Monday, June 10, 2013

Houdini & Gysel by Wayne Wissner

Magician and photographer Wayne R. Wissner has printed a 22 page monograph called Houdini & Gysel. The work explores the "love/hate" relationship between Houdini and Robert Gysel, using a collection of over 70 letters of correspondence between the two men.

Robert Gysel was a magician and escape artist who dabbled in spiritualism before becoming and active exposer of fraudulent mediums. Gysel regularly provided Houdini with information on mediums and other magic-related matters, but it doesn't appear Gysel was ever employed as one of Houdini's "agents", as has been suggested. In fact, in some letters Gysel presses Houdini for a job as an assistant in his full evening roadshow.

Wayne mostly excerpts selections from Gysel's letters, which reveal Gysel to have been quite an eccentric character, maybe even a touch unstable. Houdini seems appreciative of his information, but keeps him at arms length. But he also shows some concern, at one point saying, "You better take care of yourself, because I can read between the lines of your letters that you are not well."

There are also exchanges that reveal both men's feelings about other magicians, including Blackstone ("he'll steal your tricks") and Thurston ("the wallflower"). There is also a remarkable letter in which Houdini pretty much answers the question of whether or not he believes in God by stating: "I do believe in the supernatural activity of the Devine Element on man."

Wayne is offering single copies of Houdini & Gysel on eBay as a Buy It Now for $20 postpaid. His most current listing can be found here.


  1. Thanks for the information John. After Professor Silverman published Houdini!!!, he mentioned that new information on Houdini would emerge over time

  2. I have just uncovered more Houdini correspondence and hope to put them in a new manuscript very soon.

  3. Is this information still available? I am researching Gysel. Thanks!

    1. Not sure, but I can ask Wayne. Shoot me your contact info via my Contact page and I will pass it to Wayne.

  4. I'm sorry to say, but it's out of print right now. I ever get the time, I'll try to get a few more printed up!
    wayne wissner