Saturday, October 4, 2014

Calling all Houdini followers

Here is a magnificent unpublished photo of Houdini from the collection of our good friend Mark Willoughby. This shot shows Houdini inside his New York brownstone speaking through his spirit trumpet.

What I love about this pic is it gives us a new perspective on the inside of 278. This appears to be Houdini's office or library, but this shot shows us the reverse angle of more well known photos (like this). It also gives us a look out into the hallway and what appears to be at the stairway railing. With this we could potentially pinpoint the exact location of this pic and Houdini's office in the surviving house, if we could just get inside the darn place!

Perhaps Houdini is calling out to the current owner of 278 to let us have look?

Thanks to Mark for sharing this fantastic photo.



  1. An absolutely magnificent photo John! Thanks to Mark for sharing it! Harry hung a lot photos and paintings in is house. There is another photo that is a companion to this one. It's in Silverman's book close to page 309. This trumpet is the collapsible spirit trumpet of Mrs. Cook. You can see the seams of the trumpet in Mark's photo. Now we know that photo in Silverman's book was taken in the library of 278.

    1. Ah, good call on the Silverman pic. That does appear to have been taken at the same time. And, you know, the famous Houdini in disguise shot might have also been taken at this time. This was probably a whole photo shoot devoted to shots of HH doing his spiritualism thing. Cool to know that this is Mrs. Cook's trumpet.

      But I do think this photos give us the best look at the interior of 278. I love that we can see back into the hallway. Might be Houdini's office. I don't know that for sure.

  2. You couldn't figure out Houdini's location in that trumpet photo from Silverman's book because the background is out of focus. It appears to be in the same room because the small photos next to the doorway match up in both photos. The photo of Houdini in the Harry Potter glasses, wig and cane is also from this same photo session but probably somewhere else in the house. His suit and tie matches up exactly in all photos but notice he threw on a vest for the disguise photo.

    I believe we're looking at Houdini's office at the top 4th floor. Marie Blood mentioned in the Silverman book that she, her grandmother, and Julia Karcher had rooms there. According to her, Houdini's office occupied the remaining large and small room. The office looks like it's the room at the end of the hallway because the railing leads up to the door.

    The trumpet photo in Silverman's book is credited to UPI/Bettmann. My guess is that Houdini invited a press photographer to his home to take a photo shoot of him doing his spiritualism thing as John said.

  3. I'm taken by the shininess of what I assume is a silk suit. Is that his seance disguise or everyday wear?

  4. I've never seen any other photos of Houdini in that nice silk suit. My guess is that he put that on to look presentable for the press photographer. It could have also been set aside in his closet as his séance disguise suit along with the glasses and wig. Houdini was said to have been a sloppy dresser when not performing, but in most of the photos I've seen of him, he looks fairly sharp.

  5. I've seen that suit in a few photos from this time, including THIS ONE of HH and W.C. Fields in Boston the day after the Margery sittings.

  6. Good call on the suit. Apparently Houdini didn't just wear it for ghost busting. It's interesting to note that he did wear it when the subject of spiritualism was near his orbit.

    That collapsible trumpet was a war trophy from Mrs. Cecil Cook, a big time medium. He busted her at the W.T. Stead Memorial Center in New York ripping off her congregation. Her "sucker list" also fell into Houdini' hands. Not unlike a Madam's black book of clients. I would put Mark's photo not long before April 1925.