Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Houdini's known radio broadcasts

"Radio is the greatest invention of all times. It would be impossible for me to reach as many persons by any other means." -Houdini, 1925

One of my favorite podcasts is The Marx Brothers Council. These guys are Wild about the Brothers! A recent episode (28) interviewed John Tefteller, who has spent a lifetime seeking out rare Marx Brothers radio broadcasts from the 1930s and on. John's stories of how he tracked down several recordings long thought lost are fascinating, and it got me thinking about, you guessed it, Houdini!

Many people don't even know Houdini did radio. But Houdini embraced media of all kinds, and when radio took off in the 1920s, he quickly found his way to a microphone. Most of his broadcasts concerned spiritualism. But he also occasionally gave magic lessons to children. Unfortunately, not one these broadcasts are known to survive. But maybe that's just because no one knew there was anything to look for?

So I decided to make a list of all the Houdini radio broadcasts that I am currently aware. I'm sure there are many more, and I will update this list as I discover them. Most of the radio stations still survive, if in name only. My hope is we have a John Tefteller among us who might know how to track these down. The discovery of any one of these would be a sensation!

Wednesday, March 8, 1922
"Entertainment by Harry Houdini"
7:15 PM
KDKA Pittsburgh, PA

Tuesday, November 14, 1922
Houdini debates spiritualism.
8:00 PM
WOR Newark, NJ

Thursday March 29, 1923 
"My Twenty-five Years' Experience With Spiritualism"
7:15 PM-7:30 PM
KLX Oakland, CA

Monday, August 6, 1923 
"Mystery Mongers and Fraud Mediums" 
8:30 PM
WOR Newark, NJ

Saturday, August 11, 1923
"Myself and Spiritualism"
8:15 PM
WJZ New York, NY.

Monday, October 29, 1923
6:45 PM
WFAA Dallas, TX.

Monday, November 5, 1923 
"The Sane Side of Spiritualism" 
8:00 PM
WEAY Houston, TX. 

Tuesday, November 13, 1923
Houdini on spiritualism
WAOI San Antonio, TX.

Thursday, November 22, 1923
Houdini on spiritualism. 
WBAP Fort Worth, TX. 

Tuesday, November 27, 1923
Houdini on spiritualism. 
7:45 PM
WEAH Wichita, KS. 

Wednesday, July 2, 1924
Houdini on spiritualism.
8:30 PM-8:45 PM
WOR Newark, NJ.

Wednesday, July 22, 1925
"Houdini interviewed by scholars"
10:05 PM
WOR Newark, NJ.

Tuesday, September 8, 1925 
Houdini gives lessons in Parlor Magic.
7:00 PM-7:30 PM 
KDKA Pittsburgh, PA. 
Tuesday, September 15, 1925 
Houdini gives magic lessons.
7:00 PM-7:30 PM 
KDKA Pittsburgh, PA. 

Sunday, September 20, 1925
Houdini talks on Spiritualism
6:00 PM
WLW Cincinnati, OH.

Monday, September 21, 1925
Houdini teaches magic
6:00 PM
WLW Cincinnati, OH.
"Houdini, appearing Schubert Theater."
7:30 PM
WSAI Cincinnati, OH.

Tuesday, September 22, 1925
Houdini teaches magic: Second Sight
6:00 PM
WLW Cincinnati, OH.

Wednesday, September 23, 1925
Houdini teaches magic tricks.
6:30 PM
WLW Cincinnati, OH.

NEW Wednesday, October 7, 1925
Houdini on Spiritualism.
7:00 PM
WBAV Columbus, OH.

NEW Friday, October 9, 1925
WBAV Columbus, OH.

Thursday, October 22, 1925
“How to do Magic Tricks.”  
11:00 PM
WGR–319 Buffalo, NY. 

Monday, November 23, 1925
“How to do Magic Tricks.”  
7-7:30 PM PM
WJAR–Providence, RI. 

Wednesday, November 25, 1925
“Frauds and Spiritualism.”  
7-7:30 PM PM
WJAR–Providence, RI. 

Tuesday, December 1, 1925
"Lessons in Magic for Children"
7:05 PM 
WTIC Hartford, CT.
(Ad below)

Thursday, December 3, 1925
"Frauds and Spirit Mediums"
7:05 PM 
WTIC Hartford, CT.

Wednesday, March 10, 1926
Houdini guest on Celebrity a Day.
6:30 PM
WGN Chicago, IL.

Thursday, October 14, 1926
Houdini gives talk.
2:20 PM
WGY Schenectady, NY.

Tuesday, October 19, 1926 
Houdini interviewed. 
11:00 PM 
Unknown station in Montreal, Canada.

Click to enlarge.


  1. I sent an e-mail to the University of Chicago radio archives division with a link to this page. They might know something. Rick Schmidlin might have connections to people in the media industry. The problem I see is the development if magnetic tape to record radio broadcasts. Don't believe we had it when HH was alive. Thankfully we know how Bess and Hardeen sounded when they spoke.

    1. University of Chicago radio archives is a good idea. Thanks. John Tefteller speaks about how the early Marx Brothers recording were made on metal discs, like records. And there was wax. So there was recording technology. But I don't think there was a practice of radio stations recording their broadcasts that early. It would almost have to be a radio enthusiast making a recording off the radio itself. But that's not impossible.

      You should listen to the interviews, Leo. You'd love it.

    2. This was my answer from the U of Chicago:

      Rebecca Starkey

      Jan 08 2021, 02:15pm via System

      Thank you for contacting the University of Chicago's Ask a Librarian service.

      We do not have resources for radio broadcasts from this era. We suggest starting with the following institutions:

      Library of Congress-Radio

      Paley Center

      Museum of Broadcast Communications

      Good luck with your research.

    3. Have to pass on that podcast. Not a Marx Brothers fan...not enough to go out of my way.

  2. I contacted the Library of Congress. Will be back with the answer...

  3. Thanks for the kind words about our podcast, here's a clip of Groucho from 1972 talking about meeting Harry...

    1. Thank you, Bob. Love the podcast! And thanks for that link. It's a great story.

  4. John Tefteller answered you on the Marx Brothers Council page on FB. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have good news:

    “Interesting! The reach of the Podcasts is far and wide! Here is the answer to the writer of the story: The Houdini broadcasts he lists are from between 1923 and 1926. Almost NOTHING was recorded from radio during that time. Those are the very earliest days of live radio. The Marx Brothers made some appearances on radio during that same time and not one of those survive either. It was not until the time of ‘Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel’ in 1932, that radio programs began to be recorded and even then, only a small portion of what aired was recorded. The practice of recording almost everything did not begin until about 1939. The bigger problem is the survival rate. Of all the broadcasts between 1932 and 1955 only about 20% still survive. The vast majority were destroyed, through negligence or deliberate destruction. It is indeed a sad chapter in our entertainment history that 90% of the world has now forgotten.”

    1. Oh, wow, thanks Dave! I didn't even know this had been posted on their FB page. I will thank John there. And, yeah, I'm not surprised by this. It's just soooo early.