Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Imprisoned with the Pharaohs online reading, Feb. 1

A special dramatic reading of Houdini's "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" will be presented online by Matthew Wood on Wednesday, February 1 at 19:30 GMT.

Join Edwyrdian Tales for an evening of enthralling storytelling where Harry Houdini, the great escape-artist and magician, faces his most daring and terrifying feat of escapology deep beneath the sands of the Egyptian desert… 

In 1910 Houdini and his wife travel to Egypt in search of the picturesque and the mystically impressive. But what they find leads down a dark path of adventure, incarceration and ancient mystery. Their curious guide Abdul Reis al Drogman draws Houdini to a duel for honour atop the Great Pyramid of Giza itself. The escapologist soon finds himself ensnared in a trap and cast down a near-bottomless hole under the Great Sphinx – an entity older and stranger than even the dark Gods of the Pharaohs. Houdini is trapped in a desperately real race against time to free himself from the sandy prison that might become his own tomb…

More more information and to purchase ticket head to Eventbrite.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Interview with Houdini's embalmer

Yesterday I shared to my Patreon an interview recorded by Jon Oliver in 1988 with Jack Gibbons who was one of the men who embalmed Houdini at the W. R. Hamilton Funeral Home in Detroit in 1926. He also saw the living Houdini on stage. You can listen by clicking below.

If you haven't yet joined the Patreon, know there is now six months worth of exclusive Houdini content to be found there. You also have a few days left to download my 1923 Chronology. I'm planning something special for next month's reward, but it's not something I can promote outside Patreon. So you'll have to be a member to even see what it is.

Thank you to my patrons (63 strong) who support all that I do here on WILD ABOUT HARRY.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

LINK: First golf lessons in the UK

Joe Notaro has discovered and shared to his blog Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence a photo of Houdini on a UK golf course in January 1914. This would be only the second image of Houdini on a golf course that I'm aware of.

I actually don't think Houdini was a golfer. I suspect these photos were staged for the cameras. But great stuff all the same!

Click the headline to hit the links with Harry at HHCE.


Friday, January 27, 2023

Houdini's Atlantic City straitjacket escape

The Atlantic City Heritage Collections Archive has shared to their Facebook page this fantastic image of a lesser-known Houdini suspended straitjacket escape from the tower of Keith's Garden Pier Theater in Atlantic City on August 2, 1916. He was playing the sea-side theater this week. You can just spot his name in the doorway on the left.

New of the stunt was syndicated. Below is an account from the The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 3, 1916.

Below is a nice look at the Garden Pier theater, which was built in 1913. Houdini was playing some rare summer dates in 1916. He had just completed a run in Brighton Beach. You might recall that during this Atlantic City engagement he teased the idea of fighting a live shark.

Thanks to Jesse Leeds-Grant for this discovery and tip. And thank you to the Atlantic City Heritage Collections Archive at The Atlantic City Free Public Library for allowing me to share it here.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Early handwritten Houdini letter sells at auction

RR Auctions recently offered up several very nice Houdini lots. Chief among these were the two lots below. The auction listed these as two separate incomplete letters, but it's actually one complete letter. I think the confusion came from the fact that Houdini used his 1897 stationary for page 1 and his old 1896 stationary for pages 2 and 3. The combined lots add up to a whopping $37,528 (including Buyers Premium).

The letter is handwritten by Houdini who is pitching his act to a Mr. Hixon. If anyone has any information on Hixon, who may have been part of a firm called "Hixon & Wallen", I'd love to hear more. The content is phenomenal, probably the best early Houdini letter I've ever read. You might recall I shared a page from this letter in this post.

Congrats to the winner(s) of this incredible early Houdini treasure.

Thanks to Don Creekmore for the image. You can see close up images of the letter on my Patreon.

UPDATE: I now know these two lots did not sell to one buyer. Also sold was a handwritten press notice (below) that I think was also part of this letter. It's a shame they all didn't stay together.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Meeting the Collector at Muzeo

On Sunday I had the pleasure of being a part of Muzeo's "Meet the Collector" event with Dr. Randall Bell and John Gaughan. It was standing room only and everyone seemed to really enjoy the day. Dr. Bell gave a guided tour of the Houdini Unchained exhibit, telling stories of how he acquired many of his treasures. It was also a thrill to hear John Gaughan describe the workings of the flower table. We had a very lively Q&A and there was a lot of love for Houdini in that room.

