Saturday, January 19, 2019

Houdini's Berlin bridge jump footage described

On September 5, 1908, Houdini jumped manacled from Friedrichs Bridge (Friedrichsbrücke) in Berlin, Germany. Like other bridge jumps, it was filmed. Like other films, it has been lost.

The Friedrichs Bridge jump is not one of Houdini better documented escapes. There are no photos or news clippings that I'm aware. That's what makes the below so special. This is an advertisement from a German film magazine, Der Kinematograph, placed by the company that filmed the escape. In it they provide a description of exactly what the footage shows.

"The world-famous breakout king and escape artist Houdini, who performa his amazing tricks, was cinematographically recorded by us with colossal success at Circus Busch in Berlin. This unique recording shows Houdini as he is carefully tied up before representatives of the Berlin press, supervised by the a special committee, then— laden with chains—running from the Circus Busch into the street and plunging from the parapet of nearby Friedrich’s Bridge, in the presence of a large crowd of spectators, into the River Spree. He dives under and appears again after barely a minute, completely unbound, on the surface, where a boat picks him up."

Thanks to David Byron of Baroque Potion for providing the above translation. Now if we could only find the film!

Below is Friedrichs Bridge today.

UPDATE: Our friend Perry from New Jersey sends over the below photo which shows the Circus Busch (the rounded domed building) and its relation to Friedrichs Bridge. A long run in shackles!


Friday, January 18, 2019

Jewish Museum of Maryland's farewell to Houdini

We are in the final days of Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in Baltimore. The museum is saying goodbye to the exhibition with a special event on Sunday and a generous offer on Monday.

A Fantastical Farewell to Houdini
Sunday, January 20, 2019 at 1pm
Performer: Brian Curry, magician
Get Tickets Now
Magician Brian Curry is as sharp as the tack he put on your chair. Part Magician, part mentalist, and part conman, Brian will leave you baffled. Like Houdini himself, Brian blurs the line between hype, skill and deception. Come see what has been called “The World’s Most Difficult Card Trick”, along with the Mind Reading Fortune Cookie in this fun farewell performance to our beloved Houdini exhibit, Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini

If you arrive at the museum at 11:30am on Sunday, you'll be able to enjoy a special tour of the Houdini exhibition conducted by curator David London.

On Monday, January 21, the last day of the exhibition, the museum will offer FREE admission to all federal employees and their families (2 adults & children under 18). You'll just need to show a valid, government-issued ID at the welcome desk to take advantage of the free admission.

Visit the JMM website for more information.

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini will travel next to The Breman Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, opening April 14, 2019.


George Hardeen talks Houdini and television

George Hardeen has written a terrific article about his magical family and his experience making the TV series Houdini's Last Secrets for his weekly employee magazine Pulse. As you can see, George and his Great Uncle Harry made the cover.

The magazine is distributed to SRP employees, but you can read and save a PDF via THIS LINK good for a week.

Houdini's Last Secrets airs on the Science Channel. The third episode, which looks at the Siberian Transport Prison Van escape, airs this Sunday at 10 PM EST. The series is also available on Amazon and iTunes.


    Thursday, January 17, 2019

    There's a skilled Houdini forger out there

    Last week I posted about a Houdini fake being sold by High End Memorabilia of Gardena, CA via Liveauctioneers. That auction was removed. Today High End came back with another obvious fake, this time openly showing it to be from a book published seven years after Houdini's death. The auction was also removed.

    This would be comical if it wasn't for the signature. It's looks pretty darn good. It's not perfect (and I won't say how, and please don't either), but if this were on something from Houdini's time, it could pass. That's frightening.

    In fact, I'm starting to wonder if this is really all about the forger showcasing their skills?

    Be careful out there!


    Houdini plays Atlanta in 1912...and 2019!

    On New Year's Day 1912 Houdini opened at the Forsyth Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. It was his first appearance in Atlanta and one of his rare appearances in the deep South. Below is an ad for his "New Year's Big Show" from The Atlanta Constitution.


    The exciting news is this year Houdini will return to Atlanta! That's because the popular exhibition Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini will appear at The Breman Museum in Atlanta, April 14 to August 11, 2019.

    You can find more details at the Breman Museum website, Facebook and Twitter. I will also keep us updated with all the related programs and events.

    Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini was created by magician David London and the Jewish Museum of Maryland. This Monday (January 21) will be the last day to see it in Baltimore before it closes in preparation for its move to Atlanta.


    Wednesday, January 16, 2019

    LINK: Unknown Houdini Illusion for the 1927 tour

    Yesterday I posted a rare still from Hardeen's Medium Well Done which I thought might show Harry Kellar's Spirit Cabinet (given to Houdini in 1917). But Dean Carnegie chimes in with a different idea. Dean suspects what we are seeing is Maro's The Mystery of Aryan Illusion, which Houdini acquired shortly before his death and would have passed to Hardeen. I think The Magic Detective has solved another case!

    Dean did a post about the illusion in 2015 that I had forgotten about. But Houdini's magic and what could have been is always of interest, so click the headline and have a read at...


    Tuesday, January 15, 2019

    A new photo from Hardeen's Medium Well Done

    In 2016 collector Thomas Ewing shared with us the only known photo from Hardeen's 1937 Vitaphone short, Medium Well Done. Now Tom is back with a new image that's even more exciting!

    This photo shows Hardeen giving spiritualist demonstrations before members of the cast, including Gertrude Mudge, Margaret Breen, and Paul E. Burns. Of note is what appears to be a large spirit cabinet. What's interesting is we know Harry Kellar gave Houdini his spirit cabinet in 1917. Presumably, Hardeen inherited it along with Houdini's other apparatus. So are we seeing Kellar's own spirit cabinet being performed here? Also, is that Jim Collins holding the door?

    Medium Well Done features Hardeen as a detective exposing the tricks of a bogus medium. It was shot at the Brooklyn Vitaphone Studios in January 1936 and released March 6, 1937. At the moment, it is considered a lost film. But the good folks at The Vitaphone Project have made it their mission to find lost Vitaphone shorts, so here's hoping one day they might uncover this important piece of movie and magic history.

    Thanks to Tom Ewing for letting me share this treasure here.

    UPDATE: According to Ron Hutchinson at The Vitaphone Project Facebook group, Medium Well Done is NOT lost. He says it "exists in 35mm at Library of Congress." This is great news, and it gives me hope we might one day see it released via the Warner Archive Collection.


    Sunday, January 13, 2019

    Houdini's Last Secrets episode 2 hits the mark

    The Bullet Catch is the subject of the second episode of Houdini's Last Secrets. This might seem odd as the Bullet Catch is known as the one trick Houdini didn't do. (He announced he would in 1918 after the death of Chung Ling Soo, but was talked out of it by Harry Kellar.) However, there is some evidence that he might have done the trick very early in his career, and that leads the team into their investigation.

    I think this second episode, "To Catch A Bullet", is a big improvement over episode one. This time the focus remains on the Bullet Catch--no nonsense about Houdini being a spy--and the show does a nice job investigating its history in interviews with Ben Robinson, author of Twelve Have Died, and Stephen Fenton, a Chung Ling Soo collector and expert. We also get to see the great Kevin Connolly surrounded by his magnificent Houdini collection.

    I also pop up again (last time, I promise!) to "reveal" Houdini's own account of doing the Bullet Catch in the October 1936 issue of The Sphinx. This appears to corroborate a mention by Jack Hyman as related by Edward Saint in the April 1937 Genii. And then there's that "horse pistol", just as Houdini describes, clearly visible in a famous early photo of him with his magic apparatus (right).

    What didn't make the cut was me saying that I wouldn't conclude Houdini did the Bullet Catch based on just this. I'd need to see something independent of Saint and Houdini, such as a newspaper account from the time. So we're not there yet.

    But the show kinda used my interview to tip the scales toward the idea that Houdini did in fact do it, and that's fine. I think they did a good job of presenting the evidence and making it seem plausible. In this way, I think they've captured the real fun of investigating the puzzle that is Houdini's life, and it makes me look forward to upcoming episodes on the Carette and Buried Alive, of which there is much more to chew on.

    Structurally the show is split between two investigative paths. As George Hardeen looks into the history of the Bullet Catch, Steve Wolf at Stunt Ranch tries to engineer his own version for magician Lee Terbosic to perform. It's all very Mythbusters-like. They even have their own Kari Byron in Salina Cram.

