Thursday, March 23, 2023

Houdini's overboard box footage identified at last!

Here's one that has stumped me for years. The below footage is the only surviving film of Houdini doing his overboard box escape. But the date and location of this stunt has long been a mystery. Now thanks to a clue buried in a Houdini-Harry Kellar letter at David Copperfield's International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts (where I am typing this), I finally know when, where, and why Houdini did this escape.

This escape took place on June 30, 1917 in Westport (Saugatuck), Connecticut, during a special Red Cross charity drive at the home of Frederick E. Lewis II. Houdini is being lowered into Long Island Sound here. The below from the June 27, 1917 Bridgeport Times announces the event and Houdini's escape.

Thanks to David Copperfield and the Westport Museum for History & Culture for their help solving the mystery of this famous footage.


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Grand Rapids suspended straitjacket escape date?

This is a clipping from the Grand Rapids Herald showing Houdini's suspended straitjacket escape from the Grand Rapids Savings Bank building in 1916.

According to Michigan Day by Day, the date of this clipping is November 20, 1916, which would mean Houdini did this stunt on November 19, 1916. However, that's problematic as Houdini was in Columbus on this date. His week at the Empress Theater in Grand Rapids began on November 27. So I'm thinking the website made an error. However, I've been unable to accurately date this clipping or the escape as the Herald and other Grand Rapids papers are not on 

Any research bloodhounds want to take up the search and help me nail down the date of Houdini's Grand Rapids straitjacket escape?

The Grand Rapids Savings Bank building still stands today. It was built in 1916 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. We love a surviving Houdini location!

UPDATE: Our good friend Gary Hunt has solved the mystery. This stunt took place on Wednesday, November 29, 1916. Thank you Gary!


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Peter Monticup shares his Houdini collection

For Houdini's birthday week, Peter Monticup of shares his Houdini collection. Peter has posted a video and also provides links to images. There are some rarities here (the Weird Tales flyer caught my eye) and it's fun to see someone so enjoy their Houdini collection.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Houdini bares all for Fair Harvard

During Houdini's run in Boston in May 1908 he gave a special performance for students at Harvard University. But there was a slight snafu. This is a story that appears in several Houdini biographies, but it's nice to read a primary source and see there was a bit more to it. The below account is from the May 7, 1908 Boston Globe:

Click to enlarge.

While the article doesn't explicity state that Houdini did the escape naked, I think it's pretty clear that he did!

Even after he left town the campus still seemed to have Houdini fever. It even inspired some pranksters, as reported in the May 22, 1908 Boston Globe:

Click to enlarge.

You can read more about Harvard's infamous "Med Fac" society HERE.


Friday, March 17, 2023

My incredible week inside the Copperfield collection

For the past week I've been living a dream inside David Copperfield's incredible International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts in Las Vegas. I was invited to go through all his Houdini material (or as much as I could do in a week) for the purposes of research, organization, and to generally flip out at the tidal wave of rarities and share my discoveries with David. It was an honor to be given such generous access to the world's largest magic collection.

I still haven't processed everything I saw and experienced, but being swept up in the world of David Copperfield and all the talented people who work with him gave me a taste of what it would have been like to spend a week with Houdini himself.

I kept my patrons updated with semi daily reports from inside the walls, which includes a list of 12 wild Houdini rarities I uncovered. You can read those posts below if you are a member of my Patreon or would like to join. Enjoy!

Thanks to David Copperfield, Glenda Wellendorf, Chris Kenner, and everyone at The Magic of David Copperfield and the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts for an unforgettable experience. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Swedish Houdini book for kids

Here's one from all the way back in 1998 that I only recently discovered. Houdini och hans bästa trick (Houdini and his top trick) by Dan Höjer is a Swedish book for young readers from publisher Rabén & Sjögren. It runs 45 pages. I've not seen the book itself, but from the cover art I assume it's illustrated.

