Friday, June 30, 2017

What's in this box?

This box contains what might be the most unusual surviving Houdini prop in existence. I'll show you what's inside in my full report on my trip to Houdini's New York coming this weekend. (It wasn't just about his house.)


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Drake scared away from "haunted Houdini house"


A story in the National Enquirer says that rapper Drake was "scared away" from the fabled Houdini Esate in Laural Canyon while shooting a promotional video. Under the headline, "Drake Hits The Brakes At Haunted Houdini House!" the tabloid reports:

Famed for his trademark cool-as-a-cucumber persona, Canadian-born crooner Drake suddenly turned terrified/chilled to the bone, even though it was hot as hell in L.A., while shooting a hush-hush TV promo at the allegedly haunted estate of legendary magician Harry Houdini!

The ‘Hotline Bling’ singer kept freaking that Houdini’s haunt lies smack in the middle of creepy, winding Laurel Canyon, where L.A. lore famously claims ghosts, ghouls and witches have roamed the windswept hillsides for decades!

Totally terrified, twitching at every creepy creak or chilly draft on his cheek, distraught Drizzy, saying he felt like he was burning in the ‘hotline to hell,’ finally performed his own magic, abruptly disappearing down the path back to his car at a, er… dead run.

However, the website Gossip Cop doubts the story, citing the "suspicious language" of the tipster. But as I can't seem to find the original story at National Enquirer, I'm wondering if Gossip Cop invented the story just so they could debunk it. Fake news creating fake news to debunk it as fake news? My head hurts.

Of course, the house in Laurel Canyon only has a tenuous connection to Houdini, as I covered in this 2012 post. But it has drawn many celebrities and rock stars over the years. Although most have managed it better than scaredy cat Drake!

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LINK: Houdini His Legend and His Magic Book

For the rest of this week our friend Neil McNally at The Doug Henning Project is highlighting the book Houdini His Legend and His Magic by Doug Henning and Charles Reynolds. Released in 1977, this was one of the "fantastic four" coffee table books released within year of one another. Check out the original advert for the book below: "Houdini and Henning make your gift problems disappear like magic!"


Click the headline to view the first installment at The Doug Henning Project.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Houdini covers 'Riders on the Storm' #4

Houdini is nicely featured on the cover of Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm #4, which is released today. This is part of the second Rough Riders story arc is by Adam Glass with art Patrick Olliffe.

Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders find themselves in grave danger, and they must use all of their strength and wits to escape the clutches of those wishing to do America harm. However, this will not come without consequences, as one member of our team winds up in the hands of the enemy. Or are they the enemy?

Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm #4 is available in comic book stores and online from Midtown Comics. A Kindle version can be purchased at Amazon.com.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Inside Houdini's 278


Last Sunday I spent three remarkable hours inside Houdini's house at 278 West 113th Street in New York City. The occasion was a one time only open house for the brownstone which is on the market for $4.6 million. I've long dreamed of being able to enter "278" (as Houdini called it), and my dream came true in spectacular manner.

There are only a handful of descriptions of the inside of 278, and those only describe certain areas. I used as my guides the descriptions by Marie Blood in Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss, Dixie Dooley's description and diagrams in Houdini Question Reality, and Marcet Haldeman's interview with Houdini in the Oct. 1925 Haldeman-Julius Monthly. Combining these with what I saw, I've tried my best to puzzle out the house as it was in Houdini time. While I'm certain of some things, other aspects are educated guesses. I'm sure we will have lots to discuss in the comments below.

One thing I'll say up front is that fears the interior of 278 had been radically changed are, happily, unfounded. While the top two floors have been converted into individual apartments, there really has not been dramatic changes to the structure. All the rooms are pretty much as they were in Houdini's time. There has also been no modern upgrades, such as the installation of central air-conditioning, which means the ceilings and walls all remain as they were. So 278, inside and out, is still very much the house Houdini inhabited.

I've been struggling in how to best describe the house and all that I saw last Sunday, so I figure I'll just lay it out exactly as I experienced it. So let's retake the 278 tour together.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

LINK: You can live in Harry Houdini’s historic magician’s lair

The New York Post has an article by Michael Kaplan about Houdini's home in Harlem. The big news this week is that the house is now on the market for $4.6 million.

This is a well researched piece that, I'm honored to say, used a few quotes from me. Also some gems by the great Patrick Culliton.

So click the headline and have a read. And check back here tomorrow for my own mammoth post in which I will take you "Inside 278."

