Friday, September 30, 2016

LINK: Houdini speaks to the living by Beth Burns

Beth Burns, Artistic Director of The Hidden Room, has written a nice article for Cultural Compass, the blog of the Harry Ransom Center in Austin.

Beth shares some gems she uncovered while researching her upcoming play, Houdini Speaks to the Living, in the Ransom Center's archives. There are photographic gems, such as this playful letter to Bess (right), and some nice personal insights, such as:

I even have a hint of how he smelled, or at least how the safe where Bess kept his things smelled. It’s a nice, clean, woodsy smell—like Old Spice and shaving cream, with a note of coffee.

Click on over and have a read at Cultural Compass. Houdini items from the Ransom Center collection will be on display in their lobby starting tomorrow, October 1.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

'Houdini Speaks to the Living' in Austin, Oct. 21-31

Austin-based theater company The Hidden Room and the Harry Ransom Center have announced a new production called Houdini Speaks to the Living. The show runs October 21 to 30 at the York Rite Temple in Austin. A final free performance will be given at the Ransom Center on Halloween night. Below are details.

Marking the 90th anniversary of the Great Houdini’s death…

The Hidden Room and the Harry Ransom Center proudly present Houdini Speaks to the Living by Beth Burns and Patrick Terry.

Starring acclaimed NY Magician Patrick Terry as Harry Houdini and Multi-Award Winning Actor Robert Matney as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The year is 1926, and the Great Houdini is taking his crusade against Spiritualism and fake mediums straight to the public in a series of performance lectures filled with magic and seance-debunking. At the same time, his good friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, is lecturing on behalf of Spiritualism, believing it to be “a great Philosophy” that will usher in a new age for mankind. Watch these two legends battle out the true nature of magic this Halloween season.

Over a year of research went into Houdini Speaks to the Living, bringing material straight from correspondence, essays, photographs, diaries, and books from the Harry Ransom Center’s Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle collections. About 75% of the play is verbatim theatre, so in a sense the Hidden Room is indeed conjuring the very essences of Houdini and Doyle. Enjoy magic, ghost stories, and a great meeting of minds that is the perfect spectacle for your Halloween celebrations.

For more information and to buy tickets visit The Hidden Room website.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Houdini pinball appears at G2E in Las Vegas

American Pinball has unveiled their new Houdini-themed pinball machine at G2E (Global Gaming Expo) in Las Vegas. Below are images and the official press release for HOUDINI: MASTER MYSTERY.

The Greatest Magician of all time HARRY HOUDINI returns to the stage!


Chicago, IL – September 26, 2016 - American-Pinball, manufacturer of arcade games and amusements, is excited to announce the world-wide release of Houdini - Master Mystery™ pinball machine for the home, arcades, gaming centers and magic collectors. The unveiling will take place September 26th at the Venetian Las Vegas hotel on the eve of G2E, The Global Gaming Expo.

Based in the mecca of the pinball universe just outside Chicago, Illinois, American Pinball features a team with decades of industry experience and is launching its first pinball machine under the name Houdini for several reasons. Known as a masterful magician and Harry Houdini is considered the greatest magician, conjurer and escape artist that there ever was. Captivating audiences worldwide with his legendary escapes and shows was his specialty, the Houdini™ pinball will carry on that magical tradition as a beautiful crafted pinball machine featuring a one-of-a-kind pinball theater experience with an LCD color screen and patented cabinet.

“Houdini’s escapes, illusions and handcuff challenges are world renowned even today, and formulate the basis of our inventive new pinball machine,” said president of American-Pinball, Dhaval Vasani. “Our Houdini - Master Mystery pinball machine will bring the man back to life with supremely detailed hand-drawn game artwork, inventive ball tricks, brilliantly illuminated play surfaces and spirit devices while featuring all the classic pinball features like: action jet bumpers, multi level ball stages, sculpted magic toys, secret escapes and much more.”

