Monday, February 10, 2020

Fred Pittella follows Harry and Mama to Budapest

On a recent business trip to Germany, our great friend and Houdini collector Fred Pittella followed in the footsteps of Houdini and his mother by taking a side trip to Budapest, Hungary. Not only did Fred visit David Merlini's House of Houdini museum and the 7th district where Ehrich Weiss was born, he also stopped in at the still standing Royal Hotel (today the Corinthia Hotel). It was here in 1901 that Houdini famously rented the hotel's Palm Garden salon to hold a reception with relatives for his mother who came gowned in a dress made for Queen Victoria.

Fred sends us some photos and says, "You could just imagine Houdini walking down these stairs with his mother on his arm, all puffy chest a proud son."

"How my heart warmed to see the various friends and relatives kneel and pay homage to my mother, every inch a queen, as she sat enthroned in her heavily carved and gilded chair." - Houdini

While no photos of this famous reception survive (to my knowledge), it has been depicted in two Houdini biopics, The Great Houdinis (1976) and the Houdini Miniseries (2014).

Here's an image from Fred's collection capturing the real Harry, Mama, and Bess at this very time.

Thanks Fred!



  1. It is great to see the Royal Hotel. Thanks for sharing this Fred!

  2. Is that the black Queen Victoria dress Mama is wearing in that photo with Harry and Bess?

    1. I've always assumed it is. She also took a solo photo in it.

      BTW, someone told me she was buried in it, which I had actually never heard before. Forgot who told me. Might have been Jon Oliver.

  3. The bond I still have with my mom although, she is gone now, is understandable with the strong bond "Houdini" had with his mom. Our strong relationship with them is what "drives us to do well." Always want our mom's to be proud of us.

  4. Great post, John, and thank you, Fred, for sharing these details and the great photos. It's awesome to be able to associate a place still standing with an event so important to Houdini and Cecelia.