Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is this Houdini in a past life?

Yesterday I did a blog post about Houdini's belief -- according Walter B. Gibson -- that he was the reincarnation of a "German magician named Von Treck." I noted that I couldn't find any magician by that name. But now David Byron, a magic historian for The Mandala Magazine and blogger at Baroque Potion, thinks he may have found our man.

David suspects that the person Houdini had in mind (and body) was Friedrich von der Trenck. While he was wasn't a magician and he didn't die doing a Buried Alive stunt, he was German and famous for having made several daring escapes from a Prussian jail in 1746. He was later accused of being spy during the French Revolution and executed by the guillotine on July 25, 1794. (Oh dear, is this now ammunition for the "Houdini was a spy" theorists?)

As David points out, this illustration of von der Trenck from Wikipedia (above) "makes perfectly clear why Houdini might've had him in mind!"

Sensational find! Thank you, David.

UPDATE: The plot thickens! Joseph Pecore has sent me a link to Friedrich von der Trenck's autobiography where he talks about being buried alive!

UPDATE 2: Armed now with the correct spelling, the great Bill Goodwin at the William Larsen Sr. Memorial Library at The Magic Castle has sent over several articles from Houdini's lifetime that draw parallels between Houdini and Friedrich von der Trenck (called "Baron Trenck" in most of them). There is a lengthy article by Irvin S. Cobb titled, "Houdini Not First Handcuff King", and Houdini's own Conjurers Monthly Magazine cites an article about Houdini in New Age by Henry Ridgely Evans called, "A Twentieth Century Baron Trenck." Below is an example from The Sphinx, July 1920.

Click to enlarge

Thank you, Bill!


  1. At Badass of the Week, you can read a hilarious overview of Friedrich von der Trenck's three daring, if ultimately unsuccessful, attempts to escape prison.

    Warning: colorful language....

  2. The plot thickens! Joseph Pecore has sent me a link to Friedrich von der Trenck's autobiography where he talks about being buried alive!

    1. Excellent! I reckon this does more than thicken the plot; it confirms that this is the guy.

      What other jail-breaking, buried alive German could it be?! :D

  3. Amazing! Great stuff! I guess this IS the guy Houdini spoke of.

  4. Updates posted. I really appreciate the input from everyone on this. This is turning out to be pretty darn interesting! :)

  5. So I guess Walter B. Gibson did tell me the truth as I believed. Somewhere I have notes on many, many talks with Gibson and this summer I am going to make a serious effort to find them and I will write from memory as it comes to me. I have piles of paper work of very intersting stuff.
    In the early 70s I had an SAM membership form. I am not sure of it's age but I thought it was recent by a few years.
    On this form it said if I joined I would uphold (or something like that) the Mystical Ritual of the Cabala.
    I asked my friend Reverand Willard Smith about it and he got uncomfortable and never explained it but said he and nothing to do witth it.
    I was not going to protest it, I didn't even know what the staement meant. So I called Melbourne Christopher and asked him. He said he was having it removed and never explained it and it is gone! Norm

    1. It great stuff, Norm. Look at what we've been able to do from one little paragraph in Death Blow. Keep it coming! :)

      Maybe a new series: "The Gibson Files".

  6. At least some of the Gibson estate stuff was sold (on ebay?) If the magic "stuff" wasn't sold at the same time, you might be able to find out what happen to them through the guys selling it.

  7. So last night night a friend gave me a Tarot Card reading and we discovered I was Ann Forrest (Houdini's Grim Game co-star) in a past life. Explains a lot! :)