Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Ernie Bushmiller and Houdini

Our friend Todd Karr of The Miracle Factory has made a nice discovery in the recently released book Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller: The Man Who Created Nancy by Bill Griffith. I had no idea Ernie Bushmiller had a connection to Houdini, so this is a great find. I'll let the photo Todd sent speak for itself.

Click to enlarge

By the way, I'm betting the launch party depicted in the top illustration is the same Red Magic luncheon I highlighted in my 2011 post about Houdini's wristwatch.

You can buy  Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller: The Man Who Created Nancy on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Thank you, Todd!


Monday, September 25, 2023

Mystery Team Inc. and the Houdini redemption

The excellent podcast Mystery Team Inc., co-hosted by longtime friends and fellow mystery lovers Kayla and Maggie, has posted a terrific Houdini episode. As you'll hear, Houdini was on the receiving end of some trash talk in a previous episode about the Fox Sisters, so Maggie Herskowitz ("Maggie 2") is coming hard to his defense! I also get a few nice mentions as Kayla and I are co-workers in real life. 

It's fun, funny, and very well-researched, so enjoy! Listen below or on Spotify.

You can follow Mystery Team Inc. on Instagram and watch them on YouTube.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Christopher Awards roundup

When I was 16, I decided I didn’t want to be the next Houdini. I wanted to be the next Milbourne Christopher. That's why I'm so honored to have been among this year's recipients of the Milbourne Christopher Awards. The ceremony was held at the Garde Arts Center in New London, Connecticut, last Saturday, September 16, 2023 (which also happened to be David Copperfield's birthday).

I had arrived in New London the night before, so I had a full day before the ceremony. I started off with breakfast with David Haversat who had brought some amazing Houdini treasures from his collection for me to see. He also gave me a set of Milbourne Christopher's handwritten notes from Houdini The Untold Story. We talked for a long time about collecting and Houdini and hatched an idea for a potential book project. In fact, I would have been happy to talk to David all day, but I had a plan for the afternoon. So I set off on an hour's drive to Farmington, Connecticut, in search of a little-known Houdini location. Which I found!

These are the rapids on which Houdini filmed part of the climatic action of The Man From Beyond. Not Niagara Falls. Farmington! (This is also the location D.W. Griffith used in Way Down East.) I really didn't know what to expect. I only had the address of the former Winchell Smith Grist Mill, which I discovered is today part of Miss Porter's School. But the rapids are easy to see and enjoy, and because it was Saturday, I had them all to myself! (If you want to see video, check out my Instagram.) Also down the street is the Elm Tree Inn where Houdini and his crew stayed during the shoot in May 1921.

It was then back to New London for a quick lunch and rest before the big show!

The Award ceremony was held in the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London. It's a beautiful old theater built in September 1926. Things kicked off with a reception of delicious hors d'oeuvres and a bar. I was happy to see many friendly and familiar faces, including Adele Rhindress, Blackstone's Elusive Moth, who, as always, was so sweet and supportive.

The awards ceremony was hosted by Thomas Ewing. I got a nice laugh during my acceptance speech when I shared my defaced childhood copy of Houdini The Untold Story. The Christopher Award itself includes a handsome plaque, a heavy-duty magic wand in an engraved wooden pop-up display case, and a Milbourne Christopher gold token.

Below is a list of this year's winners:

Illusionist Award - Jason Bishop 
Close-Up Award - Bernardo Sedlacek 
Mentalist Award - Brian Curry 
Ambassador of Magic Award - John Cox 
Literary Award - Jim Hagy 
Masters Award - Paul Lembo
Lifetime Achievement Award - Craig Diamond

As a surprise, an additional award was presented to David Haversat, who has long worked with The Milbourne Christopher Foundation and, along with Thomas Ewing, puts on these Awards each year.

After the awards presentation, we were treated to a terrific and very funny magical performance by Tim Wright. Tim did his excellent Skilldini act and a special Abbott's Magic act which had the room rolling. A great show. 

But there was still one more surprise waiting for me. 

When we returned to the hotel for an after-party, magician Rob Allen, who had traveled from Niagara Falls (not Farmington!), invited me to his room, saying he had brought something to show me. I nearly fainted when he took it from its case! Yes, that's the famous steel straitjacket from the Tony Curtis Houdini movie! Rob even let me put it on, and it fits (just). What a fantastic way to end a magical day.

Thanks again to The Milbourne Christopher Foundation for making this dream come true. You can see more photos from the event and my subsequent "Ambassador's Tour" on my Patreon.


