Monday, February 28, 2022

Inside History covers Houdini vs Hodgson

The UK magazine Inside History features Houdini on the cover of their latest issue (#10). Inside is a look at Houdini's torturous 1902 challenge in Blackburn.

In 1902, Harry Houdini came to entertain the town of Blackburn. As always, he set a challenge to the locals to produce locks that he could not escape from. William Hodgson took on the challenge that nearly brought down "The Handcuff King". 

You can purchase Inside History Issue 10 or read the digital version for free via their official website.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Something's missing

Let's cap our Weird Week with this weird one. Here is the famous photo of Houdini and Dorothy Young performing Radio of 1950 as it appeared in the Wichita Daily Times on December 5, 1926. When I first saw this I thought I had found a new image. There was something different about it. But I now realize it is the same image, just with something missing. Can you tell what that something is?

If you don't know, CLICK HERE to compare this to the familiar image.

So which photo should we believe? Was this image too sexy for Witchita and altered? Or was the more familiar photo altered to be made more sexy and what we have here is the original?

If you can tell me for sure, you'll win a Major Award.


Friday, February 25, 2022

Harry Weiss, boxer and club swinger?

Here's an intriguing item that I came across in the New York Evening World for August 19, 1891. Could the Harry Weiss referenced here be our Harry Weiss?

Evening World, Aug. 19, 1891.

We know Houdini boxed in Athletic club tournaments around this time. We also know that belonged to the Allerton and the Pasttime Athletic clubs. The Harry Weiss here is with the Olympian Athletic Club.

It's sometimes stated--and I'm afraid I've stated it myself--that Houdini was in the running for the U.S. Olympic team at this time. But he missed out due to illness. However, the first modern Olympic games were held in 1896 when Houdini was well into his magic career, so this cannot be right. But could this claim have been born of a misunderstanding about Harry joining a club that was "Olympian" in name only?

If this is our Harry, you'll note that he also participated in "club-swinging". If you have no idea what club swinging is (I sure didn't), check out this YouTube video. Yeah, I could see him doing this.


So, Harry Weiss, "Olympian" boxer and club swinger? Just another log for the speculative fire.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Paul Michael Glaser is Houdini again!

Paul Michael Glaser shared this image on his Facebook today. How is this not the best thing ever? Paul appears to be in Anaheim where this photo op sits outside Kip Barry's Cabaret.

In case you don't know, Paul played Houdini in the 1976 television movie The Great Houdinis (below), which still stands as one of the best Houdini biopics, IMO.

You can see more PMG as HH via the links below.


Wednesday, February 23, 2022


Returning to our Weird Week theme, here's one for all you aspiring palm readers. This article ran in the Moline Daily Dispatch on April 13, 1932, and offers a look at Houdini's right palm (allegedly). Note the "cross of keen observation"!

This is not the first time Houdini's palm appeared in newsprint. In 1900 a Kansas City paper reported that Houdini had his "hand examined" by a local palm-reader, Professor Paul Alexander Johnston, and ran the illustration below. This shows his left hand, so that gives us both of Houdini's palms to examine.

Does this mean Houdini believed in palmistry? Before we jump to that conclusion, let's hear from the man himself. The topic came up during Houdini's 1926 testimony before Congress, and here's what he had to say:

Mr. McLeod: Is it a fact that palmistry is a science?
Mr. Houdini: No; it is not.
Mr. McLeod: What do you call it?
Mr. Houdini: It is a fraud. How can you tell anything the lines of the hand? You can tell whether a man is a bricklayer or a bank clerk.
Mr. McLeod: And that is as far as you can go?
Mr. Houdini: That is a far as anybody can go unless they deduce from reading you.

Sounds like he's using his cross of keen observation.

Images: and 'Houdini His Legend and His Magic' by Doug Henning.


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Houdini makes the cover of Genii's 1000th issue

I'm already preempting my "Week of Weird" because we do have some breaking Houdini news today. After a decade's absence, Houdini once again graces the cover of Genii magazine for the March 2022 issue. This is actually Genii's 1000th issue, so how perfect to have Harry back out front. (His first appearance was on issue No. 2 in October 1936.)

The article inside is an excellent and lengthy look at the new Houdini Seance at the Magic Castle written by Jonathan Levit with Jim Steinmeyer and Benjamin Schrader. Not only does the article tell the behind the scenes story of the seance's creation, but it also includes a nice history of the famous Final Houdini Seance of 1936 (featuring Mark Willoughby's rare photos), and Jim Steinmeyer has some elegant and insightful thoughts on Houdini and his everlasting legacy. Overall this makes for a terrific Houdini issue in the Genii tradition.

