Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Madrid Houdini exhibition infographic

Here's a terrific "infographic" from the Houdini exhibition Houdini Las leyes del asombro (Houdini The Law of Shadow) currently running at the Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Madrid. This may be in Spanish, but all will be clear to Houdini buffs.

Houdini Las leyes del asombro runs through May 28. The Espacio Fundación Telefónica is located at C / Fuencarral 3, Madrid. For more details and special events visit the official website.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Vivianne Perret discovers Hardeen in Budapest

While in Budapest researching the third book in her "Houdini Magicien et détective" series, author Vivianne Perret made a surprise discovery. Along with House of Houdini researcher Barbara Kiss, Vivianne found that Hardeen appeared in Budapest with the Circus Carré in August of 1902.

While we know Hardeen played several cities that Harry never did -- Stockholm being a good example -- this is the first mention of him appearing in his birthplace. Houdini visited to Budapest in 1901 (and possibly 1902, another House of Houdini discovery), but as far as we know, he never performed anywhere in Hungary. Interestingly, Houdini was also performing with the Circus Carré in August of 1902, but in Munich.

Below are two ads showing Hardeen with the circus.

Vivianne's next book is titled La Reine of Budapest ("The Queen of Budapest") and will be released in October 2017. Her current book, Le Kaiser Et Le Roi Des Menottes ("The Kaiser and the King of Handcuffs") is available now.

Thanks to Vivianne Perret and Barbara Kiss.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

LINK: Houdini and Field of Dreams

NBC sports columnist and bestselling author Joe Posnanski is currently working on a book about Houdini. Joe has shared on his blog how his research into Houdini so far reminds of the film Field of Dreams. Reading this, and having met Joe when he was in L.A., I believe this is going to be a Houdini book like no other.

Click on the headline to have a read at Joe* Blogs. Joe's Houdini book will be released in 2018.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Canada's Magic follows Houdini in Vancouver

The blog Canada's Magic is taking a special week-long look at Houdini's first and only appearance in that city in 1923. Starting today and running through March 3rd, the blog will post daily re-constituted coverage of Houdini's stay exactly 94 years ago this week.

Below is a link to today's guest post by "The Magic Demon." I will add more as the week goes on.

Canada's Magic is a blog devoted to Canadian magicians and magic happenings in Canada.

Newspaper image from The Vancouver Sun courtesy the Vancouver Public Library.

Houdini museum reveals Houdini-Opoly pawn pieces

Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton have revealed three pawn pieces for their upcoming Houdini-Opoly board game with a promise of more to come. Last month they launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign for the game. Below are pics and a special message from Dorothy and Dick.

Great News! From the Houdini Museum.
Thanks to all of your support, our HoudiniOpoly Kickstarter campaign is so successful, that we are able to add some additional perks to the game. So far, we have added Houdini's Beer Barrel, a Hypnotic Eye, and Houdini's Milk Can Escape. We are hoping for more support so we can include more special pieces. It's still going so please share our link to all your social media so we can keep adding extra perks. If you have any ideas you would like included in the game, call, text or email us. We love all the positive feedback we have been getting. We can't wait to play HoudiniOpoly for the first time.

You can learn more about the game and check out a whole host of special premiums at the HoudiniOpoly Kickstarter page. The campaign ends March 9.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

The first great Houdini documentary

On May 15, 1976, the BBC documentary The Truth About Houdini aired on American television for the first time. The film footage in this well-made documentary was for many (including myself) their first look at the real Houdini in action. Along with the new books, the Doug Henning specials and The Great Houdinis, the airing of this first major Houdini documentary in the U.S. was part in the great "Houdini renaissance" of the 1970s.

Original TV Guide ad for the May 15, 1976 U.S. airing.

The Truth About Houdini was originally produced for the BBC in 1970 by David C. Rea and Patria Pictures Ltd. It first aired on BBC One on Tuesday, November 10, 1970 at 9:20 PM (it was following by Monty Python's Flying Circus). It repeated on December 29, 1970, April 25, 1973 and December 18, 1973.

The very first screening in the U.S. was at Ulster County Community College in Kingston, NY, on November 9, 1975. Curiously, newspaper accounts record the title as "The Great Escape Artist." The screening was attended by Walter B. Gibson and Sidney Radner who introduced the film and participated in a Q&A.

Following its U.S. television premiere on May 15, 1976, which was local to Southern California, The Truth About Houdini aired on local televisions stations across the country. In Tampa, Florida, WTOG-TV aired it back to back with the Tony Curtis biopic Houdini over the Halloween weekend. It remained in circulation until 1979.

