Thursday, November 30, 2017

American Pinball offering Houdini game artwork

American Pinball is offering high quality prints of the translite and playfield of their new "Houdini Master of Mystery" pinball machine. The artwork is by Jeff Busch.

We are proud to offer the Houdini Translite which is a unique art piece that utilizes the eye-catching art from our backglass, and showcases some of the characters on the stage getting ready to open the curtain on the API Grand stage for Houdini to appear. Only $85 shipped to your door within the US. International Shipping is also available.
We are offering High Quality Miniature Playfield Prints. These are a 12x24 miniature print of the art of the Houdini Playfield. It is printed on high gloss quality paper and is perfect for framing and showcasing the art behind Houdini. Only $35 shipped to your door within the US. International Shipping is also available.

To purchase the Houdini Translite or Playfield print email: sales@american-pinball.com.

American Pinball's "Houdini Master of Mystery" pinball machine is yet to be released, but you can keep up with the progress at their official website and Facebook. There you can also watch a video of the gameplay.

Related:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Russian Houdini escape room

Escape Room attractions certainly remain popular around the world. In Moscow the Escape Room facility Claustrophobia features a Houdini-themed room. Love the promotional images below (click to enlarge).

Harry Houdini is a renowned conjuror and illusionist. He has demonstrated to the whole world that he could get out of any set of handcuffs and escape from any locked room. This time the conjuror decided to share his art and find some trainees. How far can you go? Test your luck! Are you ready to pass an exam and enter Houdini’s academy? You have one hour to make an escape in an attempt to excel your legendary teacher!

For more vist the Claustrophobia website. Below are links to a few other Houdini-themed Escape Rooms.

Related:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Rough Riders Vol. 2 collected edition released

Aftershock Comics has released a collected edition of Adam Glass's second series Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm.

Three years have passed since the Rough Riders last adventure, but when an assassins’ 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, ones 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 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.

The collected Rough Riders Vol. 2: Riders on the Storm can be purchased at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

A third series, Rough Riders: Ride or Die, will kick off on February 18, 2018.

Related:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Houdini one of the 'Songs For Extraordinary People'

A song devoted to Houdini can be found on Michael Hearst's new Songs For Extraordinary People. This is a musical tie-in with his 2015 book, Extraordinary People: A Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Some of the World's Most Fascinating Individuals. The Houdini tune features Allyssa Lamb and is pretty good!


You can buy the Houdini track or the full Songs For Extraordinary People CD at Apple Music or iTunes. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com.

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Copperfield is "trying to get" Houdini's bookcase


If you've been following the story of the sale of Houdini's home in New York (278), you'll recall a bit of mystery in regards to his original bookcase. After the first open house in June, in which lucky attendees, including myself, got to recreate Houdini's famous pose beside the case, the bookcase mysteriously vanished, as reported by attendees at the second open house. After initially reporting that the bookcase had been sold to a private collector, the relator told me I was mistaken. It had simply been moved to another property.

Now David Copperfield has confirmed that he's trying to acquire the famous bookcase for his "International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts" in Las Vegas. In an interview with Luis de Matos about Magic Books, Copperfield speaks about owning "half" of Houdini's library (the half that went to John Mulholland), and then drops this bombshell:

Copperfield: We're trying to get the cabinet from his house that was just discovered, so the cabinet...the bookcase can be reunited with his books. Wish me luck with that. We'll see what happens.

So there we go. The bookcase is in play, and that's probably why it's no longer in the house (and therefore not part of the sale). Will it reappear in Las Vegas? Stay tuned.

You can watch the full interview at the Essential Magic Collection Facebook page.

UPDATE: I'm now hearing from more than one source that this is a done deal.

Related:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

LINK: George Hardeen's Halloween Budapest Sojourn

The Lake Powell Chronicle has a nice article about George Hardeen's recent visit to Budapest and The House of Houdini museum. George is the grandson of Theo Hardeen and great-nephew of Houdini.

Click the headline above to read.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Houdini in 1903

By 1903, Houdini had established himself as a very successful performer with a wildly popular specialty -- the handcuff act. But had he retired at this time, as he often threatened to do, he would not be known to us today. But in 1903, he would perform feats and cement his image in a series of famous photos that still resonate more than a century later. It could be said 1903 was the year Harry Houdini became an icon.

Houdini began the new year in rough water -- literally. His passage across the English channel to Holland was done in a storm "in which we all nearly lost our lives, the captain saying that in his thirty-four years of service he never had the misfortune of making such a terrible trip."

Houdini opened at the Rembrandt Theater in Amsterdam. During his month long engagement, he escaped from the Amsterdam Prison in 15 minutes, a feat he immortalized with a well-known poster (possibly his first escape specific poster). He then traveled to Hanover for a return engagement at Mellini’s Theater. He "packed them in as usual", but failed to break the house record he set in 1901.

