Thursday, October 31, 2019

Did Houdini see his mother's ghost?


Here's a new story to conclude our special Halloween week of GHOST POSTS. I don't believe this is mentioned in any biography, and it's pretty wild. Did Houdini see his mother's ghost at the time of her death?

The following comes from the 1932 book Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship by Bernard M.L. Ernst and Hereward Carrington.

It is true that certain odd incidents occurred in his life, but these he was always inclined to "explain away" by that blessed word—coincidence! Thus, he narrated to the editors of this book how he saw a vivid apparition of his mother, the very night she died—he being in Germany at the time, and she in New York. (He was quite unaware of her illness.) This he acknowledged as really happening, but he put it down to coincidence—quite ignoring the fact that "coincidences" of the type had long since been mathematically proved far too numerous to account for in this manner.

Bernard Ernst was Houdini lawyer and close confidant and can be considered a trusted source. (Carrington less so.) So if Ernst says Houdini said this, then Houdini said this! What I wouldn't give to learn more details.

Hope you enjoyed my week of GHOST POSTS. Yes, this was a gimmick, but as you can see below, Houdini himself understood that the power of the word "Ghosts" to get ones attention. Especially on Halloween.


Remembering
HARRY HOUDINI
on the
93rd ANNIVERSARY 
OF HIS DEATH
October 31, 1926

Related:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Was there a ghostly occurrence during the live 1987 Houdini seance?

Continuing my special Halloween week of resurrected GHOST POSTS, here's a post from November 16, 2012 that explores a strange claim that Houdini at least tried to come back from the grave in 1987, and on live television.


In 1987 The Official Houdini Seance was incorporated into a live television special hosted by William Shatner called, The Search for Houdini. Essentially, it was a magic variety show featuring performers like The Pendragons and Penn & Teller, with the conclusion of the show being that year's Official Seance held by Sidney Radner. As always, Houdini failed to appear.

Or did he?

Mark Alberto Holt, who worked behind the scenes doing lighting effects, has come forward with a remarkable story. Mark posted the following comment on my blog about the Seance back in February and has allowed me to repost it here. Here's Mark's story:

"I was there doing the special lighting effects. One such effect was lighting inlaid into the seance table with plexi glass over the top for dramatic effect on each person around the table. During rehearsals it was determined to bring the levels of the lights down from 70% full to 25%. Just perfect for that glow effect up the faces. So starts the seance. I was told that the people around the table were relatives of Houdini and seance experts. This part of the show was not scripted. (I still have Shatner's script). Towards the end of the seance, one end of the plexi glass started to warp, Live on TV. This must have raised 6 inches above the table. It could not have been from the heat of the lights under. They were barely on. Producers screamed to go to commercial. The people at the table wanted to continue do to the fact there was a sign. Mr. Shatner had no choice other than to listen to the producers and go to commercial. I left the lighting board that was in the audience and dashed on stage. There was shear Chaos on the stage. The plexi was cool but it was lifted. The crew started clearing the stage and the screams from Houdini's family rang through the theater to continue the seance. That was the last anyone spoke of this. I was there and so was Harry."

I recorded the seance and still have the VHS in my collection. Below is the moment during the seance when they abruptly went to commercial. While I can't see any phenomena myself, you can see that Sidney Radner starts to look to the left end of the table as they cut to Shatner at 0:44.



When the show returned from commercial, the seance had wrapped up with each Inner Circle member expressing their doubt that Houdini would or could return.

The inner circle that year was made up of: Sidney Radner, Marie Blood, James Randi, John Gaughan, Henry Mueller, Todd Everett (L.A. Herald Examiner reporter), and William Shatner. The medium was Bob Steiner.

Maybe someone can come forward and corroborate Mark's strange tale?


Related posts:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The ghost Houdini couldn't explain

Continuing my special Halloween week of resurrected GHOST POSTS, here's an updated post from August 10, 2014 about a manifestation that even Houdini couldn't explain. If we believe him.

On April 11, 1923, Houdini visited the First Spiritualist Temple in Los Angeles to investigate a ghostly phenomena that had drawn recent headlines. A well-known spiritualist, Mrs. Mary Fairfield McVickers, stated that when she died a photo should be taken of her casket at 5 o'clock on the day of her funeral and that she would appear. A year later she died, and a photograph was taken precisely as requested during her funeral at the First Spiritualist Temple on March 23, 1923. Sure enough, on the photo appeared several smudges of light that resembled faces hovering near her coffin.


