|Jon Oliver and Ruth Kavanaugh in 1975.
There are a handful of Houdini mega collectors out there who have some beautiful items to be sure. But only Jon Oliver sleeps in Houdini's bed every night!
That's because Jon, who is a magician and escape artist in his own right, became friendly with the Houdini family in 1975 when he met Houdini's niece, Ruth Kavanaugh (who passed away last year). Over the next three decades not only did Jon acquired a great deal of first hand knowledge about Houdini from the family, but he was also able to acquire incredible personal artifacts, such as Bessie's jewelry, the French Letter Handcuff (from the Kleppini challenge), and, yes, Houdini's bed!
Jon is now sharing his formidable collection (as well as artifacts from his own career) at his website, jonolivermagic.com. Not only can you view the Houdini furniture and the French Letter Cuff, etc., but Jon has also posted an album of photographs that will melt your brain. On these pages are shots of Houdini I have never seen, such as Houdini being bound to a stake by two indian chiefs; Houdini and Bess with Gloria Swanson; and Houdini in his mail room with the two Julies (Karcher and Sawyer) and Bessie's brother, John Rahner. The pics are small and low res, but gold flakes are still gold!
I also can't help but notice what Jon has written in the website's footer: "There is no copyright to this site. Magic and the memory of Houdini's contribution to magic and escapes belong to the world!"
When I myself met Houdini's niece, Marie Blood, this was very much her attitude, and one of the reasons there is no legal "Houdini Estate" today. She believed her Uncle Harry belonged to the world. She might have even used those exact words. It's nice to see Jon carrying forward the generosity and openness of the Houdini family. Maybe that's why they have entrusted him with so many of their family treasures.
Click here to browse Jon Oliver's website.