Ad for an October 1977 airing on WTCN in Minneapolis.

In addition to the rare film footage (credited as coming from the collection of Larry Weeks), The Truth About Houdini contains interviews with Milbourne Christopher, Walter B. Gibson, James Randi, and Sidney Radner. Radner's demonstration of Houdini's full body punishment suit escape was cut for time in some later airings. Today it's quite horrifying to behold Radner thoroughly abusing this valuable Houdini artifact. (It sold for $11,000 in 2014.)

It's not generally known that the producers of the documentary secured permission to use the Houdini voice recordings discovered in 1970 from the widow of John Mulholland. They even acquired high quality reproductions of both Water Torture Cell speeches. But for whatever reason, Houdini's voice was left out of the final cut.

While now dated, The Truth About Houdini is still a fascinating documentary and must watch for all Houdini buffs. While it has never been commercially released on home video, a bootleg version under the title "The Magic of Houdini" (not to be confused with the Alan Davies doc of the same name) has appeared from time to time. Currently Amazon has it available as a streaming video.

So did The Truth About Houdini play a role in your own coming to Houdini? Share your memories in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm #1 released

Today sees the release of Rough Riders: Riders on the Storm #1, which kicks off the second Rough Riders story arc by Adam Glass. Artist Patrick Olliffe shared a terrific Houdini preview page on his Facebook page (below).

Great jumping on point! Three years have passed since the Rough Riders' last adventure, but when an assassin's bullet takes President William McKinley's life, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt is thrust into the role of Commander in Chief. As a country mourns the loss of their leader, Roosevelt believes that the assassin is part of a bigger conspiracy, one whose tentacles reach back to Europe and whose intentions are to destroy humanity through world- wide ANARCHY. 
To stop them, Roosevelt must convince Harry Houdini, Jack Johnson, Thomas Edison and a surprisingly very alive Annie Oakley to band together again. But time has strained the bonds that once united them and the ideologies of their enemies may have already seeped into one of their own. Welcome to ROUGH RIDERS: RIDERS ON THE STORM.

As you can see below, this first issue comes in a four variant covers, including a great cover showing Houdini trapped under ice.

Visit Aftershock Comics for more on the series. Issue #2 is due out March 29.


'Le Kaiser Et Le Roi Des Menottes' released today

The second book in Vivianne Perret's French-language "Houdini Magicien et détective" series, Le Kaiser Et Le Roi Des Menottes ("The Kaiser and the King of Handcuffs"), is released today.

Even though this series is fiction, the author sets the books within the correct timeline of Houdini's travels. The first book, Metamorphosis, featured Houdini in San Fransisco in 1899. This new book finds him in Berlin in 1900.

The author has shared with me the exciting location for book 3, but I will keep that secret for now.

Le Kaiser Et Le Roi Des Menottes can be purchased at Amazon.fr and Amazon.co.uk. It's also available for Kindle in the U.S.


    Monday, February 20, 2017

    Houdini by Tom Lovell

    Here's a beautiful painting by pulp artist Tom Lovell of Houdini jumping from what is credited as the Wheeling, West Virginia bridge. Lovell lived during Houdini's lifetime and I'm wondering if he actually witnesses this. As you can see, he puts Houdini in a cerise-colored bathing suit, which we've recently learned is indeed the color bathing suit Houdini wore for his outdoor water stunts.

    This image was used to illustrate the article "How Houdini Did It" by William Lindsey Gresham in True: The Man's Magazine, December 1954.

    This above image comes from the blog Art Contrarian where you can read more about Tom Lovell's life and art. A larger version can be seen at Main-ly Painting.

    Thanks to Tim Rappel and Arthur Moses.


    Sunday, February 19, 2017

    LINK: Eerie remains of Burnley theater where Houdini performed

    This article from the UK's Daily Mail shows the current condition of the Empire Theater in Burnley where Houdini performed in December 1902. While many old theaters claims to have had Houdini on their stages, this one actually did!

    Details of Houdini's Burnley appearance can be found in Derek Tait's Houdini The British Tours. An updated edition of that book is due out on July 30, 2017.


    Saturday, February 18, 2017

    Houdini and the grave robber

    Here's one from the dark side of humanity via Planet Weird. I've been debating whether to share this because it's pretty disturbing. But it is Houdini related, and it's 20+ years old so it's all history at this point. Nevertheless, read on at your own risk.

