Friday, November 30, 2018

Houdini gets a Doctor Who namecheck

Houdini got a nice namecheck on the last episode of Doctor Who. The new season features Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor.


While Houdini has been mentioned several times on the series, he's never actually appeared in an episode. However, Houdini and The Doctor have had adventures in spinoff media such as audio books and comics (see links below).

Thanks to Doctor Who cosplay cover girl Athena Stamos for the heads up.

Related:

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Mystifier, Fourth Quarter 1995

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


The Fourth Quarter 1995 Mystifier is made up largely of an article by curator Benjamin Filene about Houdini's 1926 Congressional testimony in support of a Bill outlawing Fortune Telling in the District of Columbia. The article includes excerpts and focuses on how the Congressmen continually questioned Houdini about his own "powers".

The issue of Houdini's supernatural abilities repeatedly derailed his efforts to expose spiritualistic frauds before the committee. Repeatedly he tried to demystify spiritualistic effects by showing that he himself could duplicate the illusions. The congressmen instead interpreted these demonstrations as evidence that, for better or worse, Houdini and the spiritualists were in the same camp after all.

So it appears Congress was just as ignorant and ineffectual then as they are today! There is one short quote from Houdini that I've not seen reprinted before which I really like:

"I am very happily married, 52 years of age, well to do, and very proud."

The newsletter continues with a profile of the HHC's new director Steven M. Wilson. The museum shop announces the restocking of Kathy Cogger Salm's six book series for grade schoolers, Harry Houdini, An Appleton Original. They also note that copies of the new Houdini fiction Nevermore by William Hjortsberg are available, but "will only be sold to adults over 18 due to graphic violence and explicit sexual content." Some familiar names in the listing of news members are Don Bell and Roger Dreyer.

In his "Backstage" column, Sid Radner talks about Houdini in the news, including a syndicated story about how the management of Machpelah cemetery closed Houdini's grave to the annual wand breaking ceremony that year. The cemetery complained that the ceremony attracted too much news and vandalism. Instead, the ceremony was held on November 16, the Jewish calendar date of Houdini's death.

Sid then reports on The Official Houdini Séance, held that year in his own home town of Holyoke, Massachusetts, inside the building that once housed a police station where Houdini broke out of manacles on December 1, 1895. Sid always characterized this as Houdini's very first police station escape, but we now know that it wasn't. But it was a one of the first.

Sid concludes with the news that Ken Silverman spoke about Houdini at the Los Angeles Conference on Magic History that year.

Mystifier
Volume 5, Number 4
Fourth Quarter, 1995
6 pages

Contents:
Houdini Testifies at Hearings
Christmas Greetings from Houdini
New Executive Director Named
Books Featured at Museum Shop
Backstage with Sid Radner


Related:

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Reading of 'The Brothers Houdini' in New York

There will be a reading of a new musical play called The Brothers Houdini at the Consulate General of Hungary in New York on Tuesday, December 11 at 6PM.

Houdini was produced in Budapest and enjoyed a fully sold-out run in a 2,200 seat arena. It was a critical and commercial success with standing ovations. After the promising success of the Hungarian production, we're determined to take The Brothers Houdini on the road to audiences across the United States and other countries.

For more information visit the official website: www.houdinionbroadway.com.

Thanks to Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz for the alert.

UPDATEGuest blog: The Brothers Houdini reading in NYC.

Related:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

LINK: The Belle Isle Bridge jump

Today marks the 112th anniversary of Houdini's jump from the Belle Isle Bridge in Detroit on November 27, 1906. This has become one of his most mythologized stunts. Click the headline to revisit my post from 2015 for the facts behind this famous feat.

The Great Houdinis on Talking Pictures this week

The rarely shown 1976 TV biopic The Great Houdinis is airing on Talking Pictures TV in the UK this week. It was shown yesterday and will repeat Thursday night, Nov. 29 at midnight (technically Friday).


