Friday, December 31, 2021

Ron Cartlidge has passed away

We end the year with some sad news. Ron Cartlidge, who wrote the groundbreaking 2002 book, Houdini’s Texas Tours 1916 & 1923, passed away on December 12 at age 82.

Ron was a member of the I.B.M., The Magic Circle, and a Life Member of the S.A.M. He was Past President of S.A.M. Assembly #206 and served as the Chairman of the Austin World Famous Magic Auctions for 11 years.

I was happy to have met Ron at the Midwest Magic History Weekend in Marshall in 2015 (where the photo on the right was taken). I always looked to him as the go-to guy when it came to Houdini in Texas. It's even said that fellow Texan George W. Bush kept a copy of Ron's Houdini book in the White House.

Ron self-published two follow-ups to his Texas book: Houdini and the Ku Klux Klan (2005) and Houdini's Final Texas Tour (2010).

Ron is survived by his children, Justin and Jennifer. You can read his full obituary at the Austin-American Statesman.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Packing in 2021

It's time for me to take my year end break and put the final nail into 2021. Hopefully this year was better for folks than 2020. At least it was another great year for Houdini! Have a safe and happy holiday season. I will see you all in 2022.

2021 in Review:
January (34 posts)
February (24 posts)
March (27 posts)
April (29 posts)
May (28 posts)
June (22 posts)
July (22 posts)
August (22 posts)
September (25 posts)
October (31 posts)
November (26 posts)
December (14 posts)

Most Viewed New Post of 2021

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Houdini's "Triumphant Return" and farewell

I love captured images of Houdini street advertising. Not only do we sometimes get a look at Houdini posters that are long gone, but it's also fun to nail down the exact engagement and see where it might fit into the larger Houdini story. Below is a great example of both from the collection of Kevin Connolly.

This photo was taken on the streets of New York and the posters are advertising Houdini at the New York Hippodrome starting the week of June 1, 1925. Houdini had done a popular six-week run at the Hippodrome at the start of the year. Hence this is being promoted as his "Triumphant Return."

But this would also mark a farewell. This two-week run at the Hippodrome would be Houdini's very last engagement in vaudeville. The following season he would launch his own full evening show in legitimate theaters. It's also worth noting that Houdini (1953) star Tony Curtis was born in Brooklyn this very same week (on June 3). So this photo captures a lot!

Finally, the great old truck in this photo reminds me of the this set of toy cars released by Oxford Diecast to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Houdini's death in 2001. In fact, it looks like the red truck might actually be the same make.

Thanks to Kevin Connolly.


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Magic Castle unveils their new Houdini Séance

The Magic Castle in Hollywood has officially relaunched their popular Houdini seance as The Houdini Séance Experience. The seance shut down in 2018 for a total retooling which is now complete. Member reservations are now being accepted for 2022. They've also offered a first look at the completely redesigned Houdini Seance Room (below).

The Academy of Magical Arts is proud to present “The Houdini Séance” - Hollywood’s most famous and immersive theater experience, a Milt Larsen original, one-of-a-kind evening in the astonishing Houdini séance room at the Magic Castle®. We’ve prepared a sensational dining experience for you and your guests, and we’ve invited a world-class medium to sit at the table and conduct a special séance, an attempt to contact the great magician, Harry Houdini, who died on Halloween in 1926. You’ll witness dazzling artifacts from his amazing career; hear the story of his battles with fraud mediums, and enjoy an evening of magical mysteries with weird surprises that you’ll never forget.

I was lucky enough to get a preview of the new seance last month. I'm happy to report that it's a terrific overhaul with a wonderful new script by Jim Steinmeyer. There are some startling new high tech effects engineered by Spectral Motion. But the best old effects are also still in action. There are several celebrity voices worked into the new audio. I'm even part of the show announcing Houdini's appearance the Garrick Theater. The resident mediums have all worked up new "soft seance" pre-shows, and the entire evening is still very Houdini-centric, maybe even more so than the old seance.

I admit the new room will take me some time to warm up to. I've just had too many special experiences in the old room to not feel its loss. Some key artifacts have vanished. But others remain; including a set of three postcards Houdini sent to his sister from Europe. Yes, portraits of Houdini's arch foes, Walter, Margery, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle now share the space. But that's all part of the show.

You can get full details and pricing for The Houdini Séance Experience at the Academy of Magical Arts website.


