Saturday, April 30, 2022

World Wide Doug Henning Birthday Celebration

Next Saturday, May 7th, S.A.M. President Tom Gentile and the great Chip Romero will host a 6-hour online "World Wide Doug Henning Birthday Celebration". No doubt this was inspired by the success of the World Wide Houdini Birthday Celebration last month. I'm looking forward to six hours of Doug...and Chip!

Check out the Event Page on Facebook for details. I will post the link when available.

Meeting ID: 898 6869 8281 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Searching for Houdini in Bellefontaine

The city of Bellefontaine, Ohio, together with real estate developer Small Nation, are in the process of restoring a historic block of buildings that once housed that city's Grand Opera House. Check out the sign that hangs in the building's widow. I love this kind of stuff!


Unfortunately, I don't currently have a listing in my chronology for Houdini's appearance at the Grand Opera House in Bellefontaine. This doesn't mean he wasn't there. I've just yet to find him.

The Grand Opera House operated from 1880 to 1913. As far as I know, Bellefontaine was not on the Keith or Orpheum vaudeville circuits, so it's most likely Houdini appeared here in his early days (1893-1899). Opera Houses such as the one in Bellefontaine are where the American Gaiety GirlsCalifornia Concert Co., or Roger's Orpheum Stars would play, sometimes only for a single night.

So if can anyone help find Houdini in Bellefontaine, that would be great. That sign is too cool to not be true!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Houdini surfaces for the last time

This is not the most flattering photo of Houdini, but it does capture an important moment 99 years ago today. This is Houdini after escaping shackles, including a 24-pound ball and chain, in the swimming pool of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on April 28, 1923. Houdini was taking part in a special event marking the opening of the pool for summer. As it stands now, this is his last known outdoor water escape.

The Wichita Daily Eagle, May 27, 1923.

It's not surprising to see Houdini holding the iron ball aloft. Had he let it drop to the bottom, it would have almost certainly damaged the Ambassador pool. In fact, controlling this iron ball might have been the hardest part of the whole escape!

Image: Newspapers.com

Related:

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Moosers wild memories of Houdini

Recently I came across an article in the February 17, 1967 Oakland Tribune about Hattie and Minnie Mooser and their memories of their friend, Houdini. I've read other articles about the Mooser sisters and Houdini, but this one contains stories that I have not read before...and they are pretty wild!

The article kicks off with the Moosers familiar claim that their brother, Leon, discovered Houdini in a "tent show" and booked him at the Palace, literally pushing the young magician out onto the stage. "Houdini didn't even have a tuxedo. My brother lent him his own and Houdini almost didn't go on," says Hattie.

None of this comports with any known facts about how and were Houdini got his start, and he certainly had a tuxedo from his earliest days. But I think we can blame the brother for this. The Moosers are just telling a story that has been told it to them. Leon did discover and introduce Ching Ling Foo to the U.S., so it's possible some of the Foo stories might have morphed into Houdini stories over the years?

It's when the Moosers tell of their own first-hand experiences of Houdini that things get really interesting. Following are some choice excerpts:

    Whenever the Houdinis were in the Bay Area they made their headquarters at the Aladdin Studio, a restaurant operated by the Mooser girls.
    And often Hattie would substitute for Bess in Houdini's stage performances.
    But most of the memories are of the man himself, and not the feats he performed.
    Miss Hattie recalls one damp night when Houdini ushered her quickly into a cab and directed the driver to the waterfront:
    "Not many people knew it but Houdini helped the Coast Guard round up a ring of rum runners. They often asked him to assist in an investigation because he was such a good swimmer and he trained himself to withstand cold. He would swim out to a suspected rum runner's boat, look around, and report back to the authorities."

