Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stashower spooks The Haunting of America

In his review of the new book, The Haunting of America: From the Salem Witch Trials to Harry Houdini, author Daniel Stashower (who has penned several fictional Houdini adventures) correctly challenges the book’s depiction of the famous Houdini-Conan Doyle Atlantic City seance. I will let Mr. Stashower speak for himself:

“Although Harry Houdini's name appears in the title, none of the major biographies of the escape artist are listed in the book's 15-page bibliography, not even the cornerstone treatment by Pulitzer winner Kenneth Silverman. Instead, we find a picture book and a biography for young readers -- both of which are excellent, admittedly, but neither of which sits at the pinnacle of the available scholarship. The effect of these omissions is keenly felt as the authors explore Houdini's tempestuous friendship with Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, who famously embraced spiritualism in later life. As Birnes and Martin relate, the relationship between the two men reached a breaking point during an ill-fated seance in Atlantic City, when Conan Doyle's wife produced a highly suspect spirit message from Houdini's dead mother. In their retelling of the event, however, the "Christian allusions" in the message brought Houdini to such a pitch of anger that he "exploded in rage" and "unleashed a volley of insults": "She's Jewish, you imbecile, as am I!" 
Well . . . that's not how I heard it. There have been dozens of accounts of this episode written over the years, and two books that focus exclusively on the relationship between the two men, but I don't recall seeing the "you imbecile" outburst in any of them. (Full disclosure: My own two books on Conan Doyle are cited in the bibliography.) In every version I've seen, Houdini keeps his composure in spite of his grave misgivings about the message, owing to his great respect for Conan Doyle. Only later, when the two men failed to reconcile their opposing views of what had transpired, did the friendship unravel. Am I making too much of a trifle? Perhaps, but as Sherlock Holmes once remarked, "There is nothing so important as trifles."”

Read Daniel Stashower’s full review at The Washington Post Online.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

James Randi co-hosts online Houdini seance

PRESS RELEASE: This Halloween, The James Randi Educational Foundation and present a never-before-attempted experiment. In front of a live internet audience, a group of prominent skeptics and magicians will try to make contact with the spirit of Harry Houdini, the world’s most famous magician and challenger of the supernatural.

What makes this attempt unique is that it’s being conducted by skeptics and magicians in the hopes that if contact from beyond the grave is possible, Houdini would prefer to make it with skeptics and magicians like himself.

World famous magician and skeptic James Randi will oversee the seance and will help supervise the attempt to communicate.

The seance will be conducted by magician and publisher of Andrew Mayne, editor-in-chief Justin Robert Young and magician and Scam School star Brian Brushwood.

The seance will consist of several tests for attempted communication. Words and images provided by prominent magicians and skeptics and held by James Randi will be attempted to be divined through various supernatural means including Ouija boards, automatic writing and spirit photography.

Rehearsals for the event will be held on Friday October 30th at 1 PM and Saturday at 2 PM at the Isaac Asimov Memorial Library. For press access contact Justin at 954-892-5665.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New book uncovers Houdini Among the Spirits

A new book looking at Houdini life-long fascination with spiritualism is released today by Whitechaple Press (“Americias leading ghost book publisher since 1993”).

Houdini Among the Spirits by Troy Taylor examines the life, death and mysterious afterlife of the famed illusionist and escape artist. Not merely a biography of Houdini, this is a revealing look at Houdini’s fascination with the spirit world, starting with his own days as a fraudulent medium with a traveling circus and continuing on to his exposures of fake Spiritualists, his psychical investigations, his “death pact” with fellow magicians and the legendary Houdini Séances, which are still being held today.
Included in the book are chapters on Houdini's early life; his rise to stardom; his time as a Spiritualist with a traveling circus; his brushes with death; the creation of his death-defying escapes; his obsession with the death of his mother and contact with her on the other side; his strange and haunted friendship with Spiritualist and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; his Spiritualist-debunking stage show; his investigations of mediums, including the famous "Margery"; the eerie premonitions of his death; the Houdini Séances; and much, much more!

