Sunday, October 31, 2021

Hollywood kills Houdini

Today is the 95th Anniversary of the death of Harry Houdini in Detroit. How did Houdini die? Let's take a look at what Hollywood tells us.

When a Houdini biopic was being shopped around Hollywood in the 1930s, Columbia Picture's head Harry Cohen passed on the project, complaining Houdini's life lacked romance and "needed a better ending than a punch in the solar plexus." Hollywood never seemed to get past this, and over the course of five biopics has tried to add drama to Houdini's death. Here's how Hollywood killed Houdini.

Houdini (1953)
The classic biopic Houdini starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh decided to have Houdini die onstage inside his "Pagoda Torture Cell." It's plenty dramatic and for many decades people believed this is how Houdini really died (and some still do). The idea that Houdini is suffering the early stages of appendicitis is established in an earlier scene. And before he performs the fatal escape he runs into the handle of prop sword in his dressing room, presumably rupturing that problematic appendix.

The Great Houdinis (1976)
By 1976 the belief that Houdini died onstage in his Water Torture Cell was so wide spread that Hollywood couldn't resist doing it all over again. Give the people what they want! But this time the dressing room punch is also nicely dramatized for the first time. And Houdini doesn't actually die onstage. Over a freeze frame we hear Mini's voice explaining that he died a week later in Grace Hospital. So they were able to have it both ways. I do love Mini's final line: "We all knew he was waiting for Halloween. Made such a nice headline."

Houdini (1998)
Despite striving for more accuracy on several fronts, this 1998 movie from TNT decided to once again trap Houdini inside his Water Torture Cell. But he doesn't actually drown this time. Instead he dies in the hospital on what appears to be the operating table. The punch is also part of the chain of events, but it's a blink and you'll miss it moment.

Death Defying Acts (2008)
By the 2000s most people knew Houdini didn't die in the Water Torture Cell and that his death had something to do with a punch to the stomach. That was good enough for this indie feature which depicts Houdini being punched in the stomach in the lobby of a Montreal hotel and dropping dead on the spot.

Houdini Miniseries (2014)
For once Houdini's final days and death are portrayed largely accurately. But despite fine performances by stars Adrian Brody and Kristin Connolly, Harry Cohen might have been right. It's a little anti-climatic. As for Harry being kissed by Mama's in a sexy nurse outfit...what a weird movie this was.

I'm sure Hollywood isn't done killing Houdini in their own creative ways. What does the future hold? We'll find out!

on the
October 31, 1926

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Houdini's belt buckle sells for $90,000

The engraved belt buckle Houdini was wearing when he went into Grace Hospital 95 years ago sold today for a whopping $90,000 (including premium) in Potter & Potter's auction of the Salon de Magie: The Klosterman Collection Part I. The auction estimate of $5,000 - $10,000. The buckle comes framed with a letter of provenance from Douglas Geoffrey aka Hardeen Jr.

The famous bell box Houdini used to demonstrate his exposure of Margery the medium sold for $84,000 (including premium). Auction estimate was $10,000 - $20,000.

Other notable Houdini items were Houdini's Card Star ($40,800), his Flight of Time ($21,600), and a 1912 Dangerfield Water Torture Cell poster ($112,500). This was the second Dangerfield USD poster to sell in just a few days. Wild times!

Tom Interval's 2021 Houdini jack-o’-lantern

I always know Halloween is here when our friend Tom Interval shares his latest Houdini jack-o’-lantern. This year it's another spooky beauty!

CLICK HERE to see how Tom created this step-by-step at Interval Magic. You can see some of Tom's past creations below.

The Magic Word Podcast - All Houdini Episode

Once again I had the pleasure of being a guest on Scott Wells' popular The Magic Word Podcast. You can watch our chat below. I also encourage you to click over to the official page where Scott has some cool extras. Enjoy!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Houdini posters set new records at Ricky Jay auction

Seven original Houdini posters sold yesterday for astoundingly high prices in Sotheby's auction of The Ricky Jay Collection. A Water Torture Cell poster by The Dangerfield Printing Co. in the UK set what appears to be a new all-time record for a Houdini poster at $151,200. (Interestingly, another one of these posters is due to be auctioned in just a few days by Potter & Potter.) Even a King of Cards poster, which tend to sell in the neighborhood of $12,000, reached a whopping $60,480.