In March, Houdini played with the Circus Carre at the Reichshallen Theater in Cologne, the city where he had recently scored his great legal victory over Werner Graff. It was here that Houdini hired a new chief assistant, Franz Kukol. The Austrian-born Kukol was the first of what would become a team of all male assistants who would play a major role in Houdini's life both onstage and off. Kukol signed his secrecy oath on March 2, 1903.

Part of the reason Houdini brought Kukol onboard was because Bess was tiring of stage work. While she still appeared in Metamorphosis, Kukol inherited her other assistant duties. "My wife says she wishes she could raise children and stop working," Houdini wrote to a friend that year, "and perhaps in 1905 we may rest long enough to raise one of them things called children ourselves."

Alexander Heimburger
But for now, magic remained the focus of Houdini's life. While in Cologne, Houdini discovered that the great German conjurer, Alexander Heimburger, long thought dead by the magic community, was alive and living in Münster. Houdini visited the 83-year-old Heimburger, who was flattered that the young magician knew so much about his career. Heimburger was the first magician to perform at the White House. He had also known Robert-Houdin. He told Houdini that the Frenchman was not the great inventor that he claimed to be. Even his celebrated autobiography, which had set young Ehrich Weiss on his career in magic, was largely the work of a Parisian journalist. Houdini said the meeting "was like having the history of magic unrolled before my eager eyes."

April saw Houdini back at the popular Wintergarten in Berlin. Here he performed his challenge packing crate escape, which he had first introduced in Essen Ruhr in 1902. He also attended the trial of Anna Rothe, the celebrated "Flower Medium," who had been caught using trickery in a police raid. Houdini wrote about the trial in his regular New York Dramatic Mirror column (perhaps his first writings on the topic of Spiritualism). With a surprisingly sympathetic tone, he wrote that the medium's ultimate conviction was "a sad blow to the cause of spiritualism."

On May 5, Houdini, Bess, and Franz Kukol set out for Russia. (Because the country was still on the Julian calendar, they arrived on April 23.) Houdini opened on May 4 at the Yar, a popular Moscow dinner theater frequented by high society. He was an instant hit. Looking to promote his appearance with a jail escape, he visited Moscow's Butyrskaya Prison. There Chief of Police Lebedeff suggested he try to escape from their Siberian Transport Prison Van, a rolling "safe on wheels" used to ship prisoners to Siberia.


On May 10, Houdini performed his miraculous escape after receiving the most through strip search of his career. But Lebedeff refused to provide an affidavit, and no Russian newspaper reported the escape. Nevertheless, word spread and Houdini's Russian tour was extended for a second month and his salary doubled. During this time he also performed for the Grand Duke Sergei Aeksandrovich and the Grand Duchess at Palace Kleinmichel in Moscow. The royal couple gave the Houdinis gifts, including a white Pomeranian that the Houdinis named Charlie. Houdini then went on to play the Ermitage and Zoo Gardens.

Houdini had some unusual experiences in Russia. One night at the Yar, an Army Officer decided to stand center stage, blocking the audience's view of Houdini's act. The officer cited his right to do so was allowed by his superior social status -- the status of entertainers being considered quite low. When Houdini explained that in America he was considered a "millionaire", the officer apologized and moved aside. Houdini was also hired by a Moscow locksmith to open a safe that had defeated their best efforts for 14 years. Houdini opened the safe in nine hours, revealing a treasure trove of jewels inside. He was paid $750 for his work.

Houdini and Bess spent the Fourth of July (June 21 in Russia) with a group of fellow Americans at the American Consulate. Houdini wrote; "There were many speeches, but not a single firecracker or report of a gun was heard, and without these it did not seem at all like the Glorious Fourth to me." Below is a photo of that gathering, which (at the moment) is the only known photo of Houdini and Bess in Russia.


Houdini then traveled to the sea side resort town of Nizhny Novgorod to play their annual August festival. The city had laws against female performers, so a special show had to be performed for the police, who afterwords gave Bess a special license to appear. Despite a law forbidding smoking on the street, Houdini wrote; "Everything is allowed in this city, and some of the 'goings on' would make the slums of Budapest, Whitechapel, London, and the Cafe Chantants in some parts of Germany look like orphan asylums."

Houdini had planned on traveling to St. Petersburg, home of the Tsar, but he never made it. There are conflicting accounts why. Houdini said that managers in Holland refused to postponed his return engagement to accommodate an extended Russian tour. But biographer Ken Silverman claims that the eccentric promoter who arranged the tour mysteriously vanished after a celebratory dinner in Moscow. Whatever the case, Houdini wrote that, "I will have to open in Holland and return to Russia next Spring."

But he would not be back. Having spent a total of four months in Russia, Houdini was relieved when he left. He recorded in his diary that he felt the country itself was "some sort of mild prison" from which he had "managed to escape."