The Great Houdinis sports a stellar cast that includes Paul Michale Glaser, Sally Struthers, Ruth Gordon, Peter Cushing, Bill Bixby, Viviane Vance, and Adrienne Barbeau. I'm a big fan of this biopic, despite the liberties it takes. It first aired on October 8, 1976 on ABC.

Thanks to Karl Bartoni for the heads up.

Related:

Monday, November 26, 2018

Hemingway kept 'Houdini' at hand

Our friend Scott Wells of The Magic Word Podcast recently visited the home of Ernest Hemingway in Havana, Cuba. Looks like "Papa" keep reading material at hand for all occasions. Notice anything of interest on the top shelf of his bathroom bookcase?

Click to enlarge.

That's a copy of Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls by William Lindsey Gresham. The book was released in 1959 and was the definitive Houdini biography of the day. I can certainly understand the attraction Houdini held for Hemingway.

Be sure and check out the The Magic Word Podcast where you can enjoy the full story of Scott's magical Cuban adventure.

Related:

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Ricky Jay has passed away

Sad news today. One of the true giants of the magic world, Ricky Jay, has passed away. He died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes. He was 72.


Ricky Jay's career was varied and unique. He was not only a star of magic, but also appeared in films, once even playing a James Bond henchman (Tomorrow Never Dies). His one major involvement in the Houdini world that I'm aware of was consulting on the ill-fated Houdini Broadway musical that was to star Hugh Jackman. He also appeared as himself in the Houdini episode of The Simpsons. I've also always thought of his classic book, Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women, as a companion to Houdini's Miracle Mongers and Their Methods.

In 2013, I saw Ricky speak at the Motion Picture Academy Theater in Los Angeles on the subject of magic in film. As part of his presentation he spoke about Houdini and showed a clip from Terror Island.

You can read Ricky Jay's obituary at The New York Times.

Related:

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Houdini vs. Rasputin by C. Michael Forsyth

C. Michael Forsyth, author of 2015's The Adventure of the Spook House, is back with a new work of Houdini fiction: Houdini vs. Rasputin.

While performing before Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the world’s greatest escape artist Harry Houdini becomes pitted against a formidable foe: Rasputin. A powerful mystic, Rasputin has made puppets of the Tsar and his wife Alexandra. To save the nation from ruin, a small band of patriots recruits Houdini to expose the imperial “spiritual advisor” as a charlatan.  
The American magician’s daring and ingenuity are put to the test in an adventure that takes him from the grand palaces of St. Petersburg to the frigid wastelands of Siberia. Along the way, Houdini makes allies and enemies of a host of real-life figures, including the mischievous imp Princess Anastasia, the colossal former boxer and royal bodyguard Jim Hercules, the crossdressing conspirator Prince Yusupov and the sinister Black Sisters, practitioners of the occult who scheme to use Rasputin for their own ends.

You can purchase Houdini vs. Rasputin at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Related:

Friday, November 23, 2018

Houdini's first police station challenge?

I shared this to my Twitter yesterday, but I thought it was worth a share here as well. This is the earliest police station challenge that I've been able to find. Was it the first? This comes from the November 22, 1895 Gloucester Daily Times.


As you can see, this is when Houdini and Bess where traveling with the ill-fated American Gaiety Girls burlesque show. Houdini was part owner of the troupe, and it appears his police station challenge was his attempt to drum up publicity for the show. It worked! Houdini would follow-up with similar tests in Woonsocket (Nov. 27), Springfield (Nov. 28), Holyoke (Dec. 1), and Fall River (Dec. 9). The rest is history.

UPDATE: The amazing Bill Mullins has found a police station escape a week earlier in Worcester.

Related:

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Houdini's ten favorite books

The below is from the The Courier Journal, May 9, 1923. Would have been nice to have seen The Memories of Robert-Houdin on this list, or any magic book for that matter. But I do love that he includes "Sherlock Holmes".


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

'Houdini Comes Alive!' with David London, Dec. 9

Magician David London, who curated the spectacular Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini exhibition at The Jewish Museum of Maryland, will be giving a special "living history performance" at the JMM on December 9th as part of Baltimore's Downtown Dollar Day. Details below.