Also in attendance was our friend Joe Notaro of HHCE, historian Diego Domingo, mentalist Nader Hanna, magician David Minkin, and magician Jessica Jane Peterson who didn't let two broken ribs (acquired doing a straitjacket escape) stop her from attending! She's also responsible for the photo above.

This was the closing event for Houdini Unchained: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini at Muzeo. However, the good news is Dr. Bell announced the exhibition will be traveling. The next stop is yet to be announced, but you can count on hearing the news here when it is.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Mlle. Beatrice Houdini at the Orpheum

Today is Bess Houdini's birthday. For the occasion, I thought I'd share this clipping from the June 11, 1899 San Francisco Chronicle. This is from Houdini's first engagement at the Orpheum in San Fransisco, but look whose photo the paper decided to feature.

Click to enlarge.

I love this not only for the fact that it put Bess front and center, but I've never seen this image of her before. What I wouldn't give to see a better copy.

If you want to keep the celebration going, click over to my Patreon for a rare photo of Bessie's 36th birthday party inside 278.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Paging Professor Murat

In the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin (them again!), not all the Houdini treasures are in the Houdini Collections. The Ransom Center also holds a large collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's correspondence. There one can find several letters he exchanged with Bess in the months after Houdini's death. These letters contain some fascinating information.

Today I wanted to highlight a paragraph from one letter dated July 8, 1927 in which Bess writes:

Was awfully pleased to hear from you. Houdini never traveled under the name of Ellington but took the name of Houdini when he was fourteen years of age. Thirty-two years ago he used the name of Professor Murat for one week as a hypnotist and then a few years later as a card magician, for a short time was known as "Cardo", but those are the only names, other than Houdini, that he ever used.

These aliases are mentioned in Silverman (sourced from this letter in the HRC), so this isn't new info. However, Bessie appears to have misspelled the name Murat. Details of his act at Daly's Star Theater in Hoboken during the week of February 10, 1896 can be found in local papers under the spelling "Morat":

Then came Prof. Morat, with his "European Sensation–Man in a Trance." He produced his "subject" and made the audience shiver as he jabbed pins and needles into the soft parts of the man's anatomy. The subject didn't seem to mind it. He was supposed to be in the state of hypnotic catalepsy.

Unfortunately, I've never been able to find any account of Houdini's time as "Cardo." Every once in a while I do a hard target search of newspaper.com for any mention of a Cardo from 1895-99 who could logically be Houdini, but so far I've come up empty. I did find a magician in 1889 named Signor LaCardo, but clearly not HH. Maybe someone else will have more luck?

By the way, Houdini also appeared at least once as "Harry Raynohr, Sleight of Hand" during his early days. Strange Bess forgot that one as she appeared on the same bill as "Beatrice Raynohr, The Melodious Little Songstress."

Want more? You can read the entire Bess letter and see the Prof. Morat clippings as a Scholar member of my Patreon. Just click the image below.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

William Lindsay Gresham's Houdini notes

Magician Jeffrey Alan has shared to Facebook an exciting discovery he made recently at the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan. These are author William Lindsay Gresham's original research note cards for his 1959 biography Houdini The Man Who Walked Through Walls. I like that he sorted things by year. That's the way to do it! I'd love to read through these some day.

The American Museum of Magic holds the collection of the late Robert Lund. You can check out more about the museum at its official website. And for more Gresham goodness gaze below.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Houdini's Fabulous Magic is BACK

After being out of print for more than 40 years, today sees the re-release of Houdini's Fabulous Magic by Walter B. Gibson and Morris N. Young. This new edition includes a Forward by Gabe Fajuri of Potter & Potter auctions and is published by Vine Leaves Press.

Incredible escapes, fantastic sleight-of-hand-Houdini's most challenging performances are dramatically portrayed in Houdini's Fabulous Magic. Walter Gibson, co-author, was in close touch with Harry Houdini for a number of years before his death and worked with the master magician in preparing material for the book. It is with the aid of Houdini's own scrapbooks and notes that this book was written.

The spectacular highlights of Houdini's career are described-and explained-here. Included are the famous escapes: escapes from a padlocked milk can filled with water; from locked jail cells; from a water-filled Chinese torture cell while suspended upside down; from packing cases weighted under water. Again, in this book, Houdini walks through a brick wall, vanishes a 10,000-pound elephant and is buried alive. Once more, Houdini and his wife Bessie mysteriously exchange places in a locked trunk-in three seconds!

