Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Original Master Mystery poster headed to auction

Haversat & Ewing Galleries upcoming magic auction on November 11-12 will include a rare one-sheet poster for Houdini's 1918 serial The Master Mystery. The poster is for Episode 3 ("The Water Peril").

The poster comes from the collection of Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton, who own a complete set of all 14 posters from the serial. The posters have remained private, not part of the museum display, and have only been shown to a handful of visitors.

"We have been offered in the range of $20,000-$30,000 each for several of them, and $195,000 for the entire set of 14," say Dorothy and Dick. "They are all kept in a safe deposit box in a secret location. We love having them. As much as it breaks our hearts to let any of it go, we need to raise funds."

David Haversat says the decision was made to go with Episode 3 because this particular poster has never come up for auction before. Here is the description from the not-yet-released auction catalog:

Lot 95. Houdini, Harry. The Master Mystery starring Harry Houdini (1919). Stone lithograph (Otis Litho- one sheet poster) for Episode Three. Very rare and desirable, only several known to be in existence. In original form, unmounted and in good condition. Small loss on left-hand side near border with original fold-lines. Very bright and clean. Your opportunity to own something very special. $22,000-$24,000

Haversat and Ewing's November auction will also contain a number of other rare Houdini pieces, including a cabinet photo of Houdini and Mama featured on the cover of the catalog (left). There's also an important letter in which Houdini mentions an injury he received in Detroit in 1911 from a challenge that caused him to bleed and get off the road. Houdini admits waiting too long before going to the doctors. It all sounds eerily similar to 1926!

Haversat & Ewing's November 11-12 auction lots are not yet available to view online, but details and links will appear at their website (and on my Houdini Calendar).

Thanks to Dorothy and Dick for the news.

UPDATEMaster Mystery episode 3 poster sells for $28,080.



  1. I can't wait for this! I've bid in every one of their auctions and managed to pick up some decent lots. Good to know not ONE person will get every poster and us little guys have a chance at nabbing one of these over time! Mike

    1. Indeed! I'm also just excited to see all these. It's going to be fun to track them. Which episode will fetch the highest price?

  2. I am one of the handful of visitors that got to see all 14 of these beautiful posters in person and they are truly amazing. Thank you D&D!

  3. Dick and Dorothy here.
    Just a quick note during a very busy Halloween season here at the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA.
    It is not our intent to sell all 14 of these posters at this time. We are selling this one for upgrades to the Houdini Museum and to repair severe damage from Hurricane Sandy and other recent bad storms, to both the back parking lot and the roof of The Houdini Museum which are still in need of more repairs.

    Though we have not told many about this great part of our Houdini memorabilia, we enjoy showing the posters to Houdini fans passing through including Joe Notaro when he visited Scranton, and John Bushy, Fred Pittella and other friends, when they visited the area last year for a major handcuff auction. At that visit we acquired from them some cuffs, etc., that are now on display at the museum.

    In line with this we are always still looking to add new items to our displays. We bought the box of Houdini Keys and others of Dr. Earl Lockman, early California Magician and Escape Artist, that was sold years ago at this same recurring handcuff auction. We bought them later when they came up again recently at a Haversat and Ewing Auction. It is part of our rotating display at the museum. Just this week we purchased a large 1938 28" x 41" poster from the PCAM headlining famous movie actor Chester Morris and Madame (Bess) Houdini which we intend to add to our display area that features her.

    Our Master Mystery posters can be seen on youtube at these links at 1:33

    and at at 4:44.
    This video of our museum also has many interesting film clips of Houdini, his movies, being tied up, etc. interspersed

    We love having them. As much as it breaks our hearts to let any of it go, we need to raise funds.

    The picture does not come near to how vivid the coloration looks, but it is hard to photograph these large posters. The black monster is solid black and not grayish as in the photo. Haversat and Ewing will also be auctioning several other Houdini items from our collection. The money from the sale will go towards repairs, costs and upgrades at The Houdini Museum in Scranton.

    The Houdini Museum is a non profit 501 C-3 organization. Tax deductible donations are greatly appreciated and are put toward a good cause.

    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz
    The Houdini Museum, Tour and Magic Show, Scranton, PA
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini

    1. So, wait, have I completely misunderstood this then? I thought the plan was to selectively sell them all off at auction over time. But are you saying you're just selling this one and that's it? I think I might have to rework this story then.

    2. We may well sell them over time but that could be 10 or 20 years

    3. Excellent. Thanks so much for the clarification.