Sunday, October 27, 2013


The Hungarian website FilmHu has just posted the very first photos from the set of the Houdini miniseries currently shooting in Budapest. These shots do not show any filming, but they still tell us a lot! This set appears to be the Appleton Wisconsin of Houdini's childhood (1880s). But the most exciting and revealing image is that of the traveling circus wagon of Dr. Lynn.

Seeing a performance by Dr. Lynn as a young boy is generally considered Houdini's first encounter with magic. Lynn was famous for a grisly effect called "Palingenesia" in which he would dismember and then restore a member of the audience. Houdini would later acquire Lynn's apparatus from the late magician's son and perform some of his feats, including Palingenesia, in his own Full Evening Show.

Note that Lynn's billing, "The Greatest Necromancer of the Age! Perhaps of All Time!", is the exact billing Houdini used near the end of his career. Nice.

This is very exciting as it marks the first time any biopic has dramatized Ehrich's encounter with Dr. Lynn. (Yes, I'm well aware the Lynn performance happened in Milwaukee and not Appleton, but let's cut them some slack.)

Here are some other shots of period Appleton during what appears to be Halloween? This just gets better and better.

Houdini stars Adrien Brody as Houdini and Kristen Connolly as Bess. It's being directed by Uli Edel from a script by Nicholas Meyer. Houdini is an A&E Studios Lionsgate co-production. The 4-hour miniseries will air over two nights in 2014.


  1. Replies
    1. You said it!

      BTW, I changed the Dr. Lynn link in the story to go to your terrific Lynn-Houdini blog post from 2010.

  2. In front of my flat I can see the filming of a scene that happens in San Francisco with 'The Great Houdini" displays around the street... I love Budapest.

    1. Really!? Oh, man, I should be in Budapest!

      Would love to share pictures if you have any. :)

      Welcome to the site.

  3. The Dr. Lynn story is a strange one. How was Houdini's father able to afford the tickets for that show when Houdini was a child? The man was really poor. Perhaps someone else took Houdini to the show and he gave his father the credit?

    1. I think we can believe that he went with his father. I don't think a ticket to a magic show was THAT expensive. Or it could be that Samuel was paid with a ticket for his rabbinical services or knew someone at the theater, etc. But it is maybe telling that it was only he and Ehrich who went, not the whole family.

  4. Just saw these pix and was very disappointed! They appear to be recycling some hoary old Wild West movie set and faking it as Appleton. If you Google Image Appleton 1900 you will see that it's all brick, not wood, and looks nothing like these shots. There is a large historic district still standing from Houdini's era. Proof of the "History" Channel fakery is that on the post office they show the name as Appleton WI. Those two-letter abbreviations were not used until 1963, to make room for zip codes.

    I know, I know - cut them some slack. But then don't pretend this is "history." This kind of sloppiness is why Houdini's story gets so mangled.

    1. It also struck me that this was much more "wild west" in appearance than the real Appleton of the day. But it doesn't bother me. It visually reinforces his "humble begins." But I agree that using WI is a sloppy mistake.

    2. I was born and raised in Appleton and we're very proud that Houdini spent his childhood here. (All you Houdini fans, come to the Houdini Museum--great permanent exhibit on him.) So yes, my first thought was that it looked like the old west, not the Appleton that I know from pictures. By this point, we already had an established and well-respected university (Lawrence Univeristy) and we were a hub of paper manufacturing for the country (visit the Paper Discovery Center!). And we had electricity (Hearthstone--first house in the world lit by a hydroelectric power plant, 1881). So we weren't some backwater podunk town. Having said that, though, I'm very pleased that Appleton was included at all. And repeatedly! Most biopics and documentaries on Houdini skip his Appleton heritage. Very frustrating for this Appletonian.


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