Houdini was well aware of how "spirit photographs" were created using double exposure, and he believed this is what conjured the funeral ghosts. But he would give the spirits another chance. He travelled to the church with with photographer Nathan B. Moss of the Keystone Press Illustration Service. He brought along a sealed package of 14 photographic plates purchased from the local Kodak representatives, Howland & Dewey. To ensure no tricky, he asked a stranger who was standing next to him at the counter, a Mr. Mat Korn, to select the package from the store's stock.

Under the exact same conditions as the McVickers photo, Houdini had Moss take ten photos of the alter (and a few of himself examining the church). Houdini and Moss then traveled to the Chamber of Commerce Building to develop the images using their dark room.

Nine photos contained nothing. But one photo contained a mysterious streak of light across the same black curtain where the McVickers "astral projections" had appeared. Even Houdini was forced to admit: "I cannot say that this is a spirit photograph of Mrs. McVickers, nor can I deny it. Photographers who examined the plate declare that the negative was flawless and that nothing was on it to cause this white figure. I am having the plates sent to Rochester for a final examination."


Houdini also sent the photo to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his opinion. Surprisingly, the man who was taken in entirely by the Cottingley Fairies photos expressed skepticism. "I am by no means convinced that it is a psychic effect," Doyle wrote back to Houdini. "The plate may have been scratched in some way–indeed the way the the line broadens out at the end suggests a scratch."

Houdini historian Patrick Culliton suggests Houdini may have faked the photo to draw attention to a lecture he would be giving that same week at the Hillstreet Theater (this was one of his first on the topic of fraudulent mediums). Publicity for Houdini's lecture did play up that he would discuss the mystery photo, and having the bystander pick out the plates does feel suspiciously like a magic trick. But would Houdini really want to launch his career as a serious psychic investigator by perpetuating his own fraud?

Houdini never discovered (or admitted) what caused the mysterious light streak, and it remains the one spiritualistic phenomena that he admittedly couldn't explain.


The First Spiritualist Temple still stands today at 906m E. 23rd St. The inside has been renovated so location of where the photo was taken in no longer identifiable. However, the outside remains almost exactly as it appeared when Houdini visited in 1923 and might have had his one true encounter with a spirit.


Visit Patrick Culliton's website Houdini's Ghost to read newspaper accounts and Houdini's own written testimonials about exactly what happened that day at The First Spiritualist Temple of Los Angeles.

Come back tomorrow at 1:26 PM for another GHOST POST.

Related:

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Ghost of Harry Houdini

Here's a well done video by Caitlin Jane to kick off my special Halloween week of "Ghost Posts." She might not have all her facts straight, I'm all for bloggers and YouTubers who take on Houdini as a topic, and who doesn't love a ghost story!


Stay tuned for more Houdini "Ghost Posts" from the past resurrected every day at 1:26 PM (the exact time of Houdini's death) just to spook you.

Related:

Sunday, October 27, 2019

All this week: GHOST POSTS

It's that time of year when ghosts and goblins reign supreme and seances are all the rage. So to celebrate the season and the 93rd anniversary of Houdini's death, I'm devoting this Halloween week to "Ghost Posts". These will be ghost-related posts from the past resurrected for your spooky enjoyment. All posts will appear at the exact time of Houdini's death: 1:26 PM.  Just like this one did.

I'm spooked already.

Halloween happenings at the Houdini Museum in Scranton

Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz at the Houdini Museum in Scranton will be marking the 93rd anniversary of Houdini's death with two special events.

The first will their annual Original Houdini Seance on Halloween. They will actually hold TWO seances this year; one at 1:26pm, the exact time of Houdini's death, and the other at 7:30pm, the time of his last show. They will offer free snacks and show clips from The Grim Game starting at Noon and 6:00pm. Both seances are free "as wife Bess wanted them."

The following day, November 1, the museum will host author Joe Posnanski for a signing and reading of his new book The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini. Dorothy and Dick and the Houdini Museum feature in the book. The building facade is even pictured on the endpapers. This event takes place at 7:00pm.

