Friday, March 20, 2020

Mystifier, Second Quarter 2001

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

The second quarter 2001 Mystifier is largely made up of an excellent article by HHC curator Kimberly Louagie about "Houdini in 1897." Along with the California Concert Co. she also includes the Houdinis time with Rogers' Orpheum Stars. This is not one of the better documented years in Houdini's life so this article is a treat.

The newsletter continues with the announcement that the HHC website will replace their mailed museum shop catalog (sign of the times). It then covers a recent documentary shoot by the Travel Channel at the center. New members include Bill Martin and Max Maven. Recent Fund Drive Donors are also listed.

Sid Radner begins his "Backstage" column with news that Tom Carrier's Mysteriarch Enterprises has taken over Norman Bigelow's Escape Masters and will relaunch the publication starting October 1, 2001. (Did this ever happen?) Sid then gives a shout out to the new Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton, and says his sources tell him the Houdini stamp "is closer to becoming a reality." He then alerts readers to a Houdini-related story in the December 2000 issue of Popular Science.

Sid closes by saying he's working with members of New York University's Center for Advanced Technology on a virtual museum devoted to Jewish culture. "One of these days I will get a computer and join the 21st century," says Sid.

Volume 11, Number 2
Second Quarter, 2001
6 pages

Houdini in 1897
Fund Drive Donors
Museum Shop News
Travel Channel Documentary Crew Films at HHC
Backstage with Sid Radner



  1. It looks like Kimberly began hitting her stride with those cover articles. And Radner still holding out about buying a PC and hooking up to the Internet. By 2001 it was already rumbling and I hopped on my virtual surfboard.

  2. Reading the front page content of Kimberly's article above, the following statement from the Houdinis' Dime Museum days caught my eye: "Houdini and his wife, Bess, performed ten to twenty shows a day, adding new tricks, singing, dancing and puppetry." I knew about the singing and dancing component, but puppetry too?! I wonder what it could have been. A trick puppet of some kind, perhaps (such as a juggling clown) or maybe a puppet appearing within a magic trick (e.g., out of a hat)? Who knows, but how fascinating to imagine what these early shows must have looked like. Certainly some of Houdini's contemporaries would have seen them (starting with Martin Beck). Thanks for the nice post.

    1. Beck didn't show up until 1899, by then the act might have evolved to some degree. Beck saw magic and escapes but the other material might have been dropped by then. Was HH working alone when Beck discovered him? Did Bess stay behind in New York that Spring 1899? After Beck signed HH he retained Metamorphosis so we know Bess was with him at that point.

    2. I've read that Harry and Bess would sometimes do a Punch & Judy show, so I expect it's a reference to that. I'm not sure where this info originally came from, likely Kellock.

    3. Oh yes, I do recall the Punch and Judy mention. Thanks for jogging my memory. Something traditional that could also help engage the kids.