Thursday, September 21, 2023

Alpha Video Houdini movie bundle

Alpha Video has released a 3-DVD set of Houdini's Terror Island, The Man from Beyond, and Haldane of the Secret Service. Alpha had released a bundle back in 2013, but they've whipped up new cover art for this one. Alpha's releases contain their own musical score.

Why no The Grim Game, Alpha? It's just waiting for a distributor HERE.

You can purchase Alpha's Houdini set on Amazon.com.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The grave of Mae Busch

Once again the enigmatic Arthur Dark at Hollywood Graveyard finds a famous grave with a Houdini connection. This time it's actress Mae Busch who appeared with Houdini in The Grim Game. Mae can be found at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory near downtown Los Angeles.

There is an interesting story behind Mae's grave. Her cremated remains went unclaimed, and for over thirty years she was stored along with other unclaimed remains in the vaults below the Chapel of the Pines. But Mae is probably best known for her many appearances in Laurel & Hardy shorts, so the Sons of the Desert (who frequently meet at the Magic Castle) arranged to have her remains moved up into the Chapel of the Pines Columbarium, where she can be visited today.

The history of the Chapel of the Pines vaults and the famous people who still reside there is covered by Arthur in the video below. This is one of his best yet. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Anna Thurlow to speak at 'Study of Psychic Phenomena' symposium, Sept. 22-23

Our good friend Anna Thurlow, great-granddaughter of Mina "Margery" Crandon, will be speaking at the "Study of Psychic Phenomena" symposium sponsored by the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections (UMASC) and the Survival Research Institute of Canada.

The two-day event coincides with the launch of Serena Keshavjee’s The Undead Archive exhibition and will feature speakers from across Canada and the United States. Anna will speak on Friday (Sept. 22) and Sat (Sept 23). Below are details:

Anna Thurlow – Margery Crandon’s Canadian Connections 
Boston medium Mina (Stinson) Crandon and her older brother Walter Stuart Stinson were born in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Focused on the Stinson-Crandon family’s Canadian connections and illustrated with family photos and historic documents, this presentation will discuss the Crandons’ friendship with T.G. and Lillian Hamilton and their shared interest in psychical research.

Anna Thurlow – Remembering the Medium
How does the perspective of the medium as a mother, sister, daughter, or wife change our understanding of her mediumship? A look at the mediumship of Mina (Stinson) Crandon, known internationally as “Margery,” through the intimate lens of her great-granddaughter, with insights from the private Crandon family archive and recent academic partnerships. A new perspective on the famous July-August 1924 séances with the magician Harry Houdini will be shared.  

The "Study of Psychic Phenomena" takes place Friday, 22 Sept., 7 to 9 pm, and Saturday, 23 Sept., 10 am to 5 pm, at the UMASC Reading Room, 330 Elizabeth Dafoe Library, 25 Chancellors Circle, Fort Garry Campus. Admission is free, but donations to the T.G. Hamilton Family Memorial Research Fund are welcome.

For more information and to register visit the official website.


Monday, September 11, 2023

The 2023 Milbourne Christopher Awards

No posts this week as I'm getting ready to head to New London, Connecticut, for the 2023 Milbourne Christopher Awards. I'm thrilled and honored to be receiving the Ambassador of Magic Award.

The awards ceremony will be held at 6:00 PM on Saturday, September 16, at the Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street in New London. The evening includes a reception with wine and hors d'oeuvres and a performance by Tim Wright as Skilldini. It's not too late to attend. Just RSVP David Haversat at Haversat@gmail.com. Tickets are $20.00.

Here's a list of the 2023 honorees:
Illusionist Award - Jason Bishop
Close-Up Award - Bernardo Sedlacek
Mentalist Award - Brian Curry
Ambassador of Magic Award - John Cox
Literary Award - Jim Hagy
Masters Award - Paul Lembo
Lifetime Achievement Award - Craig Diamond

Hope to see you there!

The Milbourne Christopher Foundation was established by Maurine Christopher in 1989, and was created to perpetuate the memory of her husband and his lifelong interest in encouraging excellence, originality, and leadership in the art of magic. The award categories reflect Milbourne Christopher’s own diversified career.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Yes, you can go inside Houdini's house

Remember the days when all you could do was stand outside Houdini's famous New York brownstone, 278, and dream what it would be like to step inside? I certainly do! 

