Tuesday, July 30, 2019

"For a minute the air was full of flying bracelets"

Here's a wonderful cartoon from The Philadelphia Inquirer illustrating Houdini's act at B.F. Keith's Theater on January 8, 1912. What I especially like here is that it tells us Houdini would throw handcuffs from his cabinet as he freed himself from each pair. I can imagine the applause with the appearance of each cuff, and how it would build as a rain of cuffs appeared. And then Houdini would bound free at the end. Fantastic.

Click to enlarge.

You might be wondering how it's possible that this shows Houdini doing handcuff escapes in 1912 when he had famously abandoned the Handcuff Act years earlier. This is not a mistake. In November 1911, Houdini broke a blood vessel while doing a straitjacket escape in Detroit. The injury was serious enough that he cancelled a week's engagement in Toledo and rested on doctor's orders.

When he returned in the first week of December, he brought back the handcuffs to replace what was normally an opening straitjacket escape. So this cartoon also nicely captures a unique moment in time. The temporary return of the "flying bracelets."

Related:

Monday, July 29, 2019

Houdini goes into the Hamburger box

Here's a terrific photo of Houdini that I've not seen before. This appeared in the December 1, 1915 Los Angeles Evening Herald and shows D.C McIvers of Hamburger's department store doing his best to hold Harry.


This challenged took place at the Los Angeles Orpheum Theater on November 30, 1915. Ten men from Hamburger's shipping department built the packing case on stage and sealed Houdini inside. He escaped in less than five minutes. As you can see, McIvers vowed to build a stronger box next time.

Hamburger's had also challenged Houdini with a packing crate during his 1907 Los Angeles engagement.


Related:

Friday, July 26, 2019

Houdini in 1906

While Houdini boasted of his American success at the end of 1905, the truth was he was still competing with a sea of Handcuff Kings, some of whom were better known in the U.S. at this time. But all that was about to change.

Houdini began the year in Washington D.C. On New Year's Day he escaped from a jail cell at the 10th Precinct Station. A few days later he made an escape at the 5th Precinct, passing through six locked doors in 31 minutes. However, the newspapers reported that the jailer had found a "needle" on the floor which he believed Houdini used to pick the lock.

Houdini was then challenged by Warden J.H. Harris to "try his art" at the United States Jail. Houdini arrived on January 6, and, after being strip searched, was locked inside cell No. 2 on Murderers Row, famous for having housed Charles J. Guiteau, the assassin of President James Garfield. In 21 minutes Houdini was not only free, but he had opened all the cell doors and switched all the prisoners from cell to cell.

The combination of the U.S. Jail, the Guiteau cell, and the prisoner exchange proved irresistible to reporters. The story of the escape went national, instantly setting Houdini apart from his imitators. With this bold and creative escape, Houdini had captured the country's imagination.

Houdini went on to play three weeks in Philadelphia, escaping from a jail cell on January 8. He was then challenged by Louis V. Wolf to escape custom made handcuffs weighing 15 pounds. Houdini freed himself after a 45 minute struggle. He took out an ad proclaiming: "Philadelphia has never seen such excitement since the Declaration of Independence has been signed." But a truer indication of his growing fame might have been the appearance of Frank Dumont's popular burlesque at the 11th Street Opera House, "Hoo-Done-Ett."

At the end of February Houdini opened at Keith's Theater in Boston. He had done well in Boston during his first tour under Martin Beck in 1899. Now with news of his D.C. jail break still fresh, the city was primed for his return. He proved to be a sensation.

Houdini kicked off his Boston engagement with a challenge escape from a locked and roped close-woven wicker hamper. The escapes took 62 minutes and Houdini told reporters it was "the hardest of all his tests." He then performed for students at Harvard Union who tied him up in 60 feet of rope. Free in 12 minutes, the students "fought for pieces of rope as souvenirs." Philip Broomfield and Co. challenged him to escape from a "Witch's Chair" (a.k.a. Tramp Chair), an ordeal that took one hour and twenty-four minutes. Another challenge saw him "suspended in mid-air" on the Keith's stage, but the exact nature of the restraint is unknown.


