Here's one that has stumped me for years. The below footage is the only surviving film of Houdini doing his overboard box escape. But the date and location of this stunt has long been a mystery. Now thanks to a clue buried in a Houdini-Harry Kellar letter at David Copperfield's International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts (where I am typing this), I finally know when, where, and why Houdini did this escape.
This escape took place on June 30, 1917 in Westport (Saugatuck), Connecticut, during a special Red Cross charity drive at the home of Frederick E. Lewis II. Houdini is being lowered into Long Island Sound here. The below from the June 27, 1917 Bridgeport Times announces the event and Houdini's escape.
This is a clipping from the Grand Rapids Herald showing Houdini's suspended straitjacket escape from the Grand Rapids Savings Bank building in 1916.
According to Michigan Day by Day, the date of this clipping is November 20, 1916, which would mean Houdini did this stunt on November 19, 1916. However, that's problematic as Houdini was in Columbus on this date. His week at the Empress Theater in Grand Rapids began on November 27. So I'm thinking the website made an error. However, I've been unable to accurately date this clipping or the escape as the Herald and other Grand Rapids papers are not on newspapers.com.
Any research bloodhounds want to take up the search and help me nail down the date of Houdini's Grand Rapids straitjacket escape?
The Grand Rapids Savings Bank building still stands today. It was built in 1916 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. We love a surviving Houdini location!
UPDATE: Our good friend Gary Hunt has solved the mystery. This stunt took place on Wednesday, November 29, 1916. Thank you Gary!
For Houdini's birthday week, Peter Monticup of MagicTricks.com shares his Houdini collection. Peter has posted a video and also provides links to images. There are some rarities here (the Weird Tales flyer caught my eye) and it's fun to see someone so enjoy their Houdini collection.
During Houdini's run in Boston in May 1908 he gave a special performance for students at Harvard University. But there was a slight snafu. This is a story that appears in several Houdini biographies, but it's nice to read a primary source and see there was a bit more to it. The below account is from the May 7, 1908 Boston Globe:
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While the article doesn't explicity state that Houdini did the escape naked, I think it's pretty clear that he did!
Even after he left town the campus still seemed to have Houdini fever. It even inspired some pranksters, as reported in the May 22, 1908 Boston Globe:
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You can read more about Harvard's infamous "Med Fac" society HERE.
For the past week I've been living a dream inside David Copperfield's incredible International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts in Las Vegas. I was invited to go through all his Houdini material (or as much as I could do in a week) for the purposes of research, organization, and to generally flip out at the tidal wave of rarities and share my discoveries with David. It was an honor to be given such generous access to the world's largest magic collection.
I still haven't processed everything I saw and experienced, but being swept up in the world of David Copperfield and all the talented people who work with him gave me a taste of what it would have been like to spend a week with Houdini himself.
I kept my patrons updated with semi daily reports from inside the walls, which includes a list of 12 wild Houdini rarities I uncovered. You can read those posts below if you are a member of my Patreon or would like to join. Enjoy!
Thanks to David Copperfield, Glenda Wellendorf, Chris Kenner, and everyone at The Magic of David Copperfield and the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts for an unforgettable experience.
Here's one from all the way back in 1998 that I only recently discovered. Houdini och hans bästa trick (Houdini and his top trick) by Dan Höjer is a Swedish book for young readers from publisher Rabén & Sjögren. It runs 45 pages. I've not seen the book itself, but from the cover art I assume it's illustrated.
Just a heads up that there will be no posts for the next week or so as I will be focusing all my Houdini energy on a very special project. But I won't let any "breaking" news slip past. If you want to know what I'm up to, check out my Patreon. Stay wild!
The Facebook page for Houdini Unlocked, the new traveling exhibition from Appleton's History Museum at the Castle, shared this image yesterday. It has me excited for a few reasons. First, I've not seen it before. Also this appears to be Houdini's suspended straitjacket escape in Washington D.C. on April 19, 1916. I just did a post about this escape and said I had never seen a photo. Well, I have now!
