Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rare Russian Houdini book from 1927

Here's something that should send collectors scrambling. This is a book about Houdini by Eugene Tolkachev published in Russia in 1927. The title, Гарри Гудини - разоблачитель спиритов, translates as "Harry Houdini - The debunker of spiritualists".

This gem was uncovered by our friend Alexey Kozlov, a blogger and Houdini buff from Belarus (who last gave us a look at his Russian Gresham). Alexey has provided a description of the book with translation:

Я помню гастроли Гарри Гудини в Москве в 1903-1904 гг. В те годы я, восторженный несмышленыш, разинув рот, глядел, как худенького дядю в трико обвертывали корабельными целями, заковывали в старинные, архивные наручники и закрывали ширмой. Лязг железа и через минуту дядя бывал свободен. Толпа недоверчиво косилась, и желающие из публики самолично пыхтели, связывая худенького человека. Приносили с собой хитроумные замки (тогда были еще старинные амбарные замки бочонками, открывавшиеся не ключей, а винтом), и все же Гудини через две-три минуты появлялся без оков. 
(Translation by Google)
I remember Harry Houdini's tour in Moscow in 1903-1904. In those years I, enthusiastic silly, mouth agape, looking like a skinny Uncle in tights enveloping naval targets, shackled to old, archival cuffs and closed the screen. The clanking of iron and a minute's uncle visited free. The crowd in disbelief askance, and volunteers from the public puffing himself by tying a skinny person. Brought with them sophisticated locks (then still have old granary barrels locks, keys do not open, and turning), and yet Houdini after two or three minutes, appeared without shackles.

What I find intriguing about this book is that it pre-dates Kellock by a year, so it looks like this might be the first book ever published about Houdini outside his own pitchbooks and promotional material. Interesting that it would be about his Spiritualist debunking and not his magic or escapes. And how awesome is it that the book contains the author's own childhood recollections of seeing Houdini during his Russian tour in 1903?

Happy hunting, Comrades.

For Houdini's own account of his adventures in Russia, revisit: The Handcuff King's blog: Breaking into Russia.

UPDATE: The amazing Conjuring Arts Research Center is offering a PDF of this book for only $4.99. Click here to buy.


  1. is there a reprint some where?

    1. Not to my knowledge. I doubt it is was ever reprinted.

  2. The translation reads like gibberish:

    "Me watch like uncle in chains...

    Okay. Right...

    1. It's an auto translation by Google. Not always the best. But I just left it rather than try and guess what that means.

  3. The word the robot translates as "uncle" should just read "the guy." So "a minute's uncle visited free" should read "in a minute the guy was free." My college Russian finally comes in handy!

    1. That's right. The problem with robot translation is due to the fact of old post-revolutionary orthography and sentence constructions, now little changed.