In September, Houdini toured with the Circus Carre in Holland. In Dordrecht, he escaped from "The Old Prison." But it was what Houdini did in Groningen that would have the most indelible effect on his legacy. He posed for a series of publicity photos at the studio of J.F. Blöte, located at Oosterstraat D 18. These shots, which showed the muscular magician in a loincloth shacked with an assortment of manacles, would become among the most iconic images of Houdini ever produced. To this day they are used to illustrate Houdini in his prime, and even actors who portray Houdini are tasked with reproducing the most famous of these images, with varying degrees of success.

A selection of shots from the J.F. Blöte photo shoot in Groningen.

Houdini turned down a tour of Italy with the Circus Carre, and instead spent October at the Central Theater in Dresden. Houdini boasted that the theater drew the best business since his departure in 1900. On October 8, he paid his famous visit to magician Wiljalba Frikell, whom many considered to be the first true modern magician (it was Frikell, not Robert-Houdin, who first rejected the wizard robes in favor of evening dress). But when Houdini arrived, he found the great man sitting dead among his artifacts, having been struck down by a heart-attack just two hours before. Houdini attended his funeral on October 13, placing a wreath on his grave on behalf of the Society of American Magicians.

Houdini's visits to past master magicians, such as Heimburger and Frikell, as well as his pilgrimages to the graves of dead ones, were inspiring him to write a book on the history of magic; if for no other reason than to redeem the contributions by a generation of magicians who had been overshadowed by Robert-Houdin. (The irony being Houdini would overshadow his own generation, if not the entire history of the art.) To this end, he began to collect enormous amounts of material, sometimes buying whole collections at a time. He would never shake or satisfy his enormous collector instinct.

In November, Houdini returned to the UK, committing to a six month tour. His first engagement was at the Pavilion Theater in Leicester. Sharing the the bill were the famous cake-walkers of Leeds. Houdini wrote: "The business is record breaking and the only mystery apparent is, who is doing the drawing––is it Houdini with his $800 weekly salary or the cake-walkers with their $8 'cold' watches." On November 9th, he escaped from a military prison in which Oliver Cromwell had held his prisoners.

It was during this tour that Houdini published his first biographical pitchbook: America's Sensational Perplexer! The 12-page booklet featured the first appearances of his Groningen photos, said to depict feats in Berlin, Cologne, and Moscow. The pitchbook was another important part of his legacy. After three years as a headliner, Houdini now had enough to begin to build a biography of his career success. He would continue to expand and update this base pitchbook for the rest of his life.

After Leicester, Houdini appeared at the People's Palace in Halifax, where he had an onstage encounter with a rival Handcuff King named Pollard. The Empire in Huddersfield followed. It was there Houdini learned of the death in Australia of another rival, Cirnoc, who had so memorably disrupted his Alhambra debut in 1900.

It was then back to "the wretched town" of Blackburn, site of the painful Hodgson challenge the year before. Here Houdini had to deal with "a heel named Wilson" who turned the audience against him during a challenge. Even though Houdini was successful in defeating Wilson's doctored handcuffs, he was booed. This seemed to again trigger thoughts of retirement in the 29-year-old, as the Blackburn papers reported:

I hear that Houdini having made his 'pile' tends shortly to retire from the stage, for the demands made on him by his performances and the brutality to which he has not infrequently had to submit, are making inroads to his health.

Houdini and Bess spent Christmas in Hull. With the theater closed and "London too far to go for a single day", Houdini spent Christmas writing his Dramatic Mirror column. He then closed out the year in Birmingham where police refused to allow him to escape from their jail.

Thanks to John Bushey for the pitchbook image.

Related:

    Wednesday, November 22, 2017

    New UK paperback edition of ESCAPADE

    A new paperback edition of Walter Satterthwatt's 1995 novel Escapade has been released by Ostara Publishing. This marks the book's first publication in the UK. Shame the cover art doesn't play up the Houdini connection.

    It is the summer of 1921 and the guests are arriving at the stately country house (haunted, of course) of Lord Purleigh in Devon; among them a Viennese psychoanalyst, a mysterious medium there to conduct the obligatory seances which were all the rage, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the creator of Sherlock Holmes and the great escapologist and showman Harry Houdini. Ostensibly hired to act as Houdini’s bodyguard, following threats from a jealous fellow magician, Phil Beaumont finds himself casting a wise-cracking American eye over English high society whilst dealing with the energetic attentions of Lady Purleigh’s daughter and having to solve the murder – in a locked room – of the wheelchair bound head of the family, the Earl of Axminster. With assistants such as Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, the case should not be difficult, though of course it is, but the one who shows the most promise could be Jane Turner…

    Purchase Escapade at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

    Related:

    Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    Houdini in Eastern Europe

    Barbara Kiss at the House of Houdini museum blog has uncovered details about Houdini's early appearances in Vienna and Prague. Precious little about these engagements appear in biographies, so this is exciting. Links below:

    Houdini and Vienna, Part 1 (1900)
    Houdini and Prague (1901)
    Houdini and Vienna, Part 2 (1902) - coming soon

    A poster for Houdini's Prague appearance (right) sold at a Potter & Potter auction in February for $3,936.

