Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Houdini's WILD 2015 in review

It's time to look back on 2015, which will go down in Houdini history as the year of The Grim Game. In January we first learned that TCM had acquired the "lost" Houdini film, and in March came the big Hollywood premiere. The movie then screened in Wisconsin, Marshall, Scranton, Philadelphia, Austin, Helsinki, Edinburgh, Illinois, New York and London before the TCM television premiere brought The Grim Game to everyone in October.

The Grim Game was a constant topic of conversation during the course of the year. Producer Rick Schmidlin explained how it all happened, new details about the plane crash were uncovered, and silent movie historian John Bengtson identified several shooting locations which, of course, I had to visit. Even Teller had something to say. It's amazing to think that in December of last year it looked like we might never see Houdini's best film. What a difference a year makes.

But there was more to 2015 than just The Grim Game. This was a year jam-packed with Houdini news and events, and another exciting year for WILD ABOUT HARRY.

The year kicked off with a look back at Houdini in 1915 and Hardeen's close call. The McCord Museum received a massive Houdini collection while Houdini himself returned to an Austin theater as a hologram. Handcuff collector Mark Lyons took us on a Houdini Vacation, and guest blogger Neil McNally provided a 3-part look at Mr. Houdini in Washington (expect more from Neil in 2016). We also met Chickie Lee, looked into Houdini's open grave, and drilled down on the real story behind The Belle Isle Bridge jump.

In spring, Houdini escaped from Murderers Row and Hardeen hung up his handcuffs. News broke of a new TV series teaming Houdini & Doyle. AHC declared Houdini a Badass and the City of Los Angeles declared March 29 as "HOUDINI DAY" (which is what happens when the tireless Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz come to town). Houdini then invited us to come see him "magisch" and accepted a new challenge every day. We also met Houdini's daughter.

Jim Collins kicked off the summer months by going solo. Jon Oliver shared Houdini's baby shoe. Houdini wrote to his "Sweetheart Mine" (despite that incident with the Colonel), and assured us that he didn't "drink, smoke or chew". William Rauscher brought us inside Houdini's Hippodrome. A Houdini-Hardeen Milk Can returned to the stage at the Midwest Magic History Weekend. We took a tour of Houdini's Detroit, and discovered that Houdini threatened to cancel his 1926 tour, which for my money was one of biggest revelations of the year.

In mid-summer we met the new Houdini and learned how Harry almost went 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. David Copperfield and Houdini had an epic rap battle. We gossiped with Gresham about the Houdinis marriage and got a look at the photo Houdini didn't want you to see. Houdini was roasted in Los Angeles and immortalized in Appleton. Bess conjured Satan, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe went wild for Harry. And even though the Houdini miniseries lost the Guild Awards, it did receive an IIG Award and one Emmy. But the big award winner was Houdini himself who won the Oscar.

In the Fall we tracked down where Harry met Bessie and Houdini made a frightening appearance at Monsterpalooza. Houdini & Doyle began filming in Manchester. Justin Bieber, Amy Schumer and the Supreme Court all channeled the Houdini. David Jaher's new book The Witch of Lime Street manifested to rave reviews and a movie deal. Italy celebrated Houdini. And even though Houdini didn't perform in San Francisco in 1926, he was there in spirit at the Official Houdini Séance 2015. And while Houdini failed to return from the Beyond this year, The Automaton did!

The year rounded out with a look at Houdini and Hardeen in Oakland and Houdini and Margery in the apple orchards. The first official photos of Houdini & Doyle appeared along with the trailer. We also remembered when Houdini defeated the Pottawatomie Giant, and we got a peek at the first must buy book of 2016. And what better way to end the year than with a "sensational" discovery.

During the course of this year, I was excited give Houdini talks at The Magic Castle, The Midwest Magic Weekend, IBM Ring 96, UCLA, Center For Inquiry, and the Official Houdini Seance. I also enjoyed doing interviews with Wendy Edwards, Jeff Richards and Nicholas J. Johnson. Two Houdini mysteries popped up in my own backyard, one involving a Milk Can and another that turned out to be a bizarre prank. And November 16 marked a very special 40th anniversary for me.

Unfortunately, every year also sees the passing of people important to the Houdini world. This year we mourned the losses of Leonard Nimoy, Jack Carter, E.L. Doctorow, Norman Bigelow, and our great friend and contributor Mick Hanzlik.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support of this blog. Barring any breaking Houdini news, I'll be taking the rest of the year off. But I will see you all back here on January 1st, 2016 for what I expect will be another WILD year for Harry.

What was your Houdini highlight of 2015? Please feel free to share in the comments below.


  1. Thank you.
    Happy Holidays :-)

    1. And to you, Narinder. Thanks for being a regular.

  2. Thanks John for a great HH year! I've had a lot fun reading WAH, and you know, it's educational. Watching The Grim Game was a life fulfilling event.

    I have an HH surprise in store for you, but you'll just have to wait until you resume your work on WAH.

    1. Thank you for all your help and comments, Leo. An HH surprise, eh? Can't wait. :)

      I'm chambering my January posts. Hope to shoot out of the gate with some great stuff.

  3. Happy New Year to all.

    1. And to you, Rick! And thanks for helping make 2015 an amazing year for all Houdini fans.