- Houdini's Movies
- Les merveilleux exploits de Houdini à Paris (1909)
- The Master Mystery (1918)
- The Grim Game (1919)
- Terror Island (1920)
- The Man From Beyond (1922)
- Haldane of the Secret Service (1923)
- Velvet Fingers (1925-26)
- Medium Well Done (1937)
- Religious Racketeers (1938)
- Houdini Picture Corp.
- Film Developing Corp.
- Filming locations
- Unmade Movies
- Deconstructing Houdini '53
- Beatrice Houdini
- Theo Hardeen
- Cecelia Weiss
- Mayer Samuel Weiss
- Jim Collins
- Franz Kukol
- Martin Beck
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- J. Gordon Whitehead
- Edward Saint
- Jacob Hyman
- Leopold Weiss
- Carrie Gladys Weiss
- Bernard M.L. Ernst
- Charmian London
- Jess Willard
- H.P. Lovecraft
- Sherlock Holmes
- Other magicians
- Full Bibliography
- By Houdini
- For Kids
- Wild About Harry Bookshelf
- Houdini His Life Story (1928)
- Houdini The Man Who Walked Through Walls (1959)
- Houdini The Untold Story (1969)
- The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini (1993)
- Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss (1997)
- The Secret Life of Houdini (2006)
- The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini (2012)
- The Witch of Lime Street (2015)
- The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini (2019)
- The Official Houdini Seance
- Terror Island screening on Catalina (2018)
- Visiting the Copperfield Collection (2018)
- 278 Open House (2017)
- Los Angeles Conference on Magic History (2015)
- Official Houdini Séance, San Francisco (2015)
- Houdini Historical Roast (2015)
- Midwest Magic History Weekend, Marshall (2015)
- The Grim Game premiere in Hollywood (2015)
- Houdini at Hollywood Heritage (2014)
- Official Houdini Seance, Fort Worth (2012)
- Magic Collectors Weekend, Chicago (2011)
- Houdini Art and Magic exhibition (2010-2012)
- Tony Curtis at The Magic Castle (2009)
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
REVIEW: Bob Loomis delivers a Houdini masterclass
The trick that is the focus of Bob's 20 year investigation was performed by Houdini for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bernard M.L. Ernst in his New York home in 1922. Only one description of the trick exists, told by eyewitness Ernst in his 1932 book Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship (pages 240-245). The trick involved producing the written message "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin" on a chalk slate suspended in the middle of a room in full view of Doyle and Ernst.
Past books have mentioned the famous feat and some have attempted to explain it, including most recently The Secret Life of Houdini. Bob examines and dismisses all previous explanations, which he shows invent or omit key descriptive information to fit their own theories. Bob assigns himself the task of explaining the trick exactly as described by Ernst.
It's clear that Bob is a researcher par excellence (he was the librarian at the Magic Circle in London). It's also clear he delights in doing research. Bob shares that joy by taking the reader step by step through every bit of his own process with lively prose. It might even be too much process for some. But even if one feels lost at times, there are gold nuggets along every part of the trail, so one never dares jump ahead.
I was especially impressed with Bob's overview of Houdini's character (the good and bad) on pages 67-89. Even if one doesn't want to take this full journey, the first section of the book is required reading for anyone with a desire to better understand Houdini. Gold, gold, gold!
So did Bob solve the mystery of Mene Tekel? Well, he certainly offers an explanation that is technically feasible, and he's backed it up with proof that the methods -- and there are several methods at work -- were all familiar to Houdini. The explanation is not simple or elegant. It requires divergent elements to work perfectly in sync, and the possibility of failure seems remarkably high. Maybe that's why Houdini only performed it once.
One aspect of the explanation that I don't think Bob nailed as well as others is how Houdini acquired the message that Doyle wrote several blocks from Houdini's house. Bob offers several scenarios in which confederates on the street could have gotten a peek at the message. But it just seems high risk for Houdini to leave such an essential part of the trick in the hands of others and chance. It also just seems a little improbable that such a complicated and seemingly nonsensical message could be gotten from a glance or by watching the end of a pencil. And would Houdini really be able to canvas the entire neighborhood with confederates, including policemen? Well, this is Houdini we're talking about, so maybe!
In the end, whether or not you fully agree with all of Bob's findings, you'll still agree that this is a remarkable book. In Houdini's Final Incredible Secret, Bob Loomis not only teaches us how Houdini did it, but he also gives a lesson in how to research Houdini and magic history in a meticulous and ethical way. It's a book that deserves a standing ovation.
You can purchase Houdini's Final Incredible Secret at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).