This is certainly fodder for people who enjoy the idea of Houdini as a spy. In fact, this rum runner "mission" is presented as fact in The Secret Life Houdini. But the only source is this article. I'm more intrigued by the suggestion that Hattie would sometimes substitute for Bess onstage. And this:
    Miss Hattie recalled joining Houdini in leading a pack of newspaper man through the Winchester Mystery House one dark night. She said:
    "There were no lights in the house and we carried flashlights. Houdini was interested in the house because of his psychic research."
This is first I've heard of the Moosers being with Houdini on that midnight tour in 1924. But a pack of reporters as well? No newspaper accounts followed, so not sure what to make of this.
    Miss Hattie also remembered the time she was able to get Houdini into the Tower of Jewels at the 1915 Worlds Fair.
    "We went to dinner afterwards and he asked when my sister and I would observe our birthdays," Miss Hattie said. "I asked him why and he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of jewels. You know nobody took their eyes off him when he was in the tower and I have no idea how he got them."
    The jewels, of course, were glass.
Houdini was indeed in San Fransisco in 1915 and even did an overboard box escape within site of the Worlds Fair. The stories continue from Minnie:
    Miss Minnie recalled that they employed college students at their restaurant and had a difficult time keeping any silverware.
    "One day Houdini came in with a mysterious looking package," Miss Minnie said. "He called us aside and opened it. It was filled with cheap knives and forks from the five and dime. 'If you are going to let them get away with the silverware, make certain it's only the cheap stuff,' he said."
Hattie, who appears to have been the sister who was closer to Houdini, takes over with this:
    Miss Hattie also recalled a day when she sat in a darkened movie theater with Houdini to watch his first movie.
    In it he played a superman who had been frozen in ice for 300 years.
    "It was awful, just awful," she said. "And I asked him how he had ever been talked into investing in such a terrible film.
    "He shook his head sadly. He had poured most of his savings from his career in the theater into the film and lost every cent of it."
I could not find a theater playing The Man From Beyond in San Fransisco in 1923 or 1924. It would have been fun to have put Houdini inside a specific movie theater. 

Finally, there's this gem:
    "He was a brilliant man," Hattie said. "But he was very serious. He never played and he never relaxed. He had unbelievable strength and he could control every muscle in his body. He could put his foot on the floor and break the strings in his shoe without anyone knowing that he had moved his foot."
This has to be one of the best details about Houdini's strength that I've ever read.

Thank you Hattie and Minnie!


Images: Newspapers.com

Monday, April 25, 2022

Houdini fiction thrives in self-publishing

I've generally stopped collecting Houdini fiction. I just don't have the shelf space and I have enough work stripping the fiction from Houdini's real life! But I understand how people enjoying reading and writing Houdini fiction, and the genre is alive and well, especially in the world of self-publishing. Here are two relatively new self-published titles with interesting approaches.

Burning the Red Candle: The Life and Death of Harry Houdini by Carley Eason Evans tells the story of Harry and Bess with a unique approach.

Burning the Red Candle tells the story of The Houdinis: Harry, Bess and their imaginary son, Mayer tell their tale from their early days of medicine shows to their last days during which Harry participates in an ongoing battle with the famous Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Harry insists he does not possess supernatural powers while Conan Doyle and other spiritualists claim that he must. Throughout their marriage, Harry's wife, Bess struggles with anxiety and depression. In an effort to cope with everyday life, she creates a son for the childless couple. Knowing Harry seeks to communicate with his dead mother, Bess promises him that when her husband dies, she will burn a red candle and wait for his message from beyond the grave. Imaginary Mayer is both playful child and dutiful companion, continually six years old for his mother, Bess while growing up for his father. Each Houdini speaks about the life and death of the greatest magician of all time, Harry Houdini.

The Houdinis imaginary child, Mayer Samuel, is rooted in fact. Ruth Brandon revealed the existence of "Mayer" in her 1993 biography, The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini.

Another self-published work is Houdini's Return: The Metamorphosis of Ehrich Weiss by J.W Cross. As the title suggests, the book ponders the possibility of Houdini's return from beyond.

A strange occurrence in a small magic shop sets into motion a series of events that leads to the impossible. After all, it’s no easy task to return from the grave—even for Houdini. But with the help of a few hand-selected if unwitting accomplices and the guidance of a secret notebook penned years ago, the impossible could become reality. And when modern science finally catches up to Houdini’s vision, the legendary magician who once escaped from ropes, handcuffs and straightjackets, may finally escape the bonds of death. To help him accomplish this, however, the Great Houdini will have to rely on the person who doubts him the most.

Purchase Houdini's Return: The Metamorphosis of Ehrich Weiss at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Purchase Burning the Red Candle: The Life and Death of Harry Houdini at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Was Houdini about to retire the Water Torture Cell?


Here's an interesting detail from a review of Houdini's "3 Shows in One" at the Shubert Theater in Cincinnati in September 1925.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Sept. 21, 1925.

