Thursday, June 30, 2011

Buried treasure this weekend

Reader Mark Russell has uncovered some VERY interesting new information about Houdini's air-tight coffin test(s) in Worcester, MA. When I get a chance this weekend, I will pull together his info and post it here. Part of what Mark has uncovered is downright eerie!

Watch for it this weekend right here at WILD ABOUT HARRY.

UPDATE: Here it is!

Houdini hits the Jersey Shore

Stockton's 31th annual Children's Summer Playhouse will present Houdini and the Magic of Thinking Big! Wednesday, July 13 at 10:30 a.m. at the Ocean City Music Pier, Moorlyn Terrace and the Boardwalk.

The story of Harry Houdini is a classic American success. A son of poor immigrants, inspired by a borrowed book, Houdini dedicated himself to becoming the world's greatest magician. In an age before television, film or the internet, he became the world's first international superstar. 

Adults and children alike will be spellbound by this fun-filled, interactive production, presented by Patrick Garner’s History’s Alive! Tickets are $8 and can be purchased here.

For more information call 609-525-9248, ext. 17, visit, or email

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Missing Houdini painting reappears

The Melton Weekly reports that a pastel celebrating Houdini's famous first flight in Australia is being put on display, having being found after "doing a Houdini of its own."

Barry Ackland created Houdini Has Landed in 2006, but it went missing soon after. The Sunbury painter, 72, is unsure how it disappeared, but was thrilled after it was found and returned to him two weeks ago. Exactly where the painting has been for several years remains a mystery.

"That I don't know, but it has resurfaced and it needed some work and had to be reframed," Ackland said. "I love history. If you don't learn from history, you've got no future. It blows your mind to think that the Hungarian-born Houdini came to Diggers Rest."

Ackland said he created the work "to tell Harry we're still here".

Houdini Has Landed is now on display at the History & Heritage of Melton Photographic Exhibition from Saturday 25th June to Sunday 3rd July 2011, at Mac's Cottage, Willows Historical Park, Reserve Road, Melton, Vic (Mel Ref: 337 C9).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cover art for Titan's Houdini Mysteries

Cover art for Titan Books upcoming reprints of Daniel Staswhower's "Harry Houdini Mysteries" has been revealed on Amazon. Very nice!

The Dime Museum Murders (first published in 1999) and The Floating Lady Murder (2000) will be released on February 7, 2012. Still no word on whether Titan will reprint Staswhower's third Harry Houdini Mystery, The Houdini Specter.

UPDATE: Author Daniel Stashower tells me Titan will indeed be reprinting The Houdini Specter.

The Man From Beyond gets new DVD release

Grapevine Video has released Houdini's fourth silent film The Man From Beyond on DVD. The company advertises their version as running 75 minutes and featuring an "All new full orchestra music score."

The print on this new release is the down-and-dirty public domain version, although unlike the Alpha Video release, it retains the original title card. This version is not tinted like the KINO edition and, of course, it can't compare to the beautiful Restoration Series release, which is still the best version of The Man From Beyond out there. But I do like the new orchestral score of this Grapeview release quite a bit.

The box is strictly a "home made" effort that uses poster art from The Grim Game (above). There are no special features.

Directed by Burton King, The Man From Beyond was the first movie produced by the Houdini Picture Corporation. It was first released in 1922.

Grapevine's The Man From Beyond can be purchased at the Grapevine Video website or on

Monday, June 27, 2011

New book will look at Houdini's British Tours

A new book, Houdini: The British Tours, will be published by Driftwood Coast Publishing in September. As the title suggests, the book will focus on Houdini's exploits "across the pond."

Author Derek Tait says, "I've always been interested in Houdini and realised that there seems to be no book that deals with just his British tours alone and I think that it would be of great interest to many people. I hope to include as much as I can about Houdini's tours of Britain. So far, I've managed to gather together many newspaper stories from the the period, they all make very interesting reading. It's almost like being there sometimes!"

There's no cover art yet, but Houdini: The British Tours can be pre-ordered now on

This is the kind of specialty book I love!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sidney Radner passes away at 91

Geno Munari has just posted on the Genii forums that Sidney Radner passed away yesterday. No other information is yet available. Sidney was 91.

UPDATE: The New York Times has posted an obituary.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

TRAGIC MAGIC: A History of Fatal Conjuring at the Skirball Center

As part of their special programing for the Houdini: Art and Magic and Masters of Illusion exhibitions, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles presents TRAGIC MAGIC: A History of Fatal Conjuring with Joshua Jay this Thursday, June 30, at 8:00 p.m.

