Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hear 30 seconds of the alternate Houdini voice recording

Here is a YouTube video taken in David Copperfield's museum in which you can hear the first 30 seconds of one of the alternate Houdini voice recordings. This is the start of the non $1000 challenge version of his Water Torture Cell patter. The Houdini voice recordings were recently played in their entirety at the 43rd Magic Collectors Weekend in Chicago (click here to read my report).

An anonymous commenter drew my attention to this and it looks like it was made covertly, so you might want to listen quickly before it disappears.


  1. John, I'm a bit new to the magic world, so I don't understand the traditions and politics... but I wonder... Why doesn't the collector in possession of the recording release the recording in digital form? Surely it has great historical significance. Surely there would be plenty of interest. Surely it would be more safely preserved if a broad number of people had it... a single wax cylinder is not a safe archive.

    I understand that having something sought after and having the only copy gets you invited to the nicer cocktail parties, I guess, while everyone tries to get you to play it for them.

    If I had the recording, I'd be talking with the Library of Congress. I'd make it available widely on the internet in digital form. I'd be talking to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

    This is a relic of American History. I don't understand the guarding it as if it were the secret to a prized magic trick.

    Why do you think it's being kept secret? Do you consider that a positive, neutral or negative thing for the preservation and promotion of the history of magic?

    1. Oh, it's not being kept secret per se. The recordings are available for any collector or historian to hear, and safe digital copies exist. But there are issues with just uploading it to the internet. There are lots of things like this in the Houdini world, the vast majority of his diaries, for example. I don't have a problem with this, as long as historians have access and it's protected.

    2. That's what I'm trying to understand. What are the issues with just uploading it to the internet?

      I mean, diaries I can understand. They are much harder to convert to digital form, and require a lot of labor and editing to make sure they're free of error, etc.

      From the video above, it appears that the collector is playing the cylinder (hopefully it's a reproduction).

      Are there rights issues with the recording?

    3. Afraid I don't have all the answers for you, Bruce. Those are questions for Copperfield.

  2. Speaking of his diaries -- where is the most complete collection, do you know?

    On the voice -- the accent really reminds me of my old high school German teacher, who grew up in Wisconsin with German parents. They kind of bite off the words.

    1. I believe they are still owned/controlled by the family of his lawyer, Bernard Ernst, but I don't know that for a fact.

  3. If you want insight into Copperfield there was a nice article in the New Yorker on the Mulholland library in NY that he bought. Essentially Ricky Jay wanted it to stay a research library and instead it became part of Copperfield's private collection. He has no interest or incentive to share with the community interested in magic history. So why would he want to share this recording? Having it a secret just makes it more desired.

  4. I don't have any sour grapes about someone who is preserving history.

    I'm curious about the recording is all.

    The cloak and dagger surreptitious recording and anonymous uploading to youtube, along with the worry that it'll be taken down seems a bit too much drama for any old wax cylinder to bear. Recordings of Thomas Edison himself aren't treated with such mystery.

    1. I only mentioned the possibility of the video being taken down because I don't think you're supposed to film inside the Copperfield museum. I linked to another video shot inside the museum, and it was taken down.


Legal Disclosure

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Receive updates via email