Friday, July 5, 2013

Hardeen's Flight

Here's a July 1935 issue of The Sphinx featuring a nice cover photo of Hardeen performing The Flight of Time. This was a signature trick in Houdini's 1925-26 full evening roadshow and is said to be the last illusion he invented. To my knowledge, there is no photo of Houdini performing the effect, but I suspect this shot of Hardeen gives us an excellent idea of how Houdini staged it. Like much of Houdini's magic, we can see the apparatus was very minimal, emphasizing that there was nothing (or nowhere) to hide.

Hardeen inherited the Flight of Time from his brother and continued to perform it in his act, including during his engagement with the Olsen and Johnson hit, Hellz-a-Poppin. A review of Hardeen's show at the Belasco Theater in New York on January 21, 1945 said of the illusion: "To the audience at large, this effect was perhaps the most startling of the entire evening."

Hardeen passed the Flight of Time onto his successor, Douglas Geoffrey a.k.a. Hardeen Jr., who performed it for many years. William Rauscher received the original apparatus from Geoffrey in 1977 and also performed it for a time (there's a nice photo of him performing the effect in the November 1993 Genii). Rauscher penned an article about the effect in Perennial Mystics (Vol. 11) in which he stated:

"Geoffrey personally taught me the method of performing the effect. It was a temperamental pieces of apparatus and needed a great deal of work. There were times when it failed. According to stories by Geoffrey, it also failed upon occasion even for Houdini. Houdini would simply say "Take it away!" Even though there were incidents of failure, Houdini considered the trick a winner."

In 2011 one of the original Houdini-Hardeen Flight of Time alarm clocks sold for $1600 as part of Potter and Potter's auction of magic memorabilia from the collection of Ken Klosterman.

From The Original Houdini Scrapbook.


  1. The last page of Houdini-His Legend and Magic by Doug Henning and Charles Reynolds has a photo of Houdini holding a bunch of alarm clocks. I would imagine this was a publicity photo for the trick, though the actual clocks in the trick looked different. I've seen the actual prop in the Klosterman collection, it's pretty cool

    1. Yep, I posted that pic here:

      It's just a publicity photo. The clocks he's holding are real clocks. I meant there's no photo of him actually performing the effect.

  2. Although I can imagine how the effect was performed can someone tell me from an audience perspective how was the effect performed? Not the secret just the performance of it.

  3. Eight alarm clocks and eight watch chains comprise the properties of the Flight of Time trick. Houdini would throw the clocks across the stage and they would mysteriously attach themselves to the chains.

  4. I saw Bill Rauscher do the effect at a show.what a great effect.

  5. I saw Bill Rauscher do this effect, after each one would drop they would be ringing.