Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bill Kalush shares Houdini gold in Washington

Conjuring Arts Research Center founder and The Secret Life of Houdini author William Kalush wowed attendees of the Washington Symposium on Magic History yesterday with his talk on Houdini. According to mega collector Arthur Moses, Bill's talk included fresh revelations and new unseen material.

Bill has done some research in the David Copperfield collection and has rediscovered some Houdini rarities that were misfiled years ago. First and foremost is a 112 page manuscript written by Houdini in 1924 called The Light Séance. Apparently this manuscript is connected with a 50-60 page Library of Congress manuscript on Spiritualism attributed to Houdini (but most likely written by Oscar Teale). The lost manuscript took up the first part of Bill's presentation.

Bill then showed a clip from a 1928 National Film Institute of Australia film titled Knights of the Air. The Paramount 2 reeler contains a lengthy segment about Houdini's Australian flights with film footage that is much more complete than the spotty fragments we have come to know.

Bill then revealed fresh information about Houdini's father, including a new unseen photo of Mayer Samuel Weiss (which makes this only the second known photo). Bill spoke of how he had uncovered a reliable sourced contact with Houdini relatives in Hungary from 1931 who were able to verify family history. According to these relatives, Houdini's father, who was a lawyer in Hungary (not a Rabbi), left the country because he failed a legal exam.

Thanks to Arthur Moses for these details of what sounded like an incredible talk. Hopefully Bill will be sharing these discoveries in print at some point. The Secret Life of Houdini Revisited? Bring it!

The Washington Symposium on Magic History concludes today.


  1. Re the report on Houdini's father: it was not Bill Kalush's conclusion that M.S. Weiss left Hungary because he failed a legal exam. That was the story told by Geza Schaffer, who married Cecilia's niece. Schaffer said nothing at all about the duel story - he did NOT state that "it was not because he killed someone in a duel." Bill and I both agreed that Schaffer's story made no sense, or at least that there had to be more to it.

    For one thing, we know that Houdini's father already had a job as government legal counselor that did NOT require passage of the "bar exam." This is treated in detail on my blog, The Houdini File. There was a story fragment in the family saying that MS Weiss was denied "barrister" status because he was Jewish, which might then track nicely with the duel story. To make myself clear - the duel story has not been refuted.

    1. Thanks David. I was wondering about this because I know you've done great work on the duel. I will cut that last line and rework the sentence to show the exam bit was not Bill's conclusion. Also, if you are going to do your own post about the symposium, I will add the link as an update to this story.

      Man, I'm sorry I missed this! Would have loved to have heard these talks for myself. It just wasn't in the budget.