Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Pulling Houdini's ear at the Rialto

Here's a gem of an eyewitness account of Houdini at the Rialto theater in Washington, D.C. in August 1922. This engagement also marks a significant moment in Houdini history, but I'll come back that after the story.

Washington Herald, August 27, 1922.

The Rialto was a movie theater and Houdini was there making a personal appearance with The Man From Beyond. But unlike the movie's similar run at the Times Square Theater in New York in which Houdini performed magic, for this Washington engagement he demonstrated spiritualist trickery. These were his first public lectures on the subject and the debut of Houdini the ghostbuster.

This also means the intrepid Betty Whitfied had to sit through two showings of The Man From Beyond to see Houdini a second time. A Houdini nut indeed!

But not all audience members found his demonstrations as entertaining, as can be read below:

Washington Herald, August 29, 1922.

Hey, at least he liked the movie!

Built in 1918, Moore's Rialto was located at 713 Ninth Street NW. In 1925 it was taken over by the Universal Picture chain who operated it until 1927. It was demolished in 1940.

Below is the site of the Rialto today, where Houdini first entertained and inflamed with his spirit busting.



  1. You are panning gold HH nuggets on!!! Harry did a book test effect with a spirit slates revelation. A nice combination. It's more interesting than just divining the first and last words of a freely chosen page in a book. He's breaking in the spirit stuff.

    That's definitely Washington DC. You can tell by the short buildings. No skyscrapers are permitted that city. I wonder if that couple had to buy another movie ticket for the next show. The ushers would have made them leave the auditorium to clean up the trash from the concession stand. Maybe they hung out in the lobby.

  2. Very cool stuff - thanks for sharing. First-hand accounts of Houdini joking and interacting with the audience are some of my favorite things to read about him; great to see something new.