Below are all seven posters with their estimates and prices realized (including premium).

Poster weren't the only Houdini items that fetched head-scratchingly high prices. A challenge handbill from 1913 that might normally sell for $400-$600 sold for $3,024. A copy of The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin signed by Houdini to L. A. Anderson (the daughter-in-law of magician John Henry Anderson) sold for $25,200.

The auction reportedly took in a total of $3,835,694.

UPDATE: Chris Berry at the Conjuring History Facebook page points out yet another record that these posters beat. Chris writes:

I realize that most of those on this page think of the Metamorphasis poster as being "Magic" but at $75,600 it set the record for the most money for a CIRCUS poster (Welsh Bros. Newest Great Shows). The previous record for a "circus-related" poster was a Buffalo Bill multisheet printed by Calhoun that went for $72,000 a few years ago...

UPDATE 2: Potter & Potter's Dangerfield Water Torture Cell poster sold for $112,500 (including buyers premium).

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Houdini: The OG Ghostbuster (Not Past It podcast)

"Houdini The OG Ghostbuster" is the topic of the latest episode of the Not Past It podcast hosted by Simone Polanen. This is well-produced and researched and it was a pleasure to have been part of it.

Harry Houdini escaped from handcuffs, sea monsters and torture cells, but his last great illusion defied even the spirits. On October 31, 1936, the famous escape artist was set to come back from the dead. But, as spooky as that sounds, the backstory to uncover America’s most notorious frauds of the day, is even more devilish.

UPDATE: The talented Associate Producer of this podcast tweeted out the following and I love it.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Join The Original Houdini Seance live on Zoom

Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz will hold their "Original Houdini Seance" from the Houdini Museum in Scranton live on Zoom this Sunday at 12:30pm EST. It will FREE and open for anyone to join. Below is the official press release. 

The Original Houdini Seance Zoomed Free from The Houdini Museum on Halloween 

You’re invited to The Original Houdini Seance being zoomed to you from The Houdini Museum, Scranton, PA. USA on October 31, Halloween, beginning at 12:30pm Eastern. 
The event will be headed up by renowned Magician, Escape Artist and authority on Houdini Dorothy Dietrich. She is a noted Houdini Historian, speaker, and consultant who has appeared on many TV shows including Mysteries At The Museum, Deals From the Dark Side, Tom Snyder, the HBO Special The World’s Greatest Escapes hosted by Tony Curtis and many more. Her talents have taken her all over the world. Dietrich is the Director of The Houdini Museum. Also appearing for the second year on Zoom will be Dick Brookz noted magician, mentalist, comedian, Houdini Historian, and creative consultant. He travels performing and consulting with magic & Houdini projects. Dick is the curator of the Houdini Museum and featured magician. 

It will all begin at 12:30 pm on Zoom with a discussion with The Houdini Family Jeff, Forrest & Debbie Blood. They will share some of their fun stories about what it was like growing up in the Houdini Family. Also John Cox, who writes the popular blog WILD ABOUT HARRY (, will share a few minutes about what happened with Houdini in 2021. John lives in Los Angeles and is currently working on a definitive book about Houdini's life and career.

The seance will begin at 1:26 PM, the time Houdini died on Halloween in 1926. This event has always been FREE. The New York Times early on reported Mrs Houdini wanted "the motivation for the spirit-communication to be free from monetary gain." When Bess Houdini stopped doing the seances after ten years she asked renowned Houdini biographer and creator of “The Shadow” series Walter B. Gibson to carry them on. Dorothy Dietrich attended Walters’ Seances for many years around NYC throughout the late 1970’s at New York's legendary Magic Towne House and at Houdini's NYC brownstone on 113th Street, at Houdini’s first childhood home on 79th Street in NYC and at the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA, the only building in the world dedicated to Houdini. (
When Walter B Gibson got up in years, he turned the responsibility and honor of carrying on the Original Houdini Seance to Dorothy Dietrich. Last year the seance was about to be cancelled because of COVID, but thanks to the technical expertise of Hank Feinberg, it became the first ever virtual Houdini seance and had a worldwide record attendance of 200 guests. Due to demand this year there will be 500 spots available and is likely to fill up quickly, so arrive early. 
There will be a very special Houdini souvenir for all who attend. 

