Monday, December 13, 2021

Houdini's lost top hat is found

Our friend Roger Dreyer from Houdini Revealed (formally the Houdini Museum of New York) shares with us a remarkable new acquisition with a great story behind it. Gaze below at Houdini's top hat!

Roger purchased this hat from James F. Green (aka Mr. G The Magician) who bought it from magician and author Burling Hull in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Hull told Green a curious story of how he acquired it. He was at an S.A.M. banquet in New York with Houdini also in attendance (he did not provide the year). Hull asked Bess Houdini to dance with him, which she did. Hull was a handsome man...too much so for Houdini. The jealous Houdini marched out and retrieved Bess and left the event in a huff. In doing so, he left his top hat behind. Hull chased after them to return the hat, but he failed to catch up to them so he kept the hat for himself.

The dancing with Bess episode was written up by Bev Bergeron in the March 2007 Linking Ring ("A Dance with Bess: The Tricks, Tales, and Trials of Burling Hull"). According to Bergeron, Houdini later apologized when he leaned who Hull was and offered up Bess as a dancing partner at their next S.A.M. gathering. But it appears Hull did not offer up the hat!

Hearing this story I was immediately reminded of the below item from Motion Picture News about, yes, Houdini losing his hat at an S.A.M. banquet in 1922.

This is Boston, not New York, so this could be another S.A.M. event and another hat. But this is all great stuff and another terrific addition to Roger Dreyer's amazing collection.


  1. Is there a photo of Harry in a top hat around the 1920s? I've never seen one. We know about the early London photos of Harry and Dash wearing top hats and carrying canes. I suspect top hats were starting to go out of fashion by the 20s. Hollywood musicals and magicians have kept the top hat in rotation.

    1. He wears one in Haldane of the Secret Service. I think top hats remained a standard part of any tuxedo for many years.

    2. I think JFK and his dad Joe wore a top hat at his inauguration. Beyond that I don't recall seeing one worn in public beyond magic acts like James Dimmare and films. I'd love to see a still of Harry in a top hat from Haldane.

    3. Check out the top Related link. I have a screen capture from Haldane there.