Houdini Comes Alive!
Downtown Dollar Day
Sunday, December 9, 2018 at 2:00pm
Performance by David London 
Admission: $1
Get Tickets Now! (JMM Members, Reserve Your Seats) 
Harry Houdini wasn’t born – he was invented. 
The world’s most famous magician began life as Erik Weisz, the son of a Hungarian rabbi. In 1878 immigration to the U.S. transformed Erik Weisz into Ehrich Weiss. It was the first of many transformations for the man who would become the first international superstar. 
This engaging and entertaining living history performance tells the story of how Ehrich Weiss became Harry Houdini and investigates the technologies, marketing prowess and entertainment trends that transformed him into a superstar.

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini runs through January 21, 2019. For more information and a full list of events visit the JMM website.


Related:

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Science Channel announces 'Houdini's Last Secrets'

Looks like I didn't need to keep my secret for long! The Science Channel has officially announced their upcoming docuseries Houdini's Last Secrets. I just returned from Fort Worth where I had the great pleasure of shooting a segment for the first episode with George Hardeen below. (And now you know what was in the bag!)

THE SCIENCE BEHIND HISTORY'S MOST ICONIC ILLUSIONIST

"HOUDINI'S LAST SECRETS"

PREMIERES SUNDAY, JANUARY 6 AT 10PM ON SCIENCE CHANNEL

Magicians, past and present, marvel at the death-defying performances of the legendary Harry Houdini. His breathtaking escapes and astonishing illusions have never been equaled, or fully understood. With the help of skilled engineers, accomplished illusionists, and a member of his own bloodline, a new Science Channel series looks to uncover the methods to Houdini's magic and madness. HOUDINI'S LAST SECRETS, a four-part series, premieres Sunday, January 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Catching a speeding bullet, being buried alive, submerging himself in a water torture cell. How did the world's greatest showman pull off such death-defying stunts? His talents allowed him to become one of, if not the biggest celebrity in the world. Those same unique skills, along with the company that he kept, led some to believe that he was an informant for the top U.S. and European spy agencies during World War I. Helping piece together clues and testing out his most daring stunts are Houdini's grand-nephew George Hardeen, magician and daredevil Lee Terbosic, and master stunt builder Steve Wolf. With access to the master illusionist's personal scrapbooks, letters, and pictures, they look to uncover the science of Houdini's stunts as well as the myths behind his legend.

"Harry Houdini is the definition of mind-blowing," said Marc Etkind, General Manager of Science Channel. "He was clearly ahead of his time when it came to using engineering to accomplish his stunts, so much so that his methods continue to be debated by today's master magicians. It's no wonder that just the name Houdini still stirs the imagination of people, nearly a century after his death."

Each episode will be centered around one of Houdini's most daring stunts. The premiere looks at Houdini's famous water torture cell escape to unmask the potential methods he may have used, and what the dangers involved could have been. He performed this feat many times in Washington D.C., where President Woodrow Wilson was rumored to often sneak over to watch Houdini. Other episodes focus on The Siberian Transport stunt, catching a bullet, and his escape from being buried alive.

HOUDINI'S LAST SECRETS is produced by Megalomedia for Science Channel. Executive producers for Megalomedia are Jonathan Zowaradan and David Barsky. Wyatt Channell is executive producer for Science Channel.

So it looks like Houdini's Last Secrets will be the first big Houdini event of 2019. I can't wait!

Related:

Monday, November 19, 2018

Shhhh

No posts today as I'm currently out of town on a Top Secret Houdini adventure. What could be in this bag, I wonder?


UPDATE: The secret is out of the bag! Science Channel announces 'Houdini's Last Secrets'.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Master Mystery premiered 100 years ago today

It was 100 years ago today that Houdini's The Master Mystery (episode 1) premiered at the St. James Theater in Boston. Houdini attended the premiere with co-star Marguerite Marsh. Below is an opening day ad from The Boston Globe.


