Friday, September 29, 2023

Haldane of the Secret Service turns 100

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the release of Houdini's Haldane of the Secret Service. I'm no longer sure of the exact release day. I've seen both Sept. 23 and Sept. 30 on F.B.O. trade advertisements. I suspect the 23rd was the ship date in anticipation of exhibitors having the movie ready for a Sept. 30 release. However, not many theaters did so. Haldane doesn't really start appearing in theaters until mid-October and November.

But one theater did get the new Houdini movie up early. The Unique Theater in El Paso, Texas, opened Haldene [sic] of the Secret Service on September 29, 1923. One hundred years ago today! This is the first showing of the movie I've been able to find, so unless we discover otherwise, I'll let this stand as the official premiere.

El Paso Times, Sept. 29, 1923.

The Unique Theatre stood at 111 South El Paso Street in El Paso, Texas. Today, a parking garage occupies the spot.


Want more Haldane on this centennial day? I've uploaded the entire movie to watch on my Patreon.


UPDATE: When I posted this I had no idea today is also Silent Movie Day!

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Foolers play Houdini's Orpheum in Wichita


The Foolers will appear at the Wichita Orpheum Theater on October 5th as part of their 2023 Fall tour. Why is Wichita special? Because the Wichita Orpheum is where Houdini himself appeared during the week of November 25, 1923. 

The Wichita Daily Eagle, Nov. 25, 1923.

The Orpheum wasn't the only place you could see Houdini that week. Haldane of the Secret Service was also playing at the Holland Theater down the street. The Holland is long gone, but the Orpheum remains, so if you've always wanted to see Houdini nut Jessica Jane do her amazing feats, what better place than in a historic Houdini theater!


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Origin of Houdini's Needles?

Back in April, I explored the origin of Houdini's Metamorphosis. Now here's a look at what may be the origin of his famous Needles trick. It all goes back to a dime museum in 1893 and a man named Maxey. This one is a Patreon exclusive, so click below and all will be revealed.


Thanks to my patrons for supporting my research and content like this. Not a patron but still want a Needle fix? Check out the links below.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Ernie Bushmiller and Houdini

Our friend Todd Karr of The Miracle Factory has made a nice discovery in the recently released book Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller: The Man Who Created Nancy by Bill Griffith. I had no idea Ernie Bushmiller had a connection to Houdini, so this is a great find. I'll let the photo Todd sent speak for itself.

Click to enlarge

By the way, I'm betting the launch party depicted in the top illustration is the same Red Magic luncheon I highlighted in my 2011 post about Houdini's wristwatch.

You can buy  Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller: The Man Who Created Nancy on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Thank you, Todd!

Related:

Monday, September 25, 2023

Mystery Team Inc. and the Houdini redemption

The excellent podcast Mystery Team Inc., co-hosted by longtime friends and fellow mystery lovers Kayla and Maggie, has posted a terrific Houdini episode. As you'll hear, Houdini was on the receiving end of some trash talk in a previous episode about the Fox Sisters, so Maggie Herskowitz ("Maggie 2") is coming hard to his defense! I also get a few nice mentions as Kayla and I are co-workers in real life. 

It's fun, funny, and very well-researched, so enjoy! Listen below or on Spotify.



You can follow Mystery Team Inc. on Instagram and watch them on YouTube.


Saturday, September 23, 2023

Christopher Awards roundup

When I was 16, I decided I didn’t want to be the next Houdini. I wanted to be the next Milbourne Christopher. That's why I'm so honored to have been among this year's recipients of the Milbourne Christopher Awards. The ceremony was held at the Garde Arts Center in New London, Connecticut, last Saturday, September 16, 2023 (which also happened to be David Copperfield's birthday).


I had arrived in New London the night before, so I had a full day before the ceremony. I started off with breakfast with David Haversat who had brought some amazing Houdini treasures from his collection for me to see. He also gave me a set of Milbourne Christopher's handwritten notes from Houdini The Untold Story. We talked for a long time about collecting and Houdini and hatched an idea for a potential book project. In fact, I would have been happy to talk to David all day, but I had a plan for the afternoon. So I set off on an hour's drive to Farmington, Connecticut, in search of a little-known Houdini location. Which I found!