And Houdini the man is not ignored. His impact on the world in the early years of the twentieth century was enormous. He was a public hero who, in his own way, helped sweep out the cobwebs of nineteenth-century thinking. While doing so, he distinguished himself as a patriot, writer, collector of magic, aviator, movie idol, philanthropist, and crusader against fraudulent spiritualistic practices.

This is a technical manual for magicians, complete with illustrations and diagrams, but it is also an astute analysis of the best of Houdini's magic and a readable biography of a man who turned himself into a legend. It is a book for would-be conjurers, for professional necromancers, for those curious about the methods and means of one of the most enchanting men of our century.

I've always loved Houdini's Fabulous Magic and I'm excited to see it return to print. You can check out my overview of the book and its publishing history HERE. I haven't seen this new edition in the flesh yet, but I'm excited to get it. I've shared some of the publishers promotional material on Patreon.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Our Fake History three part Houdini podcast

The Our Fake History podcast takes a three part deep dive into the life of Houdini. These are lengthy and I admit I've only listened to part of the first episode. But from what I've heard it's well researched and well produced, so I'm linking all three parts so you can discover them along with me. Their original Houdini artwork is also pretty rad. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

At Home with Houdini: Collectors Talk at MUZEO, Jan. 22

This is the last week to see the exhibition Houdini Unchained: The Legacy of Harry Houdini at MUZEO in Anaheim, CA. On closing day, Sunday, January 22, there will be a special, "At Home with Houdini: Collectors Talk," with Randall Bell and special guests (spoiler: I'm one of those guests). The event will be at 2:00 PM and advance tickets can be purchased HERE. You can also buy tickets on site.

If you can't make it to the Sunday event, I would still encourage you to do all you can to see the exhibit before it's gone. It's a good one!

Muzeo is located at 241 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim, CA 92805. Be sure and check out their parking information as that's a bit tricky. Normal hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Houdini Unchained: The Legacy of Harry Houdini will be on show until January 22, 2023.

Hope to see you next Sunday!


Friday, January 13, 2023

Houdini's nurse and a new case for murder?

Over the holidays I was privy to some new information, backed by documentation, that has me re-examining my long-standing skepticism when it comes to the question of whether Houdini was murdered. I now believe there is a possibility Houdini was a victim of foul play. But before I get into it, let's look at the problems I've always had with past murder theories.

Past theories

Houdini died from streptococcal peritonitis, an infection caused by leakage or a hole in the intestines. In Houdini's case, his appendix had ruptured, either because of a blow to the stomach or a case of appendicitis that was not treated in time (not debating that here). Before the discovery of antibiotics, peritonitis was almost always fatal, and it was for Houdini who died on Halloween 1926.

Most of the Houdini murder conspiracies have focused on the possibility of poisoning. When the now infamous exhumation was proposed in 2007, the reason was to test for poisoning. But as I understand it, there is no poison that can cause appendicitis.

To get around this inconvenient medical fact, murder theorists must shift to a post-operative poisoning. They claim Houdini's own doctors conspired to murder him, and in his final days injected him with a toxic mystery serum. (This despite the fact that he would have died from peritonitis anyway.) None of this is fact based. It's pure conspiracy theory that might make for good television, but it's bad history. As for the idea that J. Gordon Whitehead was a "ninja" who knew exactly how to deliver a "death blow" to Houdini...well, if you believe that one you should be running the History channel.

Poisoning possibilities

Now, I have no problem believing Houdini had enemies who wanted to see him dead. His campaign against fake spirit mediums was getting hot in 1926. He was provoking both criminals who feared for their rackets and religious fanatics who felt he was driving a wedge between the human and spirit world. Certainly among these people would have been individuals dangerous enough to cause Houdini harm.

I also have no problem believing they might have tried. While in Providence, Bess came down with a bad case of ptomaine poisoning after a meal at the Waldorf Hotel. There are also reports of Houdini appearing ill before the punch from Whitehead. So is it possible a cabal of spiritualists were spiking Houdini's food at every opportunity? Maybe not enough to kill him, but enough to make him ill and cancel his tour? Yes, I think that's absolutely possible.

But all this doesn't mean anything because, again, there is no poison that can cause appendicitis. So here we are back facing a medical fact that doesn't allow us to move forward on any fact-based murder theory. And that is why I have always been a skeptic.

Then I had a conversation with William Rauscher.

