Thursday, June 14, 2018

Mystifier, Third Quarter 1993

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

The Third Quarter 1993 Mystifier opens with a letter by Randall Bassett, author of Zen Karate (the previous issue contained an excerpt from the book), offering insightful speculation about Houdini's need to remain physically fit and his training regiment. It's a good letter and his observations seem spot on. For example:

From what I can gather, strength and endurance were critical to most of his spectacular effects. Early on, Houdini grasped that what audiences wanted to see was a struggle--a severe test of sorts in which he would emerge victorious or...die. Anything that looked easy or was not dangerous seemed to lack dramatic impact. I further believe that Houdini felt the best way to convince the audience of the veracity of his struggle was to make it a real one whenever he could do this and not give away the secret of an illusion. But this required, I believe, his certainty that his body could keep up with his mind. It always did.

Next up is a real treat and what in 1993 was a true game changer. It's an interview with Dorothy Young (referred to here as Dorthy Young Kiamie) who toured with the Houdini show in 1925. The interview is by Ken Silverman, who was working on his own Houdini biography as this time. Much of what the interview contains we are now familiar with, but there's a paragraph in which Dorothy mentions Bess and her smoking that feels new:

I never thought of Mrs. H. as being older. We were just pals. I had breakfast with her and spent my days with her, laughing and kidding. We'd buy clothes together; she liked clothing and was always charmingly dressed. She made all my costumes, too, using gorgeous materials and making the costumes very sexy. I remember that she smoked a lot. (Houdini didn't at all.) The doctor told her to stop, that she would live ten years longer. She said she'd rather enjoy the ten years smoking.

The interview is accompanied by the "Radio Girl" photo, which was also new to the Houdini world at this time. I wasn't yet a subscriber, but I can only imagine how exciting it must have been to receive this one in the mail.

Members of the Houdini Historical Center staff and board members are then introduced with a short biography of each. Readers are also informed that the museum's new poster reprints, Coliseum, Houdini in Kaiser Wilhelm's Court, Houdini in Russia, and Houdini in the Water Torture Cell are "hot off the press" and ready to ship.

Sid Radner devotes a large section of his "Backstage with Sidney Radner" column to a 1930 horoscope of Houdini that appeared in the book Your Future, A Guide to Modern Astrology by Sidney K. Bennett aka "Wynn." Sid wryly points out:

Considering that Wynn did not known when or where Houdini was born, missing the date by 13 days and the location by a few thousand miles, it is quite remarkable how accurate the horoscope is. Or can we attribute Wynn's skills to the fact that he was doing the horoscope after Houdini's death?

Sid continues with the news that the daytime soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful has a storyline in which two characters move into Houdini's Beverly Hills? He notes that the new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The Last Action Hero has "an important Houdini connection." He concludes with the news that the BBC is in Appleton shooting a Houdini documentary to be broadcast in England in October.

Volume 3, Number 3
Third Quarter, 1993
6 pages

Master of Physical Conditioning
Recollections of Houdini
Introducing HHC Staff, Board Members
Order Houdini Posters from Museum Shop
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. I love the idea of a Houdini connection on "The Bold and the Beautiful" so I tried to find the storyline, and turned up a clip from the show on Youtube (labeled 1995, but maybe the story continued or it was mislabeled on Youtube). Out of context, it didn't make a lot of sense until around 5:30 min, where the scene shifts to a dungeon-like cellar with some apparent prop recreations, a poster, and I'll leave it at that so you can watch yourself. The clip is called "James traps Sheila in the 'Houdini House'" and I'll send you the link. Cool stuff!

    1. Awesome! Thanks for that clip. That is indeed it. I have a clipping from a TV Guide with a good pic of the basement. It's filled with HH stuff (posters, Milk Can, USD), much of it came from John Gaughan.

  2. Would you happen to have any further information on Randall Bassett? I thought that his book, Zen Karate, was well ahead of its time and worth reading, even for those who are not particularly interested in the martial arts. If he ever wrote anything other than Zen Karate and the article above, I have not been able to find it.