The 15 episodes that comprised The Master Mystery would continue to roll out into the the new year. This is why you sometimes see the serial dated as 1919. But I date it from its premiere: November 18, 1918.

A truncated version of The Mastery Mystery was released in VHS in 1998 and later on DVD by Kino (now out of print). Recently I was able to watch the almost complete serial at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. You can read more about that via the top link below.

Related:

Friday, November 16, 2018

Was Houdini's caged Water Torture Cell a reality?


We are all familiar with the famous 1916 lithograph showing Houdini's Water Torture Cell encased in a cage of padlocks of different makes. Like most, I assumed this poster was just an exaggeration for dramatic effect. This certainly isn't how Houdini's Water Torture Cell was actually presented on stage.

Or was it?

Recently I found two pieces of evidence that suggest Houdini did perform the Water Torture Cell with this cage of locks when he was touring the U.S. in 1915-16, right around the time this lithograph was created.

The first piece of evidence comes from the Baltimore Evening Sun, April 27, 1915. The paper features an artist's illustration (above) of The Water Torture Cell as seen at the Maryland Theater. It looks very similar to the caged cell of the poster. And this illustration was done before the creation of the Strobridge litho, so it could only have come from life.

The next piece of evidence is even more compelling. In a January 29, 1916 review of Houdini's performance at the Majestic Theater in Houston, the Water Torture Cell is described as having "solid steel cage" with "22 locks"!


This leads me to believe that the Water Torture Cell went through a few incarnations, as did many of Houdini's escapes. We know he originally used an inner cage (or "steel grill" as he calls in in the uncut voice recordings). I'm thinking this may have been the next evolution; the inner cage was replaced by an outer cage of locks. How long Houdini did it this is unknown, but we know by the time of 3 Shows in One, the cell appeared on stage as we know it today.

Interestingly, illusion builders and Water Torture Cell specialists Sherry and Krall created a their own caged Water Torture Cell based on the famous poster art. They advertise it as "coming to life for the first time." But maybe not!


UPDATE: Richard Sherry left the following comment on Kevin's Connolly Conjuring History Facebook Group which I thought was worth sharing here:

"My Grandmother saw Houdini when she was a teenager. She often spoke of him and Shirley Temple as I was growing up. When we watched Henning's Water Torture Cell on television she said to me that's not what Houdini's looked like. It looked like a jail cell with many locks. I thought it was time for her to take her medicine but maybe, just maybe it wasn't!"

Related:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Copperfield shares Houdini and Kellar

David Copperfield has shared to his Instagram three treasures from his collection related to Houdini and Harry Kellar, starting off with this fantastic unpublished portrait shot.



A post shared by David Copperfield (@d_copperfield) on

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit David Copperfield's museum in Las Vegas. You can read about that incredible adventure by clicking the top link below.

Related:

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Houdini and the Mooser sisters

Here's a nice article from the November 6, 1965 San Mateo Times about the original Houdini Nuts, Minnie and Hattie Mooser.


In recent years there has been speculation about a possible romance between Houdini and Hattie. You can read more about that at Dean Carnegie's The Magic Detective. Dean also notes that the Moosers collection wound up in The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the Bancroft Library University of California Berkley.

Related:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Master Mystery poster fetches $15,831 at auction

A poster for The Master Mystery episode 11 sold at an eMoviePosters.com auction earlier this month for $15,831. The auction description contained some interesting information about the poster's provenance.

This movie was Harry Houdini's very first movie, and it was his only serial, and it had "The Automaton", the very first robot in a movie. So it is certainly a very historic movie. Posters from it were unknown until around 35 years ago, when the son of the man who produced the movie surfaced, and he had one one-sheet from each of the fifteen chapters! Those were quickly sold, and over the years, a very few of them have returned to auction (we have auctioned four different chapters).  
In 1990, we were consigned this poster, and the person who bought it at that auction re-consigned it to us 11 years later in 2001, where it sold for $16,300. Now, the person who purchased it from us in 2001 has re-consigned it 17 years later, and it is still the only example of this poster we have ever auctioned, because it is the very same poster we auctioned twice before. 

