Saturday, May 26, 2007

Harry Handcuff Houdini reporting for duty

The website has launched a new section devoted to the military records of U.S. citizens from the Revolutionary War through World War II. Included among the 90 million records is a draft card filled out by Harry Handcuff Houdini (yes, he put “Handcuff” as his middle name).

Click to enlarge

Houdini registered for the draft in 1918 when he was 44-years-old. Obviously, the magician was too old to serve and was never called, but Houdini worked tirelessly during the war performing at benefits raising money for War Bonds. He also gave U.S. soldiers lessons in how to escape from German handcuffs.

The website has made much of the Houdini draft card, featuring it on their main page (below) and including it in press stories announcing the launch of the new service. Last night it was featured on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Burglar destroys "priceless" Houdini collection in arson fire

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Jarrod Frederick allegedly made a priceless collection of Houdini memorabilia vanish. But the trick had nothing to do with magic. Prosecutors say it was arson.

Frederick is accused of burning down an Indian Hill home, causing $1 million damage and $350,000 in damage to property inside, including owner Dr. Randall Wolf's collection of Houdini memorabilia, said Stephen Ashbrock, chief of the Madeira and Indian Hill Joint Fire District.

"He lost nearly everything," Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Gerald Krumpelbeck said. Prosecutors called the collection extensive.

"There was no past contact" between Wolf and Frederick, said Indian Hill Rangers Detective Carl Watts. "He just thought it was a good house to burglarize."

Frederick's lawyer, Greg Cohen, said, "This was a total random of act of drug-induced delusion resulting, unfortunately, in the destruction of somebody's home."

Frederick, who once did lawn maintenance for Indian Hill homeowners and knew the area, dropped his wife off at Kenwood Towne Centre on Dec. 30 and headed into Indian Hill looking for an out-of-the-way place to smoke crack cocaine, Krumpelbeck said.

He found it at Wolf's $1 million, six-bedroom home on Park Road and broke in, court records say. When Frederick had trouble lighting his crack pipe, he lit a box of paperwork, hoping that would help, Krumpelbeck said. The flames quickly got out of control, reports say.

Frederick, who had parked in the garage, fled so quickly he drove through the garage door, trailing parts of it, Watts said. Police spotted Frederick driving erratically in a park.

After a brief meeting in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court this morning, Judge Dennis Helmick set the 26-year-old Clifton man's aggravated arson and burglary case for a hearing Friday.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Houdini The Musical opens in the UK, June 6

The new UK production, Houdini - The Musical, receives its world premiere at The Playhouse in Weston Super Mare, Somerset on June 6, 2007.

Jamie Alan Nicklin, co-writer of Houdini the Musical says: "This production is the realization of a lifetime's ambition for me. Houdini has always been my idol since I was a little boy. In those days, he was top of the bill for all grand illusion tour shows which in my opinion far outshine a lot of the modern shows in terms of style and grandeur that sadly you simply don't see any more. It is this feeling of grandeur from the golden age of variety that we want to recreate in the minds of our audiences who come to see the musical."

Canadian born Sam K. Andrews plays the role of Houdini with Kerry Whiteside as Bess. Part of the show features a recreation of Houdini’s famous Chinese Water Torture Cell escape.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Poster for Death Defying Acts

A new one-sheet for Death Defying Acts starring Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta-Jones has appeared over at the Myriad Pictures website. You’d never know this was a movie about Houdini, would ya?

Death Defying Acts is a “supernatural romantic thriller” that tells the fictional story of Houdini’s relationship with a Scottish psychic played by Zeta Jones. It will be released by The Weinstein Co. sometime in 2007.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Houdini watercolor by Robert Nelson

Robert Nelson, a highly respected contemporary painter, printmaker and collage artist, presents "Harry Houdini's Water Escape in New York City's East River 1914." This colored pencil/watercolor is part of a collection of Nelson’s work at the Beppu Wiarda Gallery in Portland, Oregon.

Nelson’s work has been the subject of over one hundred and fifty one-man shows in Philadelphia, Washington and elsewhere. His art has been included in prime contemporary exhibitions in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago. He was also awarded the Cezanne medal from the government of France in 1961.

Harry Houdini's Water Escape in New York City's East River 1914
Colored pencil, watercolor, mixed media on paper
42 x 29.5 inches
$2550 framed

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Houdini returns to Winston-Salem

PRESS RELEASE: In November, 1924, the world famous Harry Houdini performed at Reynolds Auditorium. On May 31, 2007 Houdini returns to Winston-Salem.

Tom Foolery Productions presents The Houdini Show a new play by Michael Huie. Performances will be May 31, June 1 and June 2 at 8 p.m. and June 3 at 2 p.m in the McChesney Scott Dunn Auditorium at SECCA at 750 Marguerite Drive in Winston-Salem, N.C. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7.50 for seniors and students, and are available at the door. Reservations are not being accepted.

Houdini died on Halloween in 1926. His secrets were closely guarded after his death, but his greatest secret was how he became Houdini. In a show that combines magic, escape and theatre, The Houdini Show reveals how a man born into poverty in a family of immigrants became one of the most famous men in the world.

The Houdini Show is directed by Wake Forest University assistant professor Brook Davis and former WFU and North Carolina School of the Arts instructor James Dodding. The play features Huie and veteran North Carolina Shakespeare Festival actor Michael Kamtman. The show is appropriate for all ages. Tom Foolery Productions also premiered their shows Jack and 3 Hats at SECCA. For more information about the show visit

The Houdini Show is supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and the North Carolina Arts Council.