life of this great icon of the entertainment field, in a fun way. The real estate properties on the board are the actual key places in Houdini's life in chronological order. Each of the property deed cards has additional fun historic information about that particular time and place in Houdini's life. Each time you play you will get different deeds and land on different spots so both the both the enjoyment, and your knowledge about Houdini will increase. It is fun, educational and a parody all rolled into one. Donors will be able to get their names on the deed cards, chance cards, the play money, the box and even the game board itself. Their names will be part of Houdini history forever!

    Every donor will get at least one game. It will be a very limited edition. We only intend to manufacture as many games as we sell through this program. As with all items Houdini over time it will become collectible and rise in value. Many we have spoken to have said they will be buying a game or games to play as well as games to save intact as collectibles. You Can’t Escape The Fun!

    You can learn more, see a video of Dorothy and Dick explaining the game, and check out a whole host of special premiums at the Houdini-Opoly Kickstarter page.

    Saturday, January 7, 2017

    Houdini/Margery exhibit extended to April 16

    Tony Oursler's Imponderable exhibition at MoMA in New York City, which had been scheduled to close on January 8, has now been extended to April 16. On display is Margery's original seance kimono and chair from the Libbet Crandon de Malamud Collection. This is the first time these rarities have even been publicly shown. The exhibition also includes some cases of Houdini memorabilia.


    Tony Oursler is the grandson of Houdini's friend and colleague Fulton Oursler. His modernist film Imponderable, which is part of the exhibition, features Houdini (played by Mark Mitton), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Margery among others. His work and collection also appears in the book Imponderable: The Archives of Tony Oursler.

    The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is located at 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019. For more info visit their website.

    Photos from Blouin Artinfo.

    Related:

    Bringing Houdini to life

    The mighty Arthur Moses alerts us to issue No. 4 of the UK publication Bringing History To Life which contains 4 pages on "Houdini's Best Tricks."

    What...they couldn't get Houdini on that cover? Or is that "Yar the Primeval Man"? Memo to magazine editors: Houdini sells!

    This came out last year so it might be a trick to find. But you can start at the website Newsstand.

      Friday, January 6, 2017

      ROUGH RIDERS collected volume and second series

      Over the Christmas break the collected edition of Adam Glass's ROUGH RIDERS was released by Aftershock Comics. Also came news that there will be a second series, ROUGH RIDERS: RIDERS ON THE STORM, starting in February. Below is a description.

      Great jumping on point! Three years have passed since the Rough Riders' last adventure, but when an assassin's bullet takes President William McKinley's life, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt is thrust into the role of Commander in Chief. As a country mourns the loss of their leader, Roosevelt believes that the assassin is part of a bigger conspiracy, one whose tentacles reach back to Europe and whose intentions are to destroy humanity through world- wide ANARCHY. 
      To stop them, Roosevelt must convince Harry Houdini, Jack Johnson, Thomas Edison and a surprisingly very alive Annie Oakley to band together again. But time has strained the bonds that once united them and the ideologies of their enemies may have already seeped into one of their own. Welcome to ROUGH RIDERS: RIDERS ON THE STORM.

      The trade paperback edition of ROUGH RIDERS Vol. 1 can be purchased at Midtown Comics.

      Related:

      Thursday, January 5, 2017

      LINK: Harry Houdini, David Abbott and Johnny Carson: Omaha has a long history with magicians

      Somewhat lost amid all the activity around the 90th anniversary of Houdini's death was this very good article by Kevin Coffey in the Omaha World Herald about Omaha's relationship to Houdini and other famous figures in magic. Among them is David P. Abbott, pictured here with Houdini in the 1920s.

      Wednesday, January 4, 2017

      'Timeless' Houdini episode will air January 16

      Houdini will appear on the NBC series Timeless on Monday, January 16 at 10/9c. The episode is called "The World's Columbian Exposition" and is set during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Houdini is played by Michael Drayer (below). Here's the official synopsis.

