- 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)
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- 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)
Friday, June 29, 2018
Bill Kalush has been to the mountaintop
It's official. William Kalush now knows more about Houdini that anyone living (if he didn't already). That's because Bill, who co-wrote the 2006 biography, The Secret Life of Houdini, was recently granted unique access to Houdini's private diaries.
Last weekend Bill gave a talk about the diaries at the Cincinnati Magic Collectors conference (aka "Gathering of the Vultures"). I've only heard snippets about what Bill shared, but what I've heard has blown my mind!
The diaries start in 1904 and are handwritten with some typed inserts. Houdini appears to have added to his original entries over time. Bill showed several photos from the diaries, many that featured images of unknown posters. One photo shows Bess sitting at wheel of Houdini's Voisin bi-plane. Bill also showed ads that Houdini placed trying to sell the plane in 1910. There was also photo of a cabinet that Bill described as a possible precursor to the Water Torture Cell.
The diaries also revealed the existence of two hitherto unknown assistants; Thomas Clarke Pendrigh, who worked with Houdini for two years, and Harry Wittaker, who stole Houdini's secrets and went out on his own (and failed miserably). Houdini supported a female escape artist known as Oceana. He had gaffed cuffs made by Froggatt & Company. He once struggled 80 minutes inside a U.S. Navy boiler. And Bess once left £40,000 worth of jewelry in a cab in England. (Later recovered.)
One bombshell was the revelation that Houdini might have had a half sister named Peppi (possibly a daughter of Mayer Samuel before his marriage to Cecilia). Also, Chung Ling Soo told Houdini he had three wives, including a Jewish one.
During the Q&A, someone asked Bill if the diaries contained any information about Houdini being a spy. They did not.
While Bill said he could not reveal who owns the diaries, it's pretty well known that the family of Bernard M.L. Ernst, Houdini's lawyer, have held a collection of diaries since Houdini's death. So I'm assuming that's what Bill saw. The family have only provided limited access to select researchers in the past. In fact, Bill could not even get access to the diaries when he was writing his own book.
Here's hoping Bill will share what he learned in some larger way, perhaps in an upcoming issue of Gibecière, the journal of his own Conjuring Arts Research Center. But, for now, I'm perfectly happy knowing that someone has been to this particular mountaintop, and confirmed it is indeed a place of special knowledge.
Thanks to an attendee tipster, Bill Kalush, and Phil Schwartz at the excellent Thayer Magic forums for the info.