Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Houdini's "3 Shows in One"...in 1922?

Check out this ad for The Man From Beyond at the Globe Theater in Boston on October 2, 1922. On this night Houdini appeared in person, followed by the movie, then mentalist Mystic Clayton who was the regular performer for this roadshow unit. The evening was billed as "3 Shows in One."

Of course, "3 Show in One" is what Houdini called his full evening show of 1925-26. Coincidence? Or is this where Houdini got the idea for the name? Or maybe this just lodged it in his subconscious? Whatever the case, it's kinda wild to see this phrase on a Houdini ad three years before it became the name of his actual show, amirite?

Below is what the Globe Theater looks like today.

For more on Houdini's The Man From Beyond roadshows (also known as The Houdini Wonder Show), click the first related link below for an excellent deep dive by Dean Carnegie at The Magic Detective.



  1. I think this is prolly where HH got his idea for the title of his full evening show. In this case the three shows were the film, with HH and Clayton doing their bit. The whole experience here may have also given him the idea of splitting his show into three different presentations: magic, escapes, and spiritualism.

    1. It's fun to think this was the origin of the name. But if I HAD to take a stance, I'd say this is pure coincidence. I'm not even sure how much Houdini was involved in newspaper advertising copy, especially with his movies. I think that might have been left up to the theater. If Houdini was involved, we wouldn't see SO many ads that get the name of Haldane of the Secret Service wrong, calling it Holdane and Haldini and sometimes just "Houdini of the Secret Service"!

    2. Although my mind could be changed if we find some more ads that read "3 Shows in One" for evenings in which Houdini put in a personal appearance. That suggests a suggestion for the name and that it was in Houdini's head.

    3. So I dove back into 1922 in search of another "3 Shows in One" Houdini ad and didn't find one. But what I did find was another theater in Boston called Waldron's advertising "3 Big Shows in One" (Burlesque, Vaudeville, Pictures) this same week. So this might have been more the product of competing theaters.

    4. "3 Shows in One" sounds like something in vaudeville that was tossed around HH's time. He must have seen it in newspaper ads and so on before doing his 3 in One in 1925-26. And he definitely couldn't keep track of all newspaper ad copy that dealt with him. The spirit lecture debacle in Tennessee showed us that.

  2. So fun to see this! I imagine it was a coincidence, but who knows. Vaudeville was transitioning greatly in the 1920s (it's common to say "dying," but it was really just an inevitable evolution in entertainment; "America's Got Talent" is technically still vaudeville!) and with the advent of film, which included not just features but shorts and newsreels, many live shows were being packaged and promoted differently for multiple reasons (and therefore advertising and headlines such as this were evolving). The audience was still used to variety since a vaudeville show might have 15 standalone acts on a bill. The more successful variety acts could break away from a typical vaudeville bill, but audiences for the most part still expected some variety. Such an interesting and exciting time in entertainment history! Thanks for sharing this cool find.