Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mystifier, Second Quarter 1993

Continuing my look back at Mystifier, the quarterly newsletter of the Houdini Historical Center that ran from 1991-2003.

The Second Quarter 1993 Mystifier begins with an article by HHC Curator Moira Thomas celebrating the second year of The Harry Houdini Assembly of the Society of Young Magicians. Says Thomas:

Because our SYM chapter is sponsored by the HHC, we feel a real commitment to helping our members understand the history of magic. In addition to teaching Houdini's life story, we present information about other great magicians like Kellar, Thurston, Ching Ling Foo, and Robert-Houdin.

The newsletter goes on to announce that four new poster reproductions, struck from originals in the Radner collection, are now available for purchase in the gift shop (one is pictured on the front page above). This is followed by an extended excerpt from Zen Karate by Randall Bassett called "Houdini's Health and Fame." In the introduction to the piece, Dr. Morris Young writes:

In his book, Randy cites Houdini as a prime example of someone who developed the physical and mental concentration necessary to acquire advance karate skills. During his research, the author questioned me about Houdini and examined the Houdini diaries which the Bernard Ernst estate has retained from the magician's estate.

This is, as far as I know, the first time Houdini and karate have been linking. And how about that confirmation that Houdini's diaries are still held by the Ernst estate? [Shhhh.] Page three features a section of photos from the Radner collection. While familiar to us today, these images would not have been as familiar to 1993 readers.

In his "Backstage with Sidney Radner" column, Sid discusses his belief that, had he lived, Houdini would have launched a new crusade exposing the tricks of professional gamblers. Sid talks about his own exposures of cards cheats while he was with the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the U.S. Armed Forces. He then goes on to say that a special steel engraved panel commemorating Houdini will be placed on a wall at Ellis Island in New York, thanks to the efforts of HHC menber Paul Rosen of Lawrenceville, N.J. (Except the Weiss family came through Castle Garden in Battery Park, not Ellis Island.)

In this extra long column, Sid announces the publication of Manny Weltman's important work, Houdini: Escape into Legend, The Early Years 1862-1900. He also tells of how Hardeen got his nickname "Dash" (at least the story Hardeen told him); that David Copperfield recently did a suspended straitjacket escape over fire; and that bottles of "Houdini Beer" are now collector's items as the Appleton based brewery that produced it has lost in least.

Volume 3, Number 2
Second Quarter, 1993
4 pages

Center Sponsors SYM Chapter
Houdini's Health and Fame
Photos from the Radner Collection
Backstage with Sid Radner

Thanks to Jay Hunter for supplying me with a scan of this issue. If anyone is willing to part with an original, this is one of only two issues that I do not own, and I'd love to complete my set.



  1. How did Hardeen get the nickname Dash?

    1. There are at least 4 different explanations. It derived from his Hungarian name, Dezso. It was due to his fondest for a certain type of pie. Because he was such a "dashing" dresser. Or the version he told Sid, it was because as a boy he would dash in and out of the kitchen as his mother was cooking. Take your pick.

  2. I wonder if the engraved panel did indeed make its way onto the wall at Ellis Island. A few years ago, a friend sent me a pic she took of a Houdini "brick" she discovered on the Brooklyn Bridge. (I have that Colosseum poster from the HHC Museum Shop; it's a great repro.) Thanks for the post.

    1. There's a Houdini brick on the Brooklyn Bridge? I didn't know that. :)

    2. John, I'll see if I can find the pick this weekend and send it to you.