    Here's the story.

    Sometime in the early 1990s, an underground video entitled "Grave Robbing For Morons" surfaced. It features a young man explaining the intricacies of grave robbing, something he claims he and his friends do "for the fun." He even shows off a freshly exhumed skull. He also claims there's a lucrative black market for the remains of famous people.

    The identity of the man in the video remains unknown to this day, and there's debate online about whether or not it is for real. In hopes of trying to solve the mystery, last year Planet Weird posted the entire video here along with a email tip line.

    What I'm sharing below is just the very end of the tape, which is the part that's relevant to us. But even this short except is disturbing, so watch at your own risk.

    Houdini's grave did suffer major vandalism in 1993, but as far as I know, there were never any signs of attempted grave robbery. But as Planet Weird concludes: "If this video is the real deal, Houdini’s skull might be sitting on a shelf in someone’s basement."

    However, having watched the entire tape (so you don't have to), I believe these guys, if for real, only robbed crypts and mausoleums and would never be able to exhume a coffin six feet underground. Houdini's grave is also visible from the street, and one of his "instructions" is to only rob graves well out of sight. So I think Harry is safe.

    But I can imagine that on discovering the impossibility of robbing Houdini's grave, these guys deciding to vandalize it instead. So are we looking at the face of the '90s vandal? Maybe.

    Told ya it was a dark one.

    UPDATE: If you're interested in digging deeper into this (ha!) check out this thread on Reddit.


    Friday, February 17, 2017

    A book that's bound to please

    Here's an end-of-the-week treat from the collection of the great Kevin Connolly. This is a pre-order advertisement for Houdini's Magical Rope Ties and Escapes. Not only have I never seen this ad, but I don't think I've ever seen any ad for this book! I love the image of Houdini bound to the book here.

    Kevin Connolly Collection

    Published by Will Goldston in 1921, Magical Rope Ties and Escapes was only released in the UK. It was no doubt timed to take advantage of Houdini's return to the UK after six years of absence because of the war. While it's not one of Houdini's more substantial works, it does contain terrific photos of Houdini in escape action, and the frontispiece photo of Houdini and Ira Davenport seems to foretell the next chapter in his career.

    Magical Rope Ties and Escapes is available today for the Kindle. A reprint is also available from Houdini's Magic Shop.

    Thanks, Kevin.


    Wednesday, February 15, 2017

    Teller flips the bird on his 2016 holiday card

    This is Teller's 2016 Christmas card. I love this because not only is Teller one of my favorite magicians and magic thinkers, but his card provides a nice Houdini fact check. Maybe it's tacky to post a personal Christmas card online, but this one is just too awesome to not share, and I think Teller would be happy to extend his holiday greeting to all Houdini fans. So enjoy.

    Click to enlarge.

    The card photos are by Mike Jones and W. David Mason. The hawk was wrangled by Civon Gewelber and Dave Kanellis. Houdini scan by Catherine Wallace. Graphic design by T. Gene Hatcher.

    Thanks to Tom Ogden.

    Monday, February 13, 2017

    Wild About...Clempert?

    This poster for John Clempert, a Russian wrestler turned escape artist, sold on eBay yesterday for a whopping $7,613. This may be a record price for a Houdini imitator.

    This has to be one of the most blatant Houdini imitator posters of all time. Not only does Clempert co-opt Houdini escape imagery, but he also snatches incidents from Houdini's life. Apparently, Clempert also escaped from a Siberian Transport Prison Van and flew his own biplane!

    Also check out the below image of "Clempert", drawn without much modification from a famous Houdini publicity photo. No wonder Houdini hated these guys.

    According to Magicpedia, Houdini filed a suit against Clempert in England where variety acts were protected. Clempert apologized and promised not to infringe Houdini's rights in future. After Houdini's death, Clempert came out of retirement, but it was a short-lived revival.

    Below are links to tales of more Houdini imitators.


    Sunday, February 12, 2017

    LINK: Houdini in Riverside

    Joe Notaro has another home run at his blog Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence today. Joe has uncovered some terrific details about Houdini's time spent in Riverside, California while filming Terror Island in early November 1919. During the shoot, Houdini and the crew stayed at the Riverside Mission Inn, which stands to this day. Underwater scenes were shot at the nearby Elliotta Springs Plunge.

    Interestingly, the local press reported the title of the movie as Deep Sea Loot, a title that sometimes shows up as a separate Houdini movie. Salvage was another early working title for Terror Island.