You can find Houdini och hans bästa trick on various Swedish retail websites including

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

No posts ahead

Just a heads up that there will be no posts for the next week or so as I will be focusing all my Houdini energy on a very special project. But I won't let any "breaking" news slip past. If you want to know what I'm up to, check out my Patreon. Stay wild!

Photo from the McCord Stewart Museum.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Houdini hangs with Franz

The Facebook page for Houdini Unlocked, the new traveling exhibition from Appleton's History Museum at the Castle, shared this image yesterday. It has me excited for a few reasons. First, I've not seen it before. Also this appears to be Houdini's suspended straitjacket escape in Washington D.C. on April 19, 1916. I just did a post about this escape and said I had never seen a photo. Well, I have now!

But there's another aspect to this photo that has me excited. You can clearly see Franz Kukol among the men (he's in the bowler hat and holding a camera). This is two years after Franz was supposed to have left Houdini and returned home to Austria to serve in the military. Just further evidence that he did not leave. It's also interesting to see that he's still sporting his Kaiser Wilhelm-style mustache. This is the only time I've ever spotted Franz in any photo or film of a suspended straitjacket escape.

According to the great Patrick Culliton, Franz remained with Houdini to the end using the name Frank Williamson. You can catch up on that story via the related links below. And if you want to see film of this escape, check out my Patreon.

For more information on Houdini Unlocked visit the official website.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Houdini Lives Again (again) at Morley's Magic Theater

Magician Scott Morley and his wife Britni will once again present Houdini Lives Again at their Morley's Magic Theater in Butler, New Jersey on March 24, 25 & 26. Below are details.
March 24th was Houdini's birthday, so this weekend is the perfect time to pay tribute to his life and magical impact. 

Step back in time one hundred years for Houdini Lives Again - a theatrical recreation of the legendary magic and escape act performed by Harry Houdini and his wife Bess from 1894-1926. 

A full hour of mind blowing magic, unique stage illusions, and impossible escapes! Take a walk through history with the Houdinis as they go from side show entertainers, to Vaudeville stars, to having their own show on Broadway! Turn of the century songs, costumes, and language frame this exciting show that also features live music, circus skills, puppetry, and audience participation! Perfect for all ages
You can buy tickets for Houdini Lives Again at the Morley's Magic Theater website.

Thanks to Ken Hallgring for the tip and Scott Morley for the images.


Sunday, March 5, 2023

Houdini among History's "Dueling Daredevils"

The new series History's Greatest of All Time with Payton Manning will count down the Top 10 greatest daredevils on Season 1, Episode 5, "Dueling Daredevils," set to premiere tomorrow. Looks like Houdini is in the mix. Also our friend Dean Gunnarson, a GOAT daredevil in his own right, is one of the experts. How will Houdini rank? Hopefully this episode will be unlocked on the History website.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

The story behind Hardeen's outdoor Metamorphosis

Today I have a treat to celebrate Hardeen's 147th birthday. Below is the famous film of Hardeen doing Metamorphosis on an open street. If you've not seen this, it's pretty terrific. So let's start with the show!

I've always enjoyed this footage for what it is. But I've also often wondered if this was a typical Hardeen street stunt. Houdini never did Metamorphosis as an outdoor stunt as far as I know. So I decided to do a little digging and discovered the full story!

Turns out this was a one-shot performance in answer to a challenge (of sorts). This is when Hardeen was appearing at the Prospect Theater in Brooklyn during the week of April 21, 1929. The story begins in the pages of The Standard Union:

Click to enlarge.

Hardeen took up the challenge! In fact, if you look closely in the film, you can see a sign that says "Standard Union Challenge." His street performance took place on April 24, 1929. The Standard Union provided coverage the following day:

Click to enlarge.

So there we go. Turns out this footage shows Hardeen not only doing Metamorphosis, but saving magic itself!

Still can't get enough Dash? Click on over to my Patreon and listen to his famous 1939 radio interview on WNYC. As a birthday gift, I'm unlocking this post so anyone can listen for FREE.