Each year since his death, a tribute in the form of a seance has been conducted on Halloween, the day Houdini died. This is the only Houdini Seance that dates back directly to Houdini and his wife, Beatrice. You are invited to get a virtual front row seat & close up look at this memorable historic Houdini event. 
Will Houdini give us a sign from the Beyond? Who Knows…

Houdini Seance on Zoom (Oct. 31, 2021 @ 12:30pm EST)
Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 879 5567 7401
Passcode: 062926

Houdini vs. Spiritualists in three easy tweets

The Twitter account First Amendment Museum lays out the story of Houdini's 1926 congressional testimony in three efficient tweets. I like how they did this.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

David Copperfield's History of Magic released TODAY

The highly anticipated new book David Copperfield's History of Magic is released TODAY by Simon & Schuster. No need to explain why this one is a must buy!

An illustrated, illuminating history of magic from the world’s most successful magician, capturing its most audacious and inventive practitioners, and showcasing the art form’s most famous artifacts housed at David Copperfield’s secret museum. 

In this personal journey through the history of magic, David Copperfield profiles twenty-eight of the world’s most groundbreaking magicians. From the 16th-century Englishman who wrote the first book on conjuring to the 19th-century man who fooled Houdini, to the woman who levitated, vanished, and caught bullets in her teeth, David Copperfield’s History of Magic takes you on a wild journey through the remarkable feats of the greatest magicians in history.

The magicians he profiles were all outsiders in their own way, many of them determined to use magic to escape the stifles of class and convention. But they all have one thing in common: they were great innovators who influenced popular culture, adapted to social change, revealed profound insights into the human mind, embraced the latest technological and scientific discoveries, and were inventors themselves.

The incredible stories are complimented by over 100 never-before-seen photographs of artifacts from Copperfield’s exclusive Museum of Magic, including a 16th-century manual on sleight of hand, Houdini’s straightjackets, handcuffs, and water torture chamber, Dante’s famous sawing-in-half apparatus, Alexander’s high-tech turban that allowed him to read people’s minds, and even some coins that may have magically passed through the hands of Abraham Lincoln. 
By the end of the book, you’ll be sure to share Copperfield’s passion for the power of magic. 

You can purchase David Copperfield's History of Magic on and

UPDATE: So honored to have received a kind acknowledgment in the book:

Monday, October 25, 2021

Harry Houdini: La Clef De La Magie

A French graphic novel featuring the exploits of a young Houdini has been released by JUNGLE. This appears to be based on the animated movie released on DVD in 2015. Tesla is involved and this is the first of series.

The Houdini Conspiracy by Christopher G. Owen

It's been a while since we've had some Houdini fiction to sink our teeth into, and this one sounds like quite the meal! Below is the official plot summery for The Houdini Conspiracy: The Crusade Against Spiritualism by Christopher G. Owen.

It is the 1920s and Catholic leaders do not want another wave of spiritualism in America, especially after barely containing the last one. Now as a new organization emerges armed with their own bible, they fear they are about to witness a highly organized attack on the religious hegemony in the New World. One of the leaders of this organization is Cora Richmond, a deep trance medium who has just authored a troubling book.

Erik Weisz, otherwise known as the Great Houdini, is a world-class showman and flamboyant self-promoter who is in the waning days of his career when he receives the commission of a lifetime from his handlers: to lead a worldwide crusade to destroy the spiritualist movement in America so it will never recover to its former level. As established religions of the world, based on a flimsy patchwork of myth and stolen history, find their champion in Houdini, now only time will tell if he can singlehandedly sabotage humanity's age-old quest for spirituality and create a heroic legacy that will endure for generations to come.