On March 19, Houdini broke out of the City Jail on Somerset Street, known as The Tombs (today the John Adams Courthouse). Finding no prisoners available to swap in their cells, he decided to escape from the facility itself and call the astonished warden from the theater. Reporters persuaded Houdini to return and take a photo scaling the prison wall. The escape and photo made the front page of the Boston Globe.

It was also in Boston that Houdini screened what appears to have been his first film, Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt. The content remains a mystery, but the theater management deemed it merely "fair." Houdini also found time to published his first book, The Right Way to Do Wrong: An Exposé of Successful Criminals. The book included a chapter called "Fake! Fake! Fake!" which called out bogus faith healers and spirit mediums. Houdini writes:

“Spiritualism has many followers, and at one time I was almost a believer, but this was before I made a thorough investigation, which I have followed up even to the present day. I have never seen a materialization or a manifestation which I cannot fully explain.”

On his 32nd birthday, Houdini was presented on stage with a flowered wreath styled as a giant pair of handcuffs and a $1000 Tiffany pocket watch by the appreciative Keith's manager, H. D. Dupee. Houdini's Boston engagement ran a record breaking eight weeks.

Houdini then took an unusual step. He partnered with Whitman Osgood, who had helped with the publication of The Right Way to Do Wrong, and formed his own traveling roadshow on the Stair & Havlin circuit. The show featured the mentalist team of Julius and Agnes Zancig; The Kita Banza Troupe (Japanese acrobats); Miss Anna Chandler (monologist); The Altheat Twins (song and dance); and comedians Louise Carver and Eugenie Pollard. Houdini was the headliner with his challenges and Prison Cell & Barrel Mystery.

"Houdini & His Own Company" opened on April 16 at the Salem Theater in Salem, Massachusetts. To promote the show Houdini escaped from a jail cell at the Front Street police station. (A historical note; it was during this Salem run that the great San Francisco earthquake and fire occurred.) After three days, the troupe moved on to Hartford, Connecticut, where Houdini beat a packing case made by Wise, Smith & Co.

Houdini lobby display in Salem.

Blaney's Theater in Newark and a jail break from police headquarters followed. During the week, a female escape artist, Sirronge, played in opposition to Houdini at Procotor's Newark. ("She is said to be good," reported Variety.) The first week of May found the company at the Auditorium Theater in Baltimore. Then it was to New York for engagements at the American Theater and the West End Theater.

Houdini took the summer months off. In August he visited Appleton where he politely declined to escape from the Outagamie jail, proclaiming it escape-proof. He also used the time to ready his own magic journal, Conjurers' Monthly Magazine, the first issue of which would appear on September 15, 1906.

Having idolized Robert-Houdin as a boy, Houdini's research and experiences with the Houdin's contemporaries across Europe had changed his mind about the master. Now in his magazine he began a regular series, "Unknown Facts Concerning Robert-Houdin", making the case that the great magician was not the inventor he claimed to be. In this first issue Houdini recounted the "discourteous" treatment he received at the hands of Madame Robert-Houdin in 1902, a slight that appears to have festered. Hardeen also penned a monthly column for the magazine as the "Official European Correspondent."

Although Houdini said he would return with his roadshow in the Fall, he instead signed a new contract with B.F. Keith's for a tour that kicked off with two weeks at Keith & Proctor's in Union Square. New York remained a tough town for Houdini to win over. A jail break in Yorkville went wrong when a pick was discovered during his examination. Dr. A.M. Wilson, editor of The Sphinx, who no doubt resented Houdini's upstart magic magazine, reprinted the unflattering story in full, fanning a feud that would rage between the two men for the next decade.

It was then back to Chase's "Polite Vaudeville" in Washington where over the course of three weeks Houdini faced a new challenge everyday. His tests included "the most difficult handcuffs ever used to challenge him"; a sealed paper bag (which he would escape without tearing the paper); and a screw-fastened zinc-lined piano case. The latter escape took 57 minutes with Houdini emerging from his cabinet exactly at midnight. At every matinee he freed himself from a straitjacket.

Engagements in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Toronto followed. After a jail break in Cincinnati he received a glowing testimonial from the Chief of Police: "Exhibitions of a similar character have been given at these Headquarters, but never so complete and artistic. Mr. Houdini is a wonder in this line." He then returned to his old haunt, Chicago, escaping from a jail cell at Andy Rohan's Central Police Station.