In TRAGIC MAGIC: A History of Fatal Conjuring, award-winning magician, author, and Magic Castle headliner Joshua Jay dramatically recounts some of the strangest deaths that have befallen magicians, assistants, and even audience members throughout magic’s rich history. At turns mysterious and hilarious, Jay’s presentation paints vivid pictures of the bullet trick (which has claimed the lives of more magicians than any other illusion), reveals the true cause of Houdini’s death, and more. Jay will even risk life and limb in a feat of “tragic magic”!

Depending on the outcome, a book signing may or may not follow the program.

Arrive early and view the Houdini: Art and Magic and Masters of Illusion exhibitions, which will remain free and open to program attendees through 8:00 p.m. A docent-led tour of Houdini: Art and Magic will be offered at 6:45 p.m.

Ticket are $12 General, $10 Members, $6 Full-Time Students. Advance tickets are available on site at the Skirball, online at, or by phone at (877) SCC-4TIX or (877) 722-4849.

This sounds like one not to be missed!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sneak peek at Edge of the Unknown 2

Here's something pretty cool. Artist Marco Roblin has sent over this exclusive sneak peek at Houdini's first appearance in the upcoming graphic novel, Edge of the Unknown 2. On this still unlettered page we can see a slightly older Houdini, Bessie, and...Thomas Edison? Something tells me this is going to be a very interesting story indeed!

CLICK HERE to read my review of the first Edge of the Unknown.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Plans unveiled for new Houdini Plaza

Landscape architects from the Hitchcock Design Group unveiled new plans for Appleton's Houdini Plaza Wednesday night. The redesign calls for improved landscaping, more seating and a raised terrace for performances.

"At that intersection you'll see this fountain and this glass tower, which will have elements that are reminiscent of the whole Houdini experience," Rick Hitchcock said of the design. "We're thinking about glass block that's illuminated from within, so that it will glow in the evening and provide a really gorgeous lighted pattern."

"We didn't want to scream Houdini, Houdini," said Karen Harkness, community development director. "But we wanted to honor Houdini in a more subtle manner. One of Houdini's names was the king of chains, so you'll see chains throughout the pavement."

City leaders don't have an estimate of what the project will cost just yet. They say those numbers will be worked out as the design is finalized. The city has spent nearly $30,000 on the plans, but won't spend anymore until it's confident the community is on board, according to Mayor Tim Hanna.

"Something needs to happen there, it's a very valuable space and it's a community space and we want to maintain it that way," said Hanna. "We've gone down this path a couple times before with 100 percent city funds, this time we want some partnerships, we want some community buy in."

Still to be decided is where to place the Houdini-inspired Metamorphosis sculpture, which is in storage at a city facility.

"There are offers for it, but we don't want to commit to any of them until we are done with the design and had the opportunity (to deliberate)," Harkness said.

City leaders are hoping to see a re-vamped Houdini Plaza by 2013.

Houdini photo exhibition on show in Melton Shire

The Melton Visitor Information Centre near Diggers Rest, Australia, has on display a photographic exhibition of historical images of Houdini and his first flight in Australia.

The exhibition runs from June 24 to July 30 and includes images of the small scale replica of Houdini’s Voisin biplane built by local resident Ian Satur for the 100th anniversary celebrations last year.

Also, forty-four paper planes created by Diggers Rest Primary school pupils will be on display during Heritage Week. The public is invited to vote for their favourite paper plane through the People's Choice Award. The award winning paper plane will be announced in Houdini: Paper Plane Flying Competition on Saturday July 23.

For more information visit the official Melton Shire website.

House Theatre of Chicago reviving Houdini play for 2012

The House Theatre of Chicago has announced its 2011-12 season of original work, and among the plays is an all-new production of their very first show, Death and Harry Houdini, written and directed by Nathan Allen.

The play features magic performed by award-winning magician Dennis Watkins, including a live performance of The Water Torture Cell.

Death and Harry Houdini will run Jan 19- Mar 11, 2012 at the Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park. This is The House Theatre of Chicago's 10th season.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy anniversary, Harry and Bess

Today is the anniversary of Harry and Bessie Houdini. The couple married on June 22, 1894, in Coney Island, where they were both working as sideshow performers (Bess paid the $2 license fee). They claimed they later had two more ceremonies to satisfy their families -- one with a rabbi and the other with a Catholic priest. Bess would quip, "I'm the most married woman I know." (There is, however, a school of thought that believes they were never actually legally married, but we'll save that for another day.)