In this fascinating tale, the Great Houdini is commissioned to lead a global crusade to destroy a modern spiritualist movement in America.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Official Houdini Seance will be held in Chicago

The Official Houdini Seance for 2021 will be held at the Potter & Potter Auction house in Chicago, Illinois. It will be a live (non virtual) seance, but it will not be open to the general public as in years past. Below is the full press release.

Houdini Enthusiasts Meet for Annual Séance
Do the spirits return from the world beyond? 
Oct. 21, 2021--Houdini experts and magic historians will convene in Chicago, Illinois for the Official Houdini Séance® October 31, 2021. The event has been a tradition since Harry Houdini, the world’s greatest magician and escapologist, died at 1:26 p.m. on Halloween in 1926. 

“Houdini made a pact with various magicians that if there was a way to return from the dead, he would do it,” said séance director, William Radner of West Springfield, Mass. Radner’s father, Sidney was a protégé of Houdini’s brother, Hardeen, and attended seances beginning in the 1940s. 

“This annual tradition is very important in the world of magic. As I have come to know the real Houdini story, I am even more intrigued. Houdini was a very determined man, and we owe it to his memory to continue our attempt until he breaks through,” William Radner said. 

The Official Houdini Séance® bears the legacy of Houdini’s brother Hardeen, who said his brother would open the unique séance cuffs after his death. The cuffs have been placed on each Official Houdini Séance Table since 1948 hoping for a positive result. 

The Official Houdini Séance® has taken place at numerous locations throughout America and internationally with prestigious groups of Inner Circle members. This year is no exception. Aside from Radner, he will be assisted by co-séance director, Tom Boldt, who worked closely with the senior Radner for many years. 

Handcuff expert Fred Pittella, Houdini collectors Dr. Bruce Averbook of Ohio, and Robert Somerdin of Florida will be joined by Houdini historians Midge Markey from Washington, and Paul Rosen from Delaware, who will also take part. 

The invitation only Official Houdini Séance® will take place at Potter & Potter Auctions in Chicago, Illinois. 

Coincidently, on October 30, Potter & Potter will host a significant auction of magic collectables from the historic collection of Ken Klosterman. Up for sale are French magician Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin’s light and heavy chest, numerous vintage posters, and important memorabilia from the golden age of magic. Robert-Houdin was the inspiration for Houdini’s stage name. 

“This is a significant collection of magic history,” said auctioneer Gabe Fajuri of Potter & Potter. “The quality of these pieces, especially the Houdini material, is amazing.” 

The Chicago area was important to Houdini’s professional life. He had relationships with the local magicians as president of the Society of American Magicians and often performed his escape and magic act in Chicago while touring on various vaudeville stages. During his last trip to Chicago in 1925, Houdini presented his “3 in 1 Show of magic, escapes, and spiritualist phenomenon.” 

“The success of the séance is often determined by the skills of the medium. We are optimistic our psychic medium will be effective,” said Radner. Well-known Chicago psychic, Nolan Webster, Chicago’s most mysterious person, will lead the participants as they explore the world of the afterlife in search of Houdini. “We are all optimists,” said Radner, “I want to believe Houdini can and will return.” 

Friday, October 22, 2021

FLASHBACK: The beginning of the end

It was 95 years ago today that Houdini was punched in the stomach by J. Gordon Whitehead in the dressing room of the Princess Theater in Montreal. This would lead to his death nine days later on Halloween. To mark the occasion, here's a link back to a post from 2016 that details that fatal dressing room encounter. Click the headline to go.


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Houdini buys a Ford

The saga of Houdini and his cars continues. While later in his life Houdini preferred to be driven (and even developed a slight phobia about driving himself), during the years of his early success he appears to have been a car guy! You might recall this post that showed he purchased a Humber automobile in 1904 and even claimed to have raced it. Now we have evidence of a second Houdini car.

The below ad is from the Providence Journal when Houdini was playing the Keith's Theater on Westminster Street in February 1907. Looks like a test drive is all it took to turn him into a Ford man.

The car Houdini purchased was a Ford Model K 6-cylinder touring car. It sold for a whopping $2800 ($81,488.04 today). By contrast, the 4-cylinder only cost $550. Let's hope he got a price break for doing the ad!