Happy birthday Hardeen!

Friday, March 3, 2023

The Magic of Kiwanis at the Houdini Estate, March 25

The Kiwanis Club of Burbank will hold its annual charity gala at the Houdini Estate in Laurel Canyon, California, on Saturday, March 25. There will be food and magicians. I will also be there to talk about Houdini and the history on the house. It looks like a great event for a good cause, and a perfect way to experience the Houdini Estate.

March 25, 2023 6pm - 10pm (Doors Open at 5pm)
Guests are invited to join us at the mystical estate of Harry Houdini.
Upon arrival, guests will be checked in and carted to the main event area where tours of the estate will be cycled throughout the evening and an abundance of photo opportunities will be available. Throughout the grounds magicians will be performing 15 minute shows for guests to be amazed and awestruck. Guests' tastebuds will be hypnotized by the culinary magic performed by Chef Charly and Independent Chefs from Local and National restaurants.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Potter & Potter 'Houdiniana' auction April 8

Potter & Potter Auctions have announced a new "Houdiniana" auction for April 8, 2023. Always exciting to see a Potter auction with this name. Expect some Houdini treasures to be on the block.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Houdini Birth Research Committee's Report PDF

This month I'm offering my patrons a free PDF of The Houdini Birth Research Committee's Report by Lawrence Arcuri. In 1972 the S.A.M. decided to officially settle the matter of Houdini's birth place with an investigation. Magico Magazine sold copies of their final report. This is a scan of the report that I bought back in the day. I've also added some extra material. I don't believe this has ever been made available as a PDF, so it's a true exclusive! As with all rewards, it will be available for one month only.

The start of the month is a great time to join my Patreon. You will unlock 76 exclusive posts with 414 images and be set to receive all the great content and rewards going forward. You'll also be supporting all the work I do here at WILD ABOUT HARRY and some other very exciting Houdini projects I have in the works. We're currently 62 members strong. Hope you'll join us.

If you are already a member of my Patreon, please feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

LINK: Houdini's daring Vancouver escape was 100 years ago this week

The CBC News site has a nice article by Michelle Gomez about Houdini's performance in Vancouver 100 years ago this week. The article contains a terrific shot of him doing a suspended straitjacket escape from The Sun building at Pender & Beatty on March 1, 1923. Below is cropped version that pic. Click here or on my headline to see the full pic and read the article at CBC.

Thanks to Dean Gunnarson for the alert.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Harry and Rudy (and Mae)

A few weeks back I did a post about some media pairings of Houdini and Rudolph Valentino. Today I have a sequel! As you may know, the two superstars died within months of each other in 1926; Valentino on August 23 and Houdini on Halloween. It can actually be hard to tell the different between their funerals (above).

Mediums were quick to recruit Harry and Rudy and had them both appearing in seance chambers before you could say believe. Below is a clipping from the Nov. 30, 1926 Bridgeport Telegram dealing with spirit messages and their respective widows.

Believe it or not, it was Dr. Le Roi Crandon, the Houdini-hating husband of medium Mina Crandon a.k.a. Margery, who shot down these reports of messages. Here's what the doctor had to say:

The Indianapolis Star, Dec. 2, 1926.

Five years was too long to wait for any man, and in 1928 Mae West (yes, the Mae West) and her gal pal Tex Guinan invited the ghosts of Harry and Rudy to come up and see them at Tex's New York night club. Mae West conjuring the ghost of Houdini? How have we not heard about this before!?

Des Moines Tribune, July 31, 1928.

For a more serious article linking Houdini and Valentino in a discussion about Peritonitis--which killed them both--check out my collection of Harry & Rudy research as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon below.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Foolers channel Houdini in Akron tomorrow

Just a reminder that our great friend and fellow Houdini Nut Jessica Jane Peterson will hanging above the same stage as Houdini tomorrow, February 26, when The Foolers play the historic Goodyear Theater in Akron, Ohio. Jessica joins magicians Matt Donnelly, Vinny Grosso, and Alex Ramon in the new Penn & Teller production.