Oh, and there's a pic inside from our recent Houdini Nuts preview seance in which you can see Patrick Cullition, Jessica Jane Peterson, and myself. I like to think the image captures three generations of succeeding Edward Saints. What a treat and an honor!

You can subscribe to Genii magazine and Genii Online at the official website. You can also buy Genii in magic shops. This is one to get. Let's show the new editor, Dustin Stinett, that putting Houdini's mug on the cover moves some units!

Monday, February 21, 2022

Video reveals "weird" Houdini collectible

This video from the YouTube channel Weird And The Wonderful includes a unique and surprising Houdini collectible. It comes up right at the start of the tour around the one minute mark.

I am familiar with Houdini's practice of using movie memorabilia, such as lobby cards, as backing boards and dividers for items in his theatrical collection. Our friend Eric Colleary of the Harry Ransom Center told me they've come across many examples of these, and in some cases they are more valuable than the items they were used to protect!

These cards (which I would call "title cards" rather than "lobby cards") were almost certainly used by Houdini's Film Developing Corporation on one of their non-Houdini projects. One of the cards appears to be from the 1919 film, Winning His Wife. Once photographed, these were no longer of any use, hence Houdini gave them a renewed purpose.

The idea that Houdini did this is somewhat insider information and I've never seen these outside the Harry Ransom Center. So I'm interested in how someone came to have these and also understand exactly what they were. Who was the mysterious autograph show seller, I wonder?

Enjoy some of the other videos on this channel. Cynthia's wax figure collection is amazing. It's quite the weird and wonderful home museum!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

A Week of Weird

As I looked over my posts for the coming week, I realized they are all a little "weird" in one way or another. So let's embrace that and make it this week's theme!

Below is a tentative line-up of posts. Hope you enjoy, weirdos.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

American Museum of Magic's 2019 Houdini print

This is the 2019 Houdini Commemorative Reproduction print created by the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan. Each year the museum offers a new Commemorative Reproduction as part of their membership package. These reproduction are struck from originals in the museum's collection and are printed on canvas.

The print for a 2022 memberships is a Howard Thurston poster. However, when the museum offered me a choice of print as thanks for my talk last year as part of their Speaker Series, I had to go with Houdini! I've always been wild about this poster. In fact, this was the first image of the real Houdini I ever saw.

Speaking of the American Museum Speaker Series, the first lecture of this year will be the legendary Jim Steinmeyer giving a talk on Thurston the Great and How History Fools Us. It will take place live on Zoom on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 7 pm. All talks are free to members. Non-members can join for a $10 donation.

Visit the American Museum of Magic website for information, merchandise, and to become a member. We love our friends in Marshall!

Friday, February 18, 2022

Houdini part of WGY exhibition in Schenectady

The famous shot of Houdini giving a radio address over WGY is one of 50 photographs selected for an exhibition marking the station's centennial at the Museums of Innovation and Science (miSci) in Schenectady, New York. The exhibition will be on view through May 8, 2022.

WGY: Radio’s Laboratory Celebrates Its Centennial
presents more than fifty rare and historical photographs, ranging in date from the early 1920s to 1980, documenting the history of WGY, a groundbreaking radio station founded in 1922 and still operating today in the New York Capital Region.

WGY is the tenth oldest commercial radio station in the United States, the creator of the first broadcast drama, and a pioneer in the use of sound effects. It was the first affiliate of the NBC national network and regularly featured top national entertainers. WGY was also one of the stations that helped to unite the country during World War II by providing important news to the entire nation.

Photographs on view include an October 1926 image of Harry Houdini appearing on WGY to promote a performance in Albany, one of his last before his death a few weeks later on Halloween; and a 1929 image of the famous aviator Amelia Earhart, who visited the WGY studio to give a talk and read letters to Admiral Richard Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition.

One small correction to the official description above. This was a split week for the "3 Shows in One". Houdini had just come from Albany and was actually promoting his appearance at Schenectady's own Van Curler Theater when he made this broadcast on October 14, 1926.

For more information visit the miSci website.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

"A second Hardeen"

I've seen no shortage of aspiring Handcuff Kings likening themselves to Houdini. But here's a young escapist in Tacoma, Washington, being touted as "a second Hardeen." Hardeen had just completed a successful run at Tacoma's Pantages Theater. He had even done a bridge jump. So I guess Tacoma in 1908 was a Hardeen town!

