Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Houdini joins the Time Spies

A new children’s book, Magician in the Trunk by Candice Ransom, sees Harry Houdini helping out a group of adventurous kids known as the “Time Spies” (aka Mattie, Alex, and Sophie).

This is Book 4 in the popular Time Spies series which blends history, biography, mystery, and adventure.

Magician in the Truck marks the first new Houdini book of 2007. You can purchase it on Amazon.com.

This post originally appeared on Houdini Lives.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The mystery of the two Torture Cells

The following article first appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly on December 11, 2003. I find this story fascinating, and I have my own contribution to the mystery, which you’ll find at the end of the article.

The case of the alleged unauthorized Houdini replica
By Kate Silver, Las Vegas Weekly
December 11, 2003

If his wish had been honored, if his illusions had all gone to the grave with him and his brother, one of Houdini's most famous tricks wouldn't be boxed up in a Las Vegas warehouse right now, in need of an escape artist. But there it sits, the original Chinese Water Torture Cell. Then again, how original is it? That's the question shackled to the cell by a chain of broken agreements, alleged devious tricks and legal actions. Because, thanks to a craftsman hired to restore this device, there may be a working replica.
"Houdini would be throwing up," says Geno Munari, the disgusted president of Houdini's Magic Shops, the Houdini's Museum at the Venetian and the warehouse in which the crates sit. He'd planned to display it in the Houdini museum at the Venetian, but has chosen to keep it boxed and hidden. The rumored replica is said to be indiscernible from the original, shedding doubt as to the authenticity of both.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Myths & Legends investigates Houdini

TV Land’s Myths & Legends investigates whether or not Houdini really died from a punch in the stomach in an episode titled “Super Stares and Super Deaths” which airs this month.

Experts interviewed include Penn & Teller, Harry Anderson, and Wil Wheaton (remember, Will played Houdini in the Disney TV movie Young Harry Houdini). The segment includes some nice photos and a generous use of clips from The Man From Beyond.

The same episode also includes investigations into the deaths of Mama Cass (by Ham Sandwich?), and George Reeves (did he really try and fly like Superman?).

Check the TV Land website for show schedule.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Houdini book and letter fetch $45,426 in auction

In what certainly must be the highest price ever paid for a Houdini book and letter, a signed copy of Magical Rope Ties and Escapes together with an unsigned letter from Houdini to the publisher suggesting ideas for the book’s layout, cover design, etc., has fetched an amazing $45,426.00 at the Random Treasures Auctions.

This is all the more amazing as Magical Rope Ties and Escapes is not a particularly rare book. Copies on eBay tend to sell for between $300 and $800 depending on condition. The auction description played up the attachment of the Harry Keller dedication sticker below Houdini’s signature, perhaps leading some to think that this book was given to Keller by Houdini. But this Keller dedication sticker is inside almost all copies of Magical Rope Ties and Escapes (including the one in my own collection).

The auction lot also included a carbon copy of publisher Will Goldston’s response to Houdini’s letter, assuring the magician he will receive final approval on the book design. While these letters are nice, I fail to see what brought on such an astronomical sale price, especially as an equally significant (signed) letter fetched $3,072.00 (a more typical price for a Houdini letter).

The Magical Rope Ties and Escapes lot was the second highest price realized on a Houdini item in the entire auction. The highest price paid was $58,526.00 for a beautiful original lithograph for the Water Torture Cell (right). The highest realized price for the entire auction was $106,123.00 for a rare Robert-Houdin clock.

The auction, which opened on January 1 and closed January 31, included four different Robert-Houdin clocks; original costumes and props of Chung Ling Soo; signed photograph by the Great Herrmann; Thurston ephemera and much more.


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