Thursday, June 13, 2024

Houdini chases spooks in Charlottesville

On March 4, 1924, Houdini appeared at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia. This was part of his first spiritualism lecture tour that year. In most cities, Houdini only gave a single lecture. But here at the Jefferson, he gave a matinee and an evening lecture. The lectures were given under the auspices of the Kiwanis Club to benefit the Children's Home.

The Daily Progress reported that both lectures were well attended. It said Houdini's "stereopticon pictures" (slide show) was "rather tiresome," but the remainder of the lecture was "very entertaining," with Houdini demonstrating how mediums produce paraffin hands and how spirits write messages on slates.

Houdini also escaped from his Milk Can and showed film of The Grim Game plane crash and his suspended straitjacket escape in St. Louis. This is the first account of Houdini showing films as part of his lecture that I've encountered. He may have been taking advantage of the fact that the Jefferson was also a fully equipped movie theater. In fact, both The Grim Game and Terror Island had played the Jefferson during their first runs.

Happily, the Jefferson Theater still stands in Charlottesville today. Restored in 2006, the theater is located at 110 East Main Street and is a popular live venue. The official website says the theater has hosted many famous performers, "ranging from Harry Houdini to The Three Stooges." I can't speak to the Stooges, but we know Houdini was here!


Want more? You can access a collection of newspaper clippings related to Houdini's Charlottesville lectures as a Scholar member of my Patreon below.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Houdini Night with the Tropical Masonic Lodge #56


The Tropical Masonic Lodge #56 in Southwest Florida will present a special "Houdini Night" on June 18, 2024. This is an interactive lecture on the life and masonic career of Brother Harry Houdini, with a dinner and a meeting. It is open to Masonic friends and families.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

'Houdini A Magical Odyssey' in Warsaw

A new play, Houdini Odyseia Magiczna (Houdini A Magical Odyssey), will debut at the Senatorska 35 in Warsaw, Poland, this Thursday, June 14, and play through June 19. The play is written and directed by Michał Walczak. Houdini is played by Piotr Sierecki. Ewa Dąbrowska is Bess.


You can get more information and buy tickets HERE.  

Related:

Monday, June 10, 2024

"Houdini" works magic for Eminem

Like Dua Lipa before him, conjuring the name Houdini has worked magic for Eminem, with his new single, "Houdini," topping the U.S. and UK charts. The following comes from Billboard.

The song’s impact has been similarly instantaneous, both in terms of its own consumption and in its lifting of associated cuts. “Houdini” has already racked up over 30 million official on-demand U.S. streams through Wednesday (June 3), according to early reports from Luminate, while also selling over 36,000 copies – both tremendous four-day numbers for any artist in 2024, let alone one twice the age of many contemporary superstars. The song has also elevated the rest of Eminem’s discography, with his non-”Houdini” catalog notching nearly 46 million streams combined over those four days, a 38% rise from the equivalent period the prior week. (A big part of that gain comes from 2002’s “Without Me,” whose iconic “Guess who’s back, back again” intro “Houdini” resurrects, and which is up 56% to over 3.1 million streams for those four days.)

Of course, Steve Miller is eating off the “Houdini” success as well: The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s eponymous band’s biggest Hot 100 hit more than doubled its streams over the same period, up 101% to 613,000. And yes, even that other recent hit of the same title is getting some spillover from the deluge: Dua Lipa’s “Houdini” was up 8% in streams over that period, to just over 2 million.


Friday, June 7, 2024

Bess and the "bad woman"

While reading Houdini: His Life Story by Harold Kellock recently, the following paragraph jumped out at me as containing an intriguing mystery:

Page 209: Another lady of the halls who cut a wide swathe among the European nobility bobs up in the diary for a time. She was on the same bill with Houdini and elected to make a confidante of Mrs. Houdini. She was a rare dark beauty. Her apartment was fitted in queenly splendor, and in the boudoir her pink perfection reposed on sheets of finest black satin. An amorous German prince had presented her with a toilet set of pure gold, and her jewels represented the taxed sweat of thousands of peasants of several countries. "I think –– must be a bad woman," Houdini confided to his diary, and speculated as to whether he was doing right in permitting his wife to associate with her.... The former idol of princes is now fifty and has settled down as a saleswoman in a five-and-ten emporium in New York City.

As this woman was still alive in 1927-8 (at age 50), it's clear Kellock is being careful not to name her. So who was she? All we know is what we have above. Is that enough to suss out the identity of the "bad woman"?

Please share any thoughts or ideas in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

NBN interview with Julie Carpenter

Here's a wonderful interview with our new friend Julie Carpenter, author of  Harry and the Highwire: Houdini's First Amazing Act. Very interesting to hear how she became an author and her experiences with Houdini. And Banjoe! Enjoy.