Scranton's Houdini Museum is located at 1433 N. Main Ave. For more information visit their website.

Related:

Joe Posnanski and Joshua Jay in New York, Oct. 29

Author Joe Posnanski and magician Joshua Jay will be appearing at The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City this Tuesday, October 29 at 6:30pm.

We are excited to host a very special event, right before Halloween, no less, featuring a book talk and a magician. Joe Posnanski will be here to sign and discuss his latest book, THE LIFE AND AFTERLIFE OF HARRY HOUDINI and he will be joined by magician and performer Joshua Jay.

For more information and to pre-order a signed copy visit The Mysterious BookshopClick here for a full list of Joe's upcoming book tour appearances.

Related:

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Houdini portrait signed in German fetches $7,200

A beautiful 1900 portrait photo of Houdini signed in German to his friend and Chicago-based magic dealer August Roterberg sold today in Potter and Potter's "Magic Collection of Rudiger Deutsch: Part 1" auction for $7,200.00 (including buyers premium).

What might be most surprising about this is how unsurprising that price is. Even though it blew away the auction estimate of $2,500 - $3,500, we seem to be moving into a time when even unsigned photos are touching $3000.

What makes this one extra special is the inscription in German. You don't see this too often. I also love that it's dated April 6, 1901, his 27th birthday, which was not mentioned in the auction description. Houdini signed this while he was playing the Hansa Theater in Hamburg, Germany.

Related:

You can still get Houdini The Key by Patrick Culliton

If you've read Joe Posnanski's The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini then you are now keenly aware of Houdini The Key by Patrick Culliton (and Houdini's Ghost). Joe spends a good chunk of his own book in search of this all-important work that reveals Houdini's most closely guarded secrets, including the Water Torture Cell.

But Joe made a few mistakes. First, the slipcase and cover of the book is not made of vinyl. It's made of a "bulletproof library cloth" called buckram. (That looks a lot like vinyl!) But more importantly, the book is not as hard to get as Joe believed. Patrick initially produced only 278 copies. But as those sold out, he quietly produced another 113, available only to those who missed the first run. Some of those are still available to buy direct from Patrick for the cover price of $195 (plus $12 postage), which is well below what the book sells for in auction. And Patrick will even sign it for you!

So if want Houdini The Key all you need to do is CLICK HERE.

Related:

Have an ENCOUNTER with Houdini in Chattanooga

"Paranormal magician" Zeke Powerz will host a special Houdini Halloween event at the historic Read House Hotel in downtown Chattanooga. Not only will Zeke hold a seance, but he promises "artifacts that were owned and used by the late Houdini" will be on display. Below is the full press release:

The intrigue of Harry Houdini has continued to persist throughout the world well after his death. On October 31, 2019, paranormal magician Zeke Powerz will be looking to contact Houdini and reach him well into the afterlife. 
Zeke Powerz will be hosting the special event “Encounters…An Evening With the Spirit of Houdini” on October 31 at the Read House Hotel in Chattanooga. 
The historic hotel is believed to be haunted and is the ideal place to aim to reach a person who has long since been deceased. The hotel is in the heart of Chattanooga on 107 West Martin Luther King Boulevard and has been an intriguing site in the city for more than 130 years. The site may also be an ideal environment to reach Houdini in. 
Zeke Powerz is an intriguing paranormal magician who aims to find people from the afterlife. He looks to encounter them and always focuses on producing the best possible environment for reaching such people. His attempt to find Houdini at the Read House Hotel will be one of the most intriguing efforts he has put in throughout his life. 
The strong work being planned by Zeke Powerz will require plenty of concentration and effort. But the end result will entail contact with one of the most iconic illusionists in history. By reaching Harry Houdini, Zeke Powerz will be able to get the famed person to escape the chains of the afterlife. 
Various Houdini artifacts will be on display at the event. The artifacts include many items that were owned and used by the late Houdini. 
Tickets are available for $20 in advance or $25 at the door, but thirteen VIP packages are available for $50. Doors open at 7pm, and the show will start promptly at 7:30pm. 
Due to the intense and emotional nature of the event, children under the age of 13 are not allowed to attend. The event is not recommended for those who are recently bereaved or those sensitive to paranormal artifacts.

Additional details on the event can be found online at paranormalmagician.com. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.

