Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Latest updates in the mystery of Franz Kukol

Back in December 2009 Houdini expert Patrick Culliton put forth the intriguing theory that Franz Kukol, Houdini's first chief assistant, did not leave Houdini's employment in 1914 as history has recorded and Houdini himself claimed. According to Patrick (who played Kukol in the ABC TV movie The Great Houdinis), Houdini transformed Franz into "Frank" and he continued to work with Houdini right up to the end of the magician's life.

Part of the evidence Patrick cited was a privately held letter written by Houdini in 1924 to The Roosevelt Memorial Association stating that "Frank Kukol" will come and swear that he took the famous photo(s) of Houdini and the former President aboard the Imperator in 1914.

Now David Saltman has published that very letter on his website, The Houdini File. It's a remarkable artifact that does indeed prove that Kukol was working with Houdini during the 1920s.

Also on the Franz front, recently a gentleman named Rolf R. Safferthal, a retired German electronics engineer, has come forward with the claim that Franz Kukol was his maternal grandfather. Rolf has joined the discussion on this very topic at the Genii Forums and has even posted rare unseen photos of Kukol.

Click here to read the Houdini/Frank Kukol letter at The Houdini File.

Click here to read the posts by Rolf R. Safferthal at the Genii Forums.


  1. John, OMG!!!! This is unreal! Wow, thank you for posting this. I've been a bit out of the magic history thing since Oct 31, trying to get caught up on shows and bookings. Had you not posted this I would never have known. Thank you!! MORE new pictures! Totally mind blowing!

    1. The pics are great, aren't they? Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Rolf is posting in the thread anymore. I think we scared him away. :(

  2. Has anyone looked at NY death records from say 1927 to 1945? Assuming Franz stayed in NY until his death and looking for every combination or Frank/Franz, Kukol/Willianson.

  3. Guys.......Perry from NJ here. I THINK I found something!

  4. I searched death records in NY. Its an online data base and found the following:

    Williamson Frank 56 y Sep 12 1930 18182 Kings W452

    A Frank Williamson died in Kings County NY on Sept 30th 1930 at the age of 56. Is that the age he would have been as of that date? 18182 is the certificate number so assume death certificate. W452 is the "soundex" number..dont know what that is. Could be Kukol or another Frank Williamson but the question now is can we look up the death certificate?

    1. Whoa! Nice work. Patrick Culliton, are you reading this?

  5. Here are 2 more with the last name of Kukol:

    Kukol John 61 y Jan 19 1938 1555 Manhattan K240
    Kukol Mary 39 y Feb 13 1929 5230 Manhattan K240

  6. Next week I'm publishing another new Houdini letter which states that there are at least three versions of the HH/TR photo (counting the famous group/airbrushed thing as one), and that Houdini himself set up this entire photo shoot. Anyone seen or know about versions two and three of the pics with HH and TR?

    David Saltman
    The Houdini File

    (NB: NO "z" in my name!)

    1. I saw that. I've never seen the other shots. Very interesting.

      Oops! Z removed. Thanks. :)


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