Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Break-in at Hardeen's house

Last night's "Houdini Jewel" episode of Strange Inheritance concluded with a story that might not be familiar to some Houdini buffs. Host Jamie Colby told of how, in 1927, Hardeen's home was broken into by thieves in search of items he had inherited from his brother. Hardeen later burned the items.

Below is the original New York Times newspaper article about the robbery dated August 16, 1927.

Click to enlarge.

As for the burning, that comes from The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman. On page 531 it reads:

Sometime later in the presence of Joe Hyman, Houdini's old friend, Hardeen destroyed all of Houdini's personal files by burning them in the basement furnace of his home. According to Hyman, Hardeen "incidentally almost burnt his residence down doing so."

Kalush suggests that what might have gone up in flames that day were Houdini's investigative files related to specific spiritualist exposures. In fact, the book says Hardeen's life had been threatened earlier that year because "he fell heir to certain Houdini secrets."

Of course, Hardeen's true inheritance, Houdini's magic and escape props, were the items Houdini specified should be "burned and destroyed" upon Hardeen's death. But Hardeen passed the effects to his successor Douglas Geoffrey (Hardeen Jr.) and collectors like Sidney Radner.  Fire finally claimed the Water Torture Cell in 1995.

Strange Inheritance airs on FOX Business Network. The "Houdini Jewel" episode (which dealt with Bessie's royal crown brooch) was well done, and they gave my blog a very nice shout-out. I expect you'll be able to catch the episode in repeats.

Thanks to reader Harry Houdini (real name) for the clipping.



  1. As loath as I am to watch Fox Business, my listings show it's going to re-run Wednesday the 24th at 6:00pm PT.

  2. Thanks Dave. I missed it on Monday, but now have it set to record on Wednesday.

  3. Thanks John for clearing up that Hardeen story! I don't have the Sloman/Kalush book handy.

    I was almost late for last night's airing, searching for the location of the Fox News channel in the Verizon Fios lineup. As soon as I found it and punched in the channel, the show started!