Related:

Friday, October 25, 2019

Houdini lives in Pasadena

On Wednesday I had the pleasure interviewing The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini author Joe Posnanski at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, CA. It was a terrific event with a great turn out.

I had teased "a very special magic guest." That guest was none other than the mighty Mike Caveney! Yes, the self-proclaimed "#1 Houdini hater" came out to talk Houdini and it made the event all the better. Joe joked that we were the angel and devil on his shoulders.

After the event, Mike invited us to see his famous Egyptian Hall Museum. This is the first time I had ever seen his collection and it's a mind blower! And it turns out the "#1 Houdini hater" has some pretty sensational Houdini items, including an original poster for Houdini's "3 Shows in One" in Harrisburg that I've never seen before. (Harrisburg was the final stop for his 1925-26 tour.) So it was a Houdini-filled night in good old Pasadena.

Thank you Joe. Thank you Mike. And thanks to everyone who came out to see us.

Click here to see the full list of Joe's upcoming appearances. The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini can be purchased at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Related:

Bill Martin brings Houdini to Roswell

Bill Martin will be giving his unique Houdini talk and performance tomorrow (Oct. 26) at 2:00 PM at the Roswell Public Library in Roswell, New Mexico. Below are details:

This presentation will include a discussion of the incredible life and times of Houdini, the greatest magician, escape artist and showman of his time. Bill Martin will appear as be believes Houdini would return today; as the "GREAT and MAGNIFICENT SWAMI SALAMI." A magic show and discussion will follow. Throughout the show, you will learn how the Jewish kid from Budapest became known as the "the great self-liberator" to the new American immigrants, and how his dangerous escapes became metaphors for their personal freedom and newfound belief in themselves. Escapes will be demonstrated.

Bill Martin is a magician, escapeologist, and retired Naval Aviator. He has been a Golden Gloves boxer, carnival wrestler, hardrock miner, tractor mechanic, and nightclub entertainer. He has performed Houdini’s famous Milk Can escape on national television.

The Roswell Public Library is located at 301 N. Pennsylvania. For more information call (575) 622-7101 or visit their website.

Related:

Thursday, October 24, 2019

LINK: Houdini on the Meaning of Flying Saucers

I just stumbled on this interesting post from 2018 at the blog The Saucers That Time Forgot (The Murky and Quirky History of UFOs). Yes, it's Houdini giving his opinion on UFOs from the beyond the grave. And Joe Dunninger is also involved.

It's a little hard to explain, so I'd recommend clicking the headline link and heading out of this world.

Related:

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Photos from The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini launch event

Here are a few photos from Monday's The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini launch event at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles (the heart of Houdini's downtown). On hand were author Joe Posnanski and actor comedian Nick Offerman sporting a most excellent David Copperfield t-shirt.


Across the street the lights were ablaze inside the Alexandria Hotel ballroom where Harry and Bess celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1919. Houdini was alive this night!


TONIGHT I will be interviewing Joe Posnanski and a very special magic guest star at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. The event starts at 7:00 PM and is free. Hope to see you there.

The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini can be purchased at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. [Amazon links earn a commission and support Wild About Harry.]

Related:

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Conan Doyle did not believe a punch killed Houdini

Today marks the 93rd anniversary of Houdini being punched in the stomach by J. Gordon Whitehead in the dressing room of the Princess Theater in Montreal. Even though Houdini's doctors concluded that his fatal appendicitis was caused by the blows, today many question that diagnosis, thinking Houdini must have been suffering from the disease prior to the incident on October 22. The debate continues.

Recently I was surprised to discover that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle offered up his own medical opinion in a 1929 letter to Houdini biographer Harold Kellock:

"Now, I will take what you say about Houdini's death. So far as the prophecy goes, what the cause of the death was is quite immaterial. My remark about the alleged cause being probably apocryphal is due to the fact that, as a doctor, I should not think it possible that gangrene of the appendix could result from an outside blow of the fist. If so, one would expect many of our boxers to die in that way, since such blows are common. I have no doubt at all that Houdini died as the doctors said, but what the cause of the gangrene was is quite another matter. However, as I say, the cause of the death is immaterial. What is material is that the prophecies were fulfilled."