These are the rapids on which Houdini filmed part of the climatic action of The Man From Beyond. Not Niagara Falls. Farmington! (This is also the location D.W. Griffith used in Way Down East.) I really didn't know what to expect. I only had the address of the former Winchell Smith Grist Mill, which I discovered is today part of Miss Porter's School. But the rapids are easy to see and enjoy, and because it was Saturday, I had them all to myself! (If you want to see video, check out my Instagram.) Also down the street is the Elm Tree Inn where Houdini and his crew stayed during the shoot in May 1921.

It was then back to New London for a quick lunch and rest before the big show!


The Award ceremony was held in the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London. It's a beautiful old theater built in September 1926. Things kicked off with a reception of delicious hors d'oeuvres and a bar. I was happy to see many friendly and familiar faces, including Adele Rhindress, Blackstone's Elusive Moth, who, as always, was so sweet and supportive.

The awards ceremony was hosted by Thomas Ewing. I got a nice laugh during my acceptance speech when I shared my defaced childhood copy of Houdini The Untold Story. The Christopher Award itself includes a handsome plaque, a heavy-duty magic wand in an engraved wooden pop-up display case, and a Milbourne Christopher gold token.

Below is a list of this year's winners:

Illusionist Award - Jason Bishop 
Close-Up Award - Bernardo Sedlacek 
Mentalist Award - Brian Curry 
Ambassador of Magic Award - John Cox 
Literary Award - Jim Hagy 
Masters Award - Paul Lembo
Lifetime Achievement Award - Craig Diamond

As a surprise, an additional award was presented to David Haversat, who has long worked with The Milbourne Christopher Foundation and, along with Thomas Ewing, puts on these Awards each year.

After the awards presentation, we were treated to a terrific and very funny magical performance by Tim Wright. Tim did his excellent Skilldini act and a special Abbott's Magic act which had the room rolling. A great show. 

But there was still one more surprise waiting for me. 

When we returned to the hotel for an after-party, magician Rob Allen, who had traveled from Niagara Falls (not Farmington!), invited me to his room, saying he had brought something to show me. I nearly fainted when he took it from its case! Yes, that's the famous steel straitjacket from the Tony Curtis Houdini movie! Rob even let me put it on, and it fits (just). What a fantastic way to end a magical day.

Thanks again to The Milbourne Christopher Foundation for making this dream come true. You can see more photos from the event and my subsequent "Ambassador's Tour" on my Patreon.

Related:

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Alpha Video Houdini movie bundle

Alpha Video has released a 3-DVD set of Houdini's Terror Island, The Man from Beyond, and Haldane of the Secret Service. Alpha had released a bundle back in 2013, but they've whipped up new cover art for this one. Alpha's releases contain their own musical score.

Why no The Grim Game, Alpha? It's just waiting for a distributor HERE.

You can purchase Alpha's Houdini set on Amazon.com.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The grave of Mae Busch

Once again the enigmatic Arthur Dark at Hollywood Graveyard finds a famous grave with a Houdini connection. This time it's actress Mae Busch who appeared with Houdini in The Grim Game. Mae can be found at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory near downtown Los Angeles.


There is an interesting story behind Mae's grave. Her cremated remains went unclaimed, and for over thirty years she was stored along with other unclaimed remains in the vaults below the Chapel of the Pines. But Mae is probably best known for her many appearances in Laurel & Hardy shorts, so the Sons of the Desert (who frequently meet at the Magic Castle) arranged to have her remains moved up into the Chapel of the Pines Columbarium, where she can be visited today.

The history of the Chapel of the Pines vaults and the famous people who still reside there is covered by Arthur in the video below. This is one of his best yet. Enjoy.


Sunday, September 17, 2023

Anna Thurlow to speak at 'Study of Psychic Phenomena' symposium, Sept. 22-23

Our good friend Anna Thurlow, great-granddaughter of Mina "Margery" Crandon, will be speaking at the "Study of Psychic Phenomena" symposium sponsored by the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections (UMASC) and the Survival Research Institute of Canada.