Those days are in the past, as the awesome homeowners, Vincent and Niro, now offer small private tours by appointment. You'll see where Houdini took several famous photos, learn where his library and famous bookcase once stood, see artifacts discovered during the restoration, and learn some insider secrets. This is a unique opportunity and a must for us wild ones! However, you must make arrangements first––you can't just show up––and there is a charge. But, hey, you're going inside 278!

If you are interested in learning more, visit the 278 website or email tours@278.nyc to work out a tour time and details. I can't wait to get back inside myself!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Houdini goes overboard in Atlantic City

Houdini's overboard box escape is one of his most famous and iconic outdoor stunts. It's also the one he appears to have done the least. In fact, I've only documented nine such escapes. Contrast this with 74 suspended straitjacket escapes!

While Houdini's two overboard box escapes in New York in 1912 and 1914 are well documented, we hear far less about the others. That's why I was excited to find the below. This is an account of Houdini's overboard box escape on July 28, 1915, from the Garden Pier in Atlantic City. Sounds like they had some problems with the block and tackle. But Houdini made his escape as always. Enjoy.

Atlantic City Daily Press, July 29, 1915.

Here's another nice detail. The below ran in the Atlantic City Review on the day of the stunt. I love this kind of thing.

Finally, here's a fun post-escape item that appeared in the Atlantic City Daily Press.

Atlantic City Daily Press, July 29, 1915.

Want more? You can view 20 newspaper clippings from this eventful week in Atlantic City as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon.

Top photo from 'Houdini His Legend and His Magic' by Doug Henning. Original in David Copperfield's International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts.


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Midnight at the Houdini

A new novel, Midnight at the Houdini by Delilah S. Dawson, is released this week by Delacorte Press. While it isn't about Houdini directly, the cover art and general idea have won me over enough to share. How I would love a real hotel called The Houdini!

A girl discovers a surreal hotel where no one ever leaves. When the clock strikes midnight, she'll be trapped there forever unless she's able to break free from magic that in turn breaks all her rules. 
Life has gone according to plan for Anna--she stays in the background, letting her sister, Emily, shine in the spotlight. But on Emily's wedding night, Anna learns that her sister is moving away, abandoning her--and all their shared dreams. Devastated, Anna leaves the reception in the middle of a raging storm, taking shelter in a hotel she's never seen before: the Houdini.

The Houdini is a hotel unlike any other, with sumptuous velvet couches, marble tiled floors, secret restaurants, winding passageways, and an undercurrent of magic in the air. And when Anna meets Max, who has lived his entire life inside its walls, she's captivated. For the first time in her life, Anna is center stage, in a place that anticipates her every desire, with a boy who only has eyes for her.

But there's a terrifying secret hidden in the Houdini. When the clock strikes midnight, Anna will be trapped there forever unless she can find a way to break free from its dreamlike magic. But will she be able to do it if it means leaving Max behind?

Enchanting, mysterious, and utterly fantastic, Midnight at the Houdini will cast its spell on you. 

You can purchase Midnight at the Houdini on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For an interview with the author, check out Nerd Daily.


Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Houdini sees Adelaide

Houdini sees Adelaide Herrmann perform for the first time in 25 years in this Patreon exclusive.

Please note that I will be sharing more of my history-related posts exclusively on Patreon. So if this is the kind of thing you like best about WILD ABOUT HARRY, you might consider joining!

Monday, September 4, 2023

Walter Gibson interviewed in 1973

The Amazing Kreskin interviews the legendary Walter B. Gibson on his show The Amazing World of Kreskin in 1973. This is the entire episode. Walter talks about his friend and employer, Houdini, starting at 00:14:05.

Recall that Kreskin was said to have been writing a book about Houdini around this time (never published). 

Friday, September 1, 2023

"Milestones in Houdini's Life"

The below illustrations accompanied a full-page article, "Houdini Baffles the Spooks!," in the Chattanooga News on November 21, 1924. These ran down the side of the page as a little biographical bonus. They remind me of the illustrations that would later appear in juvenile Houdini biographies such as The Great Houdini that so captivated me as a kid. I guess they still do!

You can enjoy more illustrated Houdini via the links below.

Have a happy Labor Day weekend!


Thursday, August 31, 2023

William Pack retiring The Essential Houdini

William Pack has announced that he will be retiring his popular talk "The Essential Houdini" at the end of this year. Pack has given his talk at libraries, schools, and community centers for the past 15 years. Below is a list of the remaining dates.