During their 33 years of marriage, Harry and Bess would sometimes return to Coney Island to celebrate their anniversary. Their song -- said to have been the song Bessie was signing when Harry first saw her -- was Rosabel...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The pitchbook project

Houdini and handcuff collector John Bushey is taking on the mighty task of documenting EVERY Houdini pitchbook in all their variations. John intends to publish the information in a book. With this in mind, he's asking his fellow collectors for help in making this THE definitive guide to Houdini pitchbooks. In particular, John is looking for information on:

  • Russian pitchbook, 1903.
  • America's Sensational Perplexer, 1903 pink cover.
  • Life History and Handcuff Secrets of Houdini, 1914 revised ed. salmon color cover.
  • Magic Made Easy, 16 page edition.
  • Handcuff Tricks Exposed (there are at least two editions he knows he doesn't have).

If you have these or ANY Houdini pitchbook you think John should know about, contact him with the word pitchbook in the subject. John is seeking the title, a date if there is one, how many pages, size in height and width to nearest 1/4, and an image if possible.

UPDATE: With John's passing, collector Arthur Moses took up this project and has now released his book dedicated to John. Check out: The Houdini Pitchbooks by Arthur Moses.

Time for The Doctor to meet Houdini?

A review on Doctor Oho's Big Finish Blog of the latest Doctor Who audio drama, The Minds Eye, draws attention to The Doctor's connection to Houdini. Being a fan of Doctor Who, this caught my attention, and I fully endorse the idea of a Whodini adventure.

"The Doctor has name dropped Harry Houdini so many times now over various incarnations I think we are due a first Doctor companion chronicles where they meet and get caught up in an alien invasion that requires some expert escapism. I think the first instance of his name is in Planet of the Spiders but I am willing to be corrected on that. The Doctor starts to figure how this world works and conjures up doors to escape through. In the world of dreams would a formidable foe; his imagination could probably see a way out of any situation."

Houdini was most recently name checked in The Vampires of Venice, an episode of Matt Smith's first season as the eleventh Doctor. A list of Doctor Who-Houdini references can be found at Tardis Index File.

Thanks to Athena Stamos.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Harry Houdini from Hameray

Hameray Publishing Group has released Harry Houdini: The Great Escape Artist by Glora D. Miklowitz.

Part of the Hameray Biography Series, this 40 page book is "specifically written to meet the needs of reluctant readers in grades 3-8 while matching social studies curriculum. The books are written for students reading at least two levels below their grade."

The book is nicely done with many photos credited to Corbis and Getty. Some minor errors and myths do find their way into the text. The only really egregious error is that Bess is called Bess Raymond instead of Rahner throughout (Bessie occasionally used "Raymond" as a professional name during their early years). But, overall, this is a very fine mini bio for new readers, and it's great to see Houdini join the Hameray Biography Series lineup.

Harry Houdini: The Great Escape Artist can be purchsed from the Hameray website and Amazon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Houdini makes 'His Greatest Escape'

eBooks have really opened to the door to Houdini fiction. Today we have news of yet another book released for the Kindle, Houdini - His Greatest Escape by Melvin Horowitz and Philip Kroopf.

From what I can tell from the (rather oddly written) editorial blurb, in Houdini - His Greatest Escape, Houdini returns from the grave in modern times to reunite with Bess, who has been reincarnated into a skeptical young woman. As he works to convince her who he is, Harry also has to tangle with Mr. Carraway, "the old man from beyond", whose mission is to drag Houdini back to where he belongs.

You know, I kinda like the sound of this.

Houdini - His Greatest Escape is available for the Kindle via

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"I'll take Houdini for $1000, Alex."

Houdini featured as a full category on Jeopardy! last night. Contestant Nick Condon, a research chemist from Lakewood, Colorado, nearly ran the whole category, including the final question which was a daily double. Condon felt so confident that he bet all he had, making it a true daily double, and won!

The show was #6173 - airdate Wednesday, June 15, 2011. The full board from J! Archives is below. Can you get all them all right? Don't forget to answer in the form of a question...

Click to enlarge

Click over to J! Archives for an interactive board that will show you the answers. You can also click here to see all the Houdini questions that have appeared on Jeopardy! over the past few decades.

Thanks to Jack Tanis over at the Handcuffs.Org forum.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Houdini among the Luminaries

Some new Houdini fiction has been released. Luminaries by Timothy M. Brenner is an "an alternate history mystery-thriller set in the early 1930's" that finds Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hired by the British Government to track down a serial killer who murdered a member of the Royal Family.

Conan Doyle, "who has the ability to touch objects and ascertain their history", travels to the United States to enlist the aid of Houdini, "a master of telekinesis," and Orson Welles, "who is gifted with the power of mental telepathy." Conan Doyle and Houdini "put aside their differences and work together for the greater good, but not without friction."

It looks like Luminaries is currently only available as a Kindle eBook from

Monday, June 13, 2011

The card trick that fooled Houdini

Here's master magician Steve Cohen demonstrating the "card trick that stumped the great Harry Houdini." By the way, Steve was trained in magic by his uncle who claimed to have trained under Houdini.