    The House of Houdini is located at at 11 Dísz Square, within the walls of the Buda Castle. The museum is open Monday to Sunday from 9:30am to 7pm.

    Related:

    'Son of Houdini' looks to unlock investors

    Son of Houdini is a proposed feature film written by Barbara Glasser based on the short story "Hyman the Magnificent" from A Plague of Dreamers by Steve Stern. Here's the pitch:

    An orphan in Memphis, Tennessee has reason to believe that the great Houdini might be his father. When Houdini dies of a ruptured appendix on Halloween Eve, 1926, our hero Hyman Weiss, decides to take up the mantle of his ‘spiritual father’ and become an Escape Artist. For one reason or another, Hyman is unable to rehearse his tricks and each performance ends in disaster. Miriam, the village beauty, has feelings for the compelling Hyman, at least in part because in her he seems to be uninterested.

    Guaranteed: No violence, no obscenity, no nudity, no crudity, no car chases, no ingestion of questionable substances, just one memorable kiss, initiated by Miriam. A character-driven Coming-of-Age Romantic Comedy with subtlety, charm and wit. Perfect Family Film and First-Date Movie.

    Producers Silver Fox Cinema are seeking investors. That's a hard road to travel, but they've put together a very nice website. I wish them the best of luck.

    Related:

    Sunday, November 19, 2017

    Did Houdini secretly announce his return date?

    Here's some speculative Sunday fun. While watching The Man From Beyond last night, I had a (wine induced) thought when this shot appeared on-screen. This is when Jane Connelly shows Howard Hillary the current date: March 14, 1922.


    It's then Howard realizes he's been in the "Great Beyond" for 100+ years (apparently cars, telephones, and the clothing did not alert him). So this his return date, which makes for a great Houdini trivia question. But could it mean something more?

    The Man From Beyond was Houdini's baby. It was the first movie for his own Houdini Picture Corporation and he wrote it himself. So might this actually be an embedded message code for the future? Was Houdini using this to communicate his next 100 year return from the great beyond? Might we finally hear from Harry on March 14, 2022? Mark your calendars and remember:


    Okay, so why did Houdini really choose this date? Well, it's likely it wasn't a choice at all, it was simply the date on the newspaper that he had on hand. But, interestingly, that means this shot could not have been done during the making of the actual movie. The Man From Beyond was shot in 1921. Houdini immediately went into production on Haldane of the Secret Service and went about the business of trying to find distribution for The Man From Beyond. This took longer than he may have anticipated.

    It was 1922 before Houdini decided to release the movie using the States Rights model. So to bring the movie up to date (it premiered on April 2, 1922), Houdini appears to have created a new insert shot. Further evidence that this is an insert is the fact that it's clearly not Jane Connelly's finger pointing at the date. That's Houdini's finger. And Houdini was performing at the Riverside Theater near Buffalo on March 14, 1922 where he'd have access to a Buffalo newspaper. So there we go.

    Houdini did have some fun with other dates in this movie. Early in the story, the Arctic explorers discover a note written by Hillary during his final days in the 19th century. Look at the date Houdini uses here:


    For more on the making of The Man From Beyond, check out the links below.

    Related:

    Newspapers remain wild about Harry

    Houdini's great fame was in no small part due to the rise of the mass media newspaper industry. Now, in the waning days of physical newspapers, it's interesting to see that Houdini is still a friend to the old form.

    As evidence, here is a local San Diego area newspaper called simply, The Paper, which early this month ran a lengthy front page feature about Houdini by Friedrich Gomez.

    I always enjoy seeing Houdini in newsprint, if just for nostalgia's sake. But finding this outside San Diego might be the real magic trick. Good thing you can download a PDF HERE.

    Related:

    Saturday, November 18, 2017

    LINK: Harry, Larry and Violet: Safe Bind, Safe Find

    Alison Young on her blog Music Hall Alice ("All things Music Hall…") has posted a photo of a terrific personal Houdini artifact handed down from her great grandfather, Larry Lewis, as well as the story of Houdini's performances at the Bristol Empire in the UK in 1909.

    Click the headline to have a read.

    Related:

    Friday, November 17, 2017

    June Horowitz remembers a visit from Houdini

    The American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan, has shared news of a very special visitor; June Horowitz, who at age 104 has experienced a remarkable life in magic, and even once had Houdini visit her home! That make June the only person that I am currently aware of who has a first hand memory of the great magician.