Tacoma Daily Ledger, Oct. 23, 1908.

What would Houdini think of this? For staters, he was touring Europe at this time, so it's likely never saw this. But in 1908 Houdini was open to the idea of franchising his act. There was Hardeen, of course, but Houdini had also made a deal with the Western Burlesque Wheel to showcase the "Houdini Act" as presented by Leonard Hicks. He was also developing a female escape artist in Germany named "Oceana". 

So this begs the question. Was it better to be a "second Hardeen" or the "fourth Houdini"?

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Hardeen's Tacoma bridge jump

In 1908 Hardeen made a successful tour of the Pantages circuit in the western United States. Below is an account of a bridge jump in Tacoma, Washington, on October 12. There are not a lot of photos of Hardeen's outside stunts, so I was excited to see these images. It's also great to read the details of a Hardeen jump. Notice that he, like his brother, wore a red bathing suit.

Tacoma Daily News, Oct. 12, 1908.

I came across this clipping while working on my 1908 Houdini chronology. At the moment, I'm resisting adding Hardeen stunts to the chronology because I fear that will open a can of worms. But whenever I find something like this, it strikes me how feasible it would be for someone to write a proper Hardeen biography. It's all online to find!

By the way, Hardeen was popular in Tacoma. I'll share an example of just how popular next.


Sunday, February 13, 2022

5000 posts

Today I noticed that WILD ABOUT HARRY has hit 5000 published posts. Feels like we've still just scratched the surface. Thanks to everyone for your support!



Revisit the 1998 Houdini Historical Center gift shop

Over the past few weeks our friend Joe Notaro at Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence has been paging through his 1998 Houdini Historical Center Museum Shop Catalog. The assortment of poster reproductions, videos, and special merchandise was really impressive. Like Joe, I would frequently fax a full order form to Appleton. Wish I still could!

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Margery and Houdini: Complete Series

Over the past four Saturdays I've been sharing installments of The Snake's Paw 4-part audio drama about Houdini and Margery. Today I finish with the complete series in one clip. Enjoy.

In the 1920s, Harry Houdini was on a mission to debunk mediums who claimed to communicate with the dead. This eventually led him to an extraordinary woman named Mina Crandon. Based on true events, Margery & Houdini relates how the most mystifying medium of her day and the most famous escape artist of all time came to meet each other - and how each struggled to prove the other wrong. 
This video contains the complete series - all four parts. 

You can support The Snake's Paw with a donation on Ko-fi.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Alleged "Houdini stunt-used straitjacket" at auction

As a rule, I try not to post about auctions in progress. However, I feel compelled to chime in on this one. LiveAuctioneers is listing a "Harry Houdini stunt-used straight jacket" signed by Houdini himself. The auction currency sits at $1,300 with three bids. But there are problems here.

For starters, I don't know of any photograph of Houdini in this style straitjacket. The auction provides no provenance and according to Magic Castle assistant librarian (and straitjacket expert), Joe Fox, this is an Abbott's straitjacket. These were first produced in the 1930s and Abbott's continues to sell them today. So made after Houdini's death. Also, the signature bares similarity to the work of a well-known Houdini forger.

The same auction house, Dalshire International, also listed a sheet of signed letterhead as "A perfect compliment to his straight jacket". This was, unquestionably, the work of that forger and the auction was taken down.

So red flags everywhere. Bidder beware!

UPDATE: Looks like this sold for $34,000.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Deconstructing Houdini '53: Miner's Hall

Continuing my scene by scene dissection of Paramount's classic 1953 biopic Houdini. Last time we joined Harry and Bess on their Wedding Night. Today we hit the road...

Chapter 6: Miner's Hall

The Houdinis years of toil at the bottom rungs of show business is nicely dramatized in this sequence set at the fictional Miner's Hall in Monona Jct., West Virginia. The real Harry and Bess did perform in West Virginia in their early years. In Paw Paw Houdini recorded in his diary: "Rain hard. No dinner." While the events of these scene are wholly fictional, it does a good job of showing how a rough and tumble start helped shape Houdini's stage persona. By the way, this entire sequence was one of two that would be cut from the film when it aired on television. It wasn't until the advent of VHS that I ever saw it.