UPDATE: Dorothy Dietrich nd Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton picked me up a copy of the printed Post article, which I've added to my old school scrapbook (going since 1975).  Nice layout.


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Friday, June 23, 2017

Your tour of 278 is coming this weekend

I'm home from New York and working hard on my post about visiting Houdini's house in Harlem. I'm aiming to have up this weekend. (I've also been helping the New York Post with a piece that will also run this weekend). I know everyone is eager for this one, so thank you for your continued patience. Soon you will be turning the door knob and stepping inside 278 yourself.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Happy Anniversary Harry and Bess


Today is the 123rd wedding anniversary of Harry and Bess Houdini. The couple married on June 22, 1894 in Coney Island where they were both working as sideshow performers. It's said they later had two more ceremonies to satisfy their families -- one with a rabbi and the other with a Catholic priest. "I'm the most married woman I know," Bess would quip.

If they were in town on their anniversary they would always spend it in Coney Island and take a playful anniversary photo (above is their 1917 pic). Their song -- said to have been the song Bessie was signing when Harry first saw her on stage -- was Rosabel...


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(I know what you are all thinking: "Forget this mushy stuff, bring on the 278 pics!" Know that I'm working on it and hope to have the first post up this weekend.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dover publishes 'Houdini's Paper Magic'

Today sees the release of Dover Publications new reprint of Houdini's 1922 book, Houdini's Paper Magic. While this book has been reprinted several times, this one is somewhat special as it joins Dover's perennial reprints of Houdini on Magic and The Secrets of Houdini.

Dover's Houdini's Paper Magic can be purchased now at Amazon.com (U.S.) and pre-ordered at Amazon.co.uk (UK release July 28).

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Monday, June 19, 2017

WAH in the house!

Yesterday I spent three remarkable hours inside Houdini's house in New York City. It was one of the most incredible Houdini experiences of my life. I made so many discoveries and have so much to share that I will probably do so in two posts; one detailing the house and the other chronicling my full New York adventure. But that adventure is not done yet (off to the Houdini Museum at Fantasma Magic today), so for now, enjoy the below.


My thanks to Beverley Draggon and Detria Davu of Douglas Elliman Real Estate who are handling the sale of 278 and allowed me to run wild!

UPDATEInside Houdini's 278 & Wild in Houdini's New York, 2017.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Houdini at home

Here's an unpublished photo of Houdini inside his home at 278 West 113th Street in New York. This comes from the collection of the American Museum of Magic and gives a nice look at the house's interior. I thought this was a good time to share this as 278 is on the market for the first time in 26 years. Perhaps Harry is fielding offers below?


I also wanted to provide something interesting to look at for the next few days because, yes, I'm off to New York to attend the 278 Open House on Sunday! I can't believe that I will soon be standing in the very room we see above. (Exactly which room this is, I'm not sure, but that's one of many things I'll try to puzzle out.)

I will also be squeezing in as many other Houdini sites as I can in the short time I will be in the city. You can follow my adventures on Twitter @HoudiniWild. I'll also post a full report when I return.

UPDATE: I'm happy to report that I was able to identify exactly where this photo was taken, and so much more! Check out my full reports: Inside Houdini's 278 and Wild in Houdini's New York, 2017.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

278 IS FOR SALE!

Houdini's famous New York home at 278 West 113th Street in Harlem is for sale. The 4-story brownstone is being listed by Douglas Elliman Real Estate for $4.6 million. There will be an open house this Sunday, June 18, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.

Curbed New York has a nice article about the sale with some remarkable photos of the inside of the house (below). In one you can see that part of Houdini's original bookcase still stands in what I believe is the second floor parlor. The house itself has been converted into a three-family home, with an owner’s duplex occupying the first two floors, a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor, and a two-bedroom on the third floor. The house still contains the original wood in the foyer and tin ceilings.

Houdini purchased "278" (as he called it) in 1904 for $25,000. Bess sold the house in June 1927 to her neighbors, John and Fillippina Bonanno, whose daughters lived in the house until the late 1970s. This is the first time the house has been on the market in 26 years (interesting number). The last time it sold was in 1991 to Fred Thomas. When Thomas bought the house he was not told it was the former home of Houdini. But today's listing at Douglas Elliman proudly uses it as a selling point.


Of course, my great wish is that someone in the magic world will buy the house and open up at least part of it as a museum. But whomever purchases the house, I hope they honor and preserve the Houdini history that is still left inside. This is a magical place indeed.