Having targeted imitators on his return to the U.S., Houdini now found himself a target, with an assortment of doctored handcuffs being brought onstage by confederates. Houdini made it a practice of showing the audience exactly how the cuffs had been rigged to defeat him. He then said if they would allow him extra time, he would attempt the escape anyway.

At the Temple Theater in Detroit on the evening of November 26, Houdini struggled in one such cuff for an hour and a half. Bess left the stage in tears before he finally freed himself. The next day the Detroit Free Press had some fun with the drama, writing it up as, "Houdini's Horror, or The Tampered Handcuff, a Sketch in One Shackle."

Looking to promote his Detroit engagement, Houdini visited the Wayne County Jail. Concluding it was "too strong and too perfectly locked for any man to get out without a confederate," he announced that he would instead leap handcuffed from the Belle Isle Bridge and free himself underwater. Houdini had teased such a feat on occasion, but it's unclear if he had ever actually made a public "bridge jump" before Detroit.

Despite the cold weather, on November 27 Houdini made his way to the bridge accompanied by Franz Kukol. After scribbling his Will on the back of an envelope--"I give it all to Bess"--he was manacled with "two of the best and most modern handcuffs" and tethered with a 113 foot safety line. He then jumped. The shock of the freezing water stunned him, but he freed himself and swam to a nearby rowboat. The stunt drew a front page story in The Detroit News. Over time, it also became famously mythologized.

The Belle Isle Bridge jump marked a major evolution in Houdini's career. Until now the stakes were humiliation and loss of reputation should he fail to make an escape. But now the stakes were raised. When Houdini emerged from the Detroit River that day, he had been baptized as a death defier.

The original Belle Isle Bridge.

December found Houdini at Cook Opera House in Rochester and the Valentine Theater in Toledo. He then closed out the year with a three week run at Keith's New Theater in Philadelphia.

In many ways, all the years leading up to 1906 can be seen as contributing to the overall creation of Houdini. But at the end of 1906, he emerges as the complete showman. Peerless escape artist, author, historian, skeptic, death defier, sensation of Europe and America. Houdini had arrived and would reign for the next 20 years.

Back to 1905 | All Years | Continue to 1907

Related:

    Thursday, July 25, 2019

    Houdini breaks out in America (tomorrow)

    Tomorrow I'll be posting the next installment of my "Life of Houdini Year by Year" series with a deep dive into 1906, the year Houdini truly broke out in America. And you know you've made it when...

    The Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 4, 1906.

    Related:

    Wednesday, July 24, 2019

    Appleton plans to bring Houdini sculpture back into public view

    The Post-Crescent reports that Richard C. Wolter's "Metamorphosis" sculpture that once adorned Appleton's Houdini Plaza could return to public view as soon as next summer.

    The Appleton Public Arts Committee on Wednesday endorsed a plan to place the 20-by-20-foot sculpture on a plaza along the Fox River at the south end of the Lawe Street bridge.

    Deputy Parks and Recreation Director Tom Flick believes the location works well because it's across the street from a marker that points out the place where Houdini almost drowned as a child. The installation would be permanent.

    The iconic sculpture was donated to the city in 1985 by Boldt Development Corp. It stood in the center of Houdini Plaza until 2010, when it was removed because the base was deteriorating. The sculpture is currently lying on its side outside the Appleton parks and recreation facility at Memorial Park.

    Houdini Plaza underwent a major renovation in 2013. A Houdini bust was added to the plaza in 2015.

    Related:

    Tuesday, July 23, 2019

    Penn talks magic in movies, including Houdini (1953)

    Here's a short video by Vanity Fair in which Penn Jillette "reviews" magic in movies. Among the movies is Houdini (1953), which seems to delight Penn. Enjoy.