You can read more at Steve Cohen's Chamber Magic Blog.

Australian company banks on Houdini name

A Sydney-based company has rebranded itself with the name "Houdini" and have posted a blog about how they came up with the name and designed their logo. It's kind of interesting, but I can't tell what kind of company this is. But, hey, it's called Houdini, so they got my attention, and I do like their motto: "Anything's Possible". Read all about "Houdini" at Identity Designed.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


As I explained back in April, a full time summer job is keeping me from updating WILD ABOUT HARRY as much as I'd like. But I'd suggest using this downtime to revisit some of my past blog posts that you might have missed.

To make this easy, I've tagged a collection of older posts BEST OF BLOG. They include The Forgotten Films of Theo. Hardeen, 278: The Home of Houdini, I've seen The Grim Game, and many more (52 total).

So just CLICK to browse what I consider must reads. And let me know when you think something else deserves to be tagged "Best of Blog".

Friday, June 10, 2011

The secret history of the Houdini Bust

James Randi
This 2008 audio interview posted on contains information about the Houdini Bust(s) that I've never heard before. In it, James "The Amazing" Randi talks about how he "kidnapped" one of the Houdini busts from the Houdini Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada, to make a copy, and how Penn & Teller later did the same to him. It's a great story, but one that certianly underscores, once again, what a shoddy museum the Hall of Fame was.

Then, on a much more serious note, Randi claims the man who smashed the original grave bust was escape artist Norman Bigelow (author of the provocative Death Blow) who did so because he had a "premonition" that it would happen. I have no idea if this is true but, again, it's something I've never heard.

Click here to have a listen at The Amazing Show on

Thanks to Dick Brookz at The Magic Cafe forums for bringing this interview to my attention.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Houdini straitjacket still looking for a buyer

The Houdini straitjacket authenticated by magician Murray SawChuck on a recent episode of Pawn Stars is still looking for a buyer. The jacket has cycled several times on eBay with a price of $149,000 or "best offer." Ironically, in this weeks episode of Pawn Stars, one of the commercial break quizzes revealed the jacket as the item "Rick most regrets not buying." His offer was $25,000.

The jacket -- which I'm convinced is indeed the straitjacket Houdini used for several of his suspended escapes -- was given to the seller's grandfather, Paul J. Campbell (a coffee salesman for Fleetwood Coffee), by Houdini's brother Theo. Hardeen "in late 1927 or early 1928." It has been in the family ever since.

SawChuck identified the jacket by matching specific rivets and double stitching on the customized jacket from a photo taken at the same time as the above. By the way, the seller dates the photo at 1915, but Patrick Culliton says it's more likely 1923 (and I concur). Patrick also thinks the Houdini jacket currently on display at the Skirball Center, which is in this same style, may be the jacket Hardeen is wearing in this photo.

Here are a few more pics of the jacket, which is due to cycle off eBay in 10 hours.

With thanks to MSW.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pitchable pitchbooks

Here's something interesting from the Arthur Moses Collection. Look at these side by side images of Houdini's popular pitchbook, Life, History And Handcuff Secrets of Houdini. It's interesting how the cover was set up to be "reprinted" with the local venue details, as can be seen in red. I've never seen one of these customized versions before. Thank you, Arthur!

Arthur Moses Collection (click to enlarge)

Arthur also has a question for us:

The British boy's weekly "The Kinema Comic" ran a serial "The Amazing Exploits of Houdini" ("Written by Houdini Himself" - or so it says) and always began on page 6 and then continued on to others, These were tales of pure fiction with maybe 2% fact thrown in.

I know these weekly serials began with the v1n1 April 24, 1920 issue, but what I cannot confirm is when the last serial issue was... Can anyone tell me when this was?

-Arthur Moses

If you have the answer, post it in the comments below. Or if you'd like to forward an email to Arthur, just send it via my Submit News page.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Link: Houdini in Chicago

Carnegie: Magic Detective has done it again. Click the headline above to see a very early professional picture of Houdini that I have never seen before. It's really a remarkable shot. Dean thinks it may be from the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and shows Houdini with his first partner, Jacob Hyman.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Skirball screening FairyTale and The Great Houdinis in June

As part of their special programing for Houdini Art and Magic and Masters of Illusion exhibitions, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles will present free screenings of FairyTale: A True Story (1997) on Tuesday, June 7 at 1:30 p.m., and The Great Houdinis (1976) on Tuesday, June 14 at 1:30 p.m. The Great Houdinis will be screened from a DVD.

For more information on the exhibitions and upcoming programs, visit the Skirball Cultural Center's official website.