Monday, December 13, 2021

Houdini's lost top hat is found

Our friend Roger Dreyer from Houdini Revealed (formally the Houdini Museum of New York) shares with us a remarkable new acquisition with a great story behind it. Gaze below at Houdini's top hat!

Roger purchased this hat from James F. Green (aka Mr. G The Magician) who bought it from magician and author Burling Hull in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Hull told Green a curious story of how he acquired it. He was at an S.A.M. banquet in New York with Houdini also in attendance (he did not provide the year). Hull asked Bess Houdini to dance with him, which she did. Hull was a handsome man...too much so for Houdini. The jealous Houdini marched out and retrieved Bess and left the event in a huff. In doing so, he left his top hat behind. Hull chased after them to return the hat, but he failed to catch up to them so he kept the hat for himself.

The dancing with Bess episode was written up by Bev Bergeron in the March 2007 Linking Ring ("A Dance with Bess: The Tricks, Tales, and Trials of Burling Hull"). According to Bergeron, Houdini later apologized when he leaned who Hull was and offered up Bess as a dancing partner at their next S.A.M. gathering. But it appears Hull did not offer up the hat!

Hearing this story I was immediately reminded of the below item from Motion Picture News about, yes, Houdini losing his hat at an S.A.M. banquet in 1922.

This is Boston, not New York, so this could be another S.A.M. event and another hat. But this is all great stuff and another terrific addition to Roger Dreyer's amazing collection.

William Lindsay Gresham's 'Nightmare Alley'

This Friday Searchlight Pictures releases a new film adaptation of Nightmare Alley starring Bradley Cooper. What's this have to do with Houdini? If you don't know, I'll tell you after the trailer.

Nightmare Alley was a bestselling novel written by William Lindsay Gresham in 1946. Gresham also penned Houdini The Man Who Walked Through Walls in 1959. In fact, Nightmare Alley is mentioned on the cover of the first U.S. hardcover edition (below).

Is this enough of a Houdini connection to see the movie? I don't know, but it looks pretty good!

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Coney Island's oldest building demolished

A distressing report from our friends at Coney Island History Project. No doubt Harry and Bess Houdini would have known this building well.

The responsible party is Joe Sitt's Thor Equities who also demolished the historic Henderson Theater building where Houdini performed in 1915. It's heartbreaking to see Houdini's Coney Island being wiped away by developers who don't seem to care about history.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Deconstructing Houdini '53: Wedding night

Today I continue my scene by scene dissection of Paramount's 1953 biopic Houdini, in which I attempt to make the case that it's much more historically accurate than it is given credit. And anything else that comes to mind. Last time Harry and Bess finally connected at Tony Pastor's. Today we join them on their...

Chapter 5: Wedding Night

Just as in real life, the courtship of Harry and Bess in Houdini (1953) is a short one. Whereas the real Houdinis dated for around four days before tying the knot, in the movie it appears to happen all in one night! But they are meant to be and we got a lot of life to cover, so...

The wedding night sequence starts off with a nice visual beat in which Harry guides his new bride to his family home. Bess assumes they will be ascending the stairs of a handsome brownstone. But Harry shakes his head and guides her down to a basement level dwelling. Rich he ain't!

Not wanting to wake his mother, Harry attempts to sneak Bess into his bedroom. But it doesn't work. Mama, played by Angela Clarke, catches the young couple who then scramble, unsuccessfully, to explain themselves. Clarke was only 44 when she starred in Houdini. The real Cecelia Weiss was 53 when her son got married. Clark is actually a better age match than some succeeding mamas who tended to be portrayed as elderly from the start (most notably Ruth Gordon in The Great Houdinis). Clarke's mama is welcoming of her new daughter-in-law, which is also true of the real Cecelia Weiss.

One of the most interesting aspects of this scene is what can be seen in the background. Look closely and one can spot no less than two Menorahs, thus establishing Harry as Jewish. We've already discussed how Bess's introduction suggests a Catholic school (which is again mentioned here), so the mixed faith marriage of the Houdinis is indeed part of this film...if you look hard enough.

After mama gives her blessing, we dissolve to Harry's bedroom where a sleeping Bess is startled awake by Harry, in pajamas, bringing out a large box. He insists that Bess climb into it. Both actors are exceptional in this moment, almost seeming to ad lib some of their playful dialogue. Once Bess is locked inside, Harry retrieves a large saw and announces, "I'm going to saw you in half."

