Tuesday, September 29, 2020

"Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" by HorrorBabble

Here's Houdini's short story "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" read by Ian Gordon for HorrorBabble Productions. The story, which first appeared in the May-June-July issue of Weird Tales magazine in 1924, was ghost written for Houdini by H.P. Lovecraft.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Early illustrations reveal Houdini's "ghost house"

Here are some early illustrations from Houdini's prime "Handcuff King" days. What I really like about these is they give us a good look at his "Ghost House." This is the small tent-like enclosure where Houdini would do his handcuff escapes surrounded by a committee from the audience. These drawings give us a good idea of its scale. Newspapers reported that it was red.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, February 9, 1901.

Dramatic News, April 9, 1904.

The name "ghost house" can be seen as a nod to a medium's spirit cabinet, which shows how Houdini's handcuff act had roots in spiritualism. The only photo of the ghost house that I'm aware of is the famous shot of Houdini being locked in the Mirror Handcuffs on stage at the London Hippodrome in 1904. It's a little hidden among the committee. In fact, I bet some have never even noticed it!

I wonder what ever happened to Houdini's ghost house? How extraordinary would it be to see this piece of Houdini history today. Alas, the ghost house seems to have vanished...like a ghost!

If you enjoy Houdini artwork like this, check out my Facebook page Houdini Illustrated where I share images that don't always make it to the blog.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

First look at the Mirror Handcuffs?

This illustration appeared in the March 15, 1904 issue of the London Daily Illustrated Mirror and offers what may be the first public image of the famous Mirror Handcuffs. I don't think we can infer too much from it, but you will note that the hinge resembles the one on what we've come to call the Tatler Cuffs

The last public appearance of the Mirror Handcuffs was at the New York Historical Society's "Summer of Magic: Treasures from the David Copperfield Collection" exhibition in 2018.

Speaking of the Mirror Cuffs, Joe Notaro has added more evidence to his mounting case that the Tatler Cuffs survived and may still be around today. Read Joe's latest at Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

October Genii goes inside the Houdini Seance Room

Heads up that the October issue of Genii The Conjurors' Magazine contains a terrific 9-page article by Jim Steinmeyer and Rob Zabrecky about the history of the Magic Castle's Houdini Seance and the famous Houdini Seance room. The article also previews the new seance experience which will be ready to spook guests whenever the Castle is able to reopen (it is still closed due to Covid).

As you can see, the cover features a nice Halloween theme. But it's too bad the seance article wasn't featured as I think Genii is overdue for a Houdini cover. The last one was January 2011.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Fresh Daisies

Recently some new images from The Great Houdinis have appeared on the Getty Images website credited to the Walt Disney Television Photo Archive. Included are these two shots of the great Adrienne Barbeau as Daisy White that I've never seen before.

Adrienne was part of stellar cast and is so far the only actress to portray Houdini's rumored mistress. She included her experience shooting the movie in her 2007 autobiography There Are Worse Things I Could Do.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

LINK: Beer vat escape and other Houdini tricks in Buffalo, 1900-1925

The Buffalo News has a well-researched article today by Steve Cichon about Houdini's appearances in that city from 1900 to 1925. Click the headline to have a read.

Houdini actually did have some pre-1900 Buffalo engagements (1893, 1896, 1898). He even did a handcuff escape at Buffalo police headquarters on October 22, 1896. But Mr. Cichon does provide new details of his 1925 engagement, such as his lecture at Canisius College and his visit to the Meyer Motor Co. to see the "Talking Studebaker". Great stuff.

Below are links to some more adventures of Houdini in Buffalo, New York.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Another reason to question the 'convict in cuffs' story

We've all read the story of how young Ehrich Weiss apprenticed to a locksmith in Appleton, Wisconsin. One day the sheriff came in with a convict in handcuffs for which he had lost the key. It was left to Ehrich to file the cuffs off the scowling man as the sheriff and locksmith went to get a drink. After a several fruitless minutes of filing, Ehrich hit on the idea of picking the lock, which he did so successfully. Luckily, the locksmith and sheriff reappeared at that moment.

This is a story Houdini himself would tell when he began to flesh out his official biography in the 1900s. He like to add that the convict was the only man to ever witness his secret of opening handcuffs. The story found its way into the Kellock book and was most recently revived in The Secret Life of Houdini by Bill Kalush. While it may be true Ehrich apprenticed to a locksmith (Kalush believes he was named Mr. Hanauer), the "convict in cuffs" story has never passed the smell test for me. It just sounds too much like self-made mythology dished out to give reporters some compelling copy.

Now here's another reason to doubt the story. The below comes from the December 2, 1905 Walsall Advertiser. Yes, amazingly, Hardeen was also a locksmith's apprentice in Appleton and one day...well, read for yourself:

We know Houdini and Hardeen shared escapes, set dressing, and even stage patter. This shows they also shared the same tried and true publicity. (Hardeen also told a version of being trapped under the ice during a bridge jump.) So I think this just makes the convict in cuffs story all the more likely to be Houdini (and Hardeen) mythology.

Young Ehrich illustration is by Anne Reas from the book The Great Houdini by Monica Kulling (1999).


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Q The Automaton to make you crazy

Yes, this is an actual Q The Automaton working toy from Houdini's The Master Mystery. Yes, these are made to be sold and even come in assorted colors. And, no, I have no idea how to buy one! And I need it! I need Q!!!!


Everything I know comes from a 2018 forum post at Alphadrome. So if builder Brian Hayes is reading this, let's put some money in your pocket and some Qs in the hands of Houdini fanatics!

"This is the model of a wonderful invention."