In 2016 an Episode 3 poster sold for $28,080. The value of Master Mystery posters can vary depending on whether the artwork features escape imagery or The Automaton.

In 2013 eMoviePosters auctioned a one-sheet from The Grim Game for a remarkable $67,166. This is the first Houdini movie poster the site has auctioned since.

Related:

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Plaque marking Houdini's first New York City home

The New York Post reports that a historic plaque marking Houdini first New York home will be installed at 244 East 79th Street, the one-time location of Mrs. Loeffler's boarding house where the Weiss family lived in 1887. The plaque dedication was part of the Original Houdini Seance held at Sojourn Restaurant on Halloween.

A plaque was said to have been installed there in 2016. But when I went to Sojourn to have a look in July, the restaurant staff had no idea what I was talking about. So I'll believe it when I see it!

Nevertheless, it's one fine looking plaque.

Photo from David Allen @TodaysNew.

UPDATE: According to Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton (who organize the Original Seance), the 2016 plaque was stolen.

Related:

Friday, November 9, 2018

Discovering Houdini's Baltimore


Last Sunday I had the great pleasure of speaking at the Jewish Museum of Maryland as part of their Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini exhibition programing. It was a terrific event and their exhibition is magnificent! But what I want to share here is what I saw before the talk along with fellow Houdini nuts Fred Pittella and Joe Notaro (HHCE) who had come from New York and California respectively.

For whatever reason, I was thinking there wasn't much left of Houdini's Baltimore to see, that the locations of the theaters he played and the site of his 1916 suspended straitjacket escape were now unrecognizable. But after arriving in Maryland--and seeing Ken Trombly's formidable collection in Bethesda (thank you, Ken)--I did some quick research and discovered how wrong I was! So the next morning before my talk, Fred, Joe and I went in search of Houdini's Baltimore.

Our first stop was the location of Houdini's suspended straitjacket escape on April 26, 1916. Houdini did the escape from the Sun building, which sat on the corner of Charles Street and Baltimore. The escape drew a reported crowd of 50,000 and terrified Bess. According to the paper:

On Charles Street, from Lombard to Fayette, men and women, but mostly men, were packed in a dense mass, so dense that it was almost impossible to move. The roofs of the nearby buildings were almost as crowded and the throng stretched in diminishing numbers as far as the Masonic Temple and nearly to Pratt street.

Thank goodness for this street-naming description, as it made finding this location a snap (it was only 5 mins from our hotel). There are two famous photos that show the immense crowd that witnessed the escape, and many of the buildings in this photos remain today!

This first photo is looking down Charles Street (which is on an incline) and shows the intersection of Baltimore and Charles. (The Sun building is off camera to the right.) As you can see, the large white building with colonnades remains. So does the smaller building with a peaked roof behind it. A four story office building beyond is also still there. It's all wonderfully still recognizable.


This second pic (from the Fred Pittella collection) is looking back UP Charles Street and was likely taken from a window in the Sun building itself. But one can see the familiar colonnades of the building across the street. The actual spot where Houdini was strapped into his straitjacket is now an underground pedestrian walkway.


As for the Sun building itself, that is now long gone. The paper moved their offices in 1950. In fact, whatever replaced the Sun building is also now gone as the site has been recently cleared for new construction.


One last thing about this escape. In the JMM exhibition there is a wall-size enlargement of the famous crowd shot (seen at the top of this post). This allows one to see new details, including this!


This appears to be Houdini's Iron Maiden and gallows sitting in the intersection of Baltimore and Charles. You'll notice the sign references "tonight." Houdini did indeed do a challenge escape from the Iron Maiden at the Maryland Theater on this very night. Pretty wild.

And speaking of the Maryland, that was to be our next stop.

Houdini played the Maryland Theater many times. He first appeared in 1905 when the Maryland was a Keith's vaudeville house. Later when it became a legitimate theater, Houdini debuted his full evening 3 Shows in One here on August 31, 1925. So the Maryland is an important theater in Houdini history.