The famous Sawing in a Woman in Half illusion, as presented here, was first performed by Horace Goldin in 1921. It caused a sensation and ignited controversy over who invented the effect (which is covered in Mike Caveney's acclaimed new book, 100 Years of Sawing). Putting this in the hands of Harry Houdini in the 1890s is a howling anachronism, although Houdini would eventually perform his own version of this effect in 1926 called "Slicing a Girl in Eight."

However, the idea of showing a nascent Houdini working on an effect that would become a classic of magic is entirely accurate. That trick was Metamorphosis. But the Sawing works great here to terrify Bess, which is also true of their early life. In Houdini His Life Story Bess relates at least two stories about how her new husband frightened her with his magic tricks and strange behaviors. He would then soothe her by showing her the secrets, which is exactly what we see play out here in the movie.

While there is no account of what the real Harry and Bess did on their wedding night (I can make a guess), this classic scene became a template for later biopics with events playing out in a very similar manner. In The Great Houdinis (1976) Sally Struthers ends up handcuffed to Harry. In the Houdini Miniseries (2014) Kristen Connolly finds herself locked in a trunk.

Harry: Was it so awful?
Bess: No, but I expected something different on my wedding night.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Meet Paul Michael Glaser in Anaheim, Dec. 18

Paul Michael Glaser will be appearing at the MUZEO Museum and Cultural Center in Anaheim, California, on December 18. He will be reading from his Christmas-themed family novel, Chrystallia and the Source of Light, and exhibiting a collection of his artwork.

Of course, we know PMG as Houdini from the 1976 television biopic The Great Houdinis!

Tickets are $60 and can be purchased at the MUZEO website. A percentage of all ticket, book and art sales will benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Houdini's great wall

While browsing photos at the online archive IMAGO, I spotted this shot of Houdini in Los Angeles that I've never seen before. 

You may recognize this as Houdini atop a large wall that appears in several stills from The Grim Game. The wall does not appear in the movie itself, so it's unclear if this was a cut scene or if the wall was just used to stage these "action" shots.

You'll notice Houdini is having his feet tied in this new image (is that Jim Collins doing the tying?). I'm wondering if this is how he pulled off the shot that shows him holding co-star Ann Forrest.

In 2015 the great Los Angeles locations sleuth John Bengtson identified this as being the retaining wall that fronted the old County Court House on what was then New High Street in downtown L.A. If there was any doubt about this, this new pic confirms it as you can see the court house behind Harry.

The old court house is long gone, but John did point out that some people believe part of the retaining wall remains on current corner of Temple and Spring. You can see that below. Thinking back on those times I've done jury duty in this building, I never knew I was passing in front of Houdini's great wall!

Thanks to John Bengtson.

UPDATE: Another photo mystery solved at this same site. Check out Locating Houdini's lion.

Monday, December 6, 2021

LINK: Magic in the Walls of 502 Broadway

The website
SoHo Broadway Initiative takes a look Houdini's connection to the building at 502-504 Broadway in SoHo, New York. Don't know what that connection is? Click the headline link and find out! 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

All business

Here's a portrait photo of Houdini you don't see too often. There is a more famous photo taken during this same session that shows Houdini smiling. But here he is all business. This comes from the January 1927 Spanish movie magazine, Cine-Mundial.

While most associate these photos with Houdini's Hollywood days and date them as 1919, I recently found this image used in a 1918 movie magazine. So it appears these were taken in New York and mark some of the first portraits taken of Houdini with his cut and dyed hair and without his mourning suit (yes, I still believe my theory). 

Friday, December 3, 2021

Cypress Lakes High School presents The Last Illusion

The theater department of Cypress Lakes High School in Katy, Texas, is putting on the popular Houdini play, The Last Illusion. The students debuted the show last night. There are three performances left on December 3 and 4. Break a leg, kids!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Overshadowed shines on Hardeen

Overshadowed is a comedy podcast that looks at "the siblings of people who changed the world." Guess who's the subject of Episode 5?

