Monday, February 22, 2021

Houdini's teacher?

Here's an intriguing tweet from the Magic Castle who are celebrating Black History Month with a look at Black History & Magic. Is this the man who taught Houdini?

According the expanded story, Houdini and Barclay met in a Boston Dime Museum in 1895. I admit I've never heard of Wilmont A. Barclay. But Houdini's first documented challenge handcuff escapes where in Massachusetts in late 1895.

In his book Houdini The Key, Patrick Culliton offers up two other possible origins of the Handcuff Act. The first is that Houdini purchased a set of keys, picks and tools from the Boston magic dealer W. D. LeRoy (which doesn't preclude the possibility that Barclay gave him the tip). The other is that Houdini acquired the act from Lewis Paul, an Australian who started doing escape work in America around 1881. This was suggested by ventriloquist Lewis Lester who worked with Houdini at Middleton's Dime Museum in Chicago.

UPDATE: Joe Fox provides the following from a profile of Barclay in the December 1983 Linking Ring. "Dick" refers to Lew Dick, who managed and assisted Barclay for many years.

The Linking Ring, December 1983.

1 comment:

  1. My inner G-dly conciousness tells me the above story of Houdini "seeing and learning escapes from Barclay holds true. Why? They worked together and the "eyes" of the young inquisitive mind of Ehrich Weiss now known as "Houdini" would be excited to try and do the same. Benjilini