Sunday, September 19, 2021

LINK: Houdini Q&A in Weird Tales

Our friend Joe Notaro at HHCE has a Houdini Q&A on his blog today. We love Q&A time! This comes from the April 1924 issue of Weird Tales magazine, which also contains Houdini's shorty story, "The Hoax of the Spirit Lover". I especially like Houdini's simple advice on seance room control:

"In order to guard yourself in the future, when you go into a seance room, insist on holding the medium’s hand in your own. You do the holding, and do not allow the medium to hold you." 

Click the headline above to check out the full Q&A at Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Houdini Lost and Found, October 20

I'm honored to have been invited to speak as part of the American Museum of Magic's 2021 Magic Speaker Series. This will be a virtual ZOOM event at 7pm EST on October 20, 2021. Below are details.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Poster for Houdini's Grand Magical Revue

Over the weekend a poster for Houdini's 1908 appearance at the Circus Brusch in Germany sold on eBay. I mentioned that I had seen that poster along with another for Houdini's "Grand Magical Revue" at Wilshire Coin in Santa Monica in 2016. Here's a photo I took that day of that other poster.


The Grand Magical Revue with a short-lived attempt by Houdini to mount a straight magic show in England in 1914. He only presented it a dozen times. This poster is for the last known performance at the Empire Theatre in Nottingham on June 12, 1914.

Both this and the Circus Brush poster came from the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Canada. Both are heavily lacquered. There are a few surviving Grand Magical Revue posters, but what's nice about this one is it lists "De Kolta's Marvellous Cube" among the illusions to be performed. This poster appears on page 101 of Houdini His Life and Art by James Randi and Burt Randolph Sugar.

I've not seen this poster since that day back in 2016, but it was for sale along with the Circus Brush poster. Perhaps that means we will see it appear on eBay as well?

UPDATE: Looks like this poster has inspired some reproductions over the years, as seen below. The one on the left was part of a "Houdini Portfolio" from the 1970s. On the right is a reproduction created by the Houdini Historical Center in 1995 (thanks to Chunk Romano for the image). Looks like the HHC felt the need to add a photo of Houdini in chains, which is incongruous on a poster advertising him as a straight Magician.


Related:

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Watch Houdini's L.A. Examiner straitjacket escape

Today I have another excerpt from 'High Lights in the Strenuous Career of Harry Houdini, Edited and Compiled by Houdini's Brother Hardeen'. This rare footage comes from the collection of escape artist Rick Maisel who has kindly granted me permission to share select clips here on WILD ABOUT HARRY.

There is no shortage of film showing Houdini's suspended straitjacket escapes. It's possible he filmed every one of these outdoor stunts, which by my current count numbers 67! Much of this film exists in unidentified fragments. But what we have here is something very special. Not a second of this film has ever been seen before, and the location is....well, I will let you watch and see if you recognize it for yourself.


Okay, so this is Houdini's famous suspended straitjacket escape from the Los Angeles Examiner building on April 4, 1923. Houdini was performing at the nearby Orpheum Theater at this time. This was his second suspended straitjacket escape in the city (the first being in 1915). And before someone puts it in the comments, yes, this is the Pawn Stars straitjacket he's using this day.

Front page coverage in the Los Angeles Examiner, April 5, 1923.

What makes this footage extra special is the Examiner building is still standing. In fact, the building has recently undergone a massive restoration and now houses its first new tenant (ASU). In preparation for this post, I visited the site on Sunday and and took a few few pics. It looks great and I'd say this is one of the best surviving Houdini stunt locations. And now we have film from that day!


Thanks to Brad Hansen of Retro Cars Forever for his editing assistance. A playlist of these clips can be found on the WILD ABOUT HARRY YouTube Channel. And there's more to come!

Related:

Monday, September 13, 2021

Ransom Center Milk Can poster reproduction

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin is offering a reproduction of the authentic Houdini Milk Can poster in their collection. While you can find many reproductions of this poster online, the Ransom Center's is the only one that is faithful to the original, showing the accurate colors, etc. This is the only one I would ever buy. In fact, I think I will! Here's hoping this might open to door to some more poster reproductions from the HRC.


Speaking of the Harry Ransom Center and posters, at the recent TAOM convention--which featured a presentation by Curator Eric Colleary--attendees received this special reproduction of the two Vanishing Elephant poster prototypes in the Ransom Center's collection. These are not available to buy and will certainly become collectors items.


You can purchase the Harry Ransom Center's Houdini Milk Can poster at their online store.