The theater is no longer there, and I couldn't find an address for it. But Dean Carnegie at The Magic Detective had shared a postcard showing the Maryland attached to the Kernan Hotel, and I could find an address for that. Amazingly, the hotel (now apartments) is still there and looks very much the same. It seems likely this is where Houdini stayed when playing the Maryland.


But the Maryland is not completely gone. In the photo below, notice how the ghost outline of the theater is still clearly visible on the side of the building where the red brick becomes white near the top. Unmistakable.


The actual site of the Maryland is now a parking lot (below). One wonders where the stage might have been? It's fun to think that on one of these parking spaces Houdini escaped from packing cases, countless handcuffs, the Iron Maiden, and his Water Torture Cell.


Later at the museum, David London, who curated Inescapable, gave us further details about the Maryland site. Turns out there was more here than we realized! As David said, "Houdini was all over this block."

The hotel was part of a larger entertainment complex, "Kernan million-dollar triple enterprise", that consisted of three theaters; the Maryland, the Auditorium, and the Academy of Music. The Academy of Music should ring a bell as Houdini played his "3 Shows in One" here during the week of November 9, 1925 (93 years ago today). I have an original program for that engagement (below). But like the Maryland, the Academy of Music is now gone.


However, Houdini also played the Auditorium Theater during the week of April 30, 1906 with his short-lived roadshow company (watch for a future post on this). Amazingly, the facade of the Auditorium Theatre still stands just around the corner. What a surprise it was to find this!


This building also has a magnificent ghost image, spotted by the eagle eyes of Joe Notaro. One can still make out the distinctive "Auditorium" name near the top of the building.


One Baltimore location we did not seek out was the site of Houdini's 1922 suspended straitjacket escape from the Munsey Bldg. Because it was show time!

Thanks to Fred Pittella, Joe Notaro, David London, Ken Trombly, Trillion Atwood, and everyone at the Jewish Museum of Maryland for making this such a memorable trip and helping me discover Houdini's Baltimore.

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini runs through January 19, 2019. I highly recommend it!


Related:

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mystifier, Third Quarter 1995

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


The Third Quarter 1995 Mystifier begins with an article by curator Benjamin Filene about Houdini's first partner Jacob Hyman and his continued use of the "Houdini" name during his own solo career. The matter came to a head in February 1903, as covered in the Springfield Republican:

The paper reported that Hyman, performing as "Houdini" had, as usual, challenged members of the audience to bring him handcuffs from which he would break free. When a pair was produced and locked onto his wrists, however, he could not extricate himself –– and for good reason. The handcuffs had been submitted by Dr. Leopold Weiss, Harry Houdini's brother. Weiss and his lawyer had come from New York expressly to foil Hyman. The Republican reported that Leopold "is said to have threatened to follow [Hyman] and bring him unopenable handcuffs until he drops the name Houdini."

The newsletter continues with an article about Dorothy Young's appearance at the 57th Houdini Club of Wisconsin Convention, held that year in Appleton. It also includes a very nice photo of Houdini with Dorothy and his other females assistants in 1925 (one that I've not seen reproduced elsewhere).

Wisconsin researcher Larry Wilden returns with "sequel" to his terrific look at Houdini in Milwaukee from First Quarter '95 issue. This time Larry covers Houdini's appearances in the city in 1912 and 1923. But he also includes a terrific gem about Houdini's boyhood from a 1912 interview:

During his engagement, Houdini was the darling of the press, granting numerous interviews, and conducting tours of his boyhood haunts. He told reporters about stealing eggs with his brother Theo and cooking them over a makeshift fire on the roof of the Plankinton House hotel. He also recalled selling issues of the Milwaukee Sentinel featuring stories of the disastrous Newhall House fire in 1883.