American-Pinball has also added a performance of new Houdini™ features to amaze players including: The Floating Ball, Water Torture Cell, Levitating Bumper, The Bullet Catch, Hindu Needle Trick, Spirit Box, Buried Alive Sarcophagus, Lock Chambers, Magic Beasts, The Séance, Milk Can Escape and Jennie the Vanishing Elephant!

“Houdini - Master Mystery pinball transforms under the hood as well with the newest game motherboards created by award winning Gigabyte Technology to drive all of Houdini’s pinball effects, full color graphics, sounds, gameplay and music,” explained Vasani.

The blog Pinball News was given an exclusive first look at the game and has more coverage HERE. You can follow American Pinball on Facebook.

HOUDINI: MASTER MYSTERY can be seen at booth 4105 at G2E in Las Vegas through Sept. 29.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Houdini (and I) will haunt the Magic Castle, Oct. 5

On Wednesday, October 5th, I will be giving a talk on "Houdini Among The Spirits" at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. This is similar to the talk I gave at the CFI last October.

However, as we are nearing the 90th anniversary of Houdini's death, I'm planning something special for the conclusion of my talk. This is something I've purposely held back from the blog. So come and be among the first to experience a piece of Houdini history from beyond.

My talk will be held in the Inner Circle at 8 PM and is open to all AMA Members. As you can see above, our friend Tom Ogden, who will be hosting my talk, will be giving his own talk on "Ghosts of the Magic Castle" the following week. I expect Houdini might make an appearance there as well!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Ransom Center cooks up Houdini treats for October

The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin will celebrate the 90th anniversary of Houdini's death next month with several Houdini-themed events, including a class in Houdini cooking!

"Dining with Harry Houdini"
The Ransom Center and Central Market present "Dining with Harry Houdini," a cooking class inspired by the life of the legendary performer and stage illusionist. This October marks the 90th anniversary of Houdini's death (March 24, 1874–Oct. 31, 1926). The archive of Houdini is housed at the Ransom Center. 
The menu, designed by Chef Louis Ortiz, draws inspiration from Houdini's Hungarian heritage. It features some of the performer's favorite dishes including chicken paprikash with fennel potatoes; Hungarian goulash with spatzel; and custard bread pudding with cherry sauce. Each course will be paired with wines of the region. 
Pre-payment and registration required online or by calling 512-206-1014. Registration opens on Sept. 1. The cost of the class is $55. Ransom Center members receive a 10 percent discount from September 1–7. Class size is limited and for ages 21 and up.
Click for more info and to register.

Other October events include a screening of The Grim Game (Oct. 4), and a free presentation of The Hidden Room's Houdini Speaks to the Living on Halloween (I'll have more on this show later).

Artifacts from the Ransom Center's Houdini collection will also be on display in their lobby from October 1 through November 6.

You can keep up with all the Ransom Center events at their official website and Facebook. You can also read a nice article on their blog about Houdini: Illusionist and collector.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Secret recordings of Edward Saint revealed

In the 1930s and 40s, Edward Saint recorded private phone conversations while he and Bess lived in Hollywood. Magician John Booth first discussed Saint's secret recordings in a 1966 issue of The Linking Ring. Later Booth said, "Across the years, I have tried fruitlessly to find out who obtained these recordings from the Houdini estate. No one can tell me what happened to the voice records: they simply disappeared."

Well, they did not disappear entirely. Because today I'm excited to reveal two of them!

These remarkable recordings are owned by our good friend Mark Willoughby, who for years didn't know himself what these records contained. But now the recordings have been heard and Mark has graciously allowed me to share the details here.  While these do not include Bess, what they do contain is pretty wild!

The recordings themselves were made on "Howard Home Recording Discs." Each side contains approximate four minutes of conversation. Each record is labeled with the name of the person being recorded.

The first (undated) record contains a remarkable phone conversation between Edward Saint and a man identified on the label as "Great Alexander's Press Agent." I'm not sure of the man's real name, but at one point Ed appears to call him "Mr. Runny"? Alexander was a famous mentalist and magician who also authored books on the paranormal. At the time of this recording, Alexander was retired and living in California. [For the life of Alexander, read David Charvet's Alexander The Man Who Knows.]