But there's another aspect to this photo that has me excited. You can clearly see Franz Kukol among the men (he's in the bowler hat and holding a camera). This is two years after Franz was supposed to have left Houdini and returned home to Austria to serve in the military. Just further evidence that he did not leave. It's also interesting to see that he's still sporting his Kaiser Wilhelm-style mustache. This is the only time I've ever spotted Franz in any photo or film of a suspended straitjacket escape.
According to the great Patrick Culliton, Franz remained with Houdini to the end using the name Frank Williamson. You can catch up on that story via the related links below. And if you want to see film of this escape, check out my Patreon.
Magician Scott Morley and his wife Britni will once again present Houdini Lives Again at their Morley's Magic Theater in Butler, New Jersey on March 24, 25 & 26. Below are details.
March 24th was Houdini's birthday, so this weekend is the perfect time to pay tribute to his life and magical impact.
Step back in time one hundred years for Houdini Lives Again - a theatrical recreation of the legendary magic and escape act performed by Harry Houdini and his wife Bess from 1894-1926.
A full hour of mind blowing magic, unique stage illusions, and impossible escapes! Take a walk through history with the Houdinis as they go from side show entertainers, to Vaudeville stars, to having their own show on Broadway! Turn of the century songs, costumes, and language frame this exciting show that also features live music, circus skills, puppetry, and audience participation! Perfect for all ages
You can buy tickets for Houdini Lives Again at the Morley's Magic Theater website.
Thanks to Ken Hallgring for the tip and Scott Morley for the images.
The new series History's Greatest of All Time with Payton Manning will count down the Top 10 greatest daredevils on Season 1, Episode 5, "Dueling Daredevils," set to premiere tomorrow. Looks like Houdini is in the mix. Also our friend Dean Gunnarson, a GOAT daredevil in his own right, is one of the experts. How will Houdini rank? Hopefully this episode will be unlocked on the History website.
Today I have a treat to celebrate Hardeen's 147th birthday. Below is the famous film of Hardeen doing Metamorphosis on an open street. If you've not seen this, it's pretty terrific. So let's start with the show!
I've always enjoyed this footage for what it is. But I've also often wondered if this was a typical Hardeen street stunt. Houdini never did Metamorphosis as an outdoor stunt as far as I know. So I decided to do a little digging and discovered the full story!
Turns out this was a one-shot performance in answer to a challenge (of sorts). This is when Hardeen was appearing at the Prospect Theater in Brooklyn during the week of April 21, 1929. The story begins in the pages of The Standard Union:
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Hardeen took up the challenge! In fact, if you look closely in the film, you can see a sign that says "Standard Union Challenge." His street performance took place on April 24, 1929. The Standard Union provided coverage the following day:
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So there we go. Turns out this footage shows Hardeen not only doing Metamorphosis, but saving magic itself!
Still can't get enough Dash? Click on over to my Patreon and listen to his famous 1939 radio interview on WNYC. As a birthday gift, I'm unlocking this post so anyone can listen for FREE.
The Kiwanis Club of Burbank will hold its annual charity gala at the Houdini Estate in Laurel Canyon, California, on Saturday, March 25. There will be food and magicians. I will also be there to talk about Houdini and the history on the house. It looks like a great event for a good cause, and a perfect way to experience the Houdini Estate.
March 25, 2023
6pm - 10pm
(Doors Open at 5pm)
Guests are invited to join us at the mystical estate of Harry Houdini.
Upon arrival, guests will be checked in and carted to the main event area where tours of the estate will be cycled throughout the evening and an abundance of photo opportunities will be available. Throughout the grounds magicians will be performing 15 minute shows for guests to be amazed and awestruck. Guests' tastebuds will be hypnotized by the culinary magic performed by Chef Charly and Independent
Chefs from Local and National restaurants.