Jim Collins - the man who knew Houdini's secrets


Jim Collins worked as Houdini trusted chief assistant and mechanic from 1910 until Houdini's death in 1926. Collins was instrumental in the creation of many of Houdini most famous effects, including the Chinese Water Torture Cell.

Jim Collins is a bit of mystery. That's because he preferred to stay behind the scenes both during and after Houdini's career. But we do know he was born in the UK, possibly Portsmouth, on December 13, 1882. In 1902 he answered an ad in a London paper to become Hardeen's assistant. Houdini hired Collins on December 3, 1910 (at least this is date Collins signed his official oath of secrecy). It's speculated that Houdini needed Collins' carpentry skills in the construction of his Double Fold Defying Mystery box.

Eventually Collins replaced Franz Kukol as Houdini's chief assistant. Of his boss Collins said, "Many times, when there was no need for it as I was on regular salary, he gave me substantial presents and bonuses to show his appreciation...as far as I know no magician has ever paid an assistant what Houdini was generous enough to pay me."

According to the best sources, Collins was married twice. His first wife in England was Sarah Ann with whom he had five children; Lucy, Reginald, Nora, Sonny and Hilda. His second wife in America was a former showgirl named Maud Meyer. It's unclear if Collins was ever divorced from his first wife.

After Houdini's death, Collins went on to assist Hardeen during the 1930s and '40s. He even occasionally performed on his own. Jim Collins died in Philadelphia on March 6, 1942.

Jim Collins was played by Evan Jones in the 2015 Houdini miniseries which inexplicably portrayed him as a bumkin from Macon, Georgia. That same year Paul Zenon gave a far more accurate portrayal in a one-man play about Collins called Linking Rings.

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Family background information from The Magic Cafe.

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