A report on the production of a new Houdini documentary by Gene M. Gamache and Coyote Pictures follows. The crew came to Appleton to interview Dorothy Young. The Museum shop also announces a new "Free Houdini" puzzle created by the The Magic Box Company, and a Houdini Historical Center watch.

Sid opens his "Backstage" column reviewing the Houdini Club of Wisconsin Convention. He also shares an item from Variety about Ray Stark's big budget Houdini movie beginning production in Spring 1996. This news was submitted by yours truly, and Sid adds:

John, who has an insider's view of movie making, cautions that "all news of a Houdini movie must be taken with a grain of salt. I've been disappointed in the past." [And I was again.]

Sid then announces that the Official Houdini Seance will be held in Holyoke inside the very building that once housed a police station where Houdini broke out of manacles in 1895. (Sid always characterized this as Houdini's very first police challenge, but it was not.) He wraps up with the news that Ken Silverman is finishing up his biography with an eye towards a Fall 1996 release. "It will be the most definitive book ever written about Houdini, with lots of previously unknown information." True enough!

Mystifier
Volume 5, Number 3
Third Quarter, 1995
6 pages

Contents:
Other Houdini
Dorothy Young Unveils Houdini
Houdini's Return to Milwaukee
Houdini Documentary Filmed
Museum Shop
Backstage with Sid Radner


Related:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

S.A.M. hold 2018 wand breaking ceremony

The Society of American Magicians held their annual wand breaking ceremony at Houdini's grave this week. Magician and escape artist Dorothy Dietrich of the Houdini Museum in Scranton did the wand breaking honors this year.


The wand breaking tradition began with Houdini's death in 1926. The S.A.M. has continued the ceremony every year since 1969. Houdini became president of the S.A.M. in 1917 and built it into the national organization it is today. The S.A.M. now looks after his gravesite.

Related:

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

JFK compared Nixon to Houdini in 1960

Houdini's name has been used in the political arena from his own time right up to the modern day. But here's a mention I only recently discovered.

In the closing days of the 1960 Presidential election, soon to be President John F. Kennedy likened his challenger Richard Nixon to "Houdini." The comparison garnered headlines. Check out the below from November 1, 1960.


There is an amusing followup to this item. The Baltimore Evening Sun reported that Houdini himself returned during an election night seance held by a Mr. Buschaman. Before Houdini left the gathering, he said, "May the man you voted for win." Because the 1960 election was famously close (and some think it may have been stolen), the paper quipped: "And he did."

Don't forgot to Vote today. And if you're in California, no, I'm not that John Cox.

Related:

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Grim Game screening in Weyauwega, Nov. 10

If you couldn't make it to the screening of The Grim Game in Baltimore yesterday, know you'll have another chance to catch the film at the Weyauwega International Film Festival in Weyauwega, Wisconsin, on November 10th at 7:30pm. Below are details.

Houdini's long lost film from 1919, THE GRIM GAME, screens Saturday, November 10th at 7:30pm. Introduced by film historian Jack Rhodes and film preservationist Rick Schmidlin who restored the lost film in 2015. Houdini historian Tom Boldt will display some rare Houdini memorabilia and discuss Houdini’s upbringing in nearby Appleton, Wisconsin. There will also be an appearance by a very special mystery guest!

For more information and to buy tickets visit the WIFF website.

Related:

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Off to Houdini's Baltimore

I'm off to Baltimore where I'm very excited to be giving a talk on "Houdini in Hollywood" and screening The Grim Game at the Jewish Museum of Maryland on Sunday, November 5 at 1:00 PM. I'm also looking forward to seeing the museum's exhibition, Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini.


Baltimore was regular stop on Houdini's tours. In 1916 he performed a suspended straitjacket escape from the Sun building before a reported crowd of 50,000. It was also in Baltimore at the Maryland Theater that he debuted his "3 Shows in One" on August 31, 1925.

I don't have time to cover more of Houdini's Baltimore connections, so I will send you over to Dean Carnegie's The Magic Detective to read: Houdini In Baltimore 1916.