As you can see below, Houdini played his "3 Shows in One" at the Goodyear for three days in May 1926. On his final night he was challenged by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to escape from a packing case.

You can find more information and book tickets at The Foolers official website.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Hey look! I wrote a book. In French?

While doing my normal search for Houdini news online, I came upon this French eBook called Houdini: Magic Star written And here I didn't even know I could speak French!

What this appears to be are a collection of my blog posts translated by Jean-Pierre Hornecker. This is on the level. Jean-Pierre wrote to me a few years back asking my permission to adapt some of my posts. But I had forgotten all about it. So it was a pleasant surprise to see my name on this cover.

Houdini: Magic Star is free at the magic website e-magix.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Rare footage of Houdini's first D.C. street stunt

On April 19, 1916, Houdini did a suspended straitjacket escape in front of the Washington Post's Munsey building at Pennsylvania & E. Streets in Washington, D.C. Unlike his more well-known escape at the Riggs building in 1923, I've never been able to find any photographs of this first stunt. However, I recently did one better. I found film!

This footage has never been shown and it's unique among footage of Houdini's straitjacket escapes in that it's captured from a distance, out beyond the crowd. It almost makes one feel like a time traveler witnessing a Houdini escape by accident. It's also a wonderful document of Washington D.C. on this day in 1916. Wild stuff.

You can watch the footage as a member of my Patreon by clicking below.

If you're not a member of my Patreon and don't want to join at this time, below is an account of the escape from the Evening Star. Not quite as good as film, but still pretty good! While all the advertising stated that Houdini would hang from the Munsey building, this account correctly reports what we see in the film -- that he was actually suspended from the newer building next door.

Evening Star, April 19, 1916.

Here's another newspaper gem. The Evening Times gave Houdini and themselves a pat on the back for out drawing President Wilson that day.

Below are links to more exclusive films clips on my Patreon.


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Site of Houdini's 1905 jailbreak in Blackpool

Our good friend Allan James Taylor of the Global Escapology Organisation (GEO) sends over these pics of the new Blackpool Abingdon indoor market in Blackpool, UK. This was the original site of Houdini's jail escape on June 12, 1905. As you can see, they've persevered the old Police Station sign over the front entrance, which is pretty darn cool!

Speaking of the GEO, their first convention will be held in Sheffield on March 10-11, 2023. There will be lots of Houdini representation with lectures by Chris Gower and Ann Beedham, author of Randini: The Man Who Helped Houdini. Tickets can be purchased at the David De-Val website. You can get more information at the GEO Facebook group.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Did Houdini travel by Zeppelin?

One of the Houdini highlights in Haversat & Ewing's upcoming Magic Auction #40 (February 24-26) is a "Houdini family scrapbook." The auction lot shows several preview pages, and on one of those pages is a flyer (right) that has me very intrigued.

This is a German flyer for the "Hamburg-Amerikalinie" showing the schedules for three Zeppelin airships. Houdini has typed on the flyer "September 23, 1913 - Regards from Houdini" and also put a checkmark beside the airship Hansa.

Does this mean Houdini flew aboard the Hansa? He was in Germany at this time and had just traveled aboard the Hamburg-Amerika liner SS Imperator. Could the Hansa have been his connection to Berlin? Unfortunately, I don't have listing for where Houdini was performing on this exact date, but he was in Nuremberg the previous week.

I've always had a bit of a thing for airships. I recall the movie The Hindenburg was released right at the same time I was becoming interested in Houdini, and I became mildly obsessed with all things Hindenburg as well. So Houdini aboard a Zeppelin is an irresistible idea. Guess this is yet another untold story of Houdini in Germany.