    Below is an image from June's visit and description from the American Museum of Magic Facebook page.

    June Horowitz visited the museum this morning, remarking that almost 39 years have passed since the first time she visited. As is often typical, she attracted the attention of local magicians eager to see her yet again and to hear her marvelous stories. 
    June became the first woman president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) in 1987. A former math teacher at Ottawa Hills High School, both her husband and her father were also famous magicians of their era. Indeed, when June was a child, her father was visited by the best known magician of all time, the great escapist Harry Houdini. June says she was somewhere between seven to twelve years old at the time, but she remembers it well. 
    June said she enjoyed everything in the museum this morning, including the tricks a few members of Ring 89 performed for her (and she performed one for them, as well), but she seemed most taken with our copy of The Discoverie of Witchcraft, the first English book on magic published in 1584. It was very clear to those present that June's love of magic is as strong now as it has ever been. 
    Our thanks to June Horowitz, her long-time friend Sylvia Herman, and June's care-giver Cathy, for making the trip from Grand Rapids to Marshall. 
    A few months ago, in September, June turned 104. She may well be the most loved magician in all of Michigan and it was an honor to welcome her again to the American Museum of Magic.

    The American Museum of Magic in Marshall Michigan is located at 107 E Michigan Ave, Marshall, MI 49068. It's open April through December. For more information visit their website and Facebook.

    Related:

    'Houdini: My Hero, Magic Show' in Bergenfield, NJ

    The Bergenfield Public Library in Bergenfield, NJ, will host a special event "Houdini: My Hero, Magic Show!" this Sunday, November 19 at 2:00 PM.

    Fun for the entire family! Professional Escapist, Tom Yurasits demonstrates a few of Houdini’s famous feats. As you are entertained you will learn more about Houdini and even hear him speak on a recording made more than 100 years ago!

    For more information visit the Bergenfield Public Library website and Facebook page.

    Related:

    Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Meet the new Houdini: Iñaki Ruiz de Galarreta

    Spanish Illusionist Iñaki Ruiz de Galarreta plays Houdini in the new Disney Channel series, Club Houdini. Galarreta is known professionally as the Sun Wizard and is the winner of the National Magic Award in 2011. Below is a Q&A interview that appeared in elPeriódico. The interview is in Spanish, but I've translated (as best I could) so we can all get to know our latest Houdini.

    How was it playing the most mythical magician in history in a children's series?
    I loved it. Houdini is one of my role models, even in my shows I pay tribute to one of his most risky effects, so to be able to do this TV project has been very interesting for me. In the series, Houdini is a mysterious character, perhaps at first a little serious with the children and closed, but as he progresses, the character opens up a little and becomes more friendly with the little ones, and he even becomes a mentor and gives them hints to look for the treasure. 
    At what age did you begin dedicating yourself to magic?  
    I started at 12 or 13 years old. 
    How did your passion for illusion come about?  
    I saw a small show in my hometown and I was amazed when the magician made a person disappear. At the moment, I became fascinated with magic. I started to study and to travel to competitions. I started to assemble my own act, and I went to a championship and won the National Magic Award, which motivated me a lot. Then I participated in a television program and from there made the great leap in the Gran Vía show. 
    What was it like working with children in 'Club Houdini'?  
    Being able to work with children has been fantastic. For me it has been very fun. For example, I made a game for them in the series that we had to repeat several times where a string was broken into pieces and then recomposed, and I saw how they were watching all the time. These children are the result of a very good casting.
      
    You've made television appearances with your shows, but this is your first role in a fiction series. How did it feel to be an actor?  
    It has been a very enriching experience because they have opted to cast a magician and not an actor, as is usually the case on these occasions. This means the magic is treated with a special affection, in a legitimate way with real props, doing the effects that Houdini did. 
    Do you think 'Club Houdini' will make children want to become magicians?  
    I think so, in fact magic is fashionable nowadays. When I go to see performances, I see many mothers who tell me that their children want to be magicians. The series will convey a lot of mystery and that will awaken interest in magic and the unknown. 
    Do you think that new technologies help make more magic shows more spectacular, or make the public more and more aware that there is always a trick behind each effect?
    Technology advances and magicians must also be up to date. Maybe there are tricks that no longer surprise and we have to give them a twist. We even do magic with technology, with mobile phones, for example. Yes it is true that it is increasingly difficult to surprise because of the great technology that surrounds society.

    Club Houdini airs on the Disney Channel in Spain. The first two episodes, La Bola del Mundo and Aventura en el Museo can be found at the DC15 TV YouTube Channel.

    Related:

    Wednesday, November 15, 2017

    Dash for cash

    This photo sold on eBay today for a $159 Buy It Now. The seller notes that written on the back is: "Ferenc Dezso Weisz - 1880 Appleton." So is this really a photo of Houdini's brother Hardeen?