I ran all this past David Charvet, who knows classic cars as well as magic, and it turns out the Model K occupies an interesting place in Ford history. Henry Ford himself did not like the idea of a high end luxury model like the K. His goal was to make an affordable car that everyone could own. So one year later in 1908 he introduced his Model T, and the rest is automotive history. David says 1907 Model Ks are quite rare today and sends over this photo.

Below is a photo of Houdini behind the wheel of a car that does not appear to be the Ford Model K. So I guess the search is now on for car #3!


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

"To be burnt and destroyed upon his death"

No post today as I prepare my presentation of "Houdini Lost and Found" at 7pm EST (4pm PST), part of the 2021 American Museums of Magic Speaker Series. I'll be sharing images and stories about surviving Houdini apparatus that, happily, were not "burnt and destroyed" after Hardeen's death. And I guarantee at least one thing you've never seen before (courtesy our friends at 278). Hope you can join us. It's not too late to resister HERE.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Have a "Houdini-Weenie" in Detroit, October 24

To mark the 95th anniversary of Houdini's final performance on October 24, American Coney Island in Detroit will hold a celebration featuring music, magicians, and a special "Houdini-Weenie." Proceeds will benefit the Autism Alliance of Michigan. American Coney Island sits across the street from the site of the former Garrick Theater where Houdini performed his last show.

My two passions; Houdini and chili dogs!

For more information visit the American Coney Island website.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Houdini's "near perfect mystery"

This piece of surviving Houdini apparatus has always baffled and intrigued me. I've heard it said Houdini called it a "near perfect mystery." Sidney Radner, who acquired it from Hardeen, told me Houdini planned to make this the featured escape in his "3 Shows in One" replacing his Water Torture Cell. But what the heck is it?

For what I understand, this idea here is Houdini would be encased within these four nested wooden boxes. Iron rods were then placed down the length of the four corners, locking the boxes in place. He may have also been restrained in ropes or chains strung though the holes on either side of the boxes.

Recently I uncovered a review of Houdini's act at the New York Hippodrome during the week of February 16, 1925 (this is before the "3 Shows on One"). What's described here is almost certainly this escape and it's the only record of it that I've ever encountered.

Houdini closed the show, offering a test which he claims to be the nearest approach to actual materialization and dematerialization on record. By this, for those who wish enlightenment, he means that he is encased in a stout wooden box, all sides of which are pierced by iron rods and welded so as to make escape ostensibly an impossible thing, but from which after several long minutes he liberates himself.

The "near perfect mystery" was sold in "The Great Houdini Auction" of 2004 and resided in the collection of Arthur Moses for several years (where the above photo was taken). Today it is in another private collection.

If you're interested in learning about more surviving Houdini apparatus, please join me this Wednesday, October 20, for an online ZOOM lecture, "Houdini Lost and Found," part of the 2021 American Museum of Magic Speaker Series. I'll have some exciting and unusual things to share and hope to see you there. Click here for details and tickets.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

LINK: Remember when Harry Houdini escaped the belly of a ‘sea monster’ in Boston?

Here's an excellent article by Steve Annearin about Houdini's famous escape from the carcass of a "sea monster" in 1911. Some new information here. Click here or on the headline to have a read at the Boston Globe.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Watch Posterfix restore Houdini posters

This fascinating video from Posterfix in New York shows their full restoration of a Houdini Master Mystery 1-sheet poster. I might have argued to leave the poster fragment as-is until I saw the final product. Pretty amazing. The video also shows the restoration of a Master Mystery lobby card and three Houdini handbills from 1902.

Posterfix also took on the task of restoring five Houdini window cards from the recent find in Warwick, Rhode Island. One of those restored cards sold last month in a Potter & Potter auction. That video below.

Thanks to Michael Mitnick for the alert.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Three days in Schenectady

It was 95 years ago today that Houdini arrived in Schenectady, New York, for a 3-day engagement at the Van Curler Theater. This would be his first and last appearance in the city. This was a rare split week for Houdini's "3 Shows in One." He had played the first half of the week at the Capitol Theater in Albany, where on October 11 he broke his ankle doing the Water Torture Cell. News of the accident reached Schenectady and the theater ran special ads assuring audiences that Houdini would still appear as planned.