It's somehow surprising to hear Houdini make a reference to his advancing age on stage. But what a good way to create in some extra tension. I also think he was sincere and was looking to replace the USD with a new second act escape. Sid Radner claimed it was to be his unnamed nest of boxes escape. But when Houdini embarked on what would be his final "3 Shows in One" tour the following year, he introduced his Buried Alive escape in Boston and Worcester. 

But then the Water Torture Cell returned and was still his go-to escape at the time of his death. So I guess we'll never know if or when Houdini would have finally retired the USD.

Related:

Friday, April 22, 2022

'Houdini: Historia de una muerte' in Valencia, Spain

A new play, Houdini - Historia de una muerte, opens today at the Teatro Flumen in Valencia, Spain. The title translates as "Houdini: Story of a Death". 

Afraid I don't know much more about this. But if you're in Spain and want to see the show, you can buy tickets HERE. You can also find more information and production images on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Deconstructing Houdini '53: Eight-thousand, six hundred and forty-three locks

Continuing my scene by scene dissection of Paramount's classic 1953 biopic Houdini. Last time we joined Harry and Bess on the road. Today we find them back at home.

Chapter 7: 8,643 locks

The following series of scenes in Houdini (1953) are largely setups for the more major scenes to come. But in these scenes are many echos of real Houdini history and do well to illustrate my point that, while this film fictionalizes for entertainment purposes, it still builds those fictions atop a foundation of fundamental facts.

We open with Harry, having given into Bess's plea to give up on show business, working the assembly line of a lock factory. This pulls from a few pieces of real Houdini history. Houdini always claimed he apprenticed to a locksmith when he was a boy, and it was there he acquired his expert knowledge of locks. And as a teenager, Houdini worked an assembly line as a necktie cutter. So here we see these ideas have been nicely combined. It's also said Houdini's brother-in-law, William Bartholmes, offered to get him a job at the Yale lock factory. I've only ever seen this mentioned in Kellock, the book on which this movie is based, so it's likely that's what sparked the idea of a lock factory here.

Of course, the always ambitious Houdini wants to move up the ladder and work on the "big safes" like the surly Mr. Hunter (Frank Orth). He also still has escape on his mind, and asks Hunter if he could one day try to free himself from one of his safes "by working the tumblers from the inside." For this he only gets chastised and sent back to his bench. All this is fantastic stuff. Up until now the movie has only shown us a rope escape. But now Harry is in a world of locks and already seeing their dramatic possibilities. His encounter with Mr. Hunter also shows his predilections to make and take on challenges.


Houdini returns home (his mothers home) where Bess is happily ensconced in domestic life. The picture here feels a little more like 1950s domesticity, but it's Bess's ideal.
Bess: How'd it go today?
Harry: Just great. I opened eight-thousand, six hundred and forty-two locks.
Bess: Well at least we're not dodging tomatoes and you get paid every Saturday night.
This is also rooted in fact. Following their second stint with the Welsh Bros. Circus in 1898, the Houdinis returned to New York and the Weiss family home and appear to have, temporarily, given up show business. Houdini attempted to sell his act and open a school of magic. I've always wondered if he might have picked up a few shifts at the old tie factory? He was still in the union. So a hiatus just before the swell of success is right in sync with the real Houdini story.

Bess notices that Harry is "two dollars short" in his paycheck. She asked if he "stopped off anywhere." I think audiences at that time, and maybe still now, would take this to mean stopping off at a bar. But this is Harry Houdini. He pulls out a pair of handcuffs that he purchased (Hamburg 8s). To prove they are "good ones", he has Bess lock them on his wrists. He then makes an instant escape. 

"That makes eight-thousand, six hundred and forty-three locks that I've opened today," he quips.


This is a magnificent moment that does so much for the characters and the narrative. We see Houdini just can't stop being a performer and can't stop dreaming up new escapes. This also gives a handcuff escape a nice moment in the movie and shows them, correctly, as part of Houdini's evolution. We could also give this a deeper read. Harry has been "handcuffed" to a domestic life by Bess. But he's reminding her nothing can hold Houdini a prisoner.

Bess is clearly threatened by this and doesn't share Houdini's joy in the escape. Instead she brings him back to domestic life and tells him to wash up for dinner. But Houdini deflects by saying he's taking her out to dinner. Bess is predictably thrilled, and even more so when mama, at her sewing table, tells her she has her dress all finished. Again, I can't help but recognize an echo of Houdini history here. A key ingredient in the mythic story of how Harry and Bess met is mama making Bess a new dress.