The prophecies Doyle is referring to were those predictions from mediums who claimed Houdini's denouncement of the supernatural while being supernatural himself (or so Doyle believed) were angering the spirits and would bring about his "doom." So Conan Doyle did believe that.

For more punch talk on this Punch Day, check out the links below.

Related:

Monday, October 21, 2019

REVIEW: A Houdini book for everyone

To date there have been more than 160 non-fiction books written about Houdini, and just as many that feature Houdini in fictional adventures. There have been books devoted to his entire life, to his psychology, and even to a single trick. So one can pretty much find a Houdini book to suit ones needs...as long as you don't mind sifting through some 300+ titles.

Or you can just read one book, The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski. Because this is the first Houdini book that will appeal to everyone. And I mean everyone. If you love Houdini and think you know it all, this book will give you new insights. If you hate Houdini and have had enough of him already, you will find support and ammunition for your hatred. And if you just want to see what all the fuss is about, this book will tell you everything you need to know and just might hook you into Houdini World. And with the author's breezy observational style, it's just a great read!

The key here is that Joe Posnanski is an honest broker who approaches his subject as an outsider. He's also a sports writer with keen reporter instincts and an understanding of human nature and fame. The result is one of the most honest Houdini books ever written, one that treats Houdini mythology and biography with refreshing transparency. You always know where you stand with Joe. There's no manipulation of Houdini history for his own gain, no conspiracy theories or pseudo-history. Joe always lets the reader know when he's relating a myth, fact, or something that seems to exist in-between. In this way he's able to leave no compelling Houdini story untold, but also leaves no confusion in his wake. Bravo.

But one should understand going in that Joe is not out to break new ground as far as Houdini's life story is concerned. This is not a strict biography (although it still works as one and is factually solid). His real goal is to discover why Houdini continues to fascinate today. So a lot of this book is Joe's personal journey into "Houdini World", as he calls it. Along the way he meets a cast of characters both famous and unknown, including: David Copperfield, Jim Steinmeyer, Mike Caveney, Joshua Jay, Dorothy Dietrich, Dick Brookz, Jen Kramer, Andrew Basso, Jamy Ian Swiss, Kristen Johnson, Lee Terbosic, Juan Tamariz, Eric Mead, Paul Cosentino, Joe Notaro, myself, and most significantly, Patrick Culliton.

The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini is really a search for two enigmatic men; Houdini and Patrick Culliton. Patrick is a big part of this book. It even opens with a quote from him. Patrick has made no secret of the fact that he doesn't like his portrayal in the book. (Pat would like us all to know the cover of his book Houdini The Key is made of buckram, not vinyl.) But I think the book works beautifully as a tribute to this greatest of all Houdini historians and remarkable man. There's no "afterlife" of Harry Houdini without Patrick Culliton.

Some other highlights. Joe's description of going through the late Ken Silverman's research papers at Appleton's History Museum gives a real feel for how Ken himself struggled to discover Houdini. Joe's overview of the various theories and arguments about how Houdini may have escaped from the Mirror Handcuffs (or not) offers the most definitive examination of this escape ever put in print. Mike Caveney's unbridled dislike of Houdini is, yes, a highligh! Mike is one of the greatest magic historians alive and his take on Houdini is important and valid. But Mike doesn't write much about Houdini. Now, thanks to this book, we have Mike Caveney talking Houdini on the record. I'm also thrilled with what isn't in the book. Houdini a spy? Joe addresses this with a single word: Silly.

But this wouldn't be a proper review without a few criticisms. The notion that Houdini was a magician of limited ability gets a bit overstated and never properly refuted (and it can be). Joe allows Joshua Jay to tell the story of the punch and Houdini's death, which feels too important and subjective to be covered by someone other than the author himself. And while not really a criticism as it's a standout and somewhat heart-stopping moment, Jim Steinmeyer's partial exposure of the Water Torture Cell might be misunderstood by the layperson. (Without revealing anything, know Houdini could do the Water Torture Cell without an assistant in the building.)

But I keep coming back to the honestly. As to Houdini's spiritualism debunking, Joe admits: "I can't lie: It bores me. I prefer the escapes. I'd rather talk about the magic." It's this level of candor that makes this such a refreshing read. For me it feels cathartic, a clearing of the air. Sometimes it takes an honest outsider to show you the world that you've been living in. Joe Posnanski is that man and The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini is that book. And it's for everyone.