Incredibly, the press agent is pitching Saint on the idea of holding a fake Houdini séance in which Alexander will appear to have made contact and Bess would concur. Saint asks him for specifics:

SAINT: Well how would you have him receive this message, through crystal or clairvoyance or...

PRESS AGENT: Mr. Saint, I haven't even gone into that. That is something that I'd have to first get your okay, then I'd broach the subject to him, if only to bring him something to him unless I knew I could go through with it. And then have the two of you sit down -- I understand you are a very smart publicity man yourself, or along research lines that is I've been told so -- and then sit down and figure out a way in which it could be done, you understand?

SAINT: Yeah.

PRESS AGENT: And the only thing that would be necessary for Mrs. Houdini in the matter would be to say, "Well, at last it came!" And there wouldn't be any public demonstration or anything of the kind of it.

SAINT: I see. Other words all you would need is a signed statement that it was...

PRESS AGENT: Yes, and have nothing public because the minute you make it a public thing it would look like publicity. This has to come at an opportune time, or you might term it an inopportune time. That Alexander didn't do it while the $10,000 that was offered -- I think that was the publicity at the time, is that right? Well whether or not it was makes no difference.

The press agent goes on to explain how he'd first like to "set a lot of things all around" Los Angeles, New York and London, but before he gets too deep into his scheme, Saint interrupts him and decides to shoot the idea down entirely:

SAINT: Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Runny[?], I know that the legitimate angle that Mrs. Houdini has carried from the time of Houdini's death all the way through the present moment would prohibit even broaching such a thing, and is to pervert or falsify or prostitute such a, well, I'd say almost a sacred thing as an occasion of Houdini... [the recording cuts off].

When the conversation is resumed on the second side of the record, the press agent is telling a story of how he once helped arrange (fix?) a jail escape for Houdini himself. The recording comes on as he's discussing a police jailer in Indianapolis named, as far as I can tell, Saul Bear:

PRESS AGENT: He was a very sour man toward show business because he had been a rank failure at it. And he laid in wait for anyone to come along with a handcuff act. He had lever cells which are unbeatable as you know.


PRESS AGENT: And so, Martin Beck... I happened to be doing, during the summer, I happened to be handling the publicity for Springfield and Terre Haute, Indiana. And I got to talking to Saul Bear here. And I dropped in and happened to see Harry at the Penn Hotel in Philadelphia. I met him there and I said, "I see you're into Indianapolis at the Orpheum there." He says, "Yes." I said, "Well, they got the new county jail there." He says, "Well I don't have to take..." He was doing some cabinet escape, I forgot what they called it, upside down in water or something. You probably remember.

SAINT: Aha. Yeah.

PRESS AGENT: I said, "Would you like to beat that jail?" Well he says, "Not necessarily." Well I says, Saul Bear's a friend of mine, and I said if you want to beat him, then I'll take care of that for you. Well he says, "I'll take care of you." And I says, "You don't need to take care of me." I don't know if Mrs. Houdini remembers it or not. But when he got there, everything was all perfectly arranged. Now that was ace publicity.
The conversation ends with:

PRESS AGENT: But I don't want to try and convince you of anything, Mr. Saint, you're probably much older than I am and know all the answers and all the angles. The thought just came to me and there is no harm in everyone giving vent to what their real feelings are when they got the nucleus of a good idea.

SAINT: [laughing] Surely, surely.

While the idea of Alexander faking a Houdini seance is wild enough, evidence of an arranged jail escape is even more intriguing. However, I wasn't able to find any mention of an Indianapolis jail escape, and according to Bill Kalush, Houdini did his last jail escape in 1912. As Houdini was doing the Water Torture Cell at this time (the escape the press agent couldn't recall), this jail break would have to have been after 1912. But it's possible. Recently there's been a suggestion of a Houdini jail escape as late as 1923.