    Click the headline to have a read at HHCE.


    Saturday, February 11, 2017

    Ken Ralston remembers the unmade Houdini movie

    In an interview with Cartoon Brew, Academy Award winning visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston remembers his involvement with an unmade Houdini movie that was to be directed by Robert Zemeckis.

    Having worked on these big films, were there any other productions you were involved with that perhaps didn’t get made, that you wish had been?

    Ken Ralston: Actually there’s several. I can name three right now. Two of them were for Zemeckis that I was really excited about. One was, he was thinking of a very interesting way of telling the story of Houdini, and also he was playing with the idea of a story about Tesla. And I just thought that would be so cool. Especially in Bob’s hands. But who knows why things happen or don’t happen.

    All I remember is, I was kind of in the Houdini mode and thinking about how I might design some shots, and I got a call from Bob and he said, ‘So a woman falls down a flight of stairs and she gets her head twisted around a hundred and eighty degrees. How would you do that?’ And I was just kind of like, I didn’t say anything, and then I just said, ‘So we’re not doing Houdini, huh?’ He goes, ‘No, we’re going to do Death Becomes Her.’

    Ralston was recently presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th Annual VES Awards.

    For more on the unmade Houdini movie, check ot my post from 2014: Ray Stark's 35 year Houdini conundrum.

    Thanks to Neil Bulk for this one.


    Friday, February 10, 2017

    Houdini exhibition opens in Madrid

    A major Houdini and magic exhibition called Houdini Las leyes del asombro (Houdini The Law of Shadow) opens today at the Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Madrid, Spain. It will run through May 28.

    María Santoyo and Miguel A. Delgado are the curators along with magic historian Ramón Mayrata.

    A host of special events are planned including lectures, magic performances and contests. For the full details, visit the official website (in Spanish).

    The Espacio Fundación Telefónica is located at C / Fuencarral 3, Madrid. The Houdini exhibition is located on the fourth floor.

    Below are Twitter images from yesterday's grand opening, which including a panel discussion and an appearance by Houdini himself!

    It interesting to see how popular Houdini is in Spain, a country he never performed in.

    Photos: Miguel A. Delgado @rosenrod and Javier Piera @javierfpiera and Diario CÓRDOBA @CORDOBA_diario.


    Thursday, February 9, 2017

    Bess Houdini's Royal Crown Brooch headed to auction

    An emerald and ruby encrusted "Royal Crown Brooch" that once belonged to Bess Houdini will be auctioned by Potter & Potter as part of their Spring Magic Auction on April 8, 2017.

    According to legend, Bess received the brooch from the Czar of Russia during Houdini's tour of the country in 1903 (but more on that below). There are several photos of Bess wearing the brooch, including this color photo and the famous portrait of the Houdinis on the right.

    In the 1940s, Bess gave the brooch to Geraldine Larsen, wife of William Larsen, Sr., who was Bess's attorney. Bess helped "Gerri" form The Magigals, an organization devoted to female magicians, assistants, and wives of magicians. The Larsens sons, Bill Jr. and Milt, went on to found the Magic Castle. Milt's wife Arlene inherited the brooch and has wore it to Castle functions (where I've had the great pleasure of seeing it).

    The brooch is now being sold to help fund the "Magic Castle Cabaret" in Santa Barbara, a new venture by Milt Larsen. The brooch has remained private, so this is the first opportunity for magic buffs to finally see this important Houdini artifact, not to mention own it!

    News of the sale was released today in a press release put out by the Larsens via sites like Broadway World. Unfortunately, the press release contains a fair amount of mythology. Along with the claim that Bess received the brooch from the Czar himself (which we'll accept if Bess said it -- but know she was as prone to mythmaking as her husband), the release claims that Houdini was doing espionage as a member of the royal court before being undermined by the head of the Russian secret police. Oye.

    While there are several fanciful stories about Houdini performing before Czar Nicholas II (ringing the bells of the Kremlin, etc.), there is no hard evidence that he ever did so. In Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss, author Ken Silverman says Houdini planned to travel to St. Petersburg during his 1903 tour, but the engagement fell through when the manager who arranged it vanished.

    Harry and Bess did give a private performance for the Grand Duke Sergei Alexsandrovich and the Grand Duchess in Moscow. It's said the duke gave them their dog "Charlie" as a gift. That, as far as I know, was the Houdinis only brush with Russian royalty.