Enter Houdini's nurse

William V. Rauscher is a name that most will be familiar with. He is a reverend, magician, paranormal investigator and the author of many books, including a biography of Arthur Ford, The Man Who Talked With The Dead, a recent book about Hardeen, and The Houdini Code Mystery. He even did a guest blog here on WILD ABOUT HARRY. Bill Rauscher is a legend in the world of magic and the paranormal. So when a mutual friend, Tom Ewing, suggested I give Bill a call to learn the details of an amazing meeting he had many years ago, I was happy to! Here's the story Bill told me.

In 1973, Bill gave a lecture on Houdini at the 5th annual Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship retreat at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. After the lecture he was approached by a woman who was excited to speak with him as she had first-hand knowledge of Houdini's final illness. Her name was Helen Mable Bacon (maiden name Costello) and she was a student nurse at Grace Hospital when Houdini arrived there in 1926. In fact, she was in the operating room!

Helen shared a handful of recollections, such as that Houdini "kidded a bit when he was brought in for surgery." Bill typed up notes on their conversation and shared those notes with me. They consist of seven paragraphs. Some of the information is familiar, some of it is new. But it was this sentence that really caught my attention:

Mrs. Bacon recalled that he had in addition to his ruptured appendix a ruptured pancreas.

Wait, in addition to a ruptured appendix, Houdini had a ruptured pancreas??? This I have never heard before, and if we accept her recollection as accurate, it's an entirely new medical fact to work with.

Now, I'm not a doctor and I admit I'm just going off what I can find online, but a ruptured pancreas can cause peritonitis in the same way as a ruptured appendix. So if Houdini had a ruptured pancreas, this would have contributed to his fatal infection. But what causes a ruptured pancreas? Let's ask Google!

So it's conceivable that Whitehead's blows (abdominal trauma) could have caused the rupture. But people have enough trouble believing Whitehead's blows could have ruptured Houdini's appendix. To believe it ruptured both his appendix and pancreas is an even further stretch, ninja or not!

But also notice that pancreatitis can cause a rupture to the pancreas. This seems more plausible. I also found a 2016 case report from the Digestive Disease Research Centre at Tehran University of Medical Sciences that suggests appendicitis can be "a complication of acute pancreatitis." So if Houdini had a ruptured pancreas, it is conceivable that his root illness was actually pancreatitis.

Here's the obvious question. Can poison cause pancreatitis? It doesn't take much of a Google search to come up with that answer:

So here we have a path, paved with medical evidence, that Houdini's final illness could have been brought on by poisoning. Had I known about this in 2007, I might have felt very differently about the proposed exhumation. Arsenic was one of the poisons they were going to test for as traces of it can be found in bones and hair.

I'm sure you all have the obvious questions. Why would Houdini's death certificate not mention his ruptured pancreas? I don't know. Are there any hospital records that say Houdini had a ruptured pancreas? No hospital records survive, so we don't know. Why has no one mentioned this until now? Actually, Bill Rauscher did mention this on page 114 of his book The Houdini Code Mystery, a book I read on release in 2000. But at that time I didn't grasp the significance, and I'm betting it slipped past others as well.

I should also note that when Bill told me about his meeting, we didn't talk about murder. For Bill, the existence of this nurse was the real story. I'm the mad man who picked up on the ruptured pancreas as a revelatory piece of information. I should also point out that in his book Bill says he doesn't believe Houdini was murdered, "though a few careful students of the subject disagree."

So there we go. We now have a theory that doesn't involve homicidal surgeons, mystery serums, or ninjas. It's a theory based on an eyewitness and supported with medical facts. I'm not arguing for it. I just wanted to lay it out as best I can. Unless we again want to talk about exhumation, this may only be another theory that can never be proven. But it is one I can get behind.

Want more? William Rauscher has graciously given me permission to share his original notes from his meeting with the nurse on my Patreon, so you can read all she remembers about her encounter with Houdini in October 1926. I've also included some assorted research. This is for "Scholar" members and up. Just click below.

Thanks to Bill Rauscher and Tom Ewing for making WILD ABOUT HARRY a bit more wild today!

Thursday, January 12, 2023

"Haunted" Houdini printers block MISSING

Last night I was talking to our friends Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz at the Houdini Museum in Scranton and they gave me some troubling news. One of their original Houdini printing blocks has gone missing from the museum. This was the block that mysteriously tipped over during the 2020 Original Seance. Dorothy and Dick fear it may have been stolen.