The next record is dated Jan. 16, 1942 and contains a conversation between Edward Saint and Frank O'Conner. O'Conner was an actor and director who was involved in many of Bess and Ed's Hollywood dealings. He wrote and directed Religious Racketeers. (He's also the great grandfather of actor Wil Wheaton who played Houdini in Young Harry Houdini.)

O'Conner had helped Bess and Ed set up a Houdini biopic at Paramount and had even worked on the script. But by 1942, nothing had come of the Paramount project, so O'Conner was looking for a new studio and a new angle.

On this recording, O'Conner is discussing with Saint a deal that would allow a pair of independent producers named Jackson and Stone to pitch a "life of Houdini" project to RKO Studios. O'Conner states that actor Paul Muni "is eager to do the thing, not just because of his knowledge of Houdini, but what can be done with the character."

However, O'Conner is very insistent that it needs to be a fictional version on Houdini's life. He explains his reasons thus:

O'CONNER: Of course, everybody in the show business knows Houdini, they know what he stood for and what he'd done, and it's merely a matter of devising a fictional treatment, see. They are not concerned with biographies at all, such as the Paramount thing is concerned, you see? Biographies are a dead issue. All the biographies have failed at the box office. That goes for all of them, including Pasture. That was a terrible flop by reason of it being a biography.

Saint agrees with a fictionalized approach. "That's okay. That's entirely okay," he says. O'Conner then lays out RKO's desire for a name screenwriter to pen the final script:

O'CONNER: The story has to be written by a top flight writer, such a Dudley Nichols or John Steinbeck. In other words they want something to exploit in the publicity. Life of Houdini by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck the author of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flats and numerous others. Or Hemmingway, somebody like that, see? He'd probably do very little of the work, but his name will be used. All of which they call box office insurance.

At one point Saint broaches the subject of his own creative involvement in the writing process "to safeguard the thing." For that exchange, Mark has graciously allowed me to share a 30 second clip from the actual recording itself. Saint is the first man heard and O'Conner, much lower audio, is on the other end of the line. Enjoy.

Nothing ever came of the Jackson and Stone Houdini project at RKO. Possibly the would-be producers were unaware that RKO had already tried and failed to come up with their own fictional take on Houdini's life in the 1930s [read: RKO 589: Discovering Hollywood's first Houdini film].

Edward Saint would die the year this recording was made. But what incredible artifacts to have survived, and what a thrill to share them here today.

A very big thanks Mark Willoughby.

UPDATE: Since posting this I've learned that the full names of the producers were Ben Jackson and John Stone, and their 60 day option agreement was written up and signed on January 26, 1942. The agreement contained this interesting provision:

Such motion picture photoplay may be fictionalized, but may not contain any claim that either Beatrice Houdini or Harry Houdini, believes in, or advocates Spiritualism.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

FLASHBACK: Ed and Bess on the record

Here's a look back at a story from 2011 about secret recordings made by Edward Saint while he and Bess lived in Hollywood in the 1930s. These were discussed by John Booth in a 1966 issue of The Linking Ring.

I'm flashing back to this today as a refresher and teaser for an update tomorrow that you won't want to miss!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The final cut

Click to enlarge.
We seem to be in the season of Dr. Leopold Weiss, with the recent discovery of a family Bible and other revelations about the estranged brother Houdini called "Doc." So today I thought I'd share this article from The Bridgeport Telegram dated November 16, 1926, just a few weeks after Houdini's death.

As we know, Houdini and Leopold had a falling out when Leo married Sadie Glantz, the Hungarian ex-wife of another brother, Nathan. The precise details of the family drama are not entirely known, but Houdini's displeasure took many forms, including cutting Leo's head out of family portraits and forbidding his burial in the Weiss family plot.

Even after death, Houdini struck, as this article records. Houdini's Will stipulated that the dreaded Sadie, and by extension, Leo, would receive nothing from his estate. Ironically, Leo's own estate at this time may have been larger than Houdini's, which was ultimately declared insolvent.