      LUCY’S KIDNAPPED BY FLYNN AND TAKEN TO THE 1893 CHICAGO WORLD’S FAIR IN PURSUIT OF RITTENHOUSE, AND HARRY HOUDINI MAY BE THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN SAVE HER. Lucy’s (Abigail Spencer) situation grows desperate after she’s taken captive by Flynn (Goran Visnjic) and brought to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. In their dogged pursuit of Lucy, Wyatt (Matt Lanter) and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) fall into a sinister trap. Also starring Sakina Jaffrey, Paterson Joseph and Claudia Doumit. Guest starring Michael Drayer, Joel Johnstone, Chad Rook and Katherine Cunningham.

      In regards to Houdini, they have their history right. Houdini did perform at the 1893 Chicago's Worlds Fair early in his career. Below is a photo of Houdini with his first performing partner Jacob Hyman said to have been taken at the fair. Eerily similar to the photo of Drayer, isn't it?


      Timeless is about a team of time travelers who protect the present in the past. Episodes have featured Abraham Lincoln, Benedict Arnold and Bonnie & Clyde. A similar Spanish series, El Ministerio del Tiempo, aired their own Houdini episode last year.

      Timeless photo: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC. Houdini-Hyman photo from The Magic Detective.

      Related:

      American Pinball redesigning their Houdini game

      American Pinball, makers of the upcoming "Houdini Master of Mystery" pinball machine, have updated their Facebook with the following image and message. It appears they have "started fresh" on a new design, so what was shown in Las Vegas and Chicago last year will not be the final game.

      Happy Holidays everyone. As the new year is upon us we too have something to be grateful for. We're happy to say that we've made some great progress on Houdini, our first original pinball machine. The rumors are true, we have started fresh, from the ground up, with our new team and reimagined the game in ways we never thought possible.

      While it's too early for pictures to share just yet, we felt it was important to share that our American Pinball team is growing and we're proud to say that we've added some well-respected experienced pinball professionals to our American Pinball family.

      Thanks for all your support so far and please keep a look out for more details and another update later this week.

      Related:

      Tuesday, January 3, 2017

      Houdini gets fooled on 'Mysteries at the Museum'

      The Travel Channel's Mysteries at the Museum will once again feature a segment about Houdini. The new episode will air January 12. No firm details yet, but from the description, I'm guessing this is about Houdini and Dai Vernon.


      This marks Houdini's fifth appearance on the show. Other episodes have explored the Mirror challengeMargery, Conan Doyle and Eleanor Fletcher Bishop. Hey, that's enough to put together a full Houdini episode, isn't it? Ideas.

      Related:

      'Mr. Swallow - Houdini' at Soho Theater in London

      Having scored success at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Nick Mohammed's Mr. Swallow - Houdini will play London's Soho Theater Jan. 10 through Feb. 18, 2017.

      Having only just touched back down to earth following the success of his spectacular run at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Mr. Swallow returns to Soho Theatre with Mr. Swallow – Houdini, the self-proclaimed first-ever entirely true auto-biopic of legendary magician Harry Houdini. 
      Forget William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s painstakingly researched 608-page book The Secret Life of Houdini (IT. IS. BOR-ING.) Forget hours of trawling Google (whatever happened to Encarta 97?) Mr. Swallow – Houdini will be a world-first celebration of the man who brought magic and escapology to the mainstream. 
      Mr. Swallow – Houdini will also bear witness to a Soho Theatre first, a recreation of one of Houdini’s most famous tricks – the underwater escape! Mr. Swallow will attempt to free himself from the iron-grip like shackles and escape the tank before it’s too late (or that’ll be another first.)

      For more information and to buy tickets visit the Soho Theater website. You can follow Nick Mohammed on Twitter @nickmohammed.

      Related:

      Sunday, January 1, 2017

      Houdini in 1917

      Welcome to another year of WILD ABOUT HARRY. Let's kick off 2017 with a look back at what Houdini himself was up to 100 years ago.

      Quick! Name a significant Houdini escape, piece of magic or performance associated with the year 1917?

      One can easily do this for nearly every year of Houdini's life: 1903/Carette; 1908/Milk Can; 1914/Walking Through A Brick Wall. But 1917 is tricky. That's because for the first time in many years, Houdini didn't invent or perform any new escape or feat of magic. In fact, his act was basically the same one he had been doing since returning to the U.S. in 1914. Of this period Silverman writes: "Much of what had brought Houdini to this height he was now preparing to downplay or abandon."

