Saturday, June 13, 2020

Forty years ago in New Jersey

Today marks 40 years since the contents of 278 were auctioned off at a New Jersey estate sale that was the stuff of dreams for those lucky enough to have attended. Revisit my post from 2011 about...



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11 comments:

  1. That was an interesting comment by Anonymous: 278 had actually been cleaned out when Bess sold it, so the treasures "left behind" had belonged to Dunninger who wanted to sell it off. But he died in 1974 so the 1980 auction was years later. It may have been somebody else who dropped it off at 278 and wanted to remain unknown.

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    1. I'm not sure Anonymous has that correct. I don't believe 278 was "cleaned out." I believe the Bonannos allowed Bess to keep things in the basement, or Bess might have simply told them to keep what was there. There was a lot of furniture, etc. Magicians like Dunninger did take stuff, but not everything. THIS was the final cleaning out of the 278 basement when the Bonannos finally sold the house in 1980. And even then there was still Houdini stuff to be found in the house.

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    2. And as you say, Dunninger was dead in 1980 and so was Rose. So the idea that they were "secretly" behind this auction is kinda bonkers.

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    3. Yeah I believe Dunninger was dead by 1974. Jeff Busby published a photo in his Epoptica journal of him in bed with two other gentlemen standing close by. It was dated at 1974 and Dunninger looked like mummy. Really bad.

      Dick and Dorothy at the Houdni Museum in Scranton, Pa now own those two photographic portraits of HH's parents:

      http://www.houdini.org/upics-harry-houdini-attractions-pocono-poconos-scranton.html

      Hard to believe all those things stated behind in the basement. John, did the basement look huge when you visited 278?

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    4. I had always heard it was huge, so maybe I was expecting more. It's big. It runs the length of the house. But it didn't strike as being untypically large.

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    5. Culliton made the basement seem really large when he posted in the 2011 blog:

      Bess left a lot of stuff behind. She'd known the Bonnano family many years, and that is a huge house and in Houdini's day, it was crammed with stuff--all kinds of stuff that Houdini used or was interested in. The basement is almost half a city block long.

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  2. Seeing this again is a little like seeing the catalog from the legendary MGM auction when countless incredible movie props were sold, some of them for peanuts! (Still, I wonder how a 1915 New Jersey license plate ended up in 278! Maybe from one of the many family members who resided there through the years.)

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    1. But they never got the Houdini horseshoe! That remains hanging in the basement to this day.

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    2. Oh my gosh, I'm glad it's still there!

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  3. Dick and Dorothy, Houdini Museum, Scranton PA.
    It was a great auction. Besides those iconic huge gilded framed pictures of Houdini's mom and dad, which are a key part of our museum tour, we also got handcuffs, leg irons, books, booklets, printing plates, woodcuts, an antique clock, fancy mirror, tiffany type lamp, ceiling lamp, etc.

    Houdini Museum, Scranton PA
    The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini.

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    1. Would love to see that collection in a publication with nice photos.

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