Sunday, November 8, 2015

Look who dropped by the L.A. Magic History Conference

The 14th Los Angeles Conference on Magic History was invaded last night by Houdini's arch foe Q The Automaton! He not only intimidated attendees in the conference museum, but he also marched out on stage! It was terrifying.

This is not the original Automaton from Houdini's 1918 movie serial The Master Mystery (which is, presumably, long gone). This is a faithful reproduction made by the great illusion builder John Gaughan specifically for this year's conference. John lectured on "Automata in Film" and for the grand finale was joined on stage by Q. However, this Automaton was not controlled by clockworks and servos. As in the movie, there was a man inside the suit -- John's assistant, Jeff Chang.

After the big show, Q mingled with guests in the courtyard of The Garland hotel and, as you might expect, was very popular.

During the three day conference, John Gaughan's Q The Automaton was on display in the conference museum where attendees could get a good closeup look. It's really a magnificent reproduction and wonderful to see Houdini's arch enemy -- and the very first movie robot -- brought back to life (so to speak).

The 14 Los Angeles History Conference was held November 5-7 at The Garland hotel in Studio City, CA. This biennial invitation only conference is co-hosted by Mike Caveney, John Gaughan, Jim Steinmeyer and Frankie Glass. This was my first conference and I had the time of my life! I'm overwhelmed this morning thinking about all that I saw and learned. I'm also moved by how welcome this amazing group of historians and magic professionals made me feel.

The full conference events typically get excellent coverage in Genii, MAGIC, and Magicol, so I'm not going to spill all that happened here. But I will be back with a report later in the week with some of the Houdini-specific details and moments that really stood out for me. But I felt the need this morning to report the Breaking News that Q The Automaton -- just like his historical relation, The Terminator -- is back!

UPDATEREPORT: Inside the L.A. Conference on Magic History.



  1. We've come a long way in movie robots haven't we. This robot seems to have a lazy eye. I wonder if the Tin Man from the 1939 Wizard of Oz is based on this design.

  2. There's so much noise from this clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk that some might miss John Gaughan, around the :06-:07 mark, saying "I think he's after John Cox."

  3. Great to see this guy. Bravo for making him. Watch out, John!

    from Harrison Engle

  4. Wow! Looks like Q made quite an entrance and was a hit at the conference. BTW: It was 97 years ago in November that Q the Automation made his debut. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This is fantastic! This is cool beyond coolness! i am reassured that the sense of wonder is not lost from the world.

  6. "Q" stood almost 6 1/2 feet tall.

    His "entrance music" was very loud, eerie..and SCARY - as he moved his feet & arms in synch to each pounding musical "beat"!

    I had no idea Q would appear suddenly from the rear of the theater.

    I'm not ashamed to publically admit - I wanted to hide under a bed! (but only for a second).

    Trust me, it was creepy, surreal & frightfully entertaining all at the same time!

    The event's organizers are well aware that the "Houdini" name remains hard to ignore.

    Much deserved credit to Mike C., John G., Jim S., & Frankie G. for '"allowing" Houdini to once again - partly invade their "Conference on Magic History" ...

    for showcasing both the"Q" Robot & Casey Wong's full size "Houdini sculpture"...AND for "allowing" another 'Houdini researcher' (John Cox) to join the mix! :-)

    1. I still wake up screaming. ;)

      It never occurred to me that the actor inside the suit was looking out through the mouth. But John showed that you can see this in the movie, and this was a clue how to design the suit. It also makes the Automaton a foot taller than the man playing him.

  7. How do you go to the bathroom in that thing? Maybe the actor inside has to wear a diaper.

    1. Let's hope not! Jeff was never inside for all that long. But who knows how they handled that in 1918.

  8. It should be noted that Gaughan improved the look of Q. It has an aged metallic appearance and more rivets all around. When you see photos of Q from the MM stills, it looks rather plain.

    It isn't really scary, more like creepy.

    1. BTW, one of those rivets popped off as he went up on stage. It was recovered by Max Maven who was in the front row. Afterwards, Max came and found me, saying he could think of no one better to have it. I kept it -- after I made sure John had extras. :)

  9. Great stuff! You couldn't make it up!



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