We end with Harry and Bess arriving at the Hotel Astor. Bess wonders if they can afford such a place. Harry gallantly says, "Nothing but the best for you my dear", and he ushers her inside. But we see he has used misdirection to conceal a revealing sign at the hotel door...

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Bandwagon travels with The Houdinis and the Welsh Bros.

The latest issue of The Bandwagon, The Journal of the Circus Historical Society, has a stellar cover article by Greg Parkinson about The Houdinis and the Welsh Bros. Circus. The article is extremely well-researched and thoroughly annotated and offers new information about The Houdinis two tours, as well as Welsh Bros. history in general. Highly recommended!

The Bandwagon is sent quarterly to members of the Circus Historical Society. To join, visit their official website.

Thank you Chris Berry.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Houdini the playwright?


Here's a curiosity I encountered while doing research on Houdini in the 1920s. This news item ran in several papers and reports that Houdini had written a stage play. 

Dayton Daily News, May 18, 1924.

Of course, Houdini wrote short playlets to copyright his effects. But the last one of those was written in 1914. This sounds like something more substantial and something he hoped to get produced. So is there a lost Houdini stage play out there?

Just one to file away until we can find another piece of this latest Houdini puzzle.

UPDATE: Looks like we have that next piece of the puzzle, and it's wild! Read: The Grim Game on stage?

Related:

Saturday, April 16, 2022

The search is on for someone who saw Houdini


Attention centenarians or anyone who knows a centenarian!

During the World Wide Houdini Birthday Celebration last month, the topic came up as to whether there's still anyone alive who met or saw Houdini. June Horowitz, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 104, was the last person I was aware of. And with Houdini being dead for nearly 98 years, the math is moving against us.

However, I think there's still a good chance there are some centenarians out there who saw Houdini. This is because in the last years of his life, when he was touring with his 3 Shows in One in 1925-26, Houdini made a practice of performing special matinees for audiences made up entirely of children. He did this in every city he played. That's a lot of kids! So I think it's entirely possible one or more of these audience members could still be with us.

So if you have a parent or grandparent who was around in 1925-26, maybe ask them if they saw Houdini? If they did, please contact me. It would be great to discover and celebrate anyone who holds a memory of the real Houdini while we still have the chance to do so.

Photo: Library of Congress.

Friday, April 15, 2022

LINK: Arthur Moses in Departures

Our great friend Arthur Moses and his formidable Houdini collection are featured in an excellent profile in Departures Magazine. Some wonderful images of his collection here. Click the headline to have a read.

"When people come over, I always say that if there’s something you want to see or to touch, just ask. You’re not going to hurt anything. Part of why I have all of this stuff is because I also love showing it off."

 Related:

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Wiljalba Frikell's final note

Our friend Eric Colleary has tweeted out this treasure from the Harry Ransom Center's Houdini collection. Can anyone tell us what this says?


Wiljalba Frikell was a famous magician before Houdini's time. It was Frikell, not Robert-Houdin, who first rejected wizard robes in favor of wearing evening dress. The young Houdini went to great lengths to visit the magician at his home in Kotchenbroda, Germany in 1903. But when Harry arrived, he found Frikell laying dead in his parlor, having suffered a heart attack just hours before.

Houdini at the Frikell home. (The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin)

I've always heard about this note, but have never actually seen it. Thank you Eric!

R.I.P. Gilbert Gottfried, Shoedini spokesman

Yesterday came the sad news that comedian Gilbert Gottfried passed away at age 67. While Gilbert will be remembered for his ground-breaking standup and iconic film roles, I think he wins a seat at Houdini's table in heaven with this.


Gilbert was also close friends with Penn Jillette. Check out this video posted yesterday by Harrison Greenbaum in which Penn and Gilbert share a story. 

You can read Gilbert Gottfried's obituary here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

New candidate for Houdini's first radio broadcast


Looks like we have a new candidate for Houdini's first radio broadcast. As you can see below, Houdini spoke on Westinghouse's station KDKA in Pittsburg at 7:15 PM on March 8, 1922. It's unlikely this was spiritualism related (like many of his other broadcasts) as this pre-dates his first public lectures on the subject. So what could this 15 minute "entertainment" have been? The mind boggles!

The Pittsburgh Press, March 8, 1922.

At the moment, this is the earliest Houdini radio broadcast that I'm aware of. But the list is ever growing. Oh how I wish someone, somewhere, somehow could find a recording of any Houdini radio talk!