You can purchase Harry and the Highwire at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. You can also buy directly from the publisher Green Bean Books.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Houdini's belt buckle secures $37,820

A silver belt buckle that Houdini was wearing when he went into Grace Hospital sold over the weekend in a Goldin auction for $37,820 (with buyer's premium). You may recall this same belt buckle sold for $90,000 in Potter & Potter's 2021 auction of the Salon de Magie collection. It appears the winner of that auction removed it from the frame, which gives us a nice look at the back.


The precipitous drop in price marks, in my opinion, a return to sanity. As precious as this is, I thought $90,000 was far beyond its value. This price feels right. Could this be an indication that Houdini auction prices are coming back down to earth? I guess we'll find out when the next big ticket item shows up.

By the way, is Houdini wearing the buckle on the below pic? Hard to tell, but maybe.


Congratulations to the winner.

Want more? I've archived more photos of the buckle and its excellent letter of provenance on my Patreon.

Monday, June 3, 2024

The Jerusalem Ballet presents HOUDINI

The Jerusalem Ballet presents an original Houdini-themed ballet at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. Choreography is by Nadia Timofeeva. Houdini is performed by Mikhail Butzuk. HOUDINI debuts tomorrow, June 4, followed by performances on June 18 and September 16.


You can buy tickets and see more images from the ballet on the official website.

Related:

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Eminem drops his own "Houdini"


Less than six months after Dua Lipa released her chart-topping single "Houdini," another major artist has released a single called "Houdini." This time, it's Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers aka Slim Shady). The rapper got an assist teasing the release from magician David Blaine on Instagram. The song's release on May 31st marked the biggest streaming debut of Eminem’s career.

The song only mentions Houdini's name in passing (it is the second time Houdini has been named-checked in an Eminem song), but I really like it. It's funny and a breath of fresh air. I also love the single's artwork above. 

You can watch the official music video below or in fullscreen on YouTube.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Harry (and Banjoe!) on the Highwire

Today sees the U.S. release of Harry and the Highwire: Houdini's First Amazing Act by Julie Carpenter with illustrations by Laura Catalan. The fold-out book is published by Green Bean Books and is a delightful and well-done Houdini book for children.

As a young boy of seven, Harry is desperate to do something incredible – but what? A visit to the circus provides the answer when he sees the daring tightrope walker thrilling the audience. From that moment on, all Harry wants to do is to walk the tightrope. But how?

His first try, on the family clothesline, ends in disaster but Harry’s not about to give up yet. He starts practising in his every spare moment and in every location he can think of. Will he get to the other side or will he fall? (And will his pet chicken Banjoe be able to keep up?)


One thing I really like about Harry and the Highwire is the inclusion of Harry's trained Bantam chicken Banjoe, who appears on every page. Banjoe was real. Bruce MacNab, author of The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini, discovered Banjoe's existence in a letter at the Harry Ransom Center.

You can purchase Harry and the Highwire at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

Want more? I've shared the full Banjoe letter and a photo of my own Banjoe on my Patreon below.


Thursday, May 30, 2024

🎶 Dunninger, Hoo-dee-nee, and Doug! 🎶

This week marks the 50th anniversary of The Magic Show, which opened at the Cort Theater on May 28, 1974. The Broadway musical launched the career of Doug Henning and opened the door on the next Golden Age of Magic. Doug's style was modern and up-to-the-minute, but he always honored the past, especially Houdini. The play even uses Houdini's name in its opening number, Up To His Old Tricks by Stephen Schwartz (lyrics below). So, yeah, we love Doug!


Hey, can't you just feel the strange excitement
The quiet commotion that we share
There's something like tingling in the darkness
There's something electric in the air
'Cause there's one thing I know turns a man of sixty
Back into a child of six:
Watching Dunninger, Houdini
Or Doug—the magic man
Up to his old tricks

You go spend an evening at the movies
And smile at the shadows on the screen
You turn on a radio or record
And dance to a voice you've never seen
But thеy don't make you gasp like a silly schoolboy
Or giggle likе a bunch of hicks
Not like Dunninger, Houdini
Or Doug—the magic man
Up to his old tricks

Clap clap
Pop up the dusty flowers
Hooray, hoorah
Break out the bowl of goldfish and the scarves
Ooh…ahhh
Saw the beautiful lady in half again…

Wasn't that illusion fun?
Not if you know how it's done

It may not be the world's most esteemed profession
But if sure beats law or politics
So here's to Dunninger, Houdini
And Doug—our magic man
Up to his old tricks


For all things Doug, check out The Doug Hennig Project by our friend Neil McNally.


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Inner Me rocks Houdini

This morning's big music news is that Eminem will release a new single called "Houdini" this Friday. You may recall that Dua Lipa released her own "Houdini" single last year. While many musicians have released songs inspired by Houdini, Austrian Metal band THE INNER ME has released an entire album! You can listen to Rosabelle Believe on YouTube.


Learn more about The Inner Me at the band's official website www.theinnerme.at.

Thanks to David Stawa.

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