NYC comics Zach Russell and Charles Engle talk about Houdini's thick-dicked brother, Theo, try to start a viral conspiracy about Charles' foot, and debate whether Houdini was the Chris Angel "Mindfreak" of the 1900's. 
Click to listen on PodBean or YouTube

Below are links to a few topics the guys riff on.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Title card for Houdini's Merveilleux Exploits (1909)

Recently while scanning through some video tapes from the Manny Weltman collection, I spotted this image. The quality is poor and it only lasted a few frames, but it still knocked me out! That's because this appears to be the original title card for Houdini's 1909 film The Marvelous Exploits of Houdini in Paris. I've never seen this among any of the surviving fragments of that film. I love that it features the Statue of Liberty.

Houdini made Marvelous Exploits for Cinema Lux in Paris in 1909. This was his first foray into narrative film and it shows Houdini in his prime. With the discovery of this title card, I can now say with confidence that the complete film does exist; but in disassembled fragments of varying quality. Still, a restoration is possible.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Purchase David Muller's 'Growing Up With Houdini'

The book Growing Up With Houdini, David Muller's wonderful remembrance of his family and the creation of the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame, can now be purchased directly from the official website There you can also see some incredible pics, such as the below photo of Sidney Radner and Walter B. Gibson with a familiar Houdini prop.

Growing Up With Houdini tells the story of how the Muller family fled the Nazis and their native Slovakia to settle in Niagara Falls, Canada. There Henry Muller created the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in 1968. The book contains many rare photographs and documents that have never been shared before. David also reveals a wild early connection between the museum and Doug Henning.

Purchase Growing Up With Houdini at

Monday, November 29, 2021

The Houdini Picture Corporation's last stand

Here's an interesting trade advertisement that is as much an ad for the Houdini Picture(s) Corporation as it is for its latest (and last) production, Haldane of the Secrets Service

It fascinating to see Houdini promoting his film company at this particular time. The company had been formed in February 1921 with a $500,000 capitalization and a plan to produce four movies a year. But by November 1923, when this ad appeared in Moving Picture World, the HPC had only made two films and had vacated its offices in the Candler Building on 42nd Street and was now located inside Houdini's home.

Perhaps after making his distribution deal with Film Booking Offices of America, Houdini thought there might be life in his film business after all. This ad certainly seems to point to a new future. Notice how it says that "Houdini Productions" (plural) are distributed by FBO. Also remember this post about Houdini planning a film version of Miracle Mongers and Their Methods.

However, Haldane of the Secret Service would be the only Houdini Picture distributed by FBO (which would be folded into the new RKO in 1928), and this marked the last stand for the Houdini Picture Corporation. The HPC remained one of Houdini's several dormant companies until his death. In December 1936 the state of New York dissolved the corporation for failing to pay its franchise taxes.

Interestingly, the Houdini Picture Corporation did live again. In 1996 Geno Munari of Houdini's Magic Shop and collector Sid Radner revived the company name with plans to produced magic instructional videos. I'm not sure where the company stands today, but I love the logo!

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Magic Detective Podcast: The Houdini Wonder Show

Dean Carnegie devoted his annual Houdini-Halloween episode of The Magic Detective Podcast to The Houdini Wonder Show. Dean has done groundbreaking research on these magic units that traveled with Houdini's The Man From Beyond. If you've never heard of the Wonder Show, click below and have a listen:

Ep. 71: The Houdini Wonder Show


Saturday, November 27, 2021

Houdini by Huck

Dean Huck is an artist from Las Vegas who specializes in photorealistic artwork in colored pencil. Dean is a magic buff and has done several works featuring contemporary magicians such as Shimada and Penn & Teller. Of course, he's also essayed Houdini. Three of those works you can see below.

For more Houdini images and to see Dean's other works check out the website


Friday, November 26, 2021

Where's Harry? (Updates)

Ok, here's today's obsession. The below image is an enlarged detail from a terrific unpublished photo in the Kevin Connolly Collection. This banner at laid across a large Houdini poster. I'm pretty certain this is advertising a spiritualism lecture on March 15, 1924. But the question is where?

It appears the answer may be in the two words above the word "AUDITORIUM." Can anyone make this out? I think the second word might be "Beach"? Know that Houdini was in Atlanta on March 13 and he's in Florida on March 17. So this would fall somewhere between those geographically (and could very well be Florida).

Click to enlarge.

There is one other clue. This same photo also shows a poster for opera singer Amelita Galli-Curci appearing at this same "Auditorium" on March 19, 1924. So if we can't find Houdini on the 15th, maybe we can find Galli-Curci in the 19th? I've actually been able to locate her in Charleston on March 21. So, again, we clearly seem to be somewhere in this region.