William Pack's self-published lecture companion book, The Essential Houdini, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Mama message has returned!

The original spirit message from Houdini's mother delivered via "automatic writing" by Lady Doyle during the famous Atlantic City seance has been unearthed in David Copperfield's International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts. The 17-page message survives complete, along with a cover page written by Houdini. While never lost, the message has remained largely unseen, and its existence was not generally known.

As detailed in this post, the Doyles believed Houdini had been wholly convinced by the message. But Houdini was troubled by the lack of specifics and that the pages were written in English. He and his mother only communicated in German. He eventually told the Doyles that he did not believe the message had come from his mother.

Nevertheless, Houdini appears to have kept the message for the rest of his life. The first two pages were reproduced in the 1932 book Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of Strange Friendship by Bernard M.L. Ernst and Hereward Carrington. But after that, the original message seemed to vanish and only transcriptions survived.

I now think it's possible these pages passed from Bernard Ernst to magician and collector John Mulholland. David Copperfield acquired the Mulholland Collection in 1991, which seeded the magnificent museum he has today. So Mama has been home the entire time!

Thanks to Bruce Averbook for making this find and David Copperfield for allowing me to share. You can watch video of the discovery on my Patreon.


Monday, August 28, 2023

'Harry and the Highwire' to soar in 2024

Green Bean Books in the UK has announced the 2024 release of Harry and the Highwire by Julie Carpenter illustrated by Laura Catalan. While the book is still a ways off, they've created a nice promo video below.

You can read more about Harry and the Highwire at the Green Bean Books website.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Princess program commands a royal $7,800

Every auction has its surprises, and in today's Potter & Potter auction of Vintage & Modern Magic, the Houdini surprise was this program from his 1926 run at the Princess Theatre in Chicago. The lot had a $150-$300 estimate. But when the hammer fell after 48 bids, it sold for $7,800 (including buyer's premium).

This is a beauty and a nice artifact from the longest engagement of Houdini's 3 Shows in One (eight weeks), but I have no idea why it reached such heights! Perhaps the excellent condition or the association to magician George Schulte had something to do with this. Whatever the reason, I'm sure it will be loved!

If you're wild about this Chicago engagement, check out my related links below.

Congrats to all the sellers and winners in today's auction.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Houdini now signing books from beyond the grave

Dalshire International of Carrollton, Texas, is selling via LiveAuctioneers a signed copy of Houdini's Book of Magic and Party Pastimes with an estimate of $16,800 - $18,200. The auction already has one bid.

Here's the problem. This book was published in December 1927, more than a year after Houdini's death. So while the book might be authentic, the signature is unquestionably fake.

Over the past few years, Dalshire and LiveAuctioneers have sold other Houdini items with this same fake signature. Some for a great deal of money. I really don't know if they are complicit or dupes in all this. It's not for me to judge. I also don't make it a practice of flagging each and every one of these.

However, this particular fake is instructive. No one can argue for this being authentic, and the signature is the same (autopen?) that has shown up on all these fakes. Even if this auction is taken down, save these photos and use them as a reference. If you ever see this signature on any Houdini item, don't touch it!


Be careful out there!

UPDATE: It appears this auction has now been removed. But Dalshire still has two live auctions with this same signature, one on a photo reproduction from the 1960s. All this has inspired me to create a Houdini "Fraud Pack," a collection of images of irrefutable Houdini fakes. You can download it FREE via this public post on my Patreon.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

A San Francisco treat

Here's another gem discovered by our friend Whitt Smith in an old issue of The Sphinx magazine. 

Click to enlarge

This occurred on Saturday, April 21, 1923, at the Golden Gate Theater in San Fransisco. Houdini and his good friend Hattie Mooser arranged the special matinee performance. The children all received the below Good Luck "Houdini Mascot."

McCord Stewart Museum

Speaking of good luck, the Golden Gate Theater still stands today! 

In Houdini's time, the Golden Gate was a Junior Orpheum that featured three shows a day and a movie on the bill. As you can see below, the movie this week was Look Your Best starring Colleen Moore. You can also see this special children's matinee advertised.

The San Francisco Examiner, April 21, 1923.

Thank you, Whitt!


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Looking for this magic ticket

I'm wrapping up my search for photos to illustrate the diary book. I'm happy to report that many generous collectors have provided fantastic images. This book should be the most complete collection of Houdini artifacts from the 1890s yet published.

