Saturday, August 19, 2006

Houdini’s Spirit Chair & Slates on eBay

A seller on eBay has put up for auction Houdini’s Spirit Chair, magic slates, and travel crate, along with a letter of provenance from Houdini’s brother, Hardeen. Here is is the full description from the seller:

Houdini's Brother's
Heartfelt Gift To My Dad

This one-of-a-kind collectible is a treasure from my magician father's collection of magic memorabilia. (Herman L. Weber, 1900-1953, a.k.a. "Namreh, and "Weber The Wizard.") My Dad had a large room all decorated with magician’s window cards and posters and full of magic memorabilia. It was a gathering place for all of the magicians and magic buffs who played or visited Allentown or Philadelphia and stayed at our house through the years. My brother and I are now getting a little long in the tooth and we are letting go of most of our Dad's collection of magic memorabilia.

Houdini's brother, Hardeen, graciously gave Houdini’s spirit slate and chair and crate to my father. The chair is purple-black while its crate is reddish in color. This is what Hardeen wrote my Dad on March 8, 1935:

My dear Herman:
Since my talk with you at the S.A.M. meeting, the thought came to me that you would be about the most logical person to receive my brother Houdini’s Spirit Slate and Chair, which he used in his big Evening Show. As you and Houdini were such good friends, I think he would approve of my decision, if He in the other world would know of it. So I am shipping the whole outfit to you today in the same crate that it always traveled with when Houdini used it. I may add that it has not been out of the crate since my brother passed on. I guess you know by this time that I shall be in Allentown for the big show on the 30th, day of March. Will close now, sending you my best wishes for your continued success in the mystery business. I am, Sincerely yours Hardeen

While providing the provenance for the Houdini items, the Hardeen letter and envelope are themselves collectibles. To preserve the Hardeen letter and envelope, I have sandwiched both between two thick sheets of plexiglas. The letter and envelope can very easily be removed and beautifully matted and framed.

My brother and I were not even born when Houdini died; therefore, I am somewhat vague regarding how Houdini used this setup in his show. Our father never explained it to us. The fact that the spirit chair traveled in its very own crate indicates that the chair was a significant part of the program. Because Houdini debunked spiritualists and mediums, I assume that he used this part of his show to expose "spirit messages." Perhaps someone who is truly familiar with Houdini's performance will be kind enough to email me and allow the explanation to be credited and inserted here.

Magician friends and antiques dealers have advised me not to alter the condition of the Houdini spirit chair and crate. How the chair got into its present condition in the crate in over 80 years is a puzzle to me. Perhaps as a result of moths or rodents. Nonetheless, considering that it is a Houdini original, the spirit chair is still a "beauty!" It is up to buyer whether to restore the chair, which I am told would not be difficult. The shipping crate obviously traveled--and its condition is part of the crate's charm.

Bidding starts at $24,500.00. The 10 day auction ends on August 28 and can be viewed HERE.

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