Clipping: Newspapers.com

Little People, BIG DREAMS: Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara with illustrations by Juliana Vido is released today. This is the 99th book in the popular Little People, BIG DREAMS series from Frances Lincoln Children's Books.

In this book from the highly acclaimed Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the incredible life of Harry Houdini, one of the most famous entertainers to have ever lived. 

When he was four, little Ehrich emigrated with his family from Hungary to the USA. Although they had reached a world of great opportunity, the family lived in poverty and Ehrich had no choice but to go to work from a young age. When he was just nine, Ehrich worked as a trapeze artist, and this experience led him into a life of entertainment.

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.


Purchase Little People, BIG DREAMS: Harry Houdini at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Grimm Life Collective: Houdini in Pittsburgh

Here's another video from Michael at The Grimm Life Collective. This time he takes us on a short tour of Houdini's Pittsburgh. I love seeing Houdini locations!


This video is from 2019 and you'll notice Michael says the building that housed the Alvin Theatre, where Houdini played his 3 Shows on One for two weeks in 1925, was due to be demolished in 2021. However, looking on Google Maps, it appears the building is still there.

The Pittsburgh Press, Sept. 13, 1925

You can find links to all the outside videos I share via my Linked Videos list at the Wild About Harry YouTube Channel.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Saturday, April 9, 2022

The Magical Life of Harry Houdini led by Larry Bounds, April 12

This Tuesday, April 12, Larry Bounds will present "The Magical Life of Harry Houdini" at the Hughes Main Library in Greenville, SC. The event can be enjoyed in person and virtually. It's free, but registration is required.


This is the first of three Houdini-themed events featuring Mr. Bounds and is part of the 2022 Library Talk Series celebrating a 24-year community collaboration between Greenville Chautauqua and the Greenville County Library System. (I love their original Houdini caricature art above.)

For more information check out the History Comes Alive website.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Houdini vs. Margery II: The rematch that wasn't

It's not generally known that Houdini and Margery almost had a second seance room encounter--a rematch, if you will--in September 1926 when Houdini brought his 3 Shows in One to Boston. But the seance didn't happen, and as with everything Houdini-Margery, both sides blamed the other.

Recently our good friend Jessica Jane Peterson lent me a book she happened upon, Margery Mediumship, Vol. 2 (1933), that contains the original correspondence between the parties. I think I can read between the lines and suss out what really happened to Houdini vs. Margery II.

On September 17, 1926, Dr. Henry Clay McComas, professor of experimental psychology at Princeton, visited Houdini in his dressing room at the Majestic Theater in Boston. McComas and several fellow investigators had attended two recent seances at the Crandons Lime Street home and had been impressed. Margery, via her dead brother Walter, was now able to identify random objects placed in a basket that would also freely levitate. The old bell box was still in use, but this time Walter could ring the bell while the box was held in the laps of the sitters, even with their backs turned.

Key to the new manifestations was that Margery was placed under strict control (i.e., restrained). Control is what brought her down during the Scientific American seances. When properly restrained by Houdini's "Margie box" and later Dr. Comstock's device, Margery/Walter could not produce any phenomena. Now she was restrained with wire and marked surgical tape and enclosed in a new glass cabinet. It seemed impossible for Margery to be responsible for any of the seance room phenomena witnessed by the committee.

McComas wanted to know if Houdini would be interested in attending a seance to observe Margery's latest manifestations. Houdini suggested a cut to the chase approach. As long as McComas provided him with a detailed description of Margery's seance, he would go in and reproduce her every effect sight unseen. The men worked up a memo to this effect:
Memorandum of conference with Houdini at his room in the Majestic Theater.
(1) Houdini stated that he could, and would be delighted to repeat the "Margery" phenomena for a group of gentlemen to be selected by Dr. McComas of Princeton.
(2) He urged that the apparatus used be the same as that used by "Margery" and to this Dr. McComas and Dr. Brown agreed.
(3) Houdini suggested that the same committee wire "Margery" into the cabinet that later wires him, and to this Dr. Brown and Dr. McComas agreed.
The Crandons agreed to the challenge. On Saturday, September 18, McComas once again attended a seance so as to provide Houdini with an exact record. A stenographer was brought in for the occasion to record every moment. Extraordinary detail was given to the process of examining and controlling Margery. The seance lasted over two hours, with Walter being his usual boisterous self and going through the same routine as before. After the seance, Margery was again painstakingly examined and all the controls where still in place.

