Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Suspended straitjacket escape in Providence? (UPDATE)

This footage is identified as Houdini doing a suspended straitjacket escape in Providence, Rhode Island, in September 1924. Houdini did indeed play Providence the week of September 15-21, 1924, so evidence of this escape shouldn't be hard to find. However, I've not been able to find any newspaper account or other mention that confirms the date and location of this escape. But it's still a fantastic piece of film.


Any research sleuths out there want to take up the challenge of verifying this escape? As I said, Houdini played Providence the week of September 15, 1924. But another candidate would be the week of November 23, 1925. (Houdini did a suspended straitjacket in Providence on March 7, 1917, but this is clearly Houdini in the 1920s so we can discount that one.) 

Or this could be misidentified and a different city entirely?

He always keeps us guessing!

This clip is from a compilation of Houdini footage from the George Eastman House on the "Houdini The Movie Star" DVD set.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Dave and the always resourceful Bill Mullins, we can now confirm this footage was shot in Providence. Bill and Dave cleverly used the names of businesses glimpsed in the background (Liggett Druggist and Dart & Bigelow) to establish that Houdini is doing the escape on Westminster Street in front of the offices of the Providence Tribune (the building seen flying the American flag below). Bill has also provided a map from the time.

Click to enlarge.

Today a modern office building stands on the sight at 40 Westminster Street.


So all that remains for us to discover now is the date!

9 comments:

  1. I saw a few cable cars zipping behind Harry. Did Providence have cable cars? The jacket looks like the L.A Pawnstars jacket.

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    1. That's the right way to think! I did indeed check this and, yes, Providence had cable cars. Unfortunately I can't read the names on them.

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    2. Somebody has to do the thinking around here! ;)

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  2. Sounds like a case for John Bengtson. The businesses in the building across the street are the keys, I think. The sign for Dart and Bigelow Calendars across the street would seem to point to Providence -- or at least this page seems to point there: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=quahogorg&set=a.10157900355653284

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    1. Oh, great work on the sign! Yes, this certainly does point to Providence.

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  3. Dart and Bigelow was located at 35 Westminster St., but unfortunately, the buildings on either side of the street look to have been long since demolished (leaving some real eyesores behind): https://www.google.com/maps/place/35+Westminster+St,+Providence,+RI+02903/@41.8250305,-71.4097099,3a,75y,45.19h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1svLrpLEtofpIJv17VdpuMbw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0x89e445168dd6b135:0x5aba85d33ac66ef8!8m2!3d41.8250885!4d-71.4097046

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    1. Too bad, but I love that we may actually have the spot. Now just the dang date.

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  4. It would be interesting to see how some of the modern "escape artists" would do if their strait jackets were secured as properly as Houdini's was.

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    1. Keep in mind that Harry used special jackets for the suspended straitjacket escapes. The arms might have been a bit longer. It was to speed up his release and shorten the time he was dangling upside down.

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