Friday, March 5, 2021

FIVE fantastic unseen photos of Houdini in Vienna

What's better than an unseen Houdini photo? How about FIVE! The always amazing Bill Mullins has answered the call for undiscovered German newspaper rarities with a major find. These five gobsmacking images are from the March 20, 1902 Das interessante Blatt. The caption reads:

The "King of the iron shackles in Vienna" Houdini, who free himself with incredible strength from straitjacket and heavy shackles. 
(See page 10)
With special photographs for the "Interessante Blatt" from Charles Wagner.

Click to enlarge.

In March 1902 Houdini was playing a month long engagement at Ronacher Theater in Vienna, Austria. This was his first appearance in Vienna after having broken a contract to originally appear in 1900. Built in 1872, the Ronacher is still in use today.


Not only are these photos I've never seen, but this could be the earliest image of Houdini in a straitjacket. And what a straitjacket that is! As far as Houdini pics go, these are as good as it gets, and just proves there is undiscovered Houdini GOLD still to be found in this part of the world.

By the way, I think we can confidently place this known image (right) into this same photo session. Houdini actually captioned this as Vienna in March 1902 in his early pitchbooks. I typically disregard pitchbook captions as unreliable, but it looks like this one was right all along! So with this discovery we can now identify all the known Houdini "nudes" as being from one of three photo sessions: Bushnell's in San Fransisco (1899); Wagner in Vienna (1902); or J.F. Blöte in Groningen, Holland (1903).

Thanks to Bill Mullins for sharing this terrific find. And to Eileen Krug a.k.a. "Houdini Fanbase" for the translation.

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8 comments:

  1. I wonder what became of the original press photos from all the German newspaper pix we've seen so far. Did they survive the bombing in WWII and beyond?

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  2. Keep in mind the mores/sensitivities of the time: "Nude", could mean the body mostly , but not completely exposed. (Sorry if anyone is disappointed) Even decades later, shows that featured dancers or strippers with brief bottoms or g-strings and pasties were advertised as "Nude". I have seen theater/club marquees proclaiming, "10 Dancers! 7 Nude, 3 Naked". Maybe then naked means NAKED, not just nude.

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  3. Note how HH dropped the loincloth photos after the Holland 1903 photo session. The U.S. jail photos a few years later were to be the last seminude shots.

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    1. Right. Those jail cell photos. Would love to know exactly when and were those where taken. There's also the set of photos of HH in the long white trunks. Not sure of the exact date or place of that particular photo session either.

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    2. There's only two seminude jail cell photos that I'm aware of: the one standing cuffed to the bars and the jock strap photo where he looks like a hobbit. I think there's one more where he's sitting on a bench in the cell. Prolly from the cuffed to the bars session.

      The long white trunk photos are indeed a mystery. I love the one where he's kneeling behind a set of manacles on the floor.

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    3. Yeah, there's the sitting down shot. So three. Those are all that I know of as well. But I bet there might be more!

      In the Randi book there's that kneeling shot and written on it in what looks like Houdini's hand is a word I can't make out (might be "finished") and the date 1905.

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  4. In one he has a great smile..rarely see anyone of that era smiling in photos..

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