      But in regards to his significance and impact on the magic community, 1917 might actually be the most significant year of Houdini's life, and it's why the year appears on his Machpelah monument. But we'll get to that.

      Houdini kicked off 1917 in Philadelphia, heading up a Keith's bill advertised as "A NEW YEAR RIOT!" Houdini's January 1st show drew capacity crowds who saw him escape from his Chinese Water Torture Cell. The Philadelphia Inquirer enthused, "It is really the most uncanny trick of any that he has offered here and would impress one with the belief that this modest little fellow is gifted with superhuman powers, although he disclaims any such thing."

      Houdini then returned to New York and played the Orpheum Theater in Brooklyn and the Alhambra in Manhattan. It was during this time that he played a different kind of hero role. Acclaimed French actress Sarah Bernhardt had been presented with a bronze statuette of herself on behalf of the "Actors of America." She then received a second surprise; the bill for $350 ($7,136 today). She returned the statuette to everyone's embarrassment. Learning of this, Houdini paid the bill and promised he'd return the tribute to the great actress personally. Bernhardt insisted he keep it, but she did reportedly ask if he could use his magic powers to restore her amputated leg.

      February saw Houdini at Keith’s Theater in Washington, D.C., escaping a wet-sheet "Lunatics' Bed" provided by the Government Hospital for the Insane. At Baltimore's Maryland Theater he beat a packing box constructed on stage by the Crown Cork and Seal Company. In Boston he hung 100 feet in a straitjacket from the B.F. Keith’s Building on Tremont St. The outdoor stunt was witnessed by his new friend The Divine Sarah.

      Houdini and Sarah Bernhardt in Boston.

      Houdini kicked off March by accepting a challenge from the Boston Athletic Association to escape from a straitjacket and packing crate at the same time. In Providence he did a suspended straitjacket escape from the Brownell Building at Exchange Place.

      Then in April came news of a dramatic development in Houdini's career. He would make a movie! And not just any movie. It would be a land, air and undersea spectacular for which he would receive the highest salary ever paid to an actor for a single film. The movie would be produced by the Williamson Bros., specialists in underwater photography, and was due to shoot in the Bahamas in May for release in November 1917.

      The movie never materialized for reasons unknown. Some have suggested that America's entry into the war scuttled plans for the international shoot. But the idea of Houdini as a movie star was now out there. It was just a matter of finding the right vehicle.

      Houdini had actually already entered the movie business, behind the scenes, a year earlier with his Film Developing Corporation. But the business was proving to be a struggle, and in early 1917 Hardeen announced his retirement from the stage to help run the company. The stress would give him ulcers. It may not have helped that the Houdinis were still living with the Hardeens in Flatbush at this time.

      On their regular anniversary visit to Coney Island in June, Harry playfully posed beside Bess with his pockets turned out and wrote the word "Broke" on the photo. While not broke, the FDC and related business ventures were a serious drain on the fortune he had amassed during his career. But Houdini was still flush enough to make several major purchases for his growing Dramatic collection, as well as a writing desk said to have belonged to Edgar Allan Poe.


      On June 2, 1917, Houdini became president of the Society of American Magicians. Houdini had left the S.A.M. in 1908 due in part to his feud with Dr. A.M. Wilson. Four years later, the S.A.M. voted to make him an honorary member. But Houdini considered the S.A.M., which met in Martinka's magic shop in New York, old fashioned and unambitious. So along with past president Oscar Teale, he set out to reshape it.

      Houdini had long dreamt of a magic organization modeled on fraternal orders like the Masons. He first tried this by founding the Magicians Club in the UK with Will Goldston. Now Houdini envisioned the S.A.M. as that great nationwide Order. He personally solicited magic clubs all over the country to join the S.A.M., whose motto was "Magic - Unity - Might." Where there were no clubs, Houdini brought together groups of magicians to form S.A.M. Assemblies. "This is the biggest movement ever in the history of magic," he enthusiastically wrote to Teale.

      Houdini and Teale worked for a year to build the new national S.A.M. For good measure, Houdini purchased Martinka's magic shop. His election as president was the culmination and reward for his efforts (Teale became Secretary). His first official act was to call for a council to investigate the entry "Conjuring" in the Encyclopedia Britannica, which failed to mention any American magician (including himself). He also threw a lavish banquet for members at the McAlpin Hotel, gaining the S.A.M. recognition in the New York press.