Related:

Sunday, September 12, 2021

1908 Circus Busch playbill sells on eBay

A rare playbill for Houdini at the Circus Busch in Berlin in 1908 sold in a one day Buy It Now auction on eBay yesterday. It was initially listed for $5000, but then reduced to $2500. The seller was The Record Parlour, a vintage record and memorabilia store in Hollywood.

The listing didn't provide any provenance, but I can. This was part of a four poster display at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Canada. It was auctioned in 1999 and wound up at Wilshire Coin in Santa Monica, where I got a look at it in 2016. At the time the owner was looking to sell this along with another poster for Houdini's Grand Magical Revue. (You can see that poster HERE.)

As far as the playbill itself, it certainly checks out historically. Houdini opened at the Circus Busch the week of August 31, 1908. This advertises his appearance on Saturday, October 3, which was midway through his eight week run. Houdini was featuring his Milk Can at this time. The photo of Houdini in cuffs is from 1904.

Related:

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Genii & Hardeen: August 1942

Here's an update to my Genii & Houdini series from 2012. Back then I was on the fence about including this issue as it's a Hardeen cover without much mention of Houdini inside. Also, I didn't have a copy. But I do now, so what the heck. We love Dash, and this was his first Genii cover, so...


The issue includes a nice snappy profile of Hardeen's life and career, culminating with his current run on Broadway in the Olsen and Johnson hit show, Hellzapoppin.

It is notable that Hardeen is the legal successor today. And I think, when Hardeen is playing Broadway that if Houdini could look down and talk, he'd say–– "Nice going, brother, nice going."


A nice quote from Bess also appears at the end of Gerrie Larsen's Magical's column. She's following in the footsteps of her Harry, pushing War Bonds in this new time of need.


Click here for a list of all the Genii-Houdini cover issues. We were overdue for a new cover in 2012, so I would say we are now WAY overdue!

Friday, September 10, 2021

International Escapology Day, Sept. 21, 2021

The Global Escapology Organisation (GEO) is hosting the very first "International Escapology Day" on September 21, 2021. The GEO's mission is to "celebrate, sponsor and promote the art of escape and fellow escape artists." If September 21st sounds familiar, it should! Here's a short video I made for the GEO that explains.


For more information on International Escapology Day events and to see more videos, visit the official page on Facebook. And if you are an escape artist or active in the art of escape, consider joining the Global Escapology Organisation's Facebook Group.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Watch a Houdini underwater rope escape

Here's another excerpt from High Lights in the Strenuous Career of Harry Houdini, Edited and Compiled by Houdini's Brother Hardeen. (Hey, could we consider this the first Houdini documentary?) This rare footage comes from the collection of escape artist Rick Maisel who has kindly granted me permission to share select clips here on WILD ABOUT HARRY.

This time we see an impressive underwater rope escape from start to finish. Fragments of this footage have shown up from time to time. But like the Houdini-Kellar Rope Tie, this clip appears largely complete. And the end with Houdini climbing back up on the wharf and blowing us a kiss (!) is entirely new to me. So drink it in!


The big question here is why, when, and where was this shot? In 1917 Houdini performed an underwater escape in Atlantic City in which he stipulated that he should be "thrown head first" into the water. That is certainly what we see here. But in that challenge he was shackled, not roped, and this is clearly Houdini at a later date. Also, this doesn't appear to be a public challenge. Where is the crowd? 

The extensive "coverage" of shots suggests to me that this was done specifically to create this film clip, not unlike the famous monk "challenge" filmed on the set of Haldane of the Secret Service. As to location, there is one clue in the footage itself. Near the end a barge (or ferry?) passes behind the group bearing the name and logo of the New York Central System.


Doing some research, I found that the New York Central railway had a ferry connection in Weehawken, New Jersey. That is where Houdini's film lab was located. So this could very well could be Weehawken wharf in 1921 when Houdini was most active in making his films.


By the way, in the 1970 BBC documentary The Truth About Houdini there is a shot from this same stunt that shows Houdini falling back into the water after the rope break or slips. This "outtake" is yet another reason I think this was staged for the cameras only.


Hope you enjoyed this rare clip. In the next installment I will share footage that is 100% unseen and from a notable outdoor escape.

Thanks to Brad Hansen of Retro Cars Forever for his editing assistance. A playlist of these clips can be found on the WILD ABOUT HARRY YouTube Channel.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

LINK: In the Shadow of Houdini

Our friend Tim King gave a lecture at this year's PulpFest called "In the Shadow of Houdini." Tim has been doing some groundbreaking research into Walter B. Gibson and the influence Houdini had in the creation of Gibson's The Shadow. I'm especially excited to hear he is working on a book.