    I confess I don't know how the Bullet Catch is done (apart from Chung Ling Soo's method, which the show does explain), so I'm not sure what lines if any they cross in regards to exposure. But this episode makes it clear they are engineering their own methods, and apart from the pig cadaver silliness, I found the these sections pretty captivating. I'm especially surprised to learn how deadly blanks can be even from a distance.

    Everything about this episode works, including having genuine tension at the end when Lee does the deadly trick himself. Does he survive? I'll leave that for you to discover.

    Houdini's Last Secrets airs on the Science Channel and the SciGO app. You can also stream episodes at their website, or purchase the series via Amazon and iTunes.

    If you're interested in more information on Houdini and the Bullet Catch, check out the below links:

    Houdini's Last Secrets available for purchase online

    Goods news for those (like myself) who do not get the Science Channel and have been unable to watch or stream Houdini's Last Secrets. You can now buy individual episodes or subscribe to the full season via Amazon or iTunes (and maybe other services I'm not aware).

    Houdini's Last Secrets is a 4-part series featuring George Hardeen that investigates several of Houdini's most baffling mysteries. The first episode, which looked the Water Torture Cell, is available now. Episode 2, which covers the Bullet Catch, airs tonight on the Science Channel at 10PM EST. It will presumably be available for purchase shortly after.

    While my review of Episode 1 was mixed, I very much enjoyed Episode 2. I will be posting a full review later today.


    Saturday, January 12, 2019

    A gift between Circumnavigators

    One of my last (and most popular) posts of 2018 was about Houdini's little discussed membership in the Circumnavigators Club. Now club president David Mink has sent over another terrific Houdini related find from the November 5, 1922 issue of the club journal, The Log.

    This is pretty fantastic. Not only does it provide an exact date for this famous gift (this is when Houdini was in Los Angeles filming The Grim Game), but I didn't know Harry Kellar was also a member of the Circumnavigators Club. And I've not seen that particular photo before.

    After Houdini's death, "Circumpsycho" traveled to Joseph Dunninger. Henry Muller then acquired him for his Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls. There the automaton suffered neglect, vandalism, and fell into disrepair. In 1986 John Gaughan rescued him from the museum. Today the fully restored and operational Psycho resides in John's collection.

    You can see film of Psycho in action HERE on The Paul Daniels Magic Show in 1988. Is it just coincide that his "random" number selection begins with 278?

    Thanks to David Mink. For details on the still very active Circumnavigators Club visit their official website.


    Friday, January 11, 2019

    Minerva vs. Houdini in new play

    A new play about real-life escape artist Minerva and her rivalry with Houdini will have its World Premiere at Theatre Network in Edmonton, January 17-27. Previews begin January 15.

    Ghost Writer Theatre presents
    The World Premiere of
    Minerva – Queen of the Handcuffs
    By Ron Pearson 
    No binds can hold her! No box can contain her! She can escape from anything… anything but the clutches of the master himself! Minerva – Queen of the Handcuffs is the true story of the world’s most famous female escape artist and her rivalry with Harry Houdini. This world premiere production features Edmonton’s own master escape artist, Miranda Allen. 
    Featuring: Miranda Allen (Minerva) & Richard Lee Hsi (Houdini)
    Director: Bradley Moss

    Author Ron Pearson shared some details about the play at Dean Carnegie's Magic Detective. Ron says, "I very much liked the idea of portraying Houdini as the bad guy, as he is traditionally seen as the archetypal hero. It gave me the opportunity to cast him as the symbol for all of the barriers and inequality that women had to endure at the turn of the twentieth century, particularly female performers."

    For more information and to buy tickets visit the Theatre Network website. You can also follow the production's progress on their Facebook page.

    UPDATE: Check out this review of the real Minerva I just found in an April 1907 issue of Variety. I've not heard that "former assistant" claim before.


    Facebook Live chat with George Hardeen today

    The Science Channel will host a Facebook Live chat with George Hardeen today at 2pm EST/ 11am PST. Presumably this can be accessed via the Science Channel's Facebook Page (I'm never quite sure how to find these).

    George Hardeen is Harry Houdini's Great Nephew and he's joining us for a Facebook Live at 2p EST/ 11a PST. He's been on a journey to learn more about his Great Uncle so he'll have many stories and can answer YOUR questions about Houdini

    George is currently starring in the Science Channel's series Houdini's Last Secrets. Episode 2, which focases on the Bullet Catch, airs this Sunday.