    Related:

    Monday, July 22, 2019

    Mystifier, Third Quarter 1998

    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 1998 Mystifier begins with a report on the opening of a special exhibit devoted to Houdini's The Master Mystery. The exhibit was timed with the first VHS release of the movie by HHC charter member Bill McIlhany (covered in the previous issue). It gives a taste of what is on display:

    Within a 700-square foot gallery, the exhibit alludes to early movie theaters. Seven original posters create colorful focal points for the display. Backlit glass lantern slides illuminate how theater owners used the screen to advertise upcoming episodes. A reproduced 16-page pressbook reveals the promotional options available to those who booked the film. Movie stills and lobby cards capture images from the motion picture.

    The newsletter continues with the news that curator Meg Ehr is leaving to be married in Ohio and the search in on for a new curator. There's a report on Bill McIlhany's talk about restoring The Master Mystery at the Houdini Club of Wisconsin's recent convention in Appleton. We then get the exciting news is that Houdini's Iron Maiden, having survived the Niagara Falls museum fire, is now on display at the HHC. The newsletter provides a nice description of the famous prop, including dimensions:

    The apparatus is composed of two pieces, one section imprisoning Houdini from foot to shoulders, while the other covered his shoulders and head. The total interior height of the Iron Maiden is 74 inches and the shoulder width is 22 inches. From foot to shoulder, the bottom section measures 56 inches.

    Today the Iron Maiden is in the David Copperfield Collection.

    The museum shop announces the arrival of The Master Mystery VHS along with several new postcards. We also get a report on the recent filming of an episode of  E! Entertainment's Mysteries & Scandals at the HHC.

    Sid Radner begins his "Backstage" column with a report on the Houdini Club of Wisconsin's 60th Anniversary Convention held in Appleton over the Labor Day weekend (which I attended). He then announces that The Official Houdini Seance will be held in Las Vegas. Seance attendees will get an early screening of TNT's new Houdini biopic starring Johnathon Schaech. Curiously, Sid says Houdini was in Las Vegas during his lifetime, but I'm unaware of any Las Vegas visits, unless Sid is counting train stops during his trips west?

    Sid also reports on E! Entertainment's filming at the HHC -- "It seems Houdini holds perennial appeal" -- and that he has received word from Dr. Joan Higbee, reference specialist to the Library of Congress, that Houdini will appear in the December issue of Civilization Today.

    Mystifier
    Volume 8, Number 3
    Third Quarter, 1998
    6 pages

    Contents:
    Houdini's Master Mystery Opens
    McIlhany Speaks in Appleton
    Curator Ehr Departs for Ohio Wedding Plans
    Iron Maiden Added to Exhibit
    Museum Shop News
    Backstage with Sid Radner


    Related:

    Saturday, July 20, 2019

    Pat Culliton and I found Bess Houdini's house...like heroes

    Recently Patrick Culliton and I made a fresh search for the location of 2435 Laurel Canyon Blvd., where Bess Houdini and Edward Saint lived from about 1933-35, and where Houdini himself might have resided while making The Grim Game (although firm evidence for this remains elusive). What instigated our search was the appearance of a photograph of the house, the first we've ever seen, that sold in a recent Haversat & Ewing auction for a whopping $1,925 on a $125-$150 estimate. The photo is annotated in Bessie's hand: "My home on Lookout Mountain Laurel Canyon Hollywood Calif."

    Turns out it was less of a search than a confirmation. Patrick has always pointed to a mountainside just off Laurel Canyon Blvd.--directly across from what is today called The Houdini Estate--and said that was where the house sat before it burned in the massive 1959 Laurel Canyon brush fire. The remains were later demolished when the mountainside was graded back to widen the street.

    Sure enough, all we needed to do was hold up a printout of the photo to see that distant mountains lined up perfectly. But the photo also offered up some new information. According to canyon lore, the house had an "elevator" to the street. It's not clear, but I think the photo might show part of what might be funicular chair to the street, which did exist in Laurel Canyon.


    But most intriguingly, the photo shows that the house sat higher and further back on the mountain side than we thought. This suggests the possibility that the foundation didn't fall victim to the grading of the hill after all. So, obsessives that we are, Pat (age 75) and I decided to climb the hill and investigate. The hill is steep and eroding and I was worried one of us would take a fall. Little did I know the real danger we were heading into...