Check out the article about the sale at Curbed New York (who nicely linked to WAH). You can view the listing and all the photos at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Agents are Beverley Draggon and Detria Davu.

Thanks to everyone who altered me to this this morning.

UPDATEInside Houdini's 278.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wonder Woman - escape artist

I'm a Wonder Woman fan, so I'm very happy with the success of the new Warner Bros movie with Gal Gadot. To help celebrate, I went in search of any connections between the Amazon Princess and the Handcuff King.

First off, if you've seen the movie, you might have noticed that an escape artist makes a quick appearance on a London street freeing himself from chains. Even though the movie is set during Houdini's lifetime (World War I), it's unlikely this is supposed to be Houdini himself. The website Movies.com speculates that this could be Thaddeus Brown, the mentor to another D.C. Comic hero, Mister Miracle "Master Escape Artist."

While Houdini has met Batman, we've yet to see a Wonder Woman Houdini mash-up. But Diana has played Houdini herself on occasion. Check out this passage in the book Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine:

In Wonder Woman #6, dated Fall 1943, Wonder Woman appeared at a charity function to benefit the women and children of Europe affected by the war. The main event was a Houdini-like escape, where Wonder Woman was chained up and submerged in a tank of water. It was one of the rare instances outside or Paradise Island where Wonder Woman was willingly bound. Of course, everything went wrong. Cheetah added the golden lasso to Wonder Woman's bonds and she barely got out of the tank alive.

Of course, capture and escape is a regular part of Wonder Woman's everyday job. Below are a couple of panels that seem inspired (consciously or unconsciously) by Houdini. Escaping from his Milk Can after it was filled with real milk was something Houdini did from time to time. And Diana's use of the air space at the top of the tank seems right out of Houdini's under the ice exploit.


Oh, and then there's this:



Below are links to a few more "wonder women" escape artists.

UPDATE: Another connection has been pointed out to me on the Houdini & Doyle Fan Group. In the new movie young Diana is played by Emily Carey who also played Mary Doyle in last year's Houdini & Doyle ITV/Fox series.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hardeen's Tramp Chair to be displayed at Oakfest

The original "Tramp Chair" that Theo Hardeen escaped from in 1913 will be displayed at the upcoming Oakfest in Oakland, Maine. Who even knew the chair still existed!

The Morning Sentinel reports that the "so-called tramp chair" is about 800 pounds of steel and stands just 52 inches high. The chair is housed at the Oakland police station where Gary Bennett, owner of Snow Pond Cruises and Historical Tours, said it always raises a lot of interest during his tours. He thinks the lock on it today is the original lock that was used in the early 1900s, as the historical society doesn’t have a key that opens it. The chair is just one of two in known existence from the dozen or so made.

Hardeen escaped from the tramp chair on Tuesday, December 10, 1913 at the Bijou Theater in Bangor, Maine. He was shackled and locked in the chair by a committee from the Bangor City Department. He escaped in 11 mins. Afterwards he told reporters, "I saw the shackles were strong and old-fashioned, not at all like anything I had every tried to get out of, and I knew I would be bothered considerably by this new sort of imprisonment. But I found it easier than I expected. Nothing gave me much trouble but the Yale Lock."

Hardeen was proud of this unique challenge. He printed the full newspaper account of the escape in his pitchbook and also featured it on a poster.

A police cruiser will carry the chair in the OakFest parade at 6 p.m. on July 21. It will then be displayed in a tent during OakFest, July 21-23. The chair is currently available for viewing at the police station during business hours.

For more information on Oakfest visit the official website. You can see more images of the tramp chair HERE.

UPDATE: In the book Houdini's Escapes and Magic by Walter B. Gibson, it's said that Houdini also escape from a Maine Tramp Chair in Boston. Except he called it a "Witch's Chair." It's not clear if it was the same chair here.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

The Master Mystery 6-sheet restored

In April came news that David Haversat of David Haversat Magic had uncovered a hitherto unknown 6-sheet poster for Houdini's silent serial The Master Mystery. Now David gives us a first look at the fully restored poster below. A beauty!


The poster was found among a number of antiquities and other silent film posters in Canada. It's for Episode 14 ("The Tangled Web"), which was the second to last episode of the 1918-19 serial that featured Houdini and what is said to be cinema's first robot.

Thank you David.

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Houdini exhibit in Davenport, Iowa

A special Houdini exhibit is currently on show at the German American Heritage Center in Davenport, Iowa. "Houdini: The Magic and Mystery" opened May 28 and runs through November 4.