The two-day event coincides with the launch of Serena Keshavjee’s The Undead Archive exhibition and will feature speakers from across Canada and the United States. Anna will speak on Friday (Sept. 22) and Sat (Sept 23). Below are details:

Anna Thurlow – Margery Crandon’s Canadian Connections 
Boston medium Mina (Stinson) Crandon and her older brother Walter Stuart Stinson were born in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Focused on the Stinson-Crandon family’s Canadian connections and illustrated with family photos and historic documents, this presentation will discuss the Crandons’ friendship with T.G. and Lillian Hamilton and their shared interest in psychical research.

Anna Thurlow – Remembering the Medium
How does the perspective of the medium as a mother, sister, daughter, or wife change our understanding of her mediumship? A look at the mediumship of Mina (Stinson) Crandon, known internationally as “Margery,” through the intimate lens of her great-granddaughter, with insights from the private Crandon family archive and recent academic partnerships. A new perspective on the famous July-August 1924 séances with the magician Harry Houdini will be shared.  

The "Study of Psychic Phenomena" takes place Friday, 22 Sept., 7 to 9 pm, and Saturday, 23 Sept., 10 am to 5 pm, at the UMASC Reading Room, 330 Elizabeth Dafoe Library, 25 Chancellors Circle, Fort Garry Campus. Admission is free, but donations to the T.G. Hamilton Family Memorial Research Fund are welcome.

For more information and to register visit the official website.

Related:

Monday, September 11, 2023

The 2023 Milbourne Christopher Awards

No posts this week as I'm getting ready to head to New London, Connecticut, for the 2023 Milbourne Christopher Awards. I'm thrilled and honored to be receiving the Ambassador of Magic Award.

The awards ceremony will be held at 6:00 PM on Saturday, September 16, at the Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street in New London. The evening includes a reception with wine and hors d'oeuvres and a performance by Tim Wright as Skilldini. It's not too late to attend. Just RSVP David Haversat at Haversat@gmail.com. Tickets are $20.00.

Here's a list of the 2023 honorees:
Illusionist Award - Jason Bishop
Close-Up Award - Bernardo Sedlacek
Mentalist Award - Brian Curry
Ambassador of Magic Award - John Cox
Literary Award - Jim Hagy
Masters Award - Paul Lembo
Lifetime Achievement Award - Craig Diamond

Hope to see you there!


The Milbourne Christopher Foundation was established by Maurine Christopher in 1989, and was created to perpetuate the memory of her husband and his lifelong interest in encouraging excellence, originality, and leadership in the art of magic. The award categories reflect Milbourne Christopher’s own diversified career.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Yes, you can go inside Houdini's house


Remember the days when all you could do was stand outside Houdini's famous New York brownstone, 278, and dream what it would be like to step inside? I certainly do! 

Those days are in the past, as the awesome homeowners, Vincent and Niro, now offer small private tours by appointment. You'll see where Houdini took several famous photos, learn where his library and famous bookcase once stood, see artifacts discovered during the restoration, and learn some insider secrets. This is a unique opportunity and a must for us wild ones! However, you must make arrangements first––you can't just show up––and there is a charge. But, hey, you're going inside 278!

If you are interested in learning more, visit the 278 website or email tours@278.nyc to work out a tour time and details. I can't wait to get back inside myself!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Houdini goes overboard in Atlantic City


Houdini's overboard box escape is one of his most famous and iconic outdoor stunts. It's also the one he appears to have done the least. In fact, I've only documented nine such escapes. Contrast this with 74 suspended straitjacket escapes!

While Houdini's two overboard box escapes in New York in 1912 and 1914 are well documented, we hear far less about the others. That's why I was excited to find the below. This is an account of Houdini's overboard box escape on July 28, 1915, from the Garden Pier in Atlantic City. Sounds like they had some problems with the block and tackle. But Houdini made his escape as always. Enjoy.

Atlantic City Daily Press, July 29, 1915.

Here's another nice detail. The below ran in the Atlantic City Review on the day of the stunt. I love this kind of thing.


Finally, here's a fun post-escape item that appeared in the Atlantic City Daily Press.

Atlantic City Daily Press, July 29, 1915.

Want more? You can view 20 newspaper clippings from this eventful week in Atlantic City as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon.


Top photo from 'Houdini His Legend and His Magic' by Doug Henning. Original in David Copperfield's International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts.

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