In fact, the basement may still contain one last iconic Houdini prop! Check out the photos below, taken by one of last weekend's lucky attendees.
Now, I know we discussed this back in July when David Saltman posted a photo of this "giant wheel" on his blog The Houdini File. But that photo didn't show the same detail. It looked like it might have been part of the house, possibly a gear from the disassembled dumbwaiter. But now getting a closer look, as well as learning the diameter (approx. 40"), one can see that this is actually a wagon wheel. All the elements are there, the most notable being the "Flat Steel Tire" as seen below.
So what's this have to do with Houdini? Well...
Before we get too excited, the wheel we see Houdini tied to above is not the exact same wheel (different number of spokes). But that doesn't mean the wheel in the basement wasn't used by Houdini in exactly this same way. This was one of Houdini's escapes. In his 1920 book, Magical Rope Ties & Escapes, Houdini devotes a section to what he calls "The Big Wheel Release." He even expresses a preference for the type of wheel to use, allowing for dramatic "scenery":
An audience which would go to sleep while and artist was making a really difficult escape from the wheel of a farm wagon will break into tumultuous applause over a comparatively easy one from a cannon wheel.
So how has this wheel remained in the basement all these years? Maybe it was just too impractical to take away. Or maybe those who say it didn't recall that the "Big Wheel Release" was part of Houdini repertoire. But after seeing these photos, I'm thinking the basement of 278 holds one last Houdini treasure, and that's pretty cool!
Here's a look at the full basement (which had a dirt floor in Houdini's day). I especially love those arches. Also notice the horseshoe on the far left. In his book Houdini Question Reality, Dixie Dooley reports seeing a horseshoe over the front door in 1985 that dated back to Houdini. Same one?
So what do we think? Is this wheel for real? Or are we going in circles? Sound off in the comments below.
Thanks to our open house attendee for sharing these terrific pics.
- Inside Houdini's 278
- The "giant wheel" in the basement of 278
- The owners and occupants of Houdini's 278