Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Houdini never ceases to surprise

To mark their 100th Anniversary, the McCord Museum in Montreal is is allowing free use of their online digital images believed to be in the public domain. This includes select images from their Houdini collection. What's especially nice is these are high resolution downloads that can sometimes reveal details not seen before. That's what brings me to this.

The below photo shows the Princess Theater in Chicago during Houdini's record 8 week run of his 3 Shows in One in 1926. I've seen this photo before and never thought all that much about as there are better images of the theater facade showing Houdini's sidewalk displays. But in this higher res version I noticed there is someone changing a lightbulb on the Princess marquee, which is kind of fun. But then I had a closer look.

Now, call me crazy, but I think the man changing the lightbulb is Houdini himself! Certainly his hair and body resembles Houdini in 1926. And if this was an electrician or stagehand, wouldn't he be in coveralls and work boots? This guy is wearing dress shoes!

But why would Houdini be doing this himself? We can only speculate. The 3 Shows in One played legitimate theaters that may not have the same level of upkeep as a vaudeville house. It could have been just a just single bulb that was out. But I could see that irritating Houdini to the point that he'd grab a ladder and change it himself, especially if he had requested it be done and it was not. We know he wasn't afraid of heights! And we know he was a bit of a show off.

I can also see Houdini handing off his camera to an assistant and saying, "Get a picture of me doing this." Because why else would this picture be taken? That might actually be the best argument for this being Houdini.

Or maybe I just want this to be Houdini so we have something in common.

So what do you think? Is this Harry? And what's your guess as to why he might be doing this himself? Illuminate us in the comments below.

Thanks to the McCord Museum.


  1. I think its him as well, we could be wrong. Houdini was very
    short and this guy looks to maybe be a bit taller if you compare
    his legs to the ladder??

    1. Stick with me Anon! I'm all in on this being Houdini. I feel like I can recognize him better than I can recognize myself. Maybe one day we will discover some proof. Maybe he mentions in a letter, "I had to change the damn lights myself." It's on the radar.

  2. My vote: It is Houdini.

    btw - In the "McCord Museum" LINK, that John Cox posted....Be sure to use the "search box" in the "Collections and Research" Tab - and type in such things as:
    Bess Houdini
    ......before its all taken away.

    1. I'm wondering if this is going to be for a limited time (their current anniversary year) or the new normal. But what a treat!

  3. I'm on the fence--not the ladder! Could be the manager or assistant manager changing the bulb. They're always in dress shoes, pants, and shirt on the job. The work crew could have been on something, and the manager decided not to wait. Then again, it could be Harry pranking...

    1. In my mind, the only thing less likely than the star doing this would be a manager. :) And why take a pic?

    2. If it was one of the managers on that ladder, then the photo was probably incidental. Somebody took a photo of the front, and he happened to be there changing the bulb.

  4. The rungs of a ladder are no more than 12 apart. Houdini being 5'1" would equal 5 rungs. Can't say for sure but he looks a little tall for that.