    We made our way gingerly up the crumbling hill to what we could see was an open area. Once there, we found a pasture that was suspiciously level, exactly what you'd expect to see if a house once stood there. That's when we started to spot random bricks in the ground and some very old and rusted pipes. There was also what appeared to be a stone staircase angled down toward the adjoining property once owned by Tom Mix and Frank Zappa. So it was clear. Not only was this the site of Bess and Ed's house, but there were still remains to prove it! (Yes, I took a brick.)


    That's where we should have left well enough alone. But we were intrigued by a second plateau higher up the hill and felt we needed to investigate. So we made our way higher into thicker brush. When we hit the second plateau we found no remains of a house. We did find a treehouse and what appeared to be evidence of homeless encampment, so we decided we had gone far enough and began to search for a safer path back down the hill.

    That's when I felt the first sting.

    I looked down to see that a wasp had just stung me on my arm. In fact, there were two of them. Bemused, I called out to Pat, saying I just got stung by a stupid wasp. But before I finished my sentence, I heard Pat yell, "Wasps!" Like in a horror movie, as he ran past me I turned to see his back was COVERED in wasps. That's when I realized I was also COVERED in wasps. Somewhere, somehow, we had tripped up a wasp nest and they were on the attack!

    Websites say if you are attacked by a swarm of wasps you should not bat them away, wave your arms or make noise. You simply remain calm and walk away in a straight line. We did NOT do that. Instead, we got down that mountain in record time, swatting and waving and yelling the whole way. We both ended up with a dozen stings each. Thankfully, neither of us are allergic, and although we both felt dizzy and spent a pretty uncomfortable week nursing our stings, we survived.

    And we found Bess and Ed's house. Like heroes.

    Related:

    Friday, July 19, 2019

    Houdini aged

    If you're on social media you've no doubt encountered FaceApp (which may or may not be a Russian plot). People have been using the photo filtering app to see what they'll look like when old. I'm in no rush to see my older self, but I've always been curious what Houdini would have looked like had he lived to old age. So I took a photo from 1926 and ran it through the app. Here's old Harry. I think he looks great!


    If you're curious, here's the original pic. This was taken during his trip to testify in Washington D.C. in May 1926.


    Related:

    Thursday, July 18, 2019

    'Inescapable' extends in Atlanta, next stop Milwaukee

    Due to popular demand, the touring exhibition Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini will extend its stay at The Breman Museum in Atlanta by one week. It will now be on show until August 18, 2019.


    The exhibition will then travel to the Jewish Museum Milwaukee where it opens September 27, 2019. It will be on display there until January 5, 2020. A special preview will be held on September 26.


    Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini was created by magician David London and the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

    Related:

    Joe Posnanski launches his Houdini newsletter

    Joe Posnanski, author of the upcoming The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini, has launched a free Houdini newsletter and blog. Says Joe:

    What will you get here? Well, this will be pretty low key — I’ll send an email about once a week (these will also be posted on my Houdini blog), tell a few Houdini stories, tell a few magic stories, share some behind-the-scene book details, offer various updates, maybe show you a magic trick or two, maybe interview some of the amazing people who appear in the book. I’m sure we’ll have some giveaways too. I think it will be a lot of fun. And, hey, it is free and you can cancel anytime.

    Pre-order The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Released date is October 22, 2019.

    Related:

      Wednesday, July 17, 2019

      'Pulling Back the Veil in Search of Cecelia' at The Breman Museum

      Today marks the anniversary of Houdini's mother's death in 1913. So this seems like the right day to share that Rolando Santos will be presenting a lecture called "Harry Houdini: Pulling Back the Veil in Search of Cecelia" on July 28 at the The Breman Museum in Atlanta. This is the final lecture of their Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini programing.


      Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini has been extended through August 18. For more information visit the Breman Museum's website, Facebook or Twitter.

      Related:

      Tuesday, July 16, 2019

      'Before Houdini' by Jeremy Holt released

      Today sees the release of Before Houdini, a new graphic novel by Jeremy Holt with art by John Lucas. This is a followup to his 2018 book, After Houdini.

      The exciting second volume of the After Houdini saga explores the origins of the elusive master of magic, the man who would become…Houdini.

      London, 1888. A shadowy killer stalks the streets of London, his appetite for blood unleashed upon the city’s lower classes. To defeat him, MI6 turns to its most top-secret team: four teenage agents with extraordinary gifts—including a young American immigrant with a talent for illusion . . .