    The idea that Houdini was doing espionage during his time in Russia is pure speculation put forward in the sensationalistic 2006 biography The Secret Life of Houdini. While Hollywood has embraced this "Houdini as spy" narrative, most magic historians, including myself, remain highly skeptical.

    As auction time nears, I'm sure Potter & Potter will clarify the facts behind Bess Houdini's Royal Crown Brooch in their own auction listing. But this is definitely going to be one to watch!

    Gerri Larsen and Arlene Larsen wearing the Royal Crown Brooch.

    Potter & Potter's Spring Magic Auction will contain "a strong selection of Houdini-related material, including personal family photographs, documents, movie-related memorabilia, and letters." Last week the auction house sold a Houdini Water Torture Cell poster for a record price.

    Thanks to Dick Brookz at the Houdini Museum for the alert.

    UPDATEBessie's brooch pins down $72,000 at auction.

    UPDATE 2: I've found a 1952 newspaper clipping about Gerrie Larsen which states Houdini received the brooch from the Grand Duke, not Czar Nicholas II.


    Tuesday, February 7, 2017

    Houdini throws shade at Edison (for real)

    In recent episodes of Houdini & Doyle and Timeless, a fictional Houdini encounters Thomas Edison. In both cases, Houdini is hostile towards the inventor, expressing his support for Nikola Tesla who's inventions Edison was reported to have stolen and/or undermined.

    Like Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, a great hero in his own day, has been reassessed by history, mainly because of the emerging story of Tesla, and Edison's aggressive business practices and credit grabbing. So it didn't surprise me that these shows would make Houdini an Edison foe, although I suspected in real life Houdini would have been an Edison admirer. The two men were known to correspond.

    However, I recently found a clipping in the November 26, 1924 The Tar Heel that suggests Houdini might have been more in line with current thinking. Check out the paragraph below from a report on Houdini's spiritualism lecture at the Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

    Tesla was not Danish, so I suspect the "Danish inventor" referenced here may be Poul la Cour, who in 1878 made key improvements to the Telegraph and competed with Edison. Or maybe Houdini thought Tesla was Danish?

    Houdini's hostility might have also had something to do with the fact that Edison was a tacit believer in spiritualism. He was even said to be working on a device that could communicate with the dead.

    Houdini seemed pretty fired up at this lecture. The paper also reported him as saying "The ouija board is the first step to the insane asylum" and that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Oliver Lodge "should be locked up and kept away from society."


    Monday, February 6, 2017

    The Magic Castle's new Houdini Seance Coin

    The Magic Castle in Hollywood has released a new Houdini Seance Coin. The AMA creates these unique coins as souvenirs for those who attended their Houdini Seances. These are also available for sale at the front desk and the online store. Only 2000 coins are produced.

    Thanks to Mark Willoughby for the pics.


    Saturday, February 4, 2017

    Houdini Water Torture Cell poster makes history at Potter & Potter auction

    An original 1912 poster for Houdini's Water Torture Cell sold for a whopping $114,000 (including 20% buyers premium) at Potter & Potter's "The Golden Age of Magic Posters, Part II" auction today.

    This makes it the highest price ever paid for a magic poster at auction. It may also be the highest price ever paid for any single piece of magic memorabilia, apart from the actual Water Torture Cell itself.

    The estimate was $50,000/80,000. The poster is said to be one of only three known examples.

    But this wasn't the only Houdini surprise. A King of Cards poster sold for a remarkable $24,000, a new record for that poster.

    A playbill for Houdini "as a Magician" took $2,706. A broadside for a 1901 appearance in Prague brought $3,936. A playbill for Houdini's 1917 Antilles benefit took in $2,952. Even a 1-sheet for Paramount's Houdini (1953) found love at $922.

    In other action, a "Hardeen Brother of Houdini" poster sold for $338. A poster for Houdini competitor Brindamour came away with $8,610. And a nice poster depicting Nicola in several Houdini-like escapes fetched $7,995.

    All the posters in the auction came from the collection of Norm Nielsen. The hardcover auction catalog can be purchased from the Potter & Potter website while supplies last.

    Potter & Potter's Spring Magic Auction on April 8th will conatin "a strong selection of Houdini-related material, including personal family photographs, documents, movie-related memorabilia, and letters."

    UPDATE: Now we know we got this. Read: Look what's inside David Blaine's magic lair.


    Friday, February 3, 2017

    Canadians can stream 'Houdini & Doyle' until 2021

    Last year's Houdini & Doyle is returning to Canadian cable subscribers. The series is now available to stream for free via Global TV until 2021. Also available is Houdini & Doyle World of Wonders which was produced exclusively for the Canadian market.