McComas gave Houdini the record of the seance and Houdini replied with a letter back. This is when things took a turn. While Houdini agreed to the seance the following day, Sunday, September 19 (when he did not have an evening show), he said he wanted to bring along "three or four college professors" as a committee. He also wanted the option of observing Margery in action before his own attempt at duplication, which he admitted could take a few days to prepare. Houdini wrote:
You might think she does certain things in a certain way and describe it to me, whereas it will be entirely different before my eyes. [...] The lady is subtle and changes her methods like any dexterous sleight-of-hand performer or any medium I have examined. [...] It must be borne in mind that secret paraphernalia may have to be contrived to perform some of the tests. If so, I will explain these tests until I have time to get the same made.
McComas showed the letter to Margery's husband, Dr. Le Roi Crandon, who felt Houdini was now changing the conditions of the test he himself had conceived. But I think Crandon saw something else in Houdini's response. I think he saw that Houdini was on to them.

What I believe Houdini recognized in the seance transcript was that Margery had overcome her issues with control in a very simple way; she now employed seance room confederates. Hence Houdini's new requirement that he be allowed to bring along three or four of his own men. What do you want to bet those "college professors" would be named Collins, Vickery and Williamson? But Houdini was asking for a change and this allowed Crandon to balk.

The seance proceeded the next day as planned, but without Houdini. When Margery went into her trance it was Walter who seemed the most disappointed, stating:
What are you doing here? I thought I was going to have a night off and watch Houdini get tied up… He was afraid to come. He wouldn't have liked to be tied up in that cabinet; I would have talked to him.
Houdini was held over in Boston for an additional week and continued to express his interest in attending a seance. On September 20 he wrote to Crandon directly:
In view of the many rumors, some not so complimentary to me, have heard that you are perfectly willing for me to attend a number of séances during my stay here in Boston. Am inquiring whether this is the truth as I hear a great many things that may be distorted. If you would permit me to come to the séances, I would be very glad to do so, after any of my performances this week.
Crandon wrote back three days later:
In as much as the only value which could possibly be attached to your presence at Lime Street would be because it would afford some amusement to watch your attempts to duplicate these phenomena, and since this you very wisely decline to do, there seems no other compelling reason for your coming again to Lime Street.
On September 24, his last day in town, Houdini sent another message to Crandon:
Please don't use the usual tactic of waiting until I leave and then grant me permission to come to a seance. I am sending this to you special delivery, registered, and will be at the theater all day waiting your reply.
Crandon wrote back that if Houdini wanted a seance he should make arrangements through Dr. McComas. But by this time the professor was back at Princeton.

The next day Houdini left for Worcester and the great Margery rematch never occurred.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Barry Pirro discusses Houdini and The Spirits

Apologies for the late notice, but I only just now discovered that Paranormal Investigator & Lecturer, Barry Pirro, will be discussing "Harry Houdini: A Magician Among The Spirits" TODAY (April 6) at 7pm Eastern. The talk is presented by the Seymour Public Library and is free on ZOOM.

Join Zoom Meeting 
Meeting ID: 838 2172 3851 
Passcode: Spirit 

If you miss today's talk, know that Barry will be doing it again on May 9 at the Kent Public Library

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Doug Henning does Houdini's Conradi Lamps

Dean Carnegie has shared a real treat over at The Magic Detective blog. It's a short clip of Doug Henning performing the Conradi Lamps. This was an effect Houdini performed in his 3 Shows in One. This appears to be from Doug's fifth special in 1982 and is beautifully done as you might expect. Click the image below to check it out.

Watch at The Magic Detective.

The lamps Doug used were provided by John Gaughan, who still owns them today. They are not Houdini's actual lamps, but vintage and still operational. Below is a photo of Houdini in his workshop where you can glimpse his own Conradi Lamps.


So along with the Water Torture Cell, the Vanishing Elephant, and Walking Through a Brick Wall, we can add the Conradi Lamps to the Houdini effects that Doug revived in his television specials.

Thanks to Jim Steinmeyer.