Leo's life did not play out so well after Houdini's death. A census taken in 1935 shows him still married to Sadie; but at some point, she vanishes from his life, either by death or divorce. Leo retired from his lucrative practice as a radiologist in 1949 due to increasing blindness (some say caused by repeated X-ray exposure). In 1962 he committed suicide by leaping from the roof of his apartment building in the Inwood area of Manhattan.

Leo left all his worldly goods to his long-time former nurse, Marguerite Elliott. But Marguerite's husband forbid her from accepting, so all that was left of the last living Weiss sibling was thrown out.

But Leo scored one victory in the end. Even though Houdini had excommunicated him, he was buried in the family plot in Machpelah cemetery, though today his gave is unmarked due to vandalism. Whatever happened to Sadie in life or death is unknown.

Leopold and Sadie Glantz Weiss.

UPDATEGuest blog: Leopold and Sady Weiss: Why Houdini Wasn’t Happy.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lee Terbosic plans "Houdini 100" tribute

I normally don't cover magicians who replicate Houdini's feats (unless they make unexpected news), but I thought I'd make an exception for Lee Terbosic and his upcoming suspended straitjacket escape in Pittsburgh on November 6. That's because Lee will do his escape at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Wood Street at the very spot where Houdini did his own suspended straitjacket escape 100 years ago to the day.

Lee has launched a nice website laying out the details of what he's calling: "HOUDINI 100."

Lee was also recently profiled on KDKA News. Talking about Houdini, he said: "He was a marketing genius. He really was. He knew how to sell a show. He knew how create a buzz about what he was doing. That’s why we still talk about him today."

Sounds like Lee has some marketing skills himself!

Of course, if he's really going to replicate Houdini's escape, then he will certainly strap the jacket on as Houdini did and not employ a straitjacket fail....right Lee?

UPDATELee Terbosic recreates Houdini's straitjacket escape in Pittsburgh.


Monday, September 19, 2016

LINK: German Berliner Handcuffs used during trial?

Joe Notaro at Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence asks if these handcuffs -- pictured in The Great Houdini Handcuffs and Legirons by Dick Wresh -- were really the cuffs used at Houdini's famous slander trail in Germany in 1902. Joe has dug up some nice facts about these cuffs and the case, so click on over to HHCE and help unlock the mystery.


Sunday, September 18, 2016


UPDATE: Amazon is discontinuing their aStore feature on October 27, 2017, so I will be retiring the Wild About Harry aStore at that time (if not sooner).

As part of my site improvements, I've now embedded a U.S. Amazon "aStore" which you can find under the "Website" drop down menu. Here I'll feature the most recent Houdini book and DVD releases. You can add what you like to your cart. When you are ready to check out, you will be automatically sent to Amazon. Works like magic!

Today is not a bad day to do a little Amazon shopping. Olive Films upcoming Blu-ray and DVD releases of Houdini (1953) are both reduced 30% in price. So maybe give them a pre-order via the new WILD ABOUT HARRY aStore.


Hanging Houdini

Houdini to Hang! How's that for an attention getter? In 1922, when this appeared in the Washington Herald, hanging was still the standard form of execution in D.C., so this would have certainly given a reader pause. But that was the whole point.

As you can see, this ad is actually referring to Houdini's suspended straitjacket escape from B.F. Keith's Theater in the Riggs Building on January 12, 1922. I probably don't need to tell you that Houdini survived his public "hanging."

But this begs the question; did Houdini ever do a stunt that involved his own hanging? Programs do show Houdini performing something called the "Jesse James Hanging Trick," but it's likely this was a magic effect and not an escape (possibly Rope Through Neck).

In Walter B. Gibson's Houdini's Escapes (1931) that are notes for what Houdini called "The Gallows Restraint." This did not involve actual hanging, but it evoked it, as you can see in the illustration below. But it doesn't appear Houdini ever developed this escape beyond these notes.

In case you're wondering, Washington D.C. switched to electrocution as their means of execution in 1927. Of course, Houdini had fun with electric chairs as well.