    Well, this is the fourth time this same seller from Italy, using different eBay IDs, has magically produced an unseen image of what is claimed to be a Weiss family member. Each listing has offered the same vague details and none have bore any resemblance to the subject. So I'm skeptical.

    You can see the seller's other offerings via the links below. One wonders who might be produced next?

    Thanks to Kevin Connolly for the alert.

    UPDATE: To see an undoubtably legit unpublished photo of a very young Dash, check out David Saltman's post at The Houdini File.

    Related:

    The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1 released

    Today sees the release of the first issue of Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini by Cynthia von Buhler. The adult comic from Titan and Hard Case Crime comes in four variant covers, as you can see below.

    Unappreciated at her father's detective agency, the fabulous, rabbit-loving Minky Woodcock straps on her gumshoes in order to uncover a magical mystery involving the world-famous escape artist, Harry Houdini. Created by acclaimed artist, author, director, and playwright Cynthia Von Buhler.

    Issue #2 is due for release December 13. A collected edition will be released in June 2018 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com.

    For more, check out www.minkywoodcock.com.

    Related:

    Tuesday, November 14, 2017

    Houdini manga from 1991

    Here's an interesting international discovery by, who else, Arthur Moses. This Japanese Houdini manga biography was published by Jump Comics in 1991. The book is 260 pages, with the first 183 pages devoted to Houdini and the second half about soccer stars. Below is the cover and look inside (click images to enlarge).



    Below are links to some more unique international Houdini bios.

    Thanks Arthur.

    Related:

    Monday, November 13, 2017

    Disney Channel Spain launches 'Club Houdini'


    The Disney Channel in Spain has launched a new series called Club Houdini. The series features a group of kids in search of treasure with the help of Houdini himself, played by real-life Illusionist Iñaki Ruiz de Galarreta.

    In an interview with elPeriódico, Galarreta said, "Houdini is one of my role models, even in my shows I make a tribute to one of the riskiest numbers, so to make this TV project has been very interesting for me. In the series, Houdini is a mysterious character, perhaps initially a little serious with children and closed, but as you go along, the character becomes more of a friend and mentor and gives them clues to find the treasure."

    Club Houdini premiered October 28, 2017. The first two episodes, La Bola del Mundo and Aventura en el Museo can be found at the DC15 TV YouTube Channel. Below is a trailer.



    This isn't Disney's first foray into the world of Houdini. In 1987 they produced Young Harry Houdini starring Wil Wheaton as a "Disney Sunday Movie."

    Related:

    Sunday, November 12, 2017

    Houdini mystery sack sells in auction

    A green canvas sack said to have been used by Houdini sold last week in a Bloomsbury auction for £1,500 ($1,978). Below is the auction description.

    A green, oversized, canvas sack used by Harry Houdini (1874-1926) as a prop for some of his escapology tricks. The sack, which measures 76" x 46", is thought to have been used by Houdini circa 1915. The sack was a gift from Houdini's brother, Theo to a mutual friend following Houdini's death; then in possession of the mutual friend's family; Christie's "Pop Culture: Film & Entertainment Memorabilia" sale, 23 November 2011

    So is this really a Houdini prop? Could it even be the sack Houdini and later Hardeen used in Metamorphosis? We now know the trunk Hardeen used was Harry's, and that was also green. And a straitjacket owned by the same gentleman who originally owned this sack was positively identified as being the straitjacket Houdini used in many of his suspended straitjacket escapes. (Both the straitjacket and this sack sold at Christie's in 2011, see link below.)

    However, all the known images of the Houdini and Hardeen doing Metamorphosis show their sack did not have drawstrings as this one does. The Metamorphosis sack was tried shut with a small length of rope or cloth that was marked for later identification. So this doesn't appear to be a Metamorphosis sack. But could it have been used for something else? I can't recall any other Houdini escape or magic effect that involved a sack. Unless this is gaffed, my best guess would be this was used behind the scenes...as a sack.

    The mystery remains.

    Hardeen doing Metamorphosis.

    Thanks to Joe Long for the news.

    Related:

    Saturday, November 11, 2017

    Houdini Museum of New York teases expansion

    Today the Houdini Museum of New York at Fantasma Magic posted the following to their Facebook and Instagram pages.


    Now, I don't think they've found the original Automaton from The Master Mystery. I think it's more likely they've acquired John Gaughan's terrific "working" reproduction that he created for the 2015 Los Angeles Magic History Conference. That's exciting. But what I'm even more excited about is this "new venue" and what sounds like a major expansion of the museum. "Several hundred new items!?" This is good.

    When I know more, so will you.

    You can check out photos and film of John Gaughan's Automaton in action below.

    UPDATEHoudini Museum of New York moves to new location.

