Monday, May 16, 2022

The Truth About Houdini's mysterious missing scene

I'm happy to see how many people enjoyed re-watching (or watching for the first time) the great 1970 BBC documentary The Truth About Houdini, which I've uploaded to my WILD ABOUT HARRY YouTube Channel.

One thing that came up in the comments was the cut scene of Sidney Radner demonstrating a wooden cross escape. The scene was originally in the film at 00:13:06, right before James Randi talks about the safe escape. But it is no longer in any existing print that I've ever seen.

The scene runs just over a minute and a half and after Sid escapes he exposes the method. Could this be why it was cut? I have read that The Magic Circle was upset by exposures in this doc, so perhaps it was cut after the initial UK airing? Or maybe it was cut from the U.S. version for fear that the quasi-religious imagery might offend in some markets?

If anyone knows the story of this missing scene, I'd love to hear it!

By the way, I've yet to find any account of Houdini actually doing a cross escape during his career. So there's that mystery as well!

UPDATE: You can now watch this clip as a member of my Patreon by clicking the image below.



  1. I have seen that footage somewhere but can’t seem to find it; I can corroborate that it is not on the HHC “Truth About Houdini” VHS tape, nor the bootleg copy put out as “The Magic of Houdini.
    Regarding Houdini doing an escape from a cross:
    Growing up with Houdini lists item 9 as “The Houdini Cross Escape --- used in Houdini’s earlier performances, and for special performance sensation.”
    Houdini Magical Hall of Fame Catalogs list “The Cross Escape, a famous Houdini challenge escape, which he popularized by accepting challenges from experts. With the Cross Escape, Houdini convincingly established his ability to escape rope ties. Regardless of how expert the people who bound him were, or how complex the knots; Houdini was infallible in escaping.”
    The Wooden Cross Illusion was listed as one of the items that survived the mysterious fire at Houdini Magical Hall of Fame.
    Now we just need to find evidence that ties Houdini to that cross.

    1. Oh, thank you for confirming it's not on the McIlhany version. I have that on VHS, but it looks like I never transferred it to a digital file. I do have the cross footage, but just on it's own and I don't recall where I got it.

      Yeah, the Hall of Fame called this Houdini's cross escape, but at the moment, I can't find it anywhere in his actual life. The Hall of Fame also said the Slicing a Girl prop belonged to HH and that finally turned out to be true. So maybe!

  2. Item #366 - in the 2004 Las Vegas/Sid Radner "The Great Houdini Auction"....

    ...It MIGHT be the same one as demo'd by Radner.

    I seem to recall that Teller purchased it.

    1. Thanks Joe. Yes, very likely the same one. There's also a pic of it as it was displayed at the Hall of Fame in Houdini A Mind in Chains.

      To me this seems more like a piece of magic or spiritualism apparatus than a challenge escape. It's gaffed for quick release and wouldn't stand up to examination.

    2. You can see that photo from A Mind in Chains HERE. I forgot I had posted it. Also forgot that my Houdini head at one time was used for the cross mannequin. Maybe they need to be reunited! :)

  3. The Houdini Hall of Fame played the exact same segment of that cross escape (see the YouTube video I posted in 2013: (29:35 - 31:17). And I'm sure I remember seeing Sid do the same cross escape and revelation on another Houdini documentary, perhaps on In Search Of Houdini.