Thanks to Kevin Connolly at the Conjuring History Facebook Group for the alert.

Monday, September 21, 2020

'Houdini the Great' street opera in Milan, Sept. 26

Houdini the Great, a street opera by Andy Pape, will be presented in the courtyard of Case Società Umanitaria, Via Solari 40, in Milan, Italy, on Saturday, September 26 at 8pm. From what I gather by running this page through Google Translate, Houdini the Great reimagines Houdini as an Italian immigrant and follows him on a fictional adventure in America. The play originated in Denmark in 1988. It was most recently staged in Alessandria.

For more information visit the Houdini the Great event page at Eventbrite.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd (and Houdini!) alley

Our great friend John Bengtson who runs the phenomenal blog Silent Locations has mounted an official campaign to name the the famous alley off Cahuenga near Hollywood Blvd. the "Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley". This is in tribute to the three masters of silent comedy who each used the alley in their films. Of course, Houdini also used the alley for a quick shot in The Grim Game. It was actually John Bengtson who made this discovery. 

This video further explains the alley. You can help by leaving a thumbs up on YouTube.

Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), Buster Keaton’s Cops (1922), and Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! (1923), were filmed in the heart of Hollywood at a humble alley south of Hollywood Boulevard. Each inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as “works of enduring importance to American culture." This six-way constellation of timeless movies and iconic stars is absolutely unique in Hollywood history. The alley deserves a name - Chaplin Keaton Lloyd Alley. The north-south alley already has a great name, EaCa Alley, but the cross arm at the top deserves a name too. 
Download a pdf Chaplin Keaton Lloyd brochure HERE
Learn more at Silent Locations
Houdini in the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley in The Grim Game (1919).

Good luck John!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

A dog before Charlie?

Over the past several weeks I've been deep diving into The British Newspaper Archive seeking dates and data for my New Houdini Chronology. Along the way I've stumbled on some interesting tidbits, such as the below from the Manchester Evening News on November 22, 1902.

So does this mean the Houdinis had a dog--a Scotch Collie to be precise--before their famous dog Charlie? Or is Houdini is just helping someone find a lost dog? This is when Houdini was playing St. James Music Hall in Manchester. Note the address he gives is 91 Grosvenor Street. Today it looks like this. No Scotch Collies in sight.

Afraid that's all I have for this one. Just another Houdini mystery. Click below for more adventures of the Houdinis pets.


Friday, September 18, 2020

Houdini on HUNK

This week I had the great pleasure of being interviewed on the popular podcast HUNK with Mike Bridenstine. It's episode 38 and it's called, yep, HOUDINI! I'm especially excited to see myself animated alongside fellow guests Kenny DeForest, Kara Klenk, Johnny Pemberton, Joey Villagomez, and Liza Treyger.

You can listen on Spotify, Apple, the official HUNK website, or via your favorite podcatcher. If you join Mike's Pateron you can watch all the interviews on video.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

No sale for The House of Houdini in Budapest

David Merlini has turned down an offer of $18.6 million for his House of Houdini museum in Budapest and the rights to Houdini's name. The offer came from private investment fund CCV (Centurion Capital Ventures). David posted the news on The House of Houdini Facebook page, explaining in part: 

"The House of Houdini presents a private collection that took over 20 years to build, and it is currently the largest of its kind in Europe. Despite the fact that all of our exhibits, assets and trademarks are in private hands, we feel important to provide a publicly available update. 
As entering the agreement would have been resulted in the transfer of all usage, administrative and other rights to the new majority owner, there would have been no guarantee to keep the collection in Budapest long term. As this is a basic principle of our Statute, we have decided to withdraw from the deal. 
The House of Houdini has opened its gate in 2016 in the Buda Castle in Budapest aiming to pose a tribute to world famous Budapest born escape artist Harry Houdini through his original artefacts. We aim to fulfill our mission of preserving the heritage of one of our most famed compatriot for future generations with the same passion and enthusiasm. "

The House of Houdini is currently closed due to a Covid spike in Hungary, but has plans to reopen next week.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

d'ILLUSION- The Houdini Musical

d'ILLUSION- The Houdini Musical
is an "Audio Theater Experience" featuring Julian R. Decker as Houdini, Quiana Holmes as (the first black) Bess, Rico LeBron as Hardeen, and Ben Toomer as Martin Beck. Below is a description and trailer from the official website.

When we entered 2020, we couldn’t have predicted the challenges we were about to face. We were hopeful and felt the energy of the new decade. New ideas and hopes were the cornerstone of our future. When the pandemic broke out and disrupted the whole world, it wasn’t just a health problem; our social and emotional lives were also affected. We took our precious moments for granted, whether it would be our personal or professional lives. It left us in darkness. 

The Audio Theatre Experience was born during this incredible time. It is bound not only to give a much needed escape from the troubling realities that surround us, but its true intention is to keep theater alive, our community together, and be an example that no matter how difficult things get, we can overcome our obstacles and defy them. It just takes a shift in the mind. 

Over 50 exceptional artists worked tirelessly for four months. Our team, from all over the world, faced the trials of recording their parts remotely with different recording devices, time differences, and language barriers. Even though most of them have never met or been in the same room or continent- our passion, trust, and respect brought us together. 

Houdini is one of the most inspiring people in history. His commitment, drive, and belief has helped guide us through these past months and he has been indeed the lighthouse in this storm. So, here we are after thousands of hours of work, these prodigious actors, musicians, voice talents, and creative staff are honored to present: d’ILLUSION: The Houdini Musical. Welcome to the world of Houdini!

You can enjoy the full audio play at the d'ILLUSION- The Houdini Musical YouTube Channel.

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