The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini can be purchased at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Related:

Sunday, October 20, 2019

A Grim Game super rarity drops from the clouds

Here's a remarkable Grim Game collectible that literally fell into a lucky collector's lap in Australia. Noel from New South Wales sent me and Joe Notaro at Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence these images and his remarkable story:

"I discovered this heavy paper stock card (approx playing card size) advertising the first screening of the movie in Sydney at the Haymarket Theatre in 1920. I believe this would have been a card/flyer handed out to the public to get them to the cinema. I literally found this only yesterday by chance in an old diary I had bought at a market about 6 months earlier, and presume it was used as a bookmark or the like. As I was repacking some of my paper ephemera collectables into plastic tubs, it just fell out as I flicked the pages of the diary/journal of what appears to be diary of a road works workman. This may well be the only copy of this item?"

This is certainly the only one of these I've ever seen. I've also never seen this artwork and ad copy. And as it references a single day screening, I think this is an ultra rarity indeed.

Coincidentally, this was discovered two days before The Grim Game had a special screening at the Brisbane International Film Festival in Australia. "Houdini's message from the clouds"? Believe.

Thank you Noel for the share and congrats on the find!

Related:

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini Los Angeles launch events

Author Joe Posnanski will be in Los Angeles next week to participate in three events to mark the launch of his new book, The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini. Here's the rundown.

Monday, October 21
The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles will be the site of a special launch party event featuring Joe and actor and comedian Nick Offerman.

This is not only a terrific independent bookshop, but it also sits directly across the street from the Hotel Alexandria where Houdini celebrated his Silver Wedding Anniversary in 1919. It's also just a short walk to the Orpheum Theater (today the Palace) where Houdini had his famous encounter with Jess Willard, a story that opens Joe's book. So Houdini would feel right at home!

Admission is the price of the book itself. Tickets and details here.

Tuesday, October 22
This is the official release day and Joe will be doing a Writers Blok PLUS session in Culver City with former NBA player and soon-to-be novelist Paul Shirley. Ticket price includes a copy of the signed book. Click here for details.

Wednesday, October 23
I will be joining Joe for a discussion of the book at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. The event starts at 7:00 PM and this one is FREE. Hope to see you there!


Click here for a full list of Joe's upcoming book tour appearances. The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini can be purchased at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. [Amazon links earn a commission and support Wild About Harry.]

Related:

The category is Magic & Illusion

Always a treat when you-know-who shows up on Jeopardy! This one caught the attention of a certain author on Twitter.


Visit J! Archive to see the full board and all mentions of Houdini going back to 1986.

Related:

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Interview at Brookledge

Yesterday I had the pleasure of doing an interview about Houdini for an upcoming episode of The Unexplained. But the real thrill was that we did the interview at Brookledge in Hancock Park which afforded me my first visit to this historic magic location.

Brookledge was the home of magic manufacturer Floyd Thayer who built an adjoining showroom, workshop, and theatre that became known as the Thayer Magic Studio. In the 1930s it was a popular gathering place for magicians from all over the world. In 1942 Thayer sold Brookledge to the Larsen family and it continued to be a gathering place for magicians (yes, a place even more "inside" than the very inside Magic Castle). In 2009 Erika Larsen re-opened the theatre and studio as an invitation-only venue for variety arts performances known as the Brookledge Follies.

I didn't have a chance to see too much, but what I did see blew my mind. The walls are festooned with magic history that appears frozen in time. When I first entered I instantly spotted an original photo of Jacob Hyman in shackles that could have been put there by Hyman himself.

After the interview I had the pleasure of chatting with Erika who informed me Bess Houdini was a frequent visitor to Brookledge. She directed me to the below photo of Bess in same room where I have just done my interview. To think I had been sitting and talking about Houdini in a room where Bess Houdini once sat and may have reminisced herself. Now that's magic!


You can read more about Brookledge at the Huffington Post and LA Times.

Related:

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Official Houdini Seance to be held in Niagara Falls

This year's Official Houdini Seance will be held at the Rapids Theater in Niagara Falls, New York.