      Houdini would reign as president of the S.A.M. for the rest of his life. The organization that he created in 1917 still exists today with over 250 active assemblies. A living tribute to Houdini's vision of a unified magic fraternity.

      Houdini's M.I. (Most Illustrious) presidency on his grave.

      WAR!

      The day before Houdini celebrated his 43rd birthday, his brother Leopold married the ex-wife of another brother, Nathan. This would cause a rift between Houdini and Leo that would never be resolved. But it was what happened on Houdini's birthday, April 6 (the date he celebrated), that was to define the rest of his year. The United States Congress declared war on Germany.

      Despite his affinity for things German (the family language), America's entry into World War I ignited Houdini's inherent patriotism. When a draft was initiated in June, Houdini marched himself and his assistants to the nearest enlistment office. On his registration card Houdini noted his profession as "Actor - Manager Film Factory." Too old to serve, he nevertheless dropped and did pushups for the assembled recruits.

      After performing at Keith’s Theater in Atlantic City, Houdini cancelled his Fall tour and devoted himself entirely to the war effort. He toured army camps and performed at numerous Red Cross benefits where he once made an entrance escorted by a company of marines. He gave soldiers lessons in how to escape from German handcuffs and rope ties, and handed out $5 gold pieces he produced during his "Money For Nothing" routine. (By the war's end he had given out over $7000.) He also sold over $1 million in war bonds and committed $1000 of the S.A.M. surplus fund to the war effort. "My heart is in this work," he said. "WE MUST WIN, and that is all there is to it."


      Regretting that he had given flight lessons to German soldiers in 1909, he destroyed photos showing himself with the soldiers and his biplane. He also relocated much of the history of his early aviation accomplishments to Australia (causing confusion that can still crop up today). Having patented a quick release diving suit (which he planned to showcase in his underwater film), Houdini gave the design to the Dept. of the Navy. The non-smoker also appeared as part of a Hippodrome benefit for The Sun Tobacco Fund. Ads read: "Smoke Up and Help Smoke The Kaiser Out."

      On October 22, 1917 the Army transport ship SS Antilles was torpedoed by a German U-boat killing 67. Houdini organized a benefit for families of the victims at the Hippodrome. The magic spectacular would see him share the stage with Harry Kellar (brought out of retirement for the occasion), Howard Thurston, Charles Carter and Adelaide Herrmann among others. To promote the charitable event, the city of New York finally granted him permission to perform a suspended straitjacket escape "for the purpose of advertising a patriotic performance."

      The Time Sq. escape.
      Houdini performed the escape on November 5 in Times Square (then called Longacre Square), dangling 60 feet above 7th and Broadway from a crane being used to construct the new New York subway. In return for the favor of permission, Houdini voiced his support of New York's incumbent Mayor John Purroy Mitchell who was facing reelection the following day. This despite the fact that Mitchell's campaign denounced Jews (among others) as enemy sympathizers. Mitchell lost, and Houdini's Antilles benefit, held on November 11, raised $10,000. [I'll have more about the benefit later this year.]

      Houdini's war efforts took up the remainder of his year. In November he played alongside Irvin Berlin at "Hero Land," where he was un-typically billed as "The Great Houdini." Held at Grand Central Palace, Hero Land was a 60 day grand bazaar of entertainment venues that drew a crowd of over 250,000 and raised over a half-million dollars for war relief charities.

      In December Houdini signed a contract to join the Hippodrome revue show "Cheer Up", which was playing its 1917-18 season. Hippodrome producer Charles Gillingham had been impressed with his staging of the Antilles benefit, and asked him to come up with something spectacular. Houdini would command two acts (called "Cheers"). In one he'd do his overboard box in the famous Hippodrome pool. For the other he would create a new illusion worthy of the enormous Hippodrome stage. Having not invented or introduced any new effects in 1917, Houdini's "Cheer Up" debut on New Year's Day 1918 would make a gigantic impression.

      But we'll save that for next year.

      Related:

      More years in the life of Houdini:

      Happy New Year

      One hundred years ago Houdini rang in the new year like this.


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