Monday, February 11, 2013

Houdini's head

Tom Interval's terrific new Facebook page devoted to the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame has stirred up a lot of nostalgia among Houdini buffs for the old museum (which burned in 1995). So I thought it was time to share this little item from my own collection. Some can say they have Houdini's bust. But I have his head!

This is one of the original mannequin heads from the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame. Other mannequins from the museum were made of hard plaster, but this one is made of painted foam rubber which gives it a realistic feel. It has a brown wig, blue plastic eyes and is mounted on a short broomstick handle.

This Houdini head appears to have served multiple roles during its time at the museum. I know that it was once part of a full Houdini mannequin used in a seance room display (below). However, that display was later replaced and where the head went from there I don't know. But it's possible it was last used as the "talking" head in front of the museum that welcomed visitors. I say this because part of the wig has been stripped away, possibly to work better with the projection illusion. If anyone has any memories or theories of where they might have seen this head in the museum, I'd love to hear them.

The Houdini head survived the fire in 1995 which destroyed the Water Torture Cell and closed the museum for good. Only a bit of soot on his lips (which I've never rubbed off) shows evidence of the blaze.

I acquired the head at an auction of artifacts from the museum held at Butterfield & Butterfield in Los Angeles on November 15, 1999. It was Lot 449. I paid $150, well below the auction estimate of $300-$500. The head was the first thing I had ever bid on in a live auction, and when I landed it my fellow Houdini collectors gave me a hand (they had teased me about how much I wanted it).

I love this head because not only is it a genuine part of the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame story, it's also a relic of the museum's hokey style. I sometimes think of the Hall of Fame as Houdini's last Dime Museum.

"The Head" has sat atop my Houdini bookcases for many years and has drawn some attention. One close friend claims that the expression changes and that the head moves position from time to time. One night she swears it spoke to her!


UPDATE: Tom Interval has posted a photo to the Houdini Magicial Hall of Fame Facebook page which appears to be the head. This photo is from Houdini: A Mind in Chains by Bernard C. Meyer and was possibly taken at the original Centre Street location. Thank you Tom!


  1. It's...kinda creepy looking, I ain't gonna lie. But it's really cool that you have that. :)

  2. not as creepy as my Len Insull vent head.

  3. That is so cool. Thank you for posting this!

  4. If you half close your eyes, it looks a little like him. Yeah, it's creepy alright.

  5. I was performing in Erie Pa. this past Monday. After our show we went on a slow drive across the state, checking out
    antique shops.
    We stopped at a place called THE FRANKLIN ANTIQUE MALL, and
    WILD WEST MUSEUM. Tucked away on top on a show case is the
    Houdini figure used by the Falls museum, in the milk can!!!
    John, I dont know if you know this I own the jail cell display from there.
    Jon Oliver

    1. Really? I thought I knew where the Milk Can mannequin ended up (in a friend's collection), but maybe I'm thinking of another one. You own the jail cell? Cool. Comes in handy, no doubt. :p

  6. Hmm...think I found another place they used your Houdini head. Check out the photo I just posted on the Hall of Fame Facebook page:

    1. OMG, how did I never make this connection!? Yes, I bet that is my head. Cool :)