Please join us on October 31 at 7:30 pm for the Official Houdini Séance…right here at the haunted Rapids Theatre. Celebrate the life (and return?) of magician Harry Houdini. Enjoy an evening of mystery, magic & mentalism featuring Mentalist Kent Axell, Medium Jenn LeFevre, Magician Keith Randolph, along with Souls Gate Paranormal’s Scott and Deidre Emminger. 
Will the Spirits return? Find out at this unique and historic event!
Click to purchase tickets.

This is a great choice of location. Not only did Houdini film The Man From Beyond on the Niagara rapids, but for many years the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame stood on the Canadian side of the falls. The museum was the site of The Official Houdini Seance in 1968, 1976, and 1992.

The Official Houdini Seance is organized each year by Bill Radner and Tom Boldt.

Related:

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Mystifier, Fourth Quarter 1999

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 1999 Mystifier marks the opening of a new HHC exhibition, Houdini: A Magician Among the Spirits, with a lengthy article by curator Kimberly Louagie giving an overview of Houdini's involvement with Spiritualism. It's well researched and doesn't fall into any of the familiar narrative traps (no Mama death a motivator), but as with Louagie's other Mystifier contributions, it's aimed more at the general reader than the hardcore Houdini buff.

The newsletter continues with news of new posters at the museum shop and a report on the recent Young Magicians workshop held at the HHC. New HHC members and recent donors are also listed.

In his "Backstage" column, Sid Radner describes the 1999 Official Houdini Seance held at the Magic Circle in London. Among the attendees was Mick Hanzlik and Frank Koval. Sid then reports on the legal takedown of a Houdini family impostor:

As the result of a federal court case, the imposter who claimed to be a grand-nephew of Houdini will do so no longer. The alleged "Hardeen H. Houdini" is actually Donald Ferguson. The federal court has ordered him to stop making false claims and has ordered him to cease using the Houdini and Hardeen names. His website will be removed from the Internet. Houdini would no doubt be pleased, as he too fought imposters' use of his name.

Sid concludes with news that a new Houdini documentary produced by Nancy Porter Productions for WGBH will air as part of the PBS American Experience series in January 24, 2000. (If we all survive the "Millennium Bug"!)

Mystifier
Volume 9, Number 4
Fourth Quarter, 1999
6 pages

Contents:
New Houdini Exhibit
Museum Shop News
New Members
Young Magicians' Workshop
Backstage with Sid Radner


Related:

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Last Act of Harry Houdini

The Company O Theatre and The Cockpit in London will present a new play, The Last Act of Harry Houdini, from October 29 to November 2. The play is written and performed by Barry Killerby and directed by Ishwar Maharaj. It is part of the "Festival of Brexit: Inside a Mass Hallucination".

On October 21st, 1926, two strangers visited Houdini in his theatre dressing room. 
Ten days later, he was dead. 
Harry Houdini was a poor Hungarian Jewish immigrant who rose through the Vaudeville theatre circuit to become the greatest showman of the early twentieth century. If he was a pioneer of magic and illusion onstage, off stage he was a force of nature: an aviator in the first days of flight; a movie idol at the birth of cinema and the scourge of the new Church of Spiritualism. 
It was his extraordinary private life that sealed his fate. 
In this highly acclaimed production, the Master Magician is forced to confront his obsessions with asylums and dance halls, movies and seances until finally revealing confidential show business secrets and the real motivation behind his death defying career. 
Somewhere, in this last act, is the answer to what killed the greatest escapologist of all time.

For more details and to buy tickets visit The Cockpit website.

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Jewish Museum Milwaukee screening The Master Mystery

As part of their Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini programing, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee will screen all the available episodes of Houdini's The Master Mystery. The serial will be shown in three parts on the third Thursday of each month, starting with the first five episodes this Thursday, October 17 at 5:30 PM.


For more information on the screenings and to view all their upcoming Houdini-related events (including a Halloween Seance), visit Jewish Museum Milwaukee's official website.

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini runs through January 5, 2020.


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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Theater owners review The Grim Game

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Houdini's The Grim Game going into wide release around the country. (It had played exclusive engagements in New York in August and Chicago in September.) Below is a collection of reviews from theater owners. These appeared in the trade journal Exhibitors Herald and offer a terrific time capsule of audience reactions. Enjoy!


And my favorite:


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