Related posts:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

LINK: Magic in Marshall's air for Halloween

The Detroit Free Press reports that the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan will hold several Houdini and escape-themed events next month to mark the 90th anniversary of Houdini's death. The museum is also planning a special event on Halloween, but details are being keep secret for now.

"Let's just say that it will harken back to 1978 when the museum was new, and it will focus on the great Houdini and his legacy," museum administrator Cindy Lake said.

Looks like next month is going to be jam-packed with Houdini happenings to celebrate the 90th. I've established a new hashtag #Houdini90th so you can keep up with all the events here as well as on Twitter and Facebook.


Friday, September 16, 2016

The Elusive Key unlocks Houdini art

In March 2014 the Gristle Art Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn had a exhibition of Houdini-related artwork called "The Elusive Key." Curator Samantha Levin of Levin Fine Art described the collection like this:

"The Elusive Key was named for the rumor that Houdini’s wife snuck him a key in a kiss that allowed him to open handcuffs that “could not be picked by mortal man,” but I told the artists that they could choose any aspect of Houdini’s life to interpret. Some went for the specific theme, however a few decided to explore Houdini’s strong attempts to defrock false mediums who fooled many people out of their money into thinking they could talk to the dead. Yet others interpreted other aspects of Houdini’s legacy."

The result was some pretty unique artwork, and I'm sorry this slipped past me when it was originally shown. Happily, the art is still online and can be seen at the Gristle Art Gallery and Levin Fine Art websites.

The artwork pictured here by Michal Brodka is called "There Has Been No Miss Brent Here This Evening" and is a tribute to Houdini's silent serial The Mastery Mystery.

Related posts:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Houdini in 1899

Houdini began 1899 adrift and discouraged. He had begun his career as a professional magician in 1891. Now, eight years later, he had not made a name for himself and was stuck playing dime museums to make a living. In fact, he worked the lowly venues so much, he was now nicknamed "Dime Museum Harry." He was also dead broke. A year earlier, he had attempted to sell his entire act, including his handcuff act. There were no takers.

This post is now retired. 

But you will still be able to enjoy the story of Houdini in 1899 with the publication of my upcoming book.

Related posts:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

HARRY by Antonio Ferrara

Released today in Italy is a fictionalized biography of Houdini aimed at young readers called HARRY by Antonio Ferrara. The 128 page book features nice cover art and can be purchased at the Italian

Related posts:

The Grim Game screening at the Harry Ransom Center, Oct. 4

TCMs restoration of Houdini's The Grim Game will screen at the Harry Ransom Center's Charles Nelson Prothro Theater on Tuesday, October 4 at 7:00 PM. Eric Colleary, Cline Curator of Theater and Performing Arts, will introduce the film.

The Harry Ransom Center is located at The University of Texas at Austin. The center holds one of the largest collections of Houdini material in the world, including one of the largest archives of material related to his film career.

For more information about the screening CLICK HERE.

Thanks to Dick Brookz.


Monday, September 12, 2016

A new look for WILD ABOUT HARRY

So I've launched a new design for WILD ABOUT HARRY. This marks the first real change in the look and feel of the site since it went live in November 2010. This is primarily so I can create new drop down menus and can better organize some the content buried deep within the blog. Let me know in the comments below if this is a look you can live with for another six years. Thanks!

If you've already forgotten what the old site looked like, CLICK HERE.

Houdini rises at Paramount

Our good friend Steven Bingen, who has written books about Warner Bros and MGM, is now completing a new book about Paramount Studios called Paramount: City of Dreams. While doing research, Steve came across this October 1952 issue of the studio newsletter showing an impressive new construction on the backlot for their upcoming production of Houdini.

Click to enlarge.

The building facade would be used to shoot Houdini's suspended straitjacket escape. Here are a few images of the shoot itself from the archives of LIFE magazine. Unfortunately, I don't know the name of the stuntman who performed the straitjacket escape that day. It's interesting to note that this was filmed around Halloween 1952.

