Friday, December 16, 2011

Boudini is back!

In 1905 Houdini and a rival escape artist, Jacques Boudini, had an underwater "shackle breaking match" in New York harbor. This is not one of Houdini better known encounters, and newspapers at the time, as well as magic historians today, smelled a rat. Was this a staged "challenge" to showcase Houdini's skill over a "rival"? Was Boudini a hired stooge? The outcome of the challenge certainly favored Houdini, as Boudini not only failed to escape his cuffs, but was nearly drowned.

Courtesy Carnegie: Magic Detective

Now the tireless Dean Carnegie over at Carnegie: Magic Detective has uncovered a remarkable page of theatrical ads from a 1907 Boston Journal that features Houdini, Thurston, The Keatons (Buster's parents), and, incredibly, Boudini! This is two years after the challenge and strongly suggests that Boudini -- and the underwater match -- was on the level.

We see in this ad that Boudini is still dogging Houdini, and even stealing the wording from Houdini's own advert: "Nobody Can Hold Him." Also, "Never Anything Like It in Boston" is a pretty aggressive statement, considering Houdini is playing his second week in the city.

Would setting Boudini up at a rival theater with this aggressive billing benefit Houdini in any way? It's true that Houdini would sometimes plant a rival act in another theatre to expose handcuff tricks, but Boudini is doing the challenge escape act ("All Challenges Accepted"), which was still relatively new in 1907 and near and dear enough to Houdini that he even forbid his brother Hardeen from accepting challenges (for a time).

I'm thinking Dean (who has been on fire lately finding amazing old Houdini newspaper clippings and photos -- like this) has given us solid evidence that Jacques Boudini was the real deal and a legitimate pain in Houdini's backside.

Click here to read the full newspaper account of the Houdini-Boudini underwater challenge.