    While this is good news for Canadian fans, it might not bode well for a North American DVD release. The series was a co-prodution between Fox, Global TV and ITV, and has so far only been released on DVD in the UK.

    Thank to Chris at HOUDOYLE for uncovering this news.


    Houdini Plaza sees Trump protests

    Local Wisconsin news outlets report that citizens gathered in Appleton's Houdini Plaza on Thursday to protest President Trump's immigration actions. The plaza, which received a makeover in 2013, is a popular gathering place for civic events as well as protests.

    Surprisingly, neither the media nor protesters appear to have taken advantage of the perfect symbolism of the Plaza; which, of course, is named after an immigrant.


    Wednesday, February 1, 2017

    Who faked Houdini's signature on this photo?

    Let's kick off February with a mystery...solved?

    The above photo is well-known as the only photo of Houdini inside his library at 278. It's also well-known for featuring a fake Houdini autograph. How do we know it's fake? Well, for starters, it's dated 1927 (a year after Houdini's death)! It's also clearly not Houdini's handwriting, and it's written in ballpoint pen, which did not come into use until the late 1930s. But this photo is one-of-a-kind, so it is frequently reproduced in books, fake signature and all.

    I've often wondered who defaced this important image and why. Now Bob Loomis in his book Houdini's Final Incredible Secret [review here] may have provided the answer; or at least a few bits of evidence that could help us capture the culprit. So let's investigate.

    According to Bob, this photo first surfaced at the Magic Collectors Weekend in Chicago in 1972. Reproductions of the original were given out as a souvenir by Magic Inc., run by Jay and Frances Marshall. It was reported that "this Jay Marshall property caused much comment." So the original photo appears to have belonged to Jay Marshall.

    Two months later, Magic Inc. offered 8x10 copies for sale in The New Tops [May 1972]. The description read: "Houdini in his library, autographed in his own hand."

    M-U-M reproduced the image in their November 1973 issue. This is likely the first appearance of this photo in print. But as you can see below, the magazine wisely decided to crop out the bogus signature and make no mention of it in their description.

    In the fake inscription, "Houdini" addresses the photo to his "friend" Al Snyder, a magician who, according to Bob, had written some unkind things about a series of articles Houdini wrote in the 1920s. The photo surfaced two years after Snyder's death in 1970. So it's likely Jay Marshall acquired the original from Snyder's estate.

    This could mean Al Snyder was the forger and the photo Jay acquired already had the signature in place. But, as police would say, Marshall remains a "person of interest." Why? Because on page 134, Bob Loomis provides another incriminating detail:

    Jay Marshall had once produced an obvious fake Houdini souvenir. Jay had manufactured and distributed a Houdini advertising ballpoint pen.

    A ballpoint pen. Just like what was used to sign this photo!

    While Bob doesn't say he knows for certain Jay was the forger -- he concludes this section with, "I'll leave it to you to discover the truth" -- I think Marshall has to be considered a suspect. He owned the original. He profited from the photo. He was known to create and sell Houdini fakes. And using a ballpoint pen was almost a sly confession. Incidentally, Marshall claimed to have seen Houdini as a boy. He says he fell asleep during the show.

    Jay Marshall, magician and forger?

    Jay Marshall passed away in 2005. I didn't know him, but from all I've read, he was a beloved figure in magic. So I don't want to condemn Jay without suggesting another possible scenario.

    First, consider that if Jay was the forger, why would he write, "To my friend Al Snyder"? Why involve Snyder at all? Wouldn't it have been more appealing to buyers to just write, "Best wishes, Houdini" or something iconic such as, "My brain is the key that sets me free"? Also, wouldn't he have taken more care with the handwriting and date if he really intended to pass this off as legit?

    This suggests to me that the forger was probably the person who gave the photo to Al Snyder in the first place. It's possible it was a joke and the "1927" date was part of that joke. Houdini was giving his "friend" Al a photo from beyond the grave. Maybe writing on a Houdini photo didn't seem like such a big deal at this time. Who knew this would prove to be the only copy? So in this scenario, Jay's only offense was that he misrepresented the autograph as genuine in his advertising (hard to believe he wouldn't have known).

    So I guess we've come full circle. While we now know the photo's provenance, the forger remains a mystery. Was it Jay Marshall? Al Snyder? An unknown prankster? Or Houdini from beyond the grave?

    I'd love to hear from anyone who might have more information.