I can't help but think what a nice companion piece the makes to last Friday's post about Houdini himself doing a stunt 33 years earlier on a building facade at the Famous Players-Lasky studio for The Grim Game. Famous Players-Lasky was later folded into Paramount.

Houdini (1953) is due to be released on a new DVD and Blu-ray on November 15. Steve's Paramount: City of Dreams will be released November 1 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

Thank you Steve.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

It's now the "Houdini Studio" in New Jersey

I'll be darned. Our friend Perry in New Jersey has discovered a new website for the building at 216 19th St. in Union City, which was once owned by Houdini and housed his Film Developing Corporation and possibly his magic workshop. It appears the building has been renamed "Houdini Studio." The website sources THIS POST from 2014 pointing out the connection. Our work is done here!

The new "Houdini Studio" website also offers photos of the inside, which we can maybe use to help prove and/or pinpoint the exact location of Houdini's workshop, as seen in THIS PHOTO from the Kevin Connolly collection that I shared last week.

Below is what the the building looked like in Houdini's day. Back then the address was 216-222 Weehawken Street.

I feel kinda proud that this building is now known as Houdini Studio. But to give proper credit, this location was first uncovered by the great Patrick Culliton and first revealed on Kevin Connolly's blog "Houdini Himself" in 2010 (Kevin took down his blog and all its content earlier this year).

Thank you Perry.


Friday, September 9, 2016

The Grim Game jail break behind the scenes

One of the highlights of Houdini's The Grim Game is the jail break sequence. Not only do we get to see Houdini escape shackles and the jail cell, but we see him use the rope from a flagpole to climb down the side of the building. It's a stunt Houdini did himself.

In the film it appears Houdini is doing his acrobatic stunts on a real building. But this photo from a magician's scrapbook housed at the Magic Castle's William Larsen Sr. Memorial Library gives us a new perspective on the stunt.

This photo shows us that Houdini's jail break was actually filmed on the Jesse Lasky Famous Players Studio backlot (confirmed by the great silent movie location archaeologist, John Bengtson). But Houdini is still far enough off the ground that he could be seriously injured or killed if he fell. In fact, at some point while filming the jail escape sequence, he did break his wrist in a fall. Below is how it appears in the film.

Also shot on the backlot was the crash landing of Houdini's biplane. Today the site of the former Laskey backlot sits behind The Hollywood Palladium and looks like this.

If you love this kind of stuff like I do, check out more Grim Game filming locations below, and also visist John Bengtson's amazing Silent Locations blog.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Houdini & Doyle unused artwork

Our friend Traci Porczynski at the very active Houdini & Doyle Fan Group on Facebook has been searching the web and making some interesting discoveries. First up are these unused Houdini & Doyle main title logos by Sub Pixel Motion Design.

One logo created by Sub Pixel was used early on by FOX. It was uploaded the official press site on the day the series was first announced. You can see that logo HERE.

Traci has also uncovered this unused promotional image taken by Mitch Jenkins of stars Michael Weston and Stephen Mangan as Houdini & Doyle in action! Fun stuff.

Thanks Traci.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

'Houdini Talks Houdini' at the Coney Island Film Festival

Adam Steinfeld's short film HOUDINI...Talks Houdini will screen at the 16th annual Coney Island Film Festival on September 17 at 7:00 PM as part of block of music videos and experimental films. The film is a fictional recreation of what Adam imagines Houdini's final radio interview would have been like.

You can buy tickets and get more details at the official Coney Island Film Festival website.

Congratulations Adam!


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

FLASHBACK: Houdini's busted bust

As we count down to the 100th anniversary of the exedra in Machpelah cemetery, I thought I'd direct readers back to this post from January 2013 when I shared photos of Houdini's original vandalized grave bust. These were sent by an anonymous reader and kicked off quite a discussion in the comments section, with one reader convinced that this posting constituted a crime!

