Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Houdini in the transport chain

Here's a terrific shot of Houdini in the Siberian Transport Chain, a popular effect that can still be purchased in magic shops today. This photo was most likely taken during the same 1901/02 photo session in Germany that produced the famous loincloth shots. This pic comes from an unrelated eBay auction for a "Scotch and Soda Coin Trick".

As with his Needles, I sometimes wonder whether Houdini carried around a Transport Chain as pocket magic. He seems always ready with a chain on hand. There is a photo of him appearing to be giving an impromptu performance of the escape for a group of WWI doughboys in The Secret Life of Houdini, page 336.

The effect is also sometime called the German Transport Chain and, as one might expect, the Houdini Transport Chain.


  1. There's also the iconic photo of a middle-aged Houdini wearing the Siberian Transport Chain. It was used for the cover of the Ruth Brandon book. It's the one where he stares seriously at the camera. Houdini would never part his hair from the side after these early German photos.

    1. I love that photo. There are many pics of Houdini in the transport chain. This one here is pretty uncommon, and I've never seen it so high res. That's why I used it.

      HH left the hair parted on the side through Russia. It also appears parted on the side in the Mirror Hip photo (and that's 1904).

  2. I'm glad you noticed this photo because I saw it on eBay recently and almost sent you a link to it. I'm glad you also caught it and posted it here. It's rare to me and I also agree that it was part of the larger Germany photo session with different manacles on his naked body. There is another photo of Houdini from this session where he is facing the camera with his wrists raised in front of him. A strange pair of handcuffs with a large lock on it is snapped to his wrists.

    After 1904, he would not part his hair from the side again.

    1. I believe that large handcuff is the Russian Manacle.

      Right, the hair parting on the side appears to stop after 1904. I've sometimes wonder if this had something to do with his return trip to America (when he buys 278, etc). Maybe his American barber caught him up with the "new style".

  3. Johan,

    this is the photo I told you about but couldnt find. I am shure the German transport chain wasone of Houdinis "GEMS"

    Johan Ahlberg

    1. You know, I thought this might be the photo. I was going to scan it from my pitchbook, but then I found that other shot already on my computer, so I used that in your article. It's coincidence that this one suddenly showed up.

    2. John,

      strange coincidence! This is one of the best photos where he preforms the German transport chain. On the photo the padlock HOUDINI talks about with "a peculiar shape" can be seen.
      Great post!

  4. I've just come back in to look at it again. It's that good.


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