Let's find Harry!

UPDATE: There's a fast consensus forming around this reading "Daytona Beach". And there are some facts that help support this. The original Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach was a venue used by the Lyceum circuit which booked Houdini's lecture tour. I've also confirmed that Amelita Galli-Curci appeared there in March 1926. Until we know for sure, I'm not going to close myself off to other possibilities. But this is exciting as it would be the first confirmed appearance of Houdini in Florida.

The Auditorium in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Thanks to David Charvet, Joe Fox, and Narinder Chadda.

UPDATE 2: Chris Berry over at Kevin Connolly's Conjuring History Facebook Group has confirmed Daytona Beach! He uncovered an ad for Amelita Galli-Curci's appearance in the Orlando Sentential. Thank you, Chris, for helping us find Houdini in Florida.

UPDATE 3: I've now found a second Florida appearance in Jacksonville. Details on my Patreon below.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Houdini's last Thanksgiving

Here we are back in Providence! In November 1925 Houdini brought his "3 Shows in One" to the Providence Opera House. It was Thanksgiving week and the ad below shows that he gave a special matinee performance on Thanksgiving Day. He also performed a one hour show for inmates at the State Prison. This was Houdini's last Thanksgiving.

Providence Journal, Nov. 27, 1925

Thanks to Lanham Bundy of the Providence Public Library for uncovering the article about Houdini's prison performance. The Opera House advert is from a collection of clippings that sold on eBay back in 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

LINK: Anniversary of Houdini’s visit to Garnett noted as moment of change for famous performer

Here's a well-research article by our friend Don Creekmore about The Houdinis 1897 appearance in Garnett, Kansas. Don is writing a book about Houdini in Kansas due for release in 2023, so this offers a nice taste of what's to come. Click the headline to have a read at The Anderson County Review.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Manny and Me

In the summer of 1980 a local newspaper, The Valley News, ran a story about me headlined, "Teen Obsessed With Houdini." It was pretty exciting to see my picture in the newspaper and I enjoyed my fifteen minutes of fame at age 15. But that article did something more. It led to my meeting Manny Weltman and entering a larger world of Houdini fanatics from which I've never emerged. I've never done a post about my first Manny meeting. But I recently had an experience that brought it all back for me. So I think it's time to tell the story.

It was shortly after my newspaper article appeared that I received a message to visit the office at my Junior High School. I went thinking I was in some kind of trouble. But it turned out that a man had called the school and asked if he could get a message to me. He left his name (written down incorrectly as Wellman) and a phone number. And to prove he was legit, he said his name could be found in the acknowledgments of the recently published Doug Henning book about Houdini.

I brought the message home to my parents. My mother was always leery of strangers, especially after my newfound notoriety, but my dad was always up for an adventure, so we called this mysterious Manny Weltman.

Manny explained that he had seen the article in the newspaper and I reminded him of himself. He said he had large collection of Houdini memorabilia that he showed no one. But if we were interested, he would be willing to show me. He gave us his address in nearby Van Nuys and we made a plan to visit.

The day was June 8, 1980. My memory of that day is spotty, but what I can recall I recall vividly. It was a small house on a large plot of land -- a type of home that had been common in the San Fernando Valley, but even then were beginning to vanish into tightly packed suburbs. As we arrived I immediately noticed a car out front with a license plate that read HUDINI. Good start!

Manny invited us inside and there we met his wife Nanette. I instantly spotted an original Houdini King of Cards poster hanging on the wall of his dining room. It was my first time seeing an original and I was surprised to see the colors were not as vibrant as the Lee Jacobs reproduction handing on my bedroom wall at home. But this one was framed and it was real! My education had begun.

We sat around the dining room table and Manny, who was very friendly, again stressed that he never showed his collection to anyone. He also said the bulk of it was "in storage," but he had a lot there to show us. Even then I was pretty sure his only "storage" was the back bedroom where he would periodically disappear and come out with a fresh box filled with Houdiniana.