Houdini began his first day in Schenectady with a 10AM lecture to students at Union College. In the afternoon he gave a radio address over station WGY where he was photographed. This is one of the last photos ever taken of Houdini.

Houdini's show that night played to an "overflowing house." A review of the show in the October 15, 1926 Schenectady NY Gazette noted that his injury caused him to "limp slightly" and "because of this he announced that he had to discard one of his best tricks and replace it with five others." (No doubt that best trick was the Water Torture Cell.) Singled out for special attention is a trick that was largely unknown to Houdiniphiles until recently. This review offers the best description yet:

The slicing of a woman, a trick derived from the ancient torture machines of China, is one of the big features of the first act. With the aid of assistants, Houdini places a young woman in a casket. Several knives are suspended above her body. The blades descend at a fast rate and seemingly slice the body of the girl. But when the casket is opened she steps out from the box, bows, and makes her exit none the worse for the experience.

The show this night was divided into two acts instead of three. Before the close of the first act, Houdini announced that he would donate several books on spiritualism to the library at Union College. He then invited a student on stage to receive the books. Are those books still there, I wonder?

The second act featured exposes of fraudulent spirit mediums. According to the review, Houdini introduced a woman (possibly Rose Mackenberg) who revealed she had visited several mediums in Schenectady and spoke to several dead children and dead husbands in heaven. "A chuckle broke over the audience when she further stated that she is single and never had a husband."

Houdini played three evenings and two matinees in Schenectady before the company moved on to Montreal, Canada, where he would have his fateful encounter with J. Gordon Whitehead.

The Van Curler theater was located at 430 Franklin Street at the corner of Franklin and Jay Streets. Opened in 1893, it sat 1600 and was said to be one of the largest and best appointed theatre in the country. In 1910 the Van Curler become one of the first theaters in Schenectady to play movies. The theater closed in 1943 and in 1959 was replaced with a modern office building that still stands today.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Houdini (1953) Italian Blu-ray

It's nice to see physical media hasn't vanished entirely, but I wouldn't wait to buy a much-loved movie on DVD or Blu-ray! So if you're an Italian fan of Houdini (1953), know that a new Blu-ray has just been released by A&R Productions. It includes Italian dub audio as well and the original English with subtitles. The case artwork appears to be an original Italian poster for the film.

The Italian Houdini Blu-ray is available to buy at and

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Miracle Mongers and Their Methods (Centennial Edition)

Curious Publications has released what they are calling a "Centennial Edition" of Houdini's Miracle Mongers and Their Methods. Official description below:

This book is a republication of the 1920 edition of Houdini's Miracle Mongers and Their Methods, as originally published by E. P. Dutton & Company. In it, Houdini collects notes and stories about various dime museum attractions and circus wonders he met personally while traveling or learned about while studying his profession. These tales includes feats of sword swallowers, fire eaters, poison defiers, human ostriches, and more. Do not try them at home. Or anywhere else. 

This Centennial Edition appears 101 years after the original E. P. Dutton publication. One year escaped us.

Actually, Miracle Mongers and Their Methods was published in early 1921, so this really is a "Centennial Edition." But apart from calling it this, there doesn't appear to be anything added or special about this particular reprint. 

But if you've never picked up a copy of what is probably Houdini's best book, you can buy this one at and

New York Herald, Jan. 30, 1921.

Monday, October 11, 2021

LINK: Houdini's Weird Tales Q&A 2

Joe Notaro at HHCE has more Houdini Q&A from the April 1924 issue of Weird Tales magazine. I'm especially intrigued by Houdini's answer regarding Black Mass:

I have never seen a complete description of the “Black Mass” and the rituals. Some of it, if my memory serves me right, was photographed in Sweden, and was of such a nature that the picture, which cost a fortune, had never been seen by the public. It was called, I believe, Superstition of the Age. I saw this film run, but up to the present it has never been seen outside of a private projection room. It took more that two years to make it. 