The exhibit was compiled by assistant director Kyle Dickson and intern Michael McMahon.

"His influences comprised mostly German sources; his immigrant story is a great one," says Dickson. "There's so  many cool stories people don't know. He was a modern man stuck in a pre-modern world."

The exhibit includes historic photos, advertisements, shackles from the Sidney Radner collection, video footage of Houdini's escapes, a recording of the Final Houdini Seance, and a straitjacket that visitors can put on, borrowed from Augustana College's theater department.

On September 23, Duffy Hudson will appear at the museum with his acclaimed Houdini one man show.

For more information visit the German American Heritage Center's website, Facebook, and Twitter. A nice article about the exhibit can be found at QCOnline.


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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Is this a Houdini sub trunk?

Our good friend Jon Oliver checks in today with a Houdini mystery. Below are photos of what might be a hitherto unknown Houdini sub trunk. Here's Jon's story:

About a month ago I was performing outside of Chicago. After the show, Sandy Marshall (Jay Marshall's grandson) asked me to meet for dinner. 
Over dinner, Sandy Jr. told me about some large items that were still at the old shop on Lincoln Avenue, one of which was a 100 year old sub trunk that he was told was once owned by Houdini. 
Unfortunately, as with many items Jay Marshall acquired, he never wrote down upon paper its history. Jay planned to, but until the end, he relied upon his incredible memory. 
The trunk sat in the back part of The Little Theatre close to the stage, but on the left side. It had a small amount of mold on its back and inside. I offered to clean it up for him, and took it back to Michigan.
The trunk's outside hardware is identical to one of the of two trunks I own from Houdini. The lock upon the trunk was replaced, maybe by Jay, as were the outside handles.

The secret is different from the trunk Patrick Culliton once owned, and at the request of the Marshall family will keep it concealed.



So can anyone out there help identify this trunk? If so, please leave a comment below.

UPDATE: David Charvet over at Kevin Connolly's CONJURING HISTORY - BUY, SELL AND TALK Facebook group points out there were "lots of Sub Trunks sold back in the day." Below is an ad from Arthur P. Felsman's 1924 catalog, coincidentally, in Chicago.


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LINK: Second Prison Cell and Barrel Mystery poster

Joe Notaro by way of Fred Pittella has posted to his blog a NEW image of the second Prison Cell and Barrel Mystery poster glimpsed in the famous lobby display photo below. It gives us a much better look at the poster details and text. But you'll have to go to Joe's site to see it, SO GO!


Below are links that give us looks at a few of the other (not so lost anymore) Houdini posters in this image.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Houdini lecture slides sell for $31,980

Twenty-eight original glass slides from Houdini spirit debunking lecture sold today at Potter & Potter's auction of The Grossman-Nicholson Magic Collection for $31,980 (including 20% buyer's premium). The pre-auction estimate was $10,000 - $15,000. Some of the slides were in color, such as the slide below showing Houdini at the grave of William Davenport.

Description: Collection of Lantern Slides from Houdini’s Spiritualism Lecture. New York: Standard Slide Corp., 1920s. Twenty-eight slides total, comprising 21 (of 50) slides from the original lecture series, and seven related slides (inclusive of one duplicate) added by a second contemporary source, possibly Frederick Eugene Powell or Oscar Teale. Original paper-covered boxes, two lacking tops. Old sequencing labels affixed at edges of slides, matching the ordering of Houdini’s handwritten key sheet (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Lot 7426).

A file of ten letters written to Houdini from Harry Kellar between 1917 and 1921 sold for $7,380. In one letter dated April 29, 1921, Kellar wrote: "I really could never guess what risky stunt you were going to do at Niagara. I only hope you are not going to take any of your dare-devil chances with your life." (Read: Houdini's rough ride at Niagara Falls.)

For once it not a Houdini item that was the highest price realized. This time it was Germain's work trunk and magic apparatus which sold for $33,600, annihilating the auction estimate of $6,000 - $9,000.

Transparencies of the Houdini slides adorned the cover of the auction catalog (right), which is still available from the newly revamped Potter & Potter website.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Master Mystery episode titles

The 15 episodes of Houdini's serial The Master Mystery each carried an individual title. However, as the posters only carried the episode number, it's surprisingly hard to find these titles. Even the novelization goes without. But here's a clipping from a trade journal that reveals all 15 titles. Great shot of Harry as well.