The Zeppelin LZ 13 Hansa first flew on July 30, 1912. It had an enclosed passenger cabin with room for 24. From early 1915 used as a training airship, making over 500 flights over Berlin. It was dismantled in 1916.

Houdini wasn't the only Weiss to board a Zeppelin. Check out the top related link below and take flight was Dark Sady!

Thanks to David Haversat and Tom Ewing for providing me with a closer look at this flyer. Check out thier Magic Auction #40 HERE.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Don Creekmore talks Houdini in Kansas on PBS

Our good friend Don Creekmore talks about Houdini in Kansas in this 2021 PBS interview. Don is currently working on a book about Houdini in the Sunflower State. In this interview he shares his very rare early Houdini pitchbook. Enjoy.

Friday, February 17, 2023

See The Foolers in a Houdini theater!

Our great friend and fellow Houdini Nut Jessica Jane Peterson will be appearing in the new Penn & Teller production The Foolers this month. Jessica joins magicians Matt Donnelly, Vinny Grosso, and Alex Ramon in the show. The tour kicks off at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee on February 24. It then moves to Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University in Indianapolis on February 25.

But it's the final stop in Akron, Ohio, on February 26 that has me most excited. That's because The Foolers will be playing the historic Goodyear Theater where Houdini himself appeared with his "3 Shows in One" for three days in May of 1926. So if you are in the Akron area, this would be The Foolers show to see! And how exciting for Jessica to be doing her escapes on the same stage as Houdini.

You can find more information and book tickets at The Foolers official website.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Houdini's copper Milk Can?

In the Houdini Collections at the Harry Ransom Center there is a thick file of letters written to Houdini by Montraville M. Wood. Wood was a Chicago inventor and associate of Thomas Edison who worked with Houdini on his Milk Can escape and other effects.

One letter offers up a surprise and a new mystery. It appears that Wood was making Houdini a COPPER Milk Can. On Sept. 10, 1909 Wood writes to Houdini saying:

I have received fifty from the Doctor and have placed the order for the Copper Can; but owing to the small sheets of copper (being tinned on one side) which is carried in stock, it will be necessary to have two seams in the body part of the can instead of one.
This whole can will be tin plated on the inside, so it will be perfectly safe, and it will be copper polished on the outside. I cannot say any particular time this will be done; but I am rushing it as fast as I can.

Wood goes on to say that the hasps would be brass and the can's collar would be 1/2" higher than Houdini's regular cans. He also says staples on the collar would be removable.

Unfortunately, there is no other correspondence related to this particular can, so I don't know if Wood ever delivered his copper can to Houdini. But the idea is a good one. So if anyone ever encounters a copper Milk Can out there, it just may be Houdini's!

Want more? You can read M.M. Wood's full letter as a member of my Patreon by clicking below.

Thanks as always to Eric Colleary and the Harry Ranson Center.


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Harry and Rudy (and Mel)

Here's a little something I found in the Fort Worth Star Telegram for Nov. 28, 1976. The pairing of these two documentaries on Channel 13 speaks not only to the Houdini renaissance of that year, but also to the overall nostalgia for the 1920s that swept the 1970s.

The Truth About Houdini is the excellent 1970 documentary which you can watch in its entirety HERE. The Legend of Rudolph Valentino was a 1961 documentary. This one is harder to see. It was released on DVD in 2000, but Amazon only shows a single copy at a pretty steep price.

The Valentino documentary is not to be confused with the 1975 television biopic The Legend of Valentino starring Franco Nero and Suzanne Pleshette. That movie was written and directed by none other than Melville Shavelson who would go on to make The Great Houdinis the following year. Looks like Mel was riding that nostalgia wave! Both movies were aired by ABC and also pair pretty well.

Oh heck, let's take this one all the way back. Here's a page from the The Washington Times for January 8, 1922. Do we see Houdini at Keith's or catch Rudy's latest at the Palace? Choices, choices...

Happy Valentine's Day to all lovers of Harry and Rudy.