Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dita Von Teese is “Houdini of Burlesque”

Burlesque star Dita Von Teese has likened herself to Houdini because of the speed at which she can remove her clothes.

The former wife of rocker Marilyn Manson believes she can disrobe in just 15 seconds. "No one's ever timed me with a stopwatch but it would be interesting to find out. I do consider myself to be a Houdini of burlesque. I can remove my clothing very quickly if I choose to but, of course, part of the art of burlesque is taking your time."

On that last count, Dita may very well share a key performance philosophy with the great magician. While Houdini could escape his constraints very quickly, he would sometimes delay making a reappearance until the tension in the audience reached its zenith. Indeed, legend has it that Houdini would even read the newspaper while the audience fretted about whether he’d escape from an air-tight safe.

And now, another pic of Dita.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Houdini mobile phone game coming

PRESS RELEASE: Tag Games today signed an agreement with Oasys Mobile which brings Tag's critically acclaimed debut title Dead Water to North America, where it will be released as Houdini: Escape from Dead Water.

Paul Farley, the managing director of Tag Games, said, “The Houdini license is not only a great fit in terms of the titles theme and game-play but also comes at an opportune time with Houdini's controversial demise is back in the news.”

Houdini: Escape From Dead Water is scheduled for release in Q3 2007. The title will be available from all major North American carriers.

Dead Water was released in Europe in early 2007, to widespread critical acclaim. The game was awarded 81% from, 8/10 from and prompted to proclaim, “With brand new original innovative game-play, designed specifically for your mobile phone, could this be a glimpse of what's to come from Tag Games and for the industry as a whole?”

Tag Games has a number of games in development to follow Houdini: Escape from Dead Water. These include Rock’n’Roll - an innovative casual action/puzzle title that features unique one button game-play and Granny In Paradise, which brings Sandlot Games' popular casual PC franchise to mobile for the very first time.

“We're delighted to be working with Oasys to release Houdini: Escape From Dead Water to the American market,” says Farley.“We've had a great response to the game throughout Europe and we believe its combination of simple, fun gameplay and the unique setting of a sinking ship– with the constantly rising water, will prove just as popular with an American audience.”

Oasys Mobile CEO, Doug Dyer commented, “We are excited about our partnership with Tag Games to release Houdini: Escape From Dead Water. We believe, together, we will release a successful and compelling game with large appeal in the American market.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

‘Mein Training’ nabs $1,400 on eBay

A copy of Houdini’s first German pitchbook Mein Training and Meine Tricks shot past its auction estimate of $300 to $400 and sold for $1,400 on eBay.

At 80 pages, Mein Training is substantially longer than most of Houdini’s pitchbooks. In fact, it could be considered a proper Houdini book in the vein of Handcuff Secrets.

This eBay copy came from the library of the famous Mentalist Joseph Dunninger, a close personal friend of Houdini who later served as technical advisor on the 1953 Paramount movie HOUDINI.

'Biography for Kids' captures Houdini

The Biography Channel series "Biography for Kids" recently added Houdini to its lineup of hour long profiles.

Unfortunately, this is not a new documentary, but is the 1994 A&E produced, Houdini The Great Escape, re-recorded with a young person reading the narration.

Still, this is one of the better Houdini biographies and one that Houdini fans young and old will enjoy.

Check your cable listings for air dates.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Last! True location revealed

Thanks to reader Mike Castle, we can now firmly establish that the above picture is not the last photo ever taken of Houdini at McGill University in 1926, as was claimed in a recent eBay auction. This is actually a photo of Houdini posing outside the White House in Washington D.C.

Check out the postcard below. There can be no doubt that Houdini is standing in the pathway of the West Wing at approximately the area of the red dot (determined by counting off 12 windows along the wing).

Red dot marks where Houdini is standing

This suggests the photo was taken in either February or May of 1926 when Houdini traveled to the capitol to testify before Congress on a bill to outlaw fortune telling in the District of Columbia.

But this hardly takes the shine off this image. Sure, it isn’t Houdini’s “last photo.” But it is the only image I know of showing the master magician at the White House.

Thank you Mike!

UPDATE: It's likey this was taken on Wednesday, May 19, 1926, when Houdini visited the White House to deliver an affidavit related to his congressional testimony to Everett Sanders, secretary to President Coolidge.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last photo of Houdini?

A recent eBay auction offered up what it claims is the last photo taken of Harry Houdini. The auction describes the photo as taken in a “University area in Canada” shortly before Houdini gave a lecture there. The description goes on to explain that Houdini was then “beaten by a group of students in his dressing room” and died shortly after.

Considering Houdini was not “beaten by a group of students” (the perpetrator was a single student from McGill University and generally considered a freak accident), I’m not sure I’m willing to buy all the auction’s claims about this pic.

Also, having been to McGill, I don’t recall any buildings in that style. To my eye, that looks a lot like the White House in the background, suggesting this was possibly taken during Houdini’s trip to D.C. to testify on a bill outlawing fortune telling (but now I’m the one who’s just guessing).

Still, it’s a nice pic, and one I can’t recalling seeing elsewhere.

The starting price was $1,250.00 and ended with no bids.

UPDATE: Last! True location revealed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Arcanum resurrected

Harry Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft and Marie Laveau team up to fight demons, including a serial killer of angels, in 1919 New York.

That's the setup for Thomas Wheeler's fantasy-adventure novel The Arcanum which has just been picked up for big-screen adaptation by Gold Circle Films. Wheeler also penned the the script.

The movie rights to the 2004 novel were preemptively purchased by Miramax in 1999. The studio had Warren Zide and Craig Perry set to produce the project, but nothing ever became of it.

Gold Circle head Paul Brooks told Daily Variety that the search is on for a director. "We see this as a potential franchise property," he added.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Maroon 5 gets help from Houdini’s ghost reporters that Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine is glad he recorded his new album at the former mansion of legendary magician Harry Houdini - the ghosts there helped them write "some great songs".

The singer insists the band shared the mansion with things not from this world - but far from being scared they turned to the spirits for musical help.

He says, "I'd show up, do my work and leave before I could see the blood coming out of the walls "If there were spirits in Houdini's old house they were benevolent.

"We came out with some great songs so they must have helped us. And we did have a pretty epic Halloween party there."

Of course, we won’t tell Mr. Levine that the house in which he was recording is not actually the property known as the “Houdini Mansion.” (The Red Hot Chili Peppers also recorded in this house and also believed it to be Houdini’s former home.) Nor will we tell him the sprawling gated property across the street -- which is known as the “Houdini Mansion” -- was never actually owned nor occupied by the great magician.

Now, Houdini did rent a smaller house in Laurel Canyon, which sat between these two properties, while he filmed his two silent movies for Paramount-Lasky. After his death, Bess Houdini later lived in that same house with Ed Saint for a time. But according to local Houdini expert Patrick Culliton, the house was demolished when the bluff on which it sat was graded back to widen Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the 1960s.

But we won’t tell anyone. Rock on!

Site of the real Houdini house.