    Thursday, January 10, 2019

    Mystifier, First Quarter 1996

    Continuing my issue by issue look back at the Mystifier, the newsletter of the Houdini Historical Center that ran from 1991-2003.

    The First Quarter 1996 Mystifier kicks off with the announcement of a special exhibit called Mind Over Magic set to open in Fall.

    Mind Over Magic represents a fresh approach to Houdini in both its interpretive content and its exhibition techniques. Interpretively the exhibit will place Houdini's career in the broader context of the master magicians who preceded him. Whereas the Houdini! exhibit surveys Houdini life and career, Mind Over Magic will examine how Houdini came out of and transformed the classical magic tradition.

    [Mind Over Magic would ultimately be shelved in favor of an exhibition devoted to The Master Mystery.]

    The newsletter continues with an article by Dr. Morris N. Young about Houdini's "haunted" bust in the collection of the HHC. The museum's bust is a clay copy of the original acquired by Sidney Radner from Hardeen. Young notes the mysterious destruction of other Houdini busts and asks: "Will it share the same fate as others? Or is there a supernatural element that is now content with its current location?"

    This newsletter also contains an article by myself chronicling the many attempts by producer Ray Stark to mount a Houdini biopic. At the time this on-again off-again project was on-again. I was excited to have something published in Mystifier, which I now see as a forerunner and inspiration for my blog. The article was later published in MAGIC Magazine. I posted an updated version HERE.

    The museum shop reports that a new book, The Importance of Harry Houdini by Adam Woog, is now in stock. So too are a set of 12 new Houdini postcards. Among the New Members are the familiar names of Ian McColl and Joseph M. Notaro.

    In his "Backstage" column, Sid Radner talks about his recent trip to Las Vegas where he saw both David Copperfield and Lance Burton. He was also able to visit the early Copperfield collection. Sid writes:

    A real highlight of our trip was being guests of David Copperfield at his "wearhouse," which houses his magic collection, offices, living quarters, exercise rooms, rehearsal rooms, etc. David has what must be the most complete collection of magic memorabilia in the world. He has an especially fine Houdini collection which includes some great posters.

    Sid then reveals a scoop ("only in the Mystifier do you get information like this!") that the Houdini Picture Corporation is back in business and collectors will be able to acquire stock certificates in their names. While Sid doesn't detail it here, the company was reincorporated by Geno Munari who was establishing his "Houdini Magic Shop" chain in Las Vegas at this time.

    Sid concludes with the news that Ken Silverman's still untitled Houdini biography is due for an October release from Harper Collins.

    Volume 6, Number 1
    First Quarter, 1996
    6 pages

    New Exhibit Opens Oct. 25
    'Haunted' Statue Taunts Skeptics
    New Book at Museum Shop
    Hollywood Still Looking for Houdini
    Backstage with Sid Radner



    Wednesday, January 9, 2019

    What's wrong with this picture?

    This "Harry Houdini Signed Photo Sheet" is up for auction by High End Memorabilia in Gardena, California. It is being offered on Liveauctioneers and comes with a certificate of authenticity from Stephen Rocchi GFA. Estimate is $1,000 - $1,375.

    But there's something very, very wrong here. Do you know what it is?

    This page is from Houdini His Life Story by Harold Kellock, first published in 1928, two years after Houdini's death! So this is an out and out fake. What troubles me is the signature looks pretty good, so that tells us there is a skillful forger out there.

    I tried to notify the auction house. Here's their reply:

    "Thank you for letting us know and we will look into this we do our normal steps and provide two different COA's with each of our items: one that is a third party authenticator, and the other that comes from us as a LuxeWest 100% lifetime guarantee. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to reach out again. Please remember if you do a direct buy I can take off the 25% buyers premium for you and even give you a discount code."

    Bidder beware.

    Thanks to Kevin Connolly.

    UPDATE. Here we go again. Also a page from Life Story.


    Hanging with Houdini

    I recently posted to my dedicated New Houdini Chronology page a list of ALL of Houdini's suspended straitjacket escapes that I've so far been able to uncover (52). When I eventually produce a printed version of the chronology, listings such as this will appear as an appendix. But I know this list can't be complete, so if anyone knows of an escape that slipped past me, please give a shout! Click below to view:



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