Monday, March 29, 2021

Houdini stops off in Lowell


On November 18, 1918 Houdini made a quick personal appearance at the Merrimack Square movie theater in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was on his way to Boston for the premiere of The Master Mystery that very night. Here's a terrific account of his appearance from The Lowell Sun that also serves up a couple Lowell-related mysteries.

The Lowell Sun, November 19, 1918.

Note that Houdini says he had made three previous visits to Lowell. I can identify two of those. The first was in 1896 when Houdini played with the American Gaiety Girls in Lowell for three days in late March (23-25). The second is when Houdini played the Lowell Opera House for the week of February 12, 1906 (my sourcing on this is a little loose so this isn't a lock).

The article also mentions a jailbreak from the Market street police station "five or six years ago." I don't have any record of this. Possibly it happened during that third yet undiscovered appearance? But a jailbreak would also fit with his 1906 appearance as that was his standard publicity stunt at that time. Hardeen also played Lowell on occasion.

It's surprising the Sun article doesn't mention The Master Mystery as Houdini was there expressly to promote it playing at the Merrimack. And what a day at the Merrimack that was! Not only could you see the first episode of The Master Mystery and Houdini in person, but you also got Charlie Chaplin and William S. Hart movies!


The Merrimack Square Theater was located at 146 Paige Street from 1909 to 1953. You can see a photo of the theater as it appeared in 1950 HERE. Today the site is a parking lot.

 
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8 comments:

  1. HH must have been on a high at this time. His serial exhibited along with Chaplin films. He's talking about retiring from stage performances. Hollywood beckoning just around the corner. His big hurrah before entering into a new career in films. Alas it was not to be. Box office ticket sales is where the rubber meets the road.

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    1. We know about the broken wrist, but the black eye is new to me.

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    2. Yeah that's new to me as well.

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  2. Very interesting. I guess the writer's phrase "most noted manacle feats" was intended as an all inclusive term, though the way it's worded sounds like straight handcuff escapes, as opposed to more elaborate escapes that also happened to include handcuffs. But a really nice piece. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. My pleasure. I really love first hand accounts like this. Houdini apparently made other personal appearances at Massachusetts cinemas playing TMM at this time, but this is the only one I've so far been able to find.

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    2. Those lucky Massachusetts folks!

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  3. Famed Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac was from Lowell. I have to wonder if perhaps his parents (Jack wouldn't have been born just yet) were in attendance.

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    1. Ah ha! I kept thinking I knew someone from Lowell. I bet I was thinking of Kerouac!

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