This post first appeared on Houdini Lives.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

House of Wonders reveals Randini

It appears the recently published Randini The Man Who Helped Houdini was not the first book to uncover the story of Randolph Douglas (a Houdini superfan and contemporary who gave Houdini the idea for the suspended straight-jacket escape).

Published last year, House of Wonders by award wining Cheshire Poet Laureate John Lindley goes in search of Douglas in a series of twenty-five poems, illustrated and illuminated by a fascinating array of images. The search takes him into the halls where Randolph Douglas staged his escapes, the caves he explored and the amazing House of Wonders he built around him.

Signed copies of House of Wonders are available direct from the author at 26 Albert Place, Havannah St., Congleton, Cheshire, CW12 2AJ. Price £7.95 + £1.15 post & packaging. Cheques (sterling only) payable to “John Lindley” For more information, visit John Lindley’s official website.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Houdini & Nate tackle their third case

Frame-Up On The Bowery, the third book in Tom Lalicki’s Houdini & Nate Mystery series, is released today in hardcover.

Set in 1911, Frame-Up On The Bowery finds young sleuth Nate Fuller, along with his famous mentor Harry Houdini, out to solve a brutal Yuletide murder that shocks the denizens of New York City. After a mutual friend is wrongly accused of being the killer, Houdini and Nate are certain their friend has been framed. But why? By whom? And how can they save him? Old New York’s acclaimed detecting duo brave the rough-and-tumble streets of the Lower East Side, where colorful, conniving characters abound, and the only thing certain is danger every step of the way.

Frame-Up On The Bowery can be purchased on A paperback edition of the first book in the series, Danger in the Dark, will be released next year.

Details on the first two books in the Houdini & Nate series can be found at the official Houdini & Nate website.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Houdini’s" will be new Disneyland magic shop

The tricks and magicians are set to return to the classic Main Street Magic Shop at Disneyland next month. Houdini’s Magic Shop is slated to take over as a private operator of the retail outlet when it re-opens in about a month, but it will keep the same Main Street Magic Shop name, Disney announced this week.

The shop closed Sunday so the store could be remodeled for Houdini’s takeover.

But even before it closed, the shop had lost its magic. Only generic Disney merchandise sat on the shelves in recent months, blogger Sally French reported.

Magic shops have a long tradition in Disneyland.

The first one — Merlin’s Magic Shop — opened near the Sleeping Beauty Castle on the park’s first day in 1955. The Main Street Magic Shop opened two years later. After Merlin’s closed in 1983, the Main Street location remained. Actor Steve Martin got his start at Merlin’s and briefly worked at the Main Street shop.

While Disneyland has run the Main Street shop since 1965, it was previously run by an outside operator.

Houdini’s was selected because of its strong reputation and the fact that it holds rights to key magic tricks, said David Gill, a Disneyland spokesman. Plus, Houdini’s will employ certified magicians to do tricks for guests inside the shop.

Houdini’s has run shops since 1983 and has locations in 10 spots, including a kiosk at Downtown Disney.

“I’ve had a passion for magic since I was a young boy. I am thrilled to be able to share my enthusiasm with Disney guests from around the globe,” said founder Geno Munari in a prepared statement.

The magic shop employees were moved to other stores during the remodeling.

by Sarah Tully, Orange County Register

Monday, October 5, 2009

Houdini’s Magic Shop conjures two new exclusives

Houdini’s Magic Shop is offering two nice new exclusive Houdini items.

First up is The Great Houdini Bust. The bust is hand made and sculptured in the United States by Joseph Juneau exclusively for Houdini’s Magic Shops. It can be enjoyed singularly or use two as book ends.

Next is the 2010 Houdini Calendar, which uses some rare Houdini photos and is currently being offered with a replica of Houdini's last performance program at no additional cost.

Both can be purchased in store or online at Houdini’s Magic Shop.