Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Houdini arrives in Galveston (at last)

When Houdini ran away from home at age 12, he sent a postcard back to his mother saying he was going to Galveston, Texas. He never made it. Later in life, Houdini annotated the postcard and explained that he got in the wrong boxcar and wound up in Kansas City instead.

Even Houdini doesn't seem to remember why he was going to Galveston, writing on the card, "I was on my way to Texas?" But in looking at the history of the city in the 1880s, one can see that it was a port town with a steady influx of immigrants and a large jewish community. I suspect young Ehrich got a hot tip that there was ample work for young Jewish men in Galveston, and he was heading there to make money for the family.

It would take 37 years, but Houdini finally did make it to Galveston. During his second tour of Texas in 1923, he played the Galveston Opera House (right) on November 6. It was a one-day stop with a matinee and evening show.

This was an unusual engagement. Houdini was actually headlining at the Majestic in Houston this week. He and his fellow performers on the Majestic bill travelled to Galveston for this one day only, then returned to Houston. Al G. Field's Minstrels filled in at the Majestic while the vaudevillians were in Galveston.

The Galveston Daily News reviewed the show on November 7 (Vaudeville Brings a Crowed House). The final paragraph was devoted to Houdini.

Houdini, magician and mystic marvel, whose name did not appear on the program, did several amusing tricks. He escaped from a straightjacket in less than a minute, gave a demonstration of spirit writing and presented other tricks no less interesting.

In his book Houdini's Texas Tours 1916 & 1923, Ron Cartlidge says Houdini conjured a message from a recently deceased black pastor from Galveston during his spirit slates trick. Notice he didn't do his Water Torture Cell. I'm sure that remained back in Houston. I'm not sure why his name didn't appear in the program. He certainly appeared in the advertisements, as you can see at the top of this post.

This wasn't the only time Houdini played a one-day side engagement during his Texas tour. While playing Fort Worth later that month, Houdini travelled to Corsicana for a one day appearance at the Ideal Theatre on November 20, 1923. So it appears Karl Hoblitzelle and his Interstate Amusement Company had their own unique way of doing things, and that turned out to be a good thing for Houdini. It gave him the chance to finally visit the city of his runaway dreams.

Happily, the theater Houdini performed at in Galveston still stands and is beautifully preserved. It's still a popular venue for live performance. Below a video that gives a great look inside. You can visit their website at thegrand.com.

Want more? You can read related clippings for Houdini's engagements in Galveston, Houston, and Corsicana as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon. Just click below.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Houdini at the Alhambra 1900 brochure sells on eBay

A beautiful 4-page souvenir brochure for Houdini at the Alhambra Theatre in London sold on eBay this weekend for the not unreasonable price of $1,036.

This is not an unknown piece as all 4 pages are reproduced in Milbourne Christopher's Houdini A Pictorial Life. However, what's makes this one so exciting--apart from it being an original--is it contains a smaller tipped in program for the patriotic playlet "Soldiers of the Queen."

"Soldiers of the Queen" was a feature of the Alhambra bill when Houdini made his debut there in July of 1900. That suggests this is from Houdini's famous two month breakout run at the theater. "Soldiers of the Queen" was still playing at the Alhambra when Houdini returned in December, so it's possible this comes from that later engagement. But the play left that month, so this can only be from 1900. That makes it a pretty exciting and significant piece of early Houdini history.

Below is an ad from the July 4, 1900 Pall Mall Gazette showing Soldiers of the Queen, Chung Ling Soo, and Houdini all playing the Alhambra.

Congrats to the winner of this gem!


Saturday, February 4, 2023

Good day for a hanging

Yes, Houdini is going to be hung. He looks a little worried. Wouldn't you be?

Of course, what the paper means is Houdini is going to be hung by his ankles in a straitjacket from the Sun building. This is promoting his escape in Baltimore on April 26, 1916. Houdini was pretty deft at suggesting these types of attention grabbers. Click bait 1916 style.

Did he survive? You can find the answer HERE.


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Nic Bezzina's photos from The Houdini Diaries

Photographer Nic Bezzina has shared on his official website photos he created for the documentary The Houdini Diaries (re-titled Houdini's Lost Diaries when it aired in 2021). 

"I was commissioned to create a set of photographs that capture the quieter intimate moments of Houdini’s life away from the spotlight," says Nic. "These images were used to fill in the gaps where no archival footage exists and help create a sense of intimacy with the man behind Houdini’s persona."

The photos are very well done. You can see them all by clicking the image below.

Houdini's Lost Diaries aired as part of the series History's Greatest Mysteries. You can purchase the episode at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Houdini (1953) released on Blu-ray in the UK

A new Blu-ray of Houdini (1953) has been released in the UK by Signal One Entertainment. This is the first region specific Blu-ray release in the UK of the classic biopic. The disc also contains a still gallery. The cover uses the original poster art.

This is still the best Houdini biopic, IMO, and I'm happy to see it still being released on physical media. Houdini (1953) has made it to VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, and Blu-ray. It's also available for streaming in SD and HD.

You can buy the new Houdini (1953) UK Blu-ray direct from Signal One or on Amazon.co.uk.


Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Imprisoned with the Pharaohs online reading, Feb. 1

A special dramatic reading of Houdini's "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" will be presented online by Matthew Wood on Wednesday, February 1 at 19:30 GMT.

Join Edwyrdian Tales for an evening of enthralling storytelling where Harry Houdini, the great escape-artist and magician, faces his most daring and terrifying feat of escapology deep beneath the sands of the Egyptian desert… 

In 1910 Houdini and his wife travel to Egypt in search of the picturesque and the mystically impressive. But what they find leads down a dark path of adventure, incarceration and ancient mystery. Their curious guide Abdul Reis al Drogman draws Houdini to a duel for honour atop the Great Pyramid of Giza itself. The escapologist soon finds himself ensnared in a trap and cast down a near-bottomless hole under the Great Sphinx – an entity older and stranger than even the dark Gods of the Pharaohs. Houdini is trapped in a desperately real race against time to free himself from the sandy prison that might become his own tomb…

More more information and to purchase ticket head to Eventbrite.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Interview with Houdini's embalmer

Yesterday I shared to my Patreon an interview recorded by Jon Oliver in 1988 with Jack Gibbons who was one of the men who embalmed Houdini at the W. R. Hamilton Funeral Home in Detroit in 1926. He also saw the living Houdini on stage. You can listen by clicking below.

If you haven't yet joined the Patreon, know there is now six months worth of exclusive Houdini content to be found there. You also have a few days left to download my 1923 Chronology. I'm planning something special for next month's reward, but it's not something I can promote outside Patreon. So you'll have to be a member to even see what it is.

Thank you to my patrons (63 strong) who support all that I do here on WILD ABOUT HARRY.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

LINK: First golf lessons in the UK

Joe Notaro has discovered and shared to his blog Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence a photo of Houdini on a UK golf course in January 1914. This would be only the second image of Houdini on a golf course that I'm aware of.

I actually don't think Houdini was a golfer. I suspect these photos were staged for the cameras. But great stuff all the same!

Click the headline to hit the links with Harry at HHCE.


Friday, January 27, 2023

Houdini's Atlantic City straitjacket escape

The Atlantic City Heritage Collections Archive has shared to their Facebook page this fantastic image of a lesser-known Houdini suspended straitjacket escape from the tower of Keith's Garden Pier Theater in Atlantic City on August 2, 1916. He was playing the sea-side theater this week. You can just spot his name in the doorway on the left.

New of the stunt was syndicated. Below is an account from the The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 3, 1916.

Below is a nice look at the Garden Pier theater, which was built in 1913. Houdini was playing some rare summer dates in 1916. He had just completed a run in Brighton Beach. You might recall that during this Atlantic City engagement he teased the idea of fighting a live shark.

Thanks to Jesse Leeds-Grant for this discovery and tip. And thank you to the Atlantic City Heritage Collections Archive at The Atlantic City Free Public Library for allowing me to share it here.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Early handwritten Houdini letter sells at auction

RR Auctions recently offered up several very nice Houdini lots. Chief among these were the two lots below. The auction listed these as two separate incomplete letters, but it's actually one complete letter. I think the confusion came from the fact that Houdini used his 1897 stationary for page 1 and his old 1896 stationary for pages 2 and 3. The combined lots add up to a whopping $37,528 (including Buyers Premium).

The letter is handwritten by Houdini who is pitching his act to a Mr. Hixon. If anyone has any information on Hixon, who may have been part of a firm called "Hixon & Wallen", I'd love to hear more. The content is phenomenal, probably the best early Houdini letter I've ever read. You might recall I shared a page from this letter in this post.

Congrats to the winner of this incredible early Houdini treasure.

Thanks to Don Creekmore for the image. You can see close up images of the letter on my Patreon.


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Meeting the Collector at Muzeo

On Sunday I had the pleasure of being a part of Muzeo's "Meet the Collector" event with Dr. Randall Bell and John Gaughan. It was standing room only and everyone seemed to really enjoy the day. Dr. Bell gave a guided tour of the Houdini Unchained exhibit, telling stories of how he acquired many of his treasures. It was also a thrill to hear John Gaughan describe the workings of the flower table. We had a very lively Q&A and there was a lot of love for Houdini in that room.

Also in attendance was our friend Joe Notaro of HHCE, historian Diego Domingo, mentalist Nader Hanna, magician David Minkin, and magician Jessica Jane Peterson who didn't let two broken ribs (acquired doing a straitjacket escape) stop her from attending! She's also responsible for the photo above.

This was the closing event for Houdini Unchained: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini at Muzeo. However, the good news is Dr. Bell announced the exhibition will be traveling. The next stop is yet to be announced, but you can count on hearing the news here when it is.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Mlle. Beatrice Houdini at the Orpheum

Today is Bess Houdini's birthday. For the occasion, I thought I'd share this clipping from the June 11, 1899 San Francisco Chronicle. This is from Houdini's first engagement at the Orpheum in San Fransisco, but look whose photo the paper decided to feature.

Click to enlarge.

I love this not only for the fact that it put Bess front and center, but I've never seen this image of her before. What I wouldn't give to see a better copy.

If you want to keep the celebration going, click over to my Patreon for a rare photo of Bessie's 36th birthday party inside 278.