After I posted this, the mystery owner vanished and the bust has never again surfaced. It was all very curious, but it's still an amazing thing to see. So click below and revisit:


*Do you like the idea of periodic "flashback" posts like this? Feel free to give me feedback below.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Houdini in his workshop

For Labor Day, I couldn't resist sharing this amazing image of Houdini in his New Jersey workshop preparing magic apparatus for his 1925-26 3 Shows in One. This photo comes from the formidable collection of the great Kevin Connolly. Kevin recently shared this at his Facebook group, CONJURING HISTORY - BUY, SELL AND TALK.

Click to enlarge.

The folks over at Kevin's group have been doing a great job dissecting what we can see here. Houdini is holding what appears to be a Vanishing Birdcage. This was actually a Harry Blackstone specialty at this time. Behind him we can see a pair of Conradi Vanishing and Appearing Lamps. These once went wrong during a show and Houdini denounced the manufacturer from the stage. Another thing spotted by the eagle-eyed David Charvet are what appear to be two 35mm film canisters on the work bench.

It's been suggested that Houdini's New Jersey workshop may have been located in the same building that once housed his Film Developing Corporation (FDC). That building still stands today.

Thanks to Kevin Connolly for generously allowing to share this shot. Hope you are all having a relaxing Labor Day weekend and are ready for the Fall "seance season."

UPDATE: To help our discussion in the comments below, here's the other more well-known image of Houdini in his workshop. This comes from Gresham's Houdini The Man Who Walked Through Walls and is credited there to "Brown Brothers."

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UPDATE: Having now been in the building, I can say with almost complete certainty that the workshop was on the ground floor. I was in the room where all the windows, wall features, and even the views match. Here's a pic.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

'The Magic of Houdini' now streaming on Netflix

If you're looking for something to watch this Labor Day, I have great news for you. The 2014 documentary The Magic of Houdini with Alan Davies is now available to stream on Netflix. The documentary was produced for ITV in the UK. This marks its first availability in the U.S. (It has not been released on DVD.)

In The Magic of Houdini, Alan Davies, a UK comedian and personality, travels to various Houdini locations in the UK and U.S. Along the way he talks with: Roger Dreyer, David Copperfield, Ruth Brandon, Ken Silverman, Kevin Connolly, Richard Sherry and Dayle Krall, and 93-year-old Larry Weeks (his last interview). As I wrote in my original review, it offers up a nice time capsule of the Houdini world in 2014.

Thanks to London Ervin for the alert.


Exposing The Wizard Exposed

"The Wizard Exposed" by H.L. Adam first appeared in the July 1901 issue of The Royal Magazine in the UK. The five-page article featured Houdini exposing "some of his simpler" magic tricks. The pages are reproduced in Walter Gibson's The Original Houdini Scrapbook (1976), but mega collector Arthur Moses shares with us scans of the original article from his collection (the largest collection of Houdini periodicals in the world). I love these early images of Houdini performing straight magic.

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"Mr. Houdini is now well known as the "Handcuff King," but before he went into handcuffs he was a skilful [sic] conjurer in America, and the explanations here given may be relied as being thoroughly genuine."

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"A very effective, but much simpler trick is that where water is turned to wine, and back again to water. This, Mr. Houdini informed me, was one of his favourite tricks in America, and one which never failed to elicit plenty of enthusiastic applause."

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"And now I wonder how many Maskelynes, Devaneys, Le Roys, and Houdinis will result from the publication of this article. I desire to express thanks to Messrs. C. Ornum & Co., Duke Street, Charing Cross, for their kindness in lending apparatus for the illustration of this article."

Houdini once said that exposing tricks is "taking bread and butter from honest hard working ambitious magicians." But Houdini freely exposed select tricks throughout his career. I can't help but wonder how "The Wizard Exposed" was received by magicians of the day. Even though this article is written as if by an outsider, there's little doubt that Houdini was behind the entire piece, and may have even written it himself.

Arthur also recently discovered this same article in the French magazine La Petite Gironde Dans la Famille, February 25, 1902, with translated title "Tous Magiciens" (All Magicians). This time there is no byline. This was published following Houdini's first appearance in France.

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Thank you Arthur.