Monday, November 4, 2013

Unpublished Houdini: In Los Angeles

Welcome to Unpublished Houdini. In this series I share a new never-before-published photo of Houdini every Monday from our generous Hinson Endowment.

I'm changing up my choice of photo today for those arriving in L.A. this week for the Los Angeles Conference on Magic History. This is a magnificent unpublished shot of Houdini doing a suspended straitjacket escape from the historic Examiner building in downtown Los Angeles. (If you can't see Harry, click here.)

"I shall never forget that crowd as I hung suspended. It looked to me as if I was struggling over a bubbling sea."
-HOUDINI, 1917

As you can see, the beautiful Examiner building is as much the subject of this photo as Houdini. Publisher William Randolph Hearst commissioned Julia Morgan and Los Angeles architects Henke and Dodd to design the building in the popular Mission Revival style. Hearst was so pleased with the results that he later commissioned Morgan to design his massive San Simeon Castle. The Examiner building (later the Herald-Examiner) opened for business on January 1, 1915 and remained the newspaper's headquarters until the paper folded in 1989.

Happily, the Examiner building has survived at 1111 S. Broadway and still looks much as it did the day Houdini made his escape. The building is still owned by the Hearst Corporation and is now rented out for film shoots (including The Prestige). Below are photos I took of the building yesterday.

Harry hung here  | Map.

So when you've had your fill of Erdnase at the Conference, sneak on out and see some still living magic history downtown. Later this week I'll share more Houdini-Los Angeles history as well as some additional "then and now" shots from my Houdini photo safari in downtown yesterday.

UPDATE: The date of this escape was Wednesday, April 4, 1923. Also, the straitjacket Houdini used on this day was the same one that appeared on a 2011 episode of Pawn Stars.

UPDATEHistoric site of Houdini escape will be preserved.


  1. You know, it's a shame the Houdini miniseries isn't shooting in LA because they could recreate this exactly (and I could be there to watch).

  2. John Hinson great nephew of Bess and Harry HoudiniNovember 4, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Have you ever been in side?

    1. I haven't. I didn't even know it existed until the other day. I did try the door, but it was locked. :)

      There are some shots of the lobby on the official website. Looks amazing.

  3. BTW, The Herald Examiner was the paper that broke and flogged The Black Dahlia murder story. The Black Dahlia is a side interest of mine, this was a twofer.

  4. Replies
    1. December 3? My birthday. :)

      How'd you figure this out, Patrick?

  5. This is the coolest Unpublished Houdini so far! Great picture!

    i worked on a film there (i think it was Strange Days) in the 90s. There were hundreds of old file cabinets in the building. Perhaps some reporter left his Black Dahlia notes in one of them, and they're still there waiting to be discovered...

    1. Glad you like. Yes, this was one of my favorite UHs to research. Great that you got explore inside this building.

  6. We have a date! April 5, 1923. Discovered HERE.