Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Haunting the "Tickets to the Twenties" festival

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of speaking at the Workman & Temple Family Homestead Museum's "Ticket to the Twenties" festival in City of Industry. It was a great turn out, and I especially enjoyed the Q&A sessions. We seemed to cover it all; from Hardeen to biopics to Houdini's middle name. Thanks to everyone who came.

The festival itself was a blast, with people dressed in period clothes and '20s Jazz bands playing amid vintage cars. I was happy to see Joe Notaro (HHCE), as well as some blog readers and fellow Magic Castle members.

As the festival stage was outside, I didn't do my normal audio/visual presentation. But the very helpful museum staff offered to create some visual aids for me. One of the four images I sent them was the famous photo of Houdini inside 278 producing ectoplasm ("Houdini materializing Houdini"). To get a good enlargement, I purchased a high resolution image from the McCord Museum in Montreal, who hold an original. In doing so, I discovered something in this photo that I had never seen before!

Now, I had always assumed this photo was accomplished with some measure of trick photography, just like the other spirit photographs taken inside 278. But on receiving the high res version, I could plainly see that is not the case. Everything in this photo is actually present and practical. Houdini's ectoplasmic projection is a face-mask or mannequin head, possibly one he used for his silent movies?

But what I found especially exciting--and what I shared in my talks--is that through the ectoplasmic gauze one can see the fingers of a woman's hand gripping the base of the head. So there is a concealed assistant (maybe Bess?) hiding behind Houdini's chair making the head appear to float, which certainly must have been a creepy effect.

I do not have a license from the McCord to publish the photo online, but the Homestead museum staff was kind enough to let me have this particular blowup, so I will share it when and where I can. I'm also hoping to return to the Homestead Museum for more talks and events in the future.

The Workman & Temple Family Homestead Museum is located at 15415 East Don Julian Road in the City of Industry, CA. For full details visit the official website.

Thanks Gennie Truelock, Misty Lee, and Joe Notaro.

UPDATE: Joe has posted his own account of the festival here: Ticket to the Twenties – Houdini Among the Spirits plus.



  1. Great catch John! I suppose that large upholstered chair is big enough to hide somebody behind it.

  2. I had a blast at the festival. Seeing a blow-up of the high res image up close and personal was truly amazing. Great job my friend. Can't wait for the next one.