      After Houdini began the story of Josef Houdini, son of the famous Harry Houdini—brilliant illusionist, acclaimed escape artist, and top-secret covert operative. Now we turn back the clock and meet Ehrich Weiss, a young man whose skill at picking locks is about to land him the adventure of his dreams, and pull him into a war that will affect his life—and his son’s—for years to come. This is the story of Ehrich’s strange beginnings, from before he was a world-famous magician. Before he was a master of espionage. Before he was...Houdini.

      A special exhibition called Before Houdini: The Making of a Graphic Novel will be on show August 9 to September 22 at the Jackson Gallery at Town Hall Theater in Vermont. Details here.

      Purchase Before Houdini at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

      Related:

      Monday, July 15, 2019

      Houdini and I call "Action" at The Breman Museum

      Yesterday I had the great pleasure of giving a lecture about "Houdini in Early Cinema" at The Breman Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. My talk was part of their Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini programing.

      I'm happy to report that it was well attended and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I know I did! The staff at The Bremam were fantastically friendly. Their museum is a beautiful and even sacred space with powerful exhibits on Jewish life and the Holocaust. It was a great honor to have been invited to speak here. Oh, and I ran into a familiar face in the lobby! (True size of us both.)

      This was a quick trip so I didn't have time to seek out the former sites of the Hotel Ansley or the Forsyth Theater where Houdini performed in 1912 and 1915. But I was able to swing by The Wimbish House which was just a short walk from my hotel. Houdini gave his Spiritualism lecture here on March 13, 1924. The Wimbish House still stands as does its adjoining auditorium (both pictured below). The Atlanta Woman's Club is also still active. I've been in touch and I'm hoping they might have some archival material related to Houdini's historic visit. Stay tuned.


      I arrived at The Breman early and was given the VIP treatment by the wonderful staff. Whenever I do one of these talks, I'm always a little nervous about whether my presentation will play properly with their own a/v system. But I was in the good hands of Dwayne McBride, and setup proved to be a snap. Dwayne is from Flatbush and he was excited to hear that Houdini lived in Flatbush for a time. (Dwayne, if you're reading this, here's that link.)

      I then had time to enjoy the museum and Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. This is the touring exhibition created by David London which opened last year in Baltimore. The Breman has a special section devoted specifically to Houdini in Atlanta, with genuine artifacts from the Hotel Ansley and Forsyth Theater. They've also added a display related to Houdini's use of mass media. I was told the exhibit has been enormously popular, as has all their special programing.


      It was now time for my talk. This time I wasn't showing a Houdini movie, so I expanded it to a full hour with more clips, including the unseen overboard box escape from Terror Island. After my talk we had a Q&A with some great questions (always my favorite part). A nice surprise was meeting author James Mahaffey, who told me he had uncovered some new details about Houdini in Atlanta that appear in his book, Atomic Adventures. So that's one to get!


      Thanks to everyone at The Breman for inviting me to speak and making this trip possible. And to all of you who came out to hear the talk.

      Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini has been extended through August 18, 2019. For more information visit The Breman Museum's website, Facebook or Twitter.

      Related:

      Friday, July 12, 2019

      Houdini in Atlanta

      This weekend I'm headed to Atlanta to give a talk on "Houdini in Early Cinema" at The Breman Museum as part of their Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini programing. My talk is on Sunday, July 14, at 2:00pm and is free with general admission. Click for details.

      This will be a quick trip, so I don't think I will have time to do any Houdini archeology in the city. But here are some of the sites associated with Houdini in Atlanta.

      (Atlanta Time Machine.)

      The Forsyth Theater stood at the northwest corner of Forsyth and Luckie Streets. Houdini first appeared here during the week of January 1-7, 1912. He returned April 19-25, 1915. During his 1915 engagement he was challenge by the Red Rock company to escape a packing case. It was also reported that he escaped from his "tank" (likely the Milk Can) after it had been filled with Coca Cola. Unfortunately, the Forsyth and the building that housed it is now long gone.


      In January 1920 Houdini’s The Grim Game played for a week at the Strand Theater located at 56-58 Peachtree Street (not be be confused with the later Strand Theater on Decatur Street). Terror Island also played here in May 1920. The theater closed in 1923.