For more on Houdini's films, check out my standalone reference page: Houdini's Movies.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Korhza would have returned in Houdini & Doyle season 2


According to screenwriter (and Magic Castle member) Joshua Brandon, his Margery-like medium Madam Korhza would have returned in another episode of Houdini & Doyle had the series been renewed for a second season. The news came during the one year rewatch party currently being held by the fans over at HouDoyle and the Houdini & Doyle Fan Group on Facebook. Joshua participated in a Q&A as they rewatched "The Curse of Korhza" (episode 5) last week.

Joshua also confirmed that he had Margery in mind when he created Korhza, and that he once suggested the title Medium Well Done, which of course has a nice Hardeen connection.

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

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Watch excerpts from 'Houdini, A Circus Opera'

In 1977 the Carre Theater in Amsterdam premiered Houdini, A Circus Opera with music by Peter Schat and a libretto by Adrian Mitchell. Houdini was played by three different performers in the course of the evening; a signer, a dancer, and an escape artist. I covered this production at length HERE.

Now David Saltman at The Houdini File has discovered video excerpts from the opera itself. This is from 1981 with the signing Houdini played by Jerod Norman and Mark Mazzarella doing the escapes. Enjoy.



Thanks David.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Wild About Harry hits 5 MILLION pageviews


WILD ABOUT HARRY has just crossed 5 million pageviews since our debut on November 10, 2010. Houdini lives indeed! Below are a few stats.

The total number of posts as of today is 3,397. The most viewed post of all time is Fact checking HISTORY's Houdini - Night One with 231,379 pageviews. This is followed by The problem with Bessie (78,235), Fact checking HISTORY's Houdini - Night Two (75,142), The illicit loves of Harry Houdini (48,143) and This is J. Gordon Whitehead (34,408). My general biographical page The life of Harry Houdini has garnered 230,675 views.

The biggest single month was September 2014 with 481,653 pageviews. I don't have a way to see what the single biggest day was, but we've had a few.

The vast amount of our viewers are in the United States (3,186,798), followed by the UK (276,645), Canada (168,229), Germany (121,156) and France (115,328). Users connect via Windows (50%), Mac (19%), iPhone (8%), Android (8%) and iPad (7%).

Thank you all for your support.


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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Remembering James Hamilton

Last month I was shocked and saddened to learn that James Hamilton had passed away. James was a wonderful man who was Wild About Herrmanns. He even looked like Herrmann! I always enjoyed seeing James at the Magic Castle and at magic conventions. I felt we were kindred spirits in our devotion to a single magician, and I always asked him what was new and happening in the Herrmann world. To be standing with him when he got his first good look at the magnificent Matthew Brady portrait of Alexander Herrmann at the last L.A. Magic History Conference was a real treat.

It was also James who provided me with the Jesse L. Lasky quote: "[Houdini] did his best acting handcuffed and locked in a trunk at the bottom of a river." I would frequently tell him that his line was still getting the biggest laugh of my lectures. He always liked that. It also seemed like every time I saw him he was in the midst of sharing. Whether it be his knowledge, items from his collection, or just his own great joy and enthusiasm. In fact, I believe I first met him while he was helping a young historian with information about Adelaide Herrmann for her college dissertation on Women in Magic. That was James.

Yesterday at the Magic Castle, I heard someone say, "James is now with Alexander." I do like the idea that Herrmann is now sharing with him.

Items from James's Herrmann collection will be auctioned by our friends Haversat & Ewing Galleries on June 23-24.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Evidence that a lost Houdini poster survives

Houdini fans are well aquatinted with the below photograph of a Houdini lobby display. One of my favorite things about this photo is it gives us a peak at two now lost Houdini posters (it was three, until this). The most spectacular of these is the large poster in the center showing Houdini being manacled on stage. I've often wondered what this poster must look like in color.


Well, the other night while watching the old 1981 Houdini episode of In Seach of, I saw something that made my jump out of my seat! There were two shots of this very poster...in color. Furthermore, it's not a still image. It appears to be filmed footage of the poster on a wall. So this "lost" Houdini poster appears to exist. Or at least it did in 1981.


Much of this episode was shot inside the former Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada. Was this poster on display there? I've never spotted it in any old photos, and it was not there when I visited in 1990. The show also filmed at the home of Sidney Radner, Walter Gibson, and at the Magic Castle. There is also a credit to the University of Austin (what is now the Ransom Center Collection). So maybe this poster was captured at one of those locations?

This is exciting because it means we might one day get a good look at this full poster in color, and maybe even have the fun of seeing it auctioned (would it set a new record?). Hopefully someone out there knows exactly where this rarity is today.

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