Thursday, April 30, 2020

Patrick Culliton clarifies the price and purpose of Houdini–the Key

Patrick Culliton's Houdini–the Key is now sold out (but not impossible to still acquire, as you'll see below). Patrick has kept the book "in print" for 10 years to ensure those who wanted it as a research tool could always get it. (He was disappointed when his earlier work, Houdini Unlocked, was quickly bought up in bulk by collectors and speculators.) Patrick is using this moment to clarify his approach to producing and selling this important work:

"Ten years ago my book Houdini--the Key was published by me (and written, illustrated, and created, page by page, by me). 
I didn't want to print a big number of books because I considered it a book for the few, not the many. It did involve magic secrets and there are some good ones in there. I had a plan in case they all sold out. I printed 278 books, then, when it became obvious they were all going to sell, I did a second printing, without changing any of the contents, of 113 books. 
Because I didn't want my book taken over by scalpers -- it is a rare book. It's in the Rare Books Collection at the Library of Congress. It's well-made with a cover that I created that is eye-grabbing and contains little clues for serious Houdini aficionados. It has a slipcase in matching heavy duty library buckram. I knew if it got out of my hands it would completely sell out very fast. I had made a collectible, but, I didn't want collectors to have it if they weren't going to read it. I wanted people to have the book who would use it. 
So, now, ten years down the road. I have sold every one of the 391 numbered copies of Houdini--the Key
I limited the book to one per customer and I have the name and contact information of every person who bought one. Since each book was numbered, I have a complete list of the people who bought the book and which number they got. 
A bunch of my Magical heroes are on that list. And there hasn't been a single complaint."

A serious inaccuracy about the price of the book appears in Joe Posnanski's recent book The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini. In the book the author states that he acquired the book from Patrick for $295. But this was never a price Patrick charged anyone.

"I published the book at $195.00 and I sold every book on the list for $195.00 (except the ones I sold to some very fortunate -- and canny -- folks who trusted me with their money and got an advance price). That includes the book I sold Joe Posnanski. Joe is given to hyperbole "J. Gordon Whitehead was a great big guy -- 6 ft. 6" -- and in his book, he makes quite a bit out of meeting me at the Magic Castle and paying me $295.00 for my book. He didn't. Joe bought #36 of the second printing from me for the same price everybody else did: $195. 
So for Joe to write that I charged him $295 is particularly hurtful."

But Patrick has good news for those who may have missed out in the run of 391 copies:

"But, sorry scalpers, I've got thirty books that were intended for libraries that I decided I wouldn't sell to libraries (the ones that count have them). They are available to serious students at the original price of $195.00. The book is still available, brand new and beautiful, for a few more months (or possibly years if they are slow to sell)."

So head over to and send Patrick an inquiry about purchasing one of the last 30 copies of Houdini--the Key.



  1. I have found Pat to be a wonderful friend for over 30 years. He and John are certainly the two most knowledgeable persons living today that know the facts about Houdini. Pat is always on-point and honest with his intentions. He may rub some folks the wrong way but that is only because they "want" something from him. If you just want to sit and talk Houdini, he's your guy. He's especially great to enjoy a meal with. Trust me, he'll do all the talking and you'll be left gob-smacked with history. I once enjoyed eating with him at a buffet where I saw him eating 30 pcs of bacon...and then he went back for more. His own posting here shows he's a real mensch.

  2. I feel very fortunate to own The Key and recently I bought the two box set unlocked. I absolutely love that they are so rare. Its a such a thrill to read these and know you are amongst just a small group of true Houdini enthusiasts, magicians and historians that have had the pleasure of learning things about Houdini that few will ever know. I wouldn't have ever known these books existed if not for wild about Harry. Thank you for that John!

  3. I just purchased a copy and have to say - Wow! It does read like a text book and you can see that a lot of work went into it. It's a beautiful book.