However, I've failed to locate the owner of the below. This ticket was sold on eBay back in 2018. It's a remarkable survivor from the 1890s that I would love to include in the book. What a shame for it to have survived all these years only to vanish now.

If you are the lucky owner of this magic ticket, please get in touch

Thank you. 🙏

UPDATE: Some trusted collectors have expressed their concerns that this might be a fake. Apparently, this sold at a time when there were similar fakes on eBay. I admit the $1000 Challenge gives me pause. That should be $100. But apart from this, it comports well with Houdini history. But if there's doubt, it's probably best to leave this out of the book. Thanks all!

Monday, August 21, 2023

Joe Notaro publishes 'Houdini's Schooldays'

In 2020, Joe Notaro acquired Houdini's own bound volume of the serialized story Houdini's Schooldays from the Houdini family. Now Joe has published those stories, complete with the original illustrations and his own research. It's another groundbreaking work from Joe and a must for any Houdini collection.

Joe M. Notaro brought Houdini’s full novella, The Zanetti Mystery into print and now he tackles Houdini’s Schooldays. Houdini’s Schooldays was serialized over 30 weeks (9/18/1920 to 4/2/1921) in the Merry and Bright comics and has never been published in book form until now. Herbert Allingham was the author and Harry Houdini owned the dramatic and screen rights. 
This is a BIG story. An extremely fine production in all respects. Don’t miss this amazing yarn. 

A MAN LIKE HOUDINI could not fail to have had a wonderful early life, and this story tells of his adventures while still at school. In addition to sharing Houdini’s Schooldays with original illustrations, Joe. M. Notaro shares his research on the history of the story, along with photos of rare items (from various collections). Research includes other Allingham stories with Houdini’s name attached, Copperfield’s Merry and Bright books, Houdini and Allingham correspondence, Houdini’s education (Appleton, Milwaukee), and a look at possible illustrators for the story. 

You can purchase Houdini's Schooldays as a hardcover or paperback from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. However, if you buy directly from Joe, you can get the book signed and a limited edition bonus card. Just click over to Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence for details.

Thank you to Joe for sharing this rare treasure.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Haldane of the Secret Service screening in Ogunquit

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Houdini's Haldane of the Secret Service, so what better way to mark this milestone than with a screening!

The historic Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine, which is also celebrating its centennial this year, will screen Haldane of the Secret Service on Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 6 PM. Live musical accompaniment will be provided by silent movie specialist Jeff Rapsis. Admission is $12.

The Leavitt Theatre is located at 259 Main St. Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine. For more info and to buy tickets visit their official website.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Sangaw surprise

In November 1908, four Chinese men challenged Houdini to escape from a "Sangnau" (alternately spelled Sanguaw or Sangaw) at the Oxford Music Hall in London. The device was characterized as an ancient Chinese torture device and was a one-off escape. Or was it?

This challenge is covered in most Houdini biographies. Houdini went back and forth with the challengers, refusing certain aspects of the restraint, such as having his feet nailed to the floor. He also insisted on having two doctors present during the test. Houdini made his escape but vowed he'd never take on the dreaded Sangaw again.

However, magic history buff Whitt Smith recently sent me a detailed account of a special S.A.M. "Houdini Night" at the Palace Theatre from The Sphinx (January 1922) that reveals the sangaw was not a one-off escape after all. And more! The key excerpt is below: 

     Houdini then went on to say that while traveling through China in 1908, the natives challenged him to escape (privately and under their own conditions) from a Chinese sangaw--a wooden contraption similar in form to a horizontal bar on uprights, but being furnished also with a lower crosspiece. Houdini accepted their challenge, and had secretly introduced a movie man and his camera that the outcome of the challenge might be seen by the outside world. And so, on The S.A.M's. "Houdini Night," there was flashed upon the screen Houdini's escape from the sangaw of the Orient. In the picture the Chinese are seen binding Houdini securely and in the most businesses-like manner. First, securing each wrist to the central portions of the uprights, then securely binding the feet to the floor-piece, and lastly running a loop under the front part of the neck, thence around the head in such a manner that the head may not the lowered; then remainder of the rope is then securely fastened to the central part of the upper most cross-piece. At the conclusion of the picture, Houdini repeats his escape in real life before the audience, using a genuine Chinese sangaw and extracting himself with lightning-like rapidity from bonds identical to those used by the Orientals. 