It's likely I will not be updating the blog until I'm home. But I'm hoping to see some of you at Sunday's event. You can find details at the JMM's website or the event page on Facebook.

UPDATEDiscovering Houdini's Baltimore.

Related:

Friday, November 2, 2018

Guest review: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini

Dick Brookz and Dorothy Dietrich of the Houdini Museum in Scranton recently attended Cynthia von Buhler's immersive theatrical experience The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini in New York. I'm pleased to share their review.

Dick Brookz and Dorothy Dietrich REVIEW THE GIRL WHO HANDCUFFED HOUDINI 
Worth the trip from anywhere in the world to NYC for any true Houdini fan and for those who would like to get a sense what really happened to Houdini, one of the world’s most iconic entertainers, in his final days. It is a work of genius. It is done in a very avant guard technique known as Immersive Theater. In this case it is highly effective. The audience members go from scene to scene as if being in a live 3d movie. Depending which of the 8 characters your group is following, you pick up various pieces of the story that make the whole. It is like being part of a living Rubic’s Cube about Houdini’s mysterious death or murder.

The amazing thing is as it progresses every audience member gets to see all the events from the different perspective of the character they are following along with. You are moved in your group from area to area, including to a private seance room, Houdini’s dressing room, a detectives office, an operating room, a very intimate bedroom, along with several visits to the main theater where everyone congregates in their respective rows for a grand Houdini strait jacket presentation, or several Water Torture tank challenges, or in one case a packed Margery revival style celebration, and more. You could be following along with Houdini, wife Bess Houdini, spiritualist Margery, puncher J. Gordon Whitehead, assistant Jim Collins, students Jack Price and Smilovitz, Houdini’s lawyer, or medical staff, or the exciting, sexy but more fictional Minky Woodcock. All done with a supremely talented cast of performers. I am trying not to be a spoiler in any way, except that there is some full female nudity involved, all in keeping with the story and in “good taste”.

It is all very well scripted and performed with great enthusiasm, style and panache. Certainly, one visit to The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini could easily get one rushing to attend it again and again. A truly haunting and exciting experience. It is highly recommended and very moving in its beauty, mystery and controversial ideas. 
Higher priced tickets include a copy of the hardcover graphic novel signed by the creator/director/author/illustrator Cynthia von Buhler. “The twenties were a time when freedom roared, especially for women, who chose to keep their war-time jobs, drank booze, bobbed their hair, threw away their corsets, and finally won the right to vote… I love things that are true but you can’t believe they’re true because they’re so bizarre… ” said von Buhler. ”

The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini will conclude on November 10th, 2018 at Theatre 80 (80 St. Marks Place, Manhattan). Performances are at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.  For tickets and more information visit the official website.

Photos by Mark Shelby Perry.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Houdini a no show, but 2018 seances still a success

Houdini once again decided to skip the seances held in his honor last night. But if the true goal was to celebrate his life and entertain, then this 92nd anniversary was a great success!

The Official in Baltimore.

In Baltimore, "The Official Houdini Séance" was held at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, site of the current exhibition, Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. The inner circle was made up of Houdini luminaries: Bill Radner, Tom Boldt, Arthur Moses, Ken Trombly, Bruce Averbook, Fred Pittella, Robert Somerdin, Midge Markey, and David London. Also joining was Debbie Hardeen, Houdini’s great-grandniece, her first time participating in an Official Houdini Séance.

Despite the best efforts of Psychic Medium Maggie Salter, Houdini did not come through. The seance was live tweeted by JMM Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman, who has posted a full account of the event at the JMM Blog.

The Original in New York.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz held their "Original Houdini Seance" at Sojourn Restaurant, the site of the Weiss family's first New York home. Guests of honor were author Alain Nu and artist Cynthia von Buhler. Dick reported that cellphones rang twice when Houdini was called upon, and the restaurant chandelier noticeably swayed. You can read a report at the Daily News.

Congrats to all the organizers and participants. Let's try again next year!


UPDATE: Check out Joe Notaro's report on the Official Seance at HHCE.

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