Saturday, August 17, 2019

Houdini "Halloween" window card and production tables sell at auction

Today's Potter and Potter Online Magic Auction saw the sale of two interesting Houdini lots for reasonable prices. First up was an original window card for Houdini's "3 Shows in One" which went for $2,200 on a $1,500 - $2,500 estimate.

I've always been intrigued by this particular poster artwork, which was used by Houdini during his final tour in 1926. The style is a dramatic departure from his other posters, and his use of Halloween iconography--witches, bats, owls--is eerily prescient. Of course, this tour would end with his sudden death on Halloween.

The second lot was a "Production Birdcage and Growth of Flowers Table" said to have belonged to Houdini and later Hardeen (certified by Sid Radner). This was likely used in Houdini's "3 Shows in One", so it makes a nice companion to the poster. The colors even match! It sold for $3000, also on a $1,500 - $2,500 estimate.

The auction description explains in detail the table's workings, revealing the type of highly mechanical magic Houdini seemed to enjoy. But whenever I see something like this, I can't help but think of the quote by Chicago magician Vic Torsberg: "Houdini's magic was just a bunch of junk. You know, that push-button German crap. That's what he performed."

Below are links to some more examples of Houdini's eerie "Halloween" style 3 Shows in One poster.



  1. Harry's magic did indeed look like it came out of Hoffman's Modern Magic. Orson Welles also mentioned something similar to Vic's quote. The magic was German made crap that didn't rely on sleeves, since HH had yanked them off after his entrance. The Welles quote might have come from Jim Steinmeyer's book Art and Artifice.

    1. John Gaughan has a Houdini production table that I was able to take a good look at. It's very mechanical, but also very good quality. Would not call it "crap"...unless you just don't care for that type of magic. But you can see how it appealed to Houdini. Both to his mechanical mind and his affinity for magic history in which so many classics where mechanical. I'm sure he saw these as cutting edge and part of a tradition.

  2. It was surprising to some, that the Houdini window card, which was fairly uncommon, sold for a relatively low $2,200, while 9 small photos pertaining to, "Alexander-The Man Who Knows", sold for $2,600, and Alexander, wasn't even in most/all of them.

    1. I wish I would have made a try for that window card. I expected it to shoot up past 4K at the end so I didn't even watch.

  3. Thanks for this interesting post; what a great window card. Makes me think of those Halloween witch cutouts used in a few scenes in the 1953 HOUDINI film. I always thought they were an intriguing accent and a rather unusual choice on the part of the film's set designer. Perhaps this and the related posters were the inspiration for those. Eerily prescient indeed.


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