Houdini and "Bobby" in
front of a lost poster
Look at this picture from Houdini His Life Story of Houdini with his dog, "Bobby The Handcuff King." In the background is a large poster showing Houdini gazing through the bars of a jail cell window that has never been published. This poster can also be spotted in the background of at least one other candid shot, so it appears to have been one he used often. But does a copy of the actual poster exist in any collection?
Furthermore, check out this photo of a Houdini theater display in Salem, Massachusetts. Three of the four Houdini posters shown here are completely unknown, and the fourth (back left) is extremely uncommon. I'm especially intrigued by the poster on the right behind the packing crate. It appears to show Houdini floating in a semi-disembodied state inside a jail cell, similar to the well-known Prison Cell and Barrel Mystery poster. Is it another poster for this effect, or something else entirely?
Three of the four posters in this shot are unknown
Then there are posters that are hiding in plain sight. Chief among these are two rare gems from the book, Houdini His Life and Art by James Randi. As far as know, these two posters appear nowhere except this book, and here only in black and white (a portion of one appears in color on the cover). What I especially love about the "America's Sensation!" poster is that it spells out Houdini's name as "Harry Handcuff Houdini." I've never seen this on any other poster. The poster for the overboard box is also unique in that it advertises an outside escape. Could he have ever produced a poster like this for the suspended straightjacket, I wonder?
These two rare posters have never been reproduced in color
Both these posters are credited as coming from the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Canada, so they belonged at one time to either Sid Radner, Henry Muller, or the Dunninger collection. But where are they today and why have these stunners never been reproduced in color?
Houdini isn't alone in having some tantalizing lost posters. His brother Hardeen used some spectacular posters in his day, but very few have survived. Also, as far as I know, no posters from his career before Houdini's death have been reproduced in color. Among the long lost Hardeen sheets is one that can be seen as part of an Oakland billboard. Oh to get a better look at this.
A Hardeen billboard provides a peek at a lost poster