Related:

Monday, April 4, 2022

"Houdiniana that has never before come to market"

Just an excited heads up that Potter & Potter has announced an upcoming auction of Houdiniana & Magic Memorabilia on May 21, 2022. As you can read below, the auction promises "Houdiniana that has never before come to market." Oh baby.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Joe Notaro presents Houdini's The Zanetti Mystery

Last Sunday was the World Wide Houdini Birthday Celebration. Successful as it was, several presentations and guests did not get their expected Zoom time. Yes, 12 hours wasn't enough to cover all the Houdini enthusiasm!

Chief among these was our good friend Joe Notaro of Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence who had prepared a video presentation on Houdini's The Zanetti Mystery. Joe published this lost novella earlier this year. So I uploaded the presentation to my YouTube channel and Joe has shared it today on his site. 

Click the image below and let Joe tell you all about Houdini's The Zanetti Mystery.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

The Man From Beyond arrived 100 years ago today


It was 100 years ago today that Houdini's first solely produced motion picture, The Man From Beyond, premiered at the Times Square Theatre in New York. This was the start of an exclusive engagement and to ensure packed houses Houdini developed 30 minutes of magic that he would perform after each showing. He even revived his vanishing elephant which had so thrilled New Yorkers back in 1918. 

New York Tribune, April 2, 1922.

The day of the premiere Houdini paraded his two Ringling Bros. elephants, Lucy and Fannie, along Broadway. While both elephants were smaller, Houdini reportedly still used his gigantic Hippodrome cabinet to do the vanishing. He also performed Goodbye Winter, Arrival of Summer, the Needles, and his straitjacket escape. At the last minute Houdini learned the film lacked the necessary certificate from the New York Censor Board. Because of this he was unable to charge admission on opening day. (The film received its certificate the following day.) 

The New York Tribune gave the film a rave review -- "the theater resounds with applause when he finally dragged his release from the raging torrent." But the New York Herald gave the film a much more mixed review, pegging some of the issues that are obvious today. Below is that review in full.

New York Herald, April 3, 1922.

A dandy detail here is that Houdini's co-star Jane Connolly assisted Houdini with his magic. This is the only mention of Connolly being part of the premiere that I've read.

The Man From Beyond with "Houdini in Person" played for three weeks at the Times Square Theatre. That theater still stands today and is currently undergoing a major renovation.


The Man From Beyond is available on DVD, YouTube, and streaming. I plan to pop in the Blu-ray tonight to celebrate this milestone and remember Houdini's frozen man. Still alive after 100 200 years!


Clippings: Newspapers.com
Photo: John Hinson Collection

The Man From Beyond screening in Wilton, April 3

Looks like you can celebrate the 100th anniversary of Houdini's The Man From Beyond on the big screen. The historic Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, New Hampshire, will show a double feature of Lon Chaney's Flesh and Blood and The Man From Beyond tomorrow, April 3 at 2 PM. The screenings will be accompanied with live music by Jeff Rapsis. Admission is free, but a donation of $10 per person is suggested.

For more information visit the Town Hall Theatre website or call 603-654-3456. For more about the music visit jeffrapsis.com.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Randy Pitchford purchases The Magic Castle


I promise this is NOT an April Fools joke. 

In today's AMA newsletter, Erika Larsen officially announced that Randy Pitchford, Gearbox CEO, Cardini relation, and long-time magic enthusiast, has purchased The Magic Castle in Hollywood. This is sensational news. As you may or may not know, the Academy of Magical Arts only leased their iconic clubhouse from the Glover family, and there was constant fear that one day the family would decide sell the building and the adjacent land to developers. But that fear is now gone! Here, in part, is what Erika had to share:

Randy Pitchford is a creative visionary, a strategic mastermind and an exceptionally nice guy. His love for magic and the Magic Castle, his business savvy, his generosity and his unbridled enthusiasm are exactly what is needed to revive the spirit of the Magic Castle and keep the place thriving for generations to come.

While the details are still being ironed out, soon an entity will be formed which will own the property, including the Magic Castle Hotel, as well as MCI’s Academy of Magical Arts proprietorship of the Magic Castle trademarks.

This will be the first time in history that the whole, collective real estate, and The Magic Castle will be owned by the same entity! And, since Randy already owns Genii Magazine, it can be reunited as well. So exciting!

You may recall that Randy and Kristy Pitchford--who were married in the Castle in 1997--also own Bess Houdini's brooch, which was given by Bess to Gerrie Larsen. So now they own two family treasures!

Congratulations and THANK YOU Randy and Kristy for ensuring that The Magic Castle will be around for generations to come.

UPDATE: You can now read the official press release HERE.

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