      (Cinema Treasures)

      Houdini himself returned on March 13, 1924 to give his spiritualism lecture, "Can the Living Communicate with the Dead?", at the Woman's Club auditorium at Wimbish House. Happily, Wimbish House still stands and is still home to the Atlanta Women's Club.


      During this 1924 trip Houdini stayed at the Hotel Ansley, which stood on the south side of Williams Street between Forsyth and Fairlie. It later became the Dinkler Plaza Hotel. It was razed in 1972.



      As far as I know, Houdini never performed an outdoor stunt in Atlanta, although I've not given up hope that one may turn up. Possibly the good folks at The Breman have uncovered something?

      Unless some major Houdini news breaks, I won't be updating the blog until my return. Hope to see some of you in Atlanta!

      Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini runs through August 11. For more information visit the Breman Museum's website, Facebook or Twitter.


      Thanks to to Perry Reed for providing info on the Strand Theater.

      UPDATEHoudini and I call "Action" at The Breman Museum.

      Related:

      Thursday, July 11, 2019

      Mystifying man in St. Louis

      Here's a terrific caricature of Houdini from the St. Louis Star and Times dated December 15, 1914. Once again this shows that, in his own time, Houdini was as identified with his Needles trick as he was with his escapes.


      Houdini appeared at the Columbia during the week of December 14-20, 1914. On December 16, he accepted a challenge from the packers of the Famous-Barr Co. to escape packing case built on stage. On the December 18, Stix, Baer & Fuller Dry Good Co. challenged him to escape their own packing case after being searched and having a carpet laid below case on stage to prevent use of traps.

      Needless to say, the "mystifying man" escaped both times.

      Related:

      Tuesday, July 9, 2019

      James Randi on his Shelton pool test

      Here's a video in which James Randi talks about how his got his start in escapology, and also how he performed his own Shelton pool test on February 7, 1956. This is a feat that does not get a lot of attention, but I consider it a standout in Randi's career, especially as he did it in the same location as Houdini.



      Despite the video name, "How to Beat Houdini", Randi did not do the stunt to beat Houdini's time (although he did so by 13 minutes). He was seeking to prove it could be done by natural means, just as Houdini always said. But that point was missed in much of the news coverage, which emphasized the record beating, as seen below.


      Related:

      Monday, July 8, 2019

      Barry Spector's latest 278 wood lath creation

      Our friend Barry Spector shares today his latest artistic creation using wood lath salvaged from Houdini's New York home (278). According to Barry, the door is about 30" and overall it stands about 36". Pretty great!


      Barry took his inspiration for the famous image below. He says, "At some point, I'll get Harry in there."


      If you're interested in Barry's work, he can be contacted at negrilman15@gmail.com.

      UPDATE: Barry has informed me that this work will be displayed at Roger Dreyer's Houdini Museum of New York. Congrats Barry!

      Related:

      Sunday, July 7, 2019

      Musicians remain wild about Harry

      Houdini continues to inspire magicians... I mean, musicians! Below are some relatively new CDs and MP3s that pay tribute to the master mystifier.

      Houdini by 2 Kinds of Pie (Amazon)
      Houdini by Vanakkara (Amazon)
      Houdini by Drippy Astro (Amazon)

      Below are links to even more Houdini inspired music. Enough to make a party mix!

      Related:

      Saturday, July 6, 2019

      Checking up on the Examiner

      Last month when I visited the historic Alexandria Ballrooms where Harry and Bess had their Silver Wedding Anniversary, I decided to swing by another downtown Los Angeles Houdini location, the Examiner Building. It was here on April 4, 1923 that Houdini performed a suspended straitjacket escape before a reported 20,000 people.


      The building has stood empty since the Herald Examiner went out of business in 1989. In 2015 it was announced that the building would undergo a massive renovation and would open as a combination of creative office and restaurant space in 2017.


      Looks like the renovation is taking longer than expected as the building is still covered in scaffolding. But work is clearly underway, and I look forward to the unveiling of this still very recognizable Houdini landmark.

      You can see more photos of Houdini's Examiner escape via the links below.

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