Tim King discusses “In the Shadow of Houdini,” a look at the magical secrets of fictioneer Walter B. Gibson and the stories he wrote of The Shadow. King is a career investigator for the military and intelligence services, and a member of the Society of American Magicians. He has a forthcoming book also titled In the Shadow of Houdini. This event was recorded on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at PulpFest 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Click the headline to listen to the full audio from Tim's presentation at ThePulp.net.

LINK: Larger than Life: Harry Houdini & Mickey Cohen

Paranormal investigator Scott Markus has a nice post on his blog What's YOUR Ghost Story? about Houdini and gangster Mickey Cohen. Scott explains:

I love the concept of taking two seemingly opposite figures in history, putting them up next to one another and then seeing what types of comparisons we can draw and what ironies might present themselves. I’m not fully trying to do that here, but I can’t keep myself from doing it entirely.

Scott touches on a lot of Houdini Los Angeles history in this delightful and original read. So click the headline to check it out What's YOUR Ghost Story?

Monday, September 6, 2021

LINK: Ennyman's Territory: A Visit with John Cox

Today I'm pleased to share a new interview with Ed Newman at his eclectic and always enjoyable blog Ennyman's Territory.

I discovered John Cox in 2014 after writing about the late John Bushey's Houdini memorabilia and handcuff collections. Seven years have past and the Wild About Harry blog is still going strong. I caught up with John Cox today and we continued from where we left off... 

Click the headline to have a read at Ennyman's Territory (Ed has also published it on Medium). And feel free to leave a comment.

Thank you Ed!

Related:

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Houdini in a tight(s) spot

Here's another unpublished (reproduction) photo that I recently acquired. Here we see Houdini bound in a nice web of shackles. But what makes this image so unusual is that he's dressed in what appear to be tights. I've never seen any other image of Houdini in any sort of tights, nor have I ever heard of him wearing tights during any escape. Yet here's a pic of him doing just that!


My only speculation is perhaps this photo is from one of his tours with the Corty-Althoff Circus in Germany where tights may have been the fashion? If so, this just illustrates once again how little we know about his performances in this part of the world.


Houdini also appears older here, so this could be his 1913 tour with Corty-Althoff (his first engagement after his mother's death). But it's also untypical to see Houdini in a web of shackles so long after his "Handcuff King" days. So this photo is really a mystery on top of a mystery.

Friday, September 3, 2021

'Houdini Way' appears in Kingsland, Texas

Yesterday members of the the Texas Association of Magicians (T.A.O.M.) magically unveiled a street sign for the new "Houdini Way" in Legendary Estates on Lake LBJ in Kingsland, Texas. This is the first street in Texas to be named in honor of Houdini.


You can view the magic moment below:


The Texas Association of Magicians (T.A.O.M.) 2021 Convention begins today in Austin and runs through September 6. The event kicks off this morning with a special tour of the Houdini Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.

Coincidentally, the city of Salem, Massachusetts designated their own "Houdini Way" in July. Let's keep 'em coming!

Thanks to Scott Wells of The Magic Word Podcast for the news and images.


UPDATE: Scott has covered the unveiling event on his Magic Word Podcast HERE.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Take a virtual tour of the HRC Houdini collection Friday


The Texas Association of Magicians (T.A.O.M.) will hold their 2021 Convention in Austin this weekend, September 3-6. The event kicks off this Friday with a special tour of the Houdini Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. The good news anyone can join the tour LIVE on Zoom. Below are the details: 

Join us this Friday morning September 3rd for a LIVE virtual tour of Houdini artifacts from the University of Texas, Ransom Center, Austin, Texas presented by Dr. Eric Colleary. This very special “kick-off” for the Texas Association Of Magicians (T.A.O.M.) is open to all at NO COST and a unique opportunity to see some of the collection that few ever get to see in their lifetime. The Ransom Center houses an amazing collection of Houdini ephemera including papers, documents, correspondence, and artifacts associated with the magician, escape artist, business man, aviator, author, and actor popularly known as Harry Houdini. Dr. Colleary will take us through an assortment of memorabilia with stops along the way as responds to your questions.

This will be a 45-minute Zoom Meeting starting at 10:30 a.m. Central Standard Time (GMT-5) and the Zoom room link will be: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7335963692

This is not part of the T.A.O.M. convention but after viewing this event, you might be interested in registering for this weekend’s VIRTUAL event. The live, in-person convention will be supplemented with a virtual event which you can attend. You can register for any or all of the five separate events for $20 each. Visit THIS PAGE to register and for more details. 

I will be logging into the HRC Zoom event for sure, so I look forward to seeing everyone on Friday!


Thanks to Scott Wells.

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