I'd love to know the circumstances of when and where Houdini was able to screen this forbidden film.

Click the headline above to check out the full Q&A at Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence.

Sunday, October 10, 2021


Today I sent out the 25th issue of my WILD ABOUT HARRY WEEKLY email newsletter. As this is a bit of milestone, I'm offering this issue for anyone to view by clicking here or on the headline link. 

If you like what you see, consider subscribing. As a subscriber you will also receive the occasional WILD ABOUT HARRY EXTRA. It's a great way to stay Wild!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Watch Houdini's historic Australian flight

Here's another excerpt from 'High Lights in the Strenuous Career of Harry Houdini, Edited and Compiled by Houdini's Brother Hardeen'.

Film of Houdini's history making flights in Australia is widely available. But it's nice to have it collected here in sequence instead of just fragments. Also, the final shot is entirely new to me. So even though it's brief, this clip does appear to offer footage of a Houdini flight that has never been seen before. Enjoy.

Notice that the date is shown here as March 16, 1910. The true date of Houdini's first Australian flight was March 18. But Houdini adopted the March 16 date in publicity, and speculation is that he was concerned about a claim from Fred Custance that he had beat Houdini into the air by a day.

Thanks to escape artist Rick Maisel for allowing me to share this rare footage. A playlist of these clips can be found on the WILD ABOUT HARRY YouTube Channel.


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Houdini's 'Magic Hat Mystery' in Indiana, Oct. 16

On October 16, 2021, Mayhem 4 Hire in Logansport, Indiana, will present "The Magic Hat Mystery" described as an interactive whodunnit to find Houdini's Magic Hat! You can buy tickets and get more information HERE.

Below is a teaser trailer. I like how they went for a Houdini sound-alike.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Houdini's last hire

Here's one last Providence related post for this anniversary week. While searching for a review of Houdini's show, I stumbled on this classified ad that appeared in the Providence Journal 95 years ago today.

Providence Journal, Oct. 6, 1926

We now know the man who landed this job was Elliot Sanford. Sanford joined the troupe in Providence and had a ringside seat for all the dramatic events of Houdini's final weeks. He even acted as one of Houdini's pallbearers. He would remain with Bess into early 1927 to help her settle the estate and move to a new home. He then returned to his old job in Providence. 

In 2018 an unpublished manuscript written by Sanford about his days with the Houdinis sold at auction for $48,000.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Which synagogue did Houdini visit in Providence?

My mind is still with Houdini in Providence 95 years ago this week. Today was his second day in the city, and it held special significance. October 5, 1926, was the 34th anniversary of his father's death. Houdini said he always made a point to find a synagogue to say Kaddish on October 5, even if it meant traveling outside of a city to do so. Houdini didn't need to travel on this day. In doing a very cursory search online, I see that Providence has two notable synagogues in 1926, both of which still stand.

The Broad Street Synagogue (later known as Temple Beth-El) is located at 688 Broad Street in Providence. According to Wikipedia, the Jews of Providence who founded Temple Beth-El were predominantly Ashkenazi Jews from German-speaking areas. The majority of the early congregants were immigrants from Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, and Poland. If I had to guess, I would say this is the synagogue where Houdini said his final Kaddish.

The building survives but is currently vacant. In 2020 it was named as one of named one of Providence's "Most Endangered Buildings" by the Providence Preservation Society.

Another candidate is The Sons of Jacob Synagogue located at 24 Douglas Avenue in the Smith Hill neighborhood of Providence. Wikipedia states that the congregation which built it was formed in 1896 by Orthodox Jews who immigrated from Russia. The Rhode Island Jewish Museum is currently running a campaign to restore the building and "into a center that curates the immigrant experience."

Like I said, I didn't do a thorough search for synagogues in Providence in 1926, so it's possible Houdini visited another one entirely. It's also possible he skipped the ritual this year, but I don't think that's very likely. He was devoted to both his parents and he loved a good ritual!

From the review of his opening night show, we know he had instructed an audience member to meet him at the theater at 10AM to be "disillusioned" about the medium Keeler. So I suspect Houdini started his day with his synagogue visit and remembrance of his father.