His collection was not organized as far as I could tell. Everything was held in cardboard boxes that we dug through. But there were treasures to be found, such as an original invitation to the Final Houdini Seance. At one point Manny gave me a reproduction photograph which I still have today. But the real show stopper was when he brought out Houdini's diary. This was the famous 1916 diary that had somehow escaped the Ernst archive and wound up with Manny. We paged through it and read several passages, including the famous passage in which Houdini reflects on the death of his father. Needless to say, this was an incredible thing to be able to see, and to this day it remains one of the most precious Houdini artifacts I've ever held in my own hands. And at age 15!

Nanette served us lunch and Manny explained that his other great passion was opera. He wrote a newsletter on the subject. He was also very excited to share that he had uncovered proof that Houdini was not the first man to fly in Australia and he would soon publish this information. I privately wondered why Manny would be excited to prove Houdini didn't do something. Ultimately he never did publish the story.

We then settled into the living room where Manny had a projector and screen setup. Manny was a go-to source for Houdini film footage at this time, and this was a big part of his collection. He began running film for us. I wish I could better recall all that I saw that day, but I know I was overwhelmed. I'm pretty sure I saw The Grim Game plane crash (likely this was the "Desperate Chances" short). But what I remember most was the sound footage of Bess Houdini from Religious Racketeers. I had no idea such a thing existed and to hear Bess speak really knocked my socks off!

Now, my dad was (and is) a shrewd businessman, and he sensed there was an ulterior motive here -- that Manny might be interested in selling us some items from his collection. So he asked Manny about this. In my Houdini-fueled brain I didn't believe a collector would ever part with anything. A collection was sacred. But to my astonishment, Manny was open to the idea. However, he said he could never sell any items piecemeal; it would need to be the entire collection as one. Manny and my dad agreed to keep talking.

So began my decades long comradeship with Manny Weltman. He became my first mentor in the Houdini world. He would frequently call to share a new Houdini find. I'll never forget the day he called excited to tell me he had just acquired a recording of Houdini's voice. He played it for me over the telephone and that was the first time I ever heard Houdini's voice. In 1986 Manny helped organize the 50th Anniversary reenactment of the Final Houdini Seance and he made sure I was invited.

As far as buying the collection.... It was an on and off negotiation for years. One problem was we never really knew all that he had. Even as a kid I wondered why I hadn't seen bookcases packed with Houdini books in their original dust jackets, etc. In fact, I never saw any books! But there was no question there was great value in some to the rarities he did have, and at one point my dad offered him $30,000. But Manny felt the collection was worth "millions." My dad confessed he suspected Manny never intended to sell. But he never gave up and Manny would frequently call and ask if there was still interest. We never made that deal. But I still got a lot from my friendship with Manny Weltman.

I lost touch with Manny in the 1990s when Houdini took a back seat to my first jobs in the entertainment industry. I was saddened to learn of his passing in May 1994. His son, actor Leo Weltman, inherited the collection, and much of it was sold at a Swann auction on Halloween 2002 (the auction catalog cover featured his King of Cards poster). The diary sold to my friend and new mentor, Dr. Bruce Averbook.

Leo Weltman passed away last year. (Please visit The Leo Weltman Project website.) And that brings me to why Manny has been much on my mind lately.

Last July I was invited back to that same Van Nuys house to help sort some remaining Houdini items that hadn't sold in the Swann auction. It was quite an experience to return after 31 years. I was amazed that the house hadn't changed. Except now it was my car in the driveway with the HOUDINI license plate.

Inside was the same dining room table where I had paged through Houdini's diary. There were also still the cardboard boxes filled with Houdiniana. For my efforts I was able to buy a few items, including Manny's mockup of the Houdini Shrine used at the 1986 seance and a small cache of photos that I have been sharing over the past few months. (Several high-end rarities discovered that day will appear in an upcoming Potter & Potter auction.)

Before I left I was able to see that phantom back bedroom. There in a box I found a lone flyer for Manny's Houdini lecture (shared at the top of this post). It struck me that this is the same type of lecture I now give. I understand now that Manny was not really a collector of Houdini memorabilia. He was a collector of Houdini information. A seeker of the truth about Houdini. So Manny was right. We really are similar. In that moment I once again felt special and selected. I'll never forget that day nor the generosity of Manny Weltman.

Monday, November 22, 2021

LINK: Ex-Library Houdini Book: Connection to the Past

With all the Halloween happenings, I somehow missed this wonderful post by Tom Interval at Interval Magic. If you did as well, click the headline and have a read. I think we can all relate to this one!