We open on the uncredited Billy Bletcher performing as "Luratti, The Little Man with the Big Voice". (That is his real baritone.) This is a world of show business that you don't really see in other biopics, but it is very representative of the world that Houdini performed in. He was almost always part of a rotation of acts on a variety bill. Here the act is billed as "The Great Houdinis", but the real Harry and Bess called themselves just "The Houdinis". As I've previously mentioned, Houdini rarely used "Great" in his billing. It sounded as corny then as it does now. But Hollywood finds it irresistible.

After Luratti is driven off the stage by the vegetable throwing audience, The (Great) Houdinis reluctantly take the stage and launch into their magic act. The trick we see Houdini perform is the Whirlwind of Colors, an effect performed by the real Houdini and later Bess. But instead of producing a flapping American "Eagle" from the scarves, here he conjures a teetering stack of goldfish bowls. This just invites an especially rowdy audience member (Joe Ploski) to shoot Bess with a spit-wad, causing her to drop all the bowls. It's a mess and poor Janet Leigh looks to be having a genuinely difficult time getting off the slippery stage. 

Houdini's plea, "At least give us a chance," is met with a tomato to his face. He then steels himself and announces he will do a trick "never before seen on any stage." He then vanishes before the stunned crowd and reappears within the audience where he delivers his own tomato to the face of his tormentor. This wins over the audience who cheer him heartily.

The vanishing effect as performed here is worth talking about. This is not a trick that can be performed impromptu in any space. This is a big theater effect. Tony Curtis plays it as if he is digging into some deeper reservoir of magic power brought on by his anger. Suddenly he IS the greatest magician of all time, the future HOUDINI, and he does the impossible. Tellingly, Bess, who will later express her fear of this power, is not there to witness it. Or is this just another magic trick? We never find out, and playing with this ambiguity is part of the fun of Houdini.

Harry then joins Bess in their (unrealistically large) dressing room. She expresses her frustration with life on the road. When their next stop, Wheeling, is mentioned, Bess laments, "We'll probably get shot there." This may or may not be a nod to Harry getting shot in the hand in Coffeeville, Kansas, during this time. Bess suggests Harry consider taking a job in a lock factory. This is not something Harry takes well. We then get this exchange:

Bess: Nobody seems to want your magic, Harry. There's nothing new in card tricks. What does it mean to go through trap doors and escape from cabinets. What does it all mean?

Harry: I don't know what it means. I only know what it does to me. Like tonight when I did that disappearing act, tough as they were, you should have seen their faces. I gave them a thrill. Something to take home and talk about.

Bess: So you thrilled them for a minute. By tomorrow it will be forgotten.

Harry: Next time I'll give them a bigger thrill. Something they won't forget so soon.

This is nice foreshadowing, and I love the moment in any biopic when Houdini expresses what it means to be a magician. We also get a bit of Harry's backstory here when he says, "I never went to school. I started working when I was nine years old with the magician in a tent show." Neither is true, but it's an effective bit of expository dialogue that sets up his rags to riches story.

Bess seems resigned to this life and asks Harry to help her out of her costume so they can catch the milk train to Wheeling. But instead Harry pulls her into his arms and gives her a deep kiss. 

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh were married at this time, and their real-life romance was a big selling point of Houdini. "Their real love spills over on the screen!" ran one of the trade ads promoting the star coupling. This moment, which is fairly sexy by 1950s standards, appears to be delivering on that promise. And we know Houdini was an effective date movie.

As their kissing grows more passionate, we hear the sound of the train in the distance, suggesting they are not going to make their connection. Does this mean Harry has acquiesced? The next scene will tell us...

Monday, February 7, 2022

Outing Margery in Sherman, Texas

Maybe it has something to do with the new Houdini Seance at the Magic Castle (which I recently had the pleasure of re-experiencing with my fellow "Houdini Nuts"), but Margery seems to be angling for my attention lately. Here's a tidbit that recently found it way to me that I don't believe has appeared in any biography, yet it pinpoints an important moment in Houdini-Margery history.

Houdini's first public exposure of Margery, which included officially outing her identity as Mina Crandon, wife of the eminent Boston surgeon, Dr. Le Roi Crandon, took place on the evening of October 16, 1924, at Sherman Hall on the campus of Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Houdini had teased the coming news during his lecture in Waco a few days earlier.