    Related:

    Read HOUDINI UNBOUND's original framing story

    David Saltman is offering on his website The Houdini File the original "framing story" for his just released novel, HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia. According to David, the framing story was popular among editors, but ultimately deemed too complex and unnecessary, so it was cut.

    I would have loved to have seen this stay in as I think it very nicely establishes the "true fiction" approach of the book. It tells the story of David's discovery of the manuscript for this "untold tale" by way of Harry Houdini Kukol, the son of Franz Kukol. This reminds me of how many Sherlock Holmes pastiche novels open with the discovery of some long lost manuscript written by Dr. Watson. David even consults with Milbourne Christopher!

    As with the rest of the novel, it's great fun, and it's loaded with Easter eggs for the true Houdini buff, so click to read the original framing story PART I and PART II.

    HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia can be purchased as a hardcover, paperback and eBook from at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

    Related:

    Friday, November 10, 2017

    LINK: The WILD Life of Houdini - Year by Year

    Click the headline to go to a new standalone page in which I spell out my plan, approach, and progress in documenting every year of Houdini's life, year by year. And watch for 1903 coming soon.

    Russian researchers offer "Harry Houdini Prize"


    The BBC reports that a group of Russian researchers will call out TV shows about clairvoyants for promoting "fake science". The group, led by scientist Alexander Panchin and skeptic Mikhail Lidin, say they will use YouTube to show viewers why they shouldn't believe everything they see on their TV screens.

    The group also administers Russia's own "Harry Houdini Prize," which regularly invites the stars of psychic shows to replicate their feats under controlled conditions for a prize of one million roubles.

    Lidin says, "These programs lead to people using faith-healers and fortune-tellers, signing up for worthless or even potentially harmful psychic training courses, and handing over money to swindlers." He points to the consistently high levels of belief in the paranormal in Russia, especially since the fall of he Soviet Union.

    But not all TV mediums get away with it. Yuri Oleinin, a contestant on the show "Battle of the Clairvoyants" is now serving three years in prison for defrauding 20 people via a radio call-in program.

    Related:

    Thursday, November 9, 2017

    Houdini mystery prop at FrightFest in Oklahoma

    Wryne Higgins at the Houdini & Doyle Fan Group on Facebook (which has now been around longer life than the series itself) posted this image she took at Frontier City's annual FrightFest in Oklahoma. This wasn't part of any existing attraction, it was just sitting on its own. Anyone have any idea what this could have once been a part of?


    Below are links to some other Houdini amusement park attractions.

    Thanks Wryne.

    Related:

    Wednesday, November 8, 2017

    London Hippodrome history display

    A good friend in the UK sends over this photo he took of a new history display inside the London Hippodrome Casino. There we see Houdini representing 1904, the year in which he famously escape from the Mirror Handcuffs on the Hippodrome stage .


    Click to visit the official Hippodrome website which mentions Houdini in their History section as well as in their promotional video.

    Thanks to David Winter.

    Related:

    Tuesday, November 7, 2017

    A Celebration of the Life and Writings of Kenneth Silverman

    There will be "A Celebration of the Life and Writings of Kenneth Silverman" tomorrow, November 8, at 5PM at the The Fales Library, Bobst Library at New York University. Among his many achievements, Dr. Silverman was the author of what is still (IMHO) the finest Houdini biography ever written, Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss.


    For more information visit the event website.

    Thanks to Kevin Connolly.

    Related:

    David Saltman's HOUDINI UNBOUND is inbound

    David Saltman's eagerly awaited historical novel HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia is published today Hudson River Books. This novel is set during Houdini's 1903 tour of Russia and finds Harry engaged in espionage on behalf of the U.S. government.

    It's 1903; America is besieged by a rapacious Russia and a power-mad Germany. President Theodore Roosevelt has just learned that the Russians have stolen the U.S. diplomatic code, and that the Germans have a nest of spies in the Russian royal court. Into this maelstrom steps the young and innocent Harry Houdini. His brilliant illusions have convinced Nicholas and Alexandra, the Russian royals, that he has genuine magical powers. When they invite Harry and his wife Bess to become their spiritual advisers, Roosevelt enlists Houdini as a spy for the U.S.A. Suddenly, Houdini is performing on a world scale, and the stakes are much higher than even his own life: the life of his wife and the peace of the world hang in the balance.

    This story, never told before, is based on true events.

    David had created an extremely entertaining novel that nicely blends fact and fiction. The first chapters of the book dramatize Houdini's tour of Russia quite accurately, including his performances at Establishment Yard and his famous escape from the Siberian Transport Prison Van (David elects to go with the sawing through the floor method). The book then heads into it's fictional narrative when Harry and Bess join the Russian Royal Court and move into the Royal Palace, and President Roosevelt seeks to make the Handcuff King his own secret agent. Lots of intrigue and Master Mystery-like escape action ensues, with Harry finding himself in dungeon chains and even a Spanish Maiden.