Not only is it exciting to learn Houdini did the sangaw at this event, but it's even more exciting to discover there was film of the escape! The idea that it was shot secretly in China in 1908 is pure hokum. It was almost certainly something Houdini staged himself. But how I'd love to see this! No matter how many descriptions I've read of the sangaw, I still don't understand exactly how this contraption worked. Alas, this film might be long lost.

Want more? You can read the full Sphinx article, which includes a terrific description of Houdini's Water Torture Cell, as well as the 1908 newspaper accounts of the original sangaw escape as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon by clicking below.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Hollywood Graveyard visits the Houdinis

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Hollywood Graveyard with the enigmatic Arthur Dark. In fact, I now watch these instead of the news when I'm having dinner. Graveyards are far less depressing! The other night I was watching a video from Arthur's visit to New York when who should appear but Bess! Below is the video. Bessie shows up around 15:10.

As mentioned in the video, Houdini has also appeared on Hollywood Graveyard. He shows up around 07:10 in the below video from 2018.

While the channel is called "Hollywood Graveyard," Arthur travels the country and even the world. I have my fingers crossed that one day he might do an all-magicians episode at the cemetery in Colon, Michigan.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Dark Doyle

Over the weekend our good friend Anna Thurlow, great-granddaughter of Mina "Margery" Crandon, shared with me some letters written to Dr. Le Roi Crandon during the famous Margery-Houdini seances. One letter written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on August 27, 1924, contains this surprisingly dark sentiment:

"Something will happen to that man H. You mark my words. Better to get between the metals when an express is due, than block the way of the spirit."

We tend to think of Doyle as the creator of the virtuous Sherlock Holmes, but he was also the creator of all the dastardly murderers from those stories. He could go there! It's hard not to see this as a veiled wish that harm come to Houdini, if for no other reason than to prove this existence of avenging spirits. Although the idea of Houdini being pushed in front of an express train seems more like a tactic a person would employ than a spirit.

Dark Doyle indeed.

Want more? You can read the full letter as a member of my Patreon.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

LINK: Searching for Magic

Magician and lecturer Paul Draper has written a thoughtful article about collecting magic for Anthropology News magazine. Paul includes his memories of The Great Houdini Auction in Las Vegas and talks about a particular piece of cherished Houdini history:

In my collection, I have a wooden lathe, a nail, and a brick from Houdini’s home in Harlem. The current owner has been selling pieces of the original structure to pay for remodeling and refurbishment. The lathe has a thin splatter of white paint, indicating the exact color of the bathroom where Houdini practiced his famous escapes in a bathtub filled with icy water. I steam my suits in hotel bathrooms and practice close-up effects in front of my mirror at home, so when I hold this lathe, I imagine the intimate moments, both mundane and creative, that took place in Houdini’s home.

Click the headline to read the full article at Anthropology News. The print edition includes illustrations by Charlotte Corden.

Thanks Paul!

Friday, August 11, 2023

Heroics and hijinks in Atlantic City

I admit I always cringe when I hear someone call Houdini "the first superhero." It just feels too much like a pander to Hollywood's current obsession with superhero movies, etc. But, gosh darn-it, there are times when it appears people really did think of Houdini as a superhero! This is a case in point.

The below comes from when Houdini was playing Keith's Garden Pier Theater in Atlantic City during the week of July 26, 1915. For context, the U.S. had not yet entered the war in Europe, but there was plenty of news about German U-boats lurking in the Atlantic. So in this environment of war nerves, I'll let these two stories speak for themselves.

Atlantic City Review, July 27, 1915.

You gotta love that the frightened vacationers thought Houdini might be the only man who could get the bottom of this. And as it turns out, that's exactly what happened! Check out the follow-up story below. (Sorry this one's a little hard to read.)

Atlantic City Daily Press, July 30, 1915.

So was Houdini a dupe or part of this publicity stunt? It's hard to tell from the story. But we can imagine what would have happened had this turned out to be a real German sub!

Houdini clocked a lot of stunt time on the Garden Pier. He did an overboard box escape during this same engagement in 1915 (post on that coming soon); a suspended straitjacket escape from the pier tower in 1916; and a manacled leap in 1917. No wonder he was seen as [*cringe*] a superhero.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Houdini hangs at MAGIC Live

If you're at MAGIC Live this week in Las Vegas be sure and stop by the Mystique Dining hospitality lounge and check out this terrific mural depicting famous magicians. There's Houdini in the position one would expect to find him!

You can follow all the MAGIC Live happenings via our friend Scott Wells at The Magic Word Podcast.

Thanks to Richard Hatch and Terry Commons for letting me crash the party.