The famous Margery seances had taken place in August, but Houdini was bound by the Scientific American's embargo on all details of the Margery investigation. That embargo lifted at 8:00 AM on October 16 while Houdini was in the middle of his nationwide spiritualism lecture tour. Houdini wasted no time working a full Margery exposé into his lecture that very night. Three days later, on October 19, he released his famous pink pamphlet, Houdini Exposes the Tricks of the Boston Medium "Margery".

Sherman was not one of the larger cities on Houdini's tour, and until recently the only record I had of this lecture was the below newspaper clipping that sold on eBay a while back. I don't know who won this, but happy to let them know of its added historical significance!

Thanks to "Houdini Nut" Joe Notaro for providing me with a copy of Ron Cartlidge's "Houdini Final Texas Tour" lecture notes.

UPDATE: Just want to add that while Houdini officially named "Margery" as Mina Crandon at this lecture, her identity had leaked in the press in early August.


Sunday, February 6, 2022

The Professor fooled Houdini 100 years ago today

It was 100 years ago today that Dai Vernon fooled Houdini with his Ambitious Card at an S.A.M. banquet at the Great Northern Hotel in Chicago. To mark the occasion, here's video of The Professor himself doing that very trick. This is from a 1976 Canadian show, Celebrity Revue, hosted by Carol Taylor and Peter Pit.

Vernon did the trick for Houdini seven times and, it's my understand, varied his method each time. He would forever pride himself on being "The Man Who Fooled Houdini." Vernon's own mementos from that night sold last year at a Potter & Potter auction, including the group photo below.

What I'd love to know is what happened to the signed four of diamonds?

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Margery & Houdini: Part Four - Broken Spirits

The Snake's Paw has produced a 4-part audio drama about Houdini and Margery written by Matthew Morris and Andrew Farrier with help from Jack Townsend. Houdini is voiced by Harmon Gunston and Margery is voiced by Helen Jaksch. Below is the fourth and final installment: Broken Spirits.

Based on true events, Margery & Houdini relates how the most mystifying medium of her day and the most famous escape artist of all time came to meet each other - and how each struggled to prove the other wrong.

In Part Four, the committee tests Margery's powers by locking her in constraints, leading to a confrontation with Walter and the conclusion of the contest.

You can listen to all four parts in one 2-hour clip at The Snake's Paw's YouTube channel. You can also support The Snake's Paw with a donation on Ko-fi.

Thanks to Jonathan Fells in Wales for the tip.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

The Man From Beyond screening in Greenfield, MA

Houdini's The Man From Beyond will screen this Saturday, February 5, at 6pm at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The screening is part of Greenfield's 100th Annual Winter Carnival which begins Friday.

"This was the perfect film to feature for Greenfield's 100th Winter Carnival," said Garden Cinemas owner Isaac Mass. "It was the Frozen of 1922."

The film will will have live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, who has provided accompaniment for several Houdini films over the years. Says Rapsis: "These films are audience favorites, and people continue to be surprised at how engrossing and exhilarating they can be when shown as they were intended: in a theater, and with live music."

The Greenfield Garden Cinemas also has a connection to magic history. Greenfield native Penn Jillette had his first job at the theater. Penn gave the screening a special shout-out in a video he prepared for the theater's Facebook page.

Tickets for The Man From Beyond are available online at For more information, call (413) 773-9260.

Thanks to the Greenfield Recorder.


Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Strange Harry

Here's an unusual photo of Houdini that ran with a review of the William Lindsay Gresham biography, Houdini The Man Who Walked Through Walls, in the London Evening Standard on March 29, 1960 (Headline: "Oh, why do they have to give Houdini away?") At least it says this is Houdini! I'm not familiar with this photo and it almost looks like a Houdini impersonator or even a wax figure. A strange Harry indeed.

UPDATE: I've found another newspaper image taken at this same time. This one shows Harry's hands are bounds. It appears to be real and appears to be him. I do think heavy theatrical makeup might be what's giving him that strange look. This one I shared on my Patreon below:


Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Joe Posnanski on The Fantastic Story Society podcast

Joe Posnanski, author of The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini, is interviewed on The Fantastic Story Society podcast. This is one of the better interviews I've heard with Joe. Co-host Scott Markus is also a friend whom you may recall from his 2014 Houdini tour. You can listen to the interview below or head on over to Apple Podcasts.

Joe Posnanski has made a career by being inspired by curiosity and following his own passions. That's lead to him writing numerous books, winning awards and most importantly, surrounding himself with people that fascinate him.

The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini is available on and You can follow Joe at JoeBlogs and on Twitter.