    Throughout the book David interjects accurate details about Houdini's life and character. He even includes a nod to his possible claustrophobia. And unlike other recent Houdini spy fiction, David keeps Houdini's activities more rooted in his character and profession -- his primary "assignment" being to expose the (real-life) medium Philippe, who appears to be driving the superstitious Tsar into war. Houdini even uses the name Heath Haldane at one point!

    David also nicely parallels the backstory of Mayer Samuel, Houdini's father, whose own encounter with royalty led to him fleeing his home country. Bess and Franz Kukol also play large parts in the story, as do characters out of history such as Gorky and Chekhov.

    In his afterward, David pegs his novel at being 98% factual. I'm not sure I'd place the number that high (for starters, Bess is blonde), but I'll leave it to the reader to formulate your own percentage, and also enjoy a darn good piece of Houdini fiction while you're at it.

    HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia can be purchased as a hardcover, paperback and eBook from at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

    Related:

    Appleton's Houdini 10K run 2017

    Houdini's adopted hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin held their annual "Houdini 10K" run on Saturday. The run started at at Houdini Plaza in Downtown and ended at Houdini’s Escape Gastropub. Below is this year's finishers medal.


    To see photos from Appleton's Houdini 10K and for more information, check out their official Facebook page.

    Related:

    Monday, November 6, 2017

    ITV Encore repeating Houdini & Doyle

    ITV Encore in the UK is repeating the series Houdini & Doyle. From this schedule page, it looks like they are showing a new episode each week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays between 12:00am and 2:00am.  This week they are showing episode 5, The Curse of Korzha.


    Houdini & Doyle originally aired on ITV, Fox and Global TV in 2016. It's currently available for streaming on Amazon and was released on DVD in the UK.

    You can check out my episode guide with links to my reviews HERE.

    Related:

    LINK: Halloween 2017: The Ghost of Harry Houdini

    Here's a must-read post at the family blog Sweet Juniper ("We are just two more yuppies raising their kids in the most dangerous city in America"). It's hard to describe, so I'd recommend just clicking the headline and go.

    On that fateful day in 1926, a stubborn Houdini was hauled from the Statler hotel to Sinai-Grace Hospital, which like most places of historical interest in Detroit, is now a parking lot. Nonetheless, my visit to the parking lot on the corner of John R and Willis totally proved that the site is nonetheless haunted by the ghost of the great magician who died right there. What a showman!
    Related:

    Sunday, November 5, 2017

    100 years ago: Houdini hangs in Times Square

    It was 100 years ago today the Houdini performed a suspended straitjacket escape in New York's Times Square. For the occasion, here's a rarely seen image that gives us a completely different perspective on the escape than the more familiar photos.


    Houdini had attempted to stage a suspended straitjacket escape in Times Square (still sometimes referred to by its original name, Longacre Square) a year earlier to promote his appearance at the Palace Theatre. But the police stepped in and stopped it. He did the escape the next day in Battery Park (a story I recently shared HERE).

    This time Houdini, who had committed himself to the war effort, was looking to promote a benefit he was organizing at the Hippodrome for families of the 67 victims of the SS Antilles, an Army transport ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat the previous month. Houdini reached out to the politically connected Else Maxwell, who was able to help him secure permission to perform the escape "for the purpose of advertising a patriotic performance."

    Houdini performed the escape on November 5, 1917 dangling 60 feet above Broadway and Seventh Avenue (Silverman reports the cross streets as Broadway and 46th St.) from a crane being used to construct the new Times Square subway station. In return for the favor of permission, Houdini made a short speech in his support of New York's incumbent Mayor John Purroy Mitchel who was facing reelection the following day. Handbills announcing the Antilles benefit were distributed among the crowd and wives of S.A.M. members sold Thrift Stamps and War Bonds as Houdini completed his escape in 10 minutes.

    The next day, The New York Tribune reported the feat:


    Houdini's Antilles benefit was held on November 11 and raised $10,000. As far as I know, Houdini never did another suspended straitjacket escape in New York City.

    Related:

    Saturday, November 4, 2017

    Photos from The Official Houdini Séance 2017

    Here are some photos from The Official Houdini Séance 2017, which this year was held inside a former bank vault, now part of the Crop Bistro & Bar in Cleveland, OH. Even Harry decided to attend this year! (If you believe.) Enjoy.

    Medium Marianne Goldweber with Inner Circle attendees at the vault!
    Three-course meal before the seance.
    Seance co-organizer Tom Boldt and magician Paul Gallagher.
    Dr. Bruce J. Averbook awaits Harry.
    Will Harry escape?
    David Saltman divines the Seance Cuffs.
    Official program (outside)
    Official program (inside)

    Thanks to William Radner and Robert Somerdin for the pics.

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