Sunday, November 10, 2013

S.A.M. wand breaking ceremony in 1976

Every year since 1969 The Society of American Magicians have held a wand breaking ceremony at the grave of their "Most Illustrious" president, Harry Houdini (last year was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy). In an effort to keep the event private and avoid bringing unwanted attention to the gravesite, several years ago the SAM stopped holding the ceremony on Halloween and instead now select a secret date in November.

I don't know when the ceremony will take place this year (or if it has already), but to give a taste of the event, here are photos and memories of the SAM wand breaking ceremony on the 50th Anniversary of Houdini's death in 1976. These come from our friend and long-time Houdini buff, Jeff Abraham, who was lucky enough to attend when he was only 14. Jeff remembers:

"At the time, I was card carrying member of both IBM and SAM, and probably read about the ceremony in M.U.M.

The one thing I truly remember about that day - it was very overcast with a little rain in the air, but at 1:26pm, the sun burst out from the clouds as if the man himself gave his blessing to the ceremony.

I remember Larry Weeks being there, a legendary name in the magic circles at the time. I do recall him having tears in his eyes.

I don't think I needed to show proof of membership to attend, but I did wear a jacket that had a SAM patch of it, so I wasn't taking chances."

Some very nice Houdini-SAM history captured here.

Thank you, Jeff.

UPDATE: I've been told there was a wand breaking ceremony this year "handled by the local NYC assembly."


  1. Great pictures. Thanks for sharing Jeff and John.

  2. To me whats amazing is.....many people were alive at that time who could remember watching Houdini live and in person. Today everyone is long gone. One thing that this web site could do is present memories from Patrick and others who I am sure spoke with many who saw him perform. Would love to gain a better sense of how he performed in more detail than what is within the books written about him. Audience impressions, his presentation, his manner...etc.

    1. I just haven't heard many clear remembrances of his act in detail. Even those who saw him perform can't recall the kind of details we want to hear. But there are those who knew him in life and do give us some wonderful first hand recollections of him as a person. Certainly my Marie Hinson audio clips did that. But clear memories of his stage act are harder to come by.

  3. Someone like Randi who is over 80 himself and who was an active escape artist in the 50's must have spoken to many magicians who saw Houdini perform. There should be an effort to document his memories as well as others who may have stories to tell. Sid Radner who knew Houdinis brother I would think would have had many stories to tell concerning Houdini as a performer. Sid is gone now however.