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Scandinavian tour that wasn't

Here's an interesting item from the New York Clipper that provides new insight into Houdini's ill-fated Scandinavian tour of 1913. It also challenges conventional wisdom about exactly where Houdini was when his tour came to its sudden end. But we'll get to that.

New York Clipper, July 12, 1913

Of course, most of what was announced did not happen. That's because on July 17 Houdini's mother died and he immediately returned to New York (breaking his contract which had consequences as you'll read below). The three month Scandinavian tour was canceled and so too much of the tour of France. Houdini did honor his commitment to the Moss circuit in the UK the following year. Notice the mention of an "entire two hour show." I can only assume this is his Grand Magical Revue. It's interesting to see it was planned this early.

What's strange is the mention of Houdini playing Stockholm, Sweden, on July 16-18. Biographers have all put Houdini in Copenhagen when he received the news of his mother's death on July 17. That ain't Sweden!

It's possible plans changed or the paper got it wrong. But the below article from the New York Evening World announcing Houdini return to New York also says he was "called from Sweden." By the way, the "double" who was arrested was Jim Collins.

New York Evening World, July 29, 1913

Despite this, the evidence for Copenhagen is strong. Milbourne Christopher in Houdini The Untold Story has many details that confirms the location, including the fact that Princes Aage and Axel of the Danish Royal Family attended Houdini's show.

In 1990 Danish magician and collector Johan Ahlberg visited the Royal Library archives and uncovered newspaper accounts that confirmed Houdini's 1913 appearance in Denmark. Houdini opened on July 16 at the Cirkus Building in central Copenhagen. He was scheduled to give a special matinee the following day, July 17, but moments before the show he received the news of his mother's death and collapsed.

The Cirkus Building still stands today. So it was in the building that Houdini began and ended his 1913 Scandinavian tour, and received the worst news of his life.

UPDATE: Our friend David Merlini of The House of Houdini has provided information on another hitherto unknown stop on this tour. On August 16 Houdini was scheduled to appear with the Beketow Circus in Budapest! This would have marked his first and likely only professional appearance in his home town.


Friday, November 19, 2021

The Linking Ring is Wild about Tom Interval

Here's some great news from our friend Tom Interval of Interval Magic. I'll let his tweet speak for itself:

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Steve Canyon's Grim Game

Steve Canyon was an adventure comic strip written and illustrated by Milton Caniff that ran from January 13, 1947 until June 4, 1988. Below is an installment from 1984 with a signed notation thanking the late great Houdini collector and historian Manny Weltman for his help with a reference to The Grim Game.

I don't think I need to explain that what Steve is recalling is the climatic airplane action from Houdini's 1919 film. You can read more about that via the links below. And watch for my own personal remembrance of Manny Weltman coming soon.

Thanks to Joe Fox.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Suspended straitjacket escape in Providence? (UPDATES)

This footage is identified as Houdini doing a suspended straitjacket escape in Providence, Rhode Island, in September 1924. Houdini did indeed play Providence the week of September 15-21, 1924, so evidence of this escape shouldn't be hard to find. However, I've not been able to find any newspaper account or other mention that confirms the date and location of this escape. But it's still a fantastic piece of film.

Any research sleuths out there want to take up the challenge of verifying this escape? As I said, Houdini played Providence the week of September 15, 1924. But another candidate would be the week of November 23, 1925. (Houdini did a suspended straitjacket in Providence on March 7, 1917, but this is clearly Houdini in the 1920s so we can discount that one.) 

Or this could be misidentified and a different city entirely?

He always keeps us guessing!

This clip is from a compilation of Houdini footage from the George Eastman House on the "Houdini The Movie Star" DVD set.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Dave and the always resourceful Bill Mullins, we can now confirm this footage was shot in Providence. Bill and Dave cleverly used the names of businesses glimpsed in the background (Liggett Druggist and Dart & Bigelow) to establish that Houdini is doing the escape on Westminster Street in front of the offices of the Providence Tribune (the building seen flying the American flag below). Bill has also provided a map from the time.

Click to enlarge.

Today a modern office building stands on the sight at 40 Westminster Street.

So all that remains for us to discover now is the date!

UPDATE 2: Date discovered! This occurred on September 18, 1924. Thank you to Claire Stretch, great-grandaughter of Foster Lardner, who can be seen in the video standing beside Houdini with a camera. Read more about Lardner's photo albums HERE.