I'm throwing out an APB on Dick and Dorothy's behalf. As you can see by the photo, the block has many distinguishing features and is likely one-of-a-kind. So if you see this show up on eBay, at auction, or in a private collection, know this is property of the Houdini Museum in Scranton. Anyone with information should contact the museum via the phone numbers that can be found on their website www.houdini.org.

Here's hoping somehow, some way, this comes back to where it belongs.


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

'Trumpets and Table Tipping' reading reveals a strong Houdini play

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a reading of Trumpets and Table Tipping, a new Houdini play by magician and author Charlie Mount. The reading was held at Theatre West in North Hollywood (near Universal Studios) and is part of the Theatre West New Works Play Festival 2023.

I've seen a fair amount of Houdini plays in my day, and this was certainly among the best. Even though this was just a reading (with the actors lined up on stage at podiums), the performers gave it their all, and the storytelling was vivid enough that I feel like I "saw" a full production.

The story is set at the home of the fictional Kathleen D'Arcy in Sleepy Hollow, New York, in 1913. Kathleen is suffering from tuberculosis and has engaged a famous medium to contact her recently deceased husband, Gabriel. Houdini and Bess are among the attendees, and Houdini must decide whether to expose the medium or allow Kathleen to find her final peace in his manifestations.

The play is a true ensemble. Houdini does not dominate the action, nor does he try. Houdini's character is not aggressive or bombastic as he's so often portrayed on stage and film. He quietly watches the proceedings, but when he does choose to act or interject, its a show stopper. His great intelligence trumps his ego, and you really get a sense this is what it would be like to have Houdini in your home. Credit to actor Nick McDow Musleh who gives Houdini quiet power and gravitas. Even bearded, you can see the real Houdini in his eyes and performance.

However, it's the treatment of Bess that, for me, really sets this play apart. The program describes Bess as "burning with wisdom, empathy and intelligence," and that all comes across in the skilled and naturalistic performance of Samantha Layton Gregory. I've never seen a Houdini play that works so hard to present Harry and Bess as true partners. Here they really feel like a couple who have been married for 19 years and have performed together for just as long. Bess is an invisible force working several steps ahead of her husband, setting up the moves she knows he will make, even before he realizes it himself. There's also a world-weariness to them both that feels very honest. It was exciting to see "The Houdinis" up on that stage.

There's also some nice Houdini history woven into the narrative. Bess tells the story of marrying Harry in Coney Island, and of "Houdini" (she draws a distinction between to the two) conjuring her fathers's name on his arm. The play is set three months after Houdini's mother's death, and Houdini mentions having cancelled dates in Italy (nice research there). The Voisin gets a mention, and Houdini tells the "unlocked cell" story. We also get mind reading and a handcuff escape. While the play is fictional to be sure, it respects and stays within the boundaries of real Houdini history, which I always appreciate. Judging by the Q&A afterwards, the audience did as well.

All the other actors are excellent and every part is well fleshed out. Mary Elizabeth Somers plays the unfortunate Kathleen D'Arcy; Amelia Vargas is Eliza D'Arcy ("Inexperienced, but possessing a hungry mind"); Liv Denevi plays maid Noreen Corrick ("Outwardly brave but underneath terrified of something mysterious"); Benjamin Scuglia is Dr. Jasper Perry ("Irascible man of science"); Cecil Jennings is Jonathan Ruggles ("Brash and ambitious young man of industry"); and David Baer plays the bogus medium, Emmett Lee. They all made the reading come alive with their fine performances. I should also mention that author Charlie Mount, who read the scene descriptions, worked in a bit of spooky stage magic which the audience enjoyed immensely.

Having been so entertained by this reading, I can only imagine how powerful a fully mounted production of Trumpets and Table Tipping would be. Here's hoping one day we will see that!

The Houdinis!

Want more? Members of my Patreon can download a PDF of last night's program, which contains the proposed stage setting as well as Houdini facts and photos. Just click below.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Magic Collector Expo 2023 in Cleveland

This year the Magic Collector Expo will be held in Cleveland on May 9-11, 2023. Houdini fans take note! Among the events this year will be a tour of Dr. Bruce Averbook's magic collection. Bruce, as you may know, owns one of the largest Houdini collections in the world. So you will be able to see some VERY rare Houdini treasures up close. I will also be giving a presentation on "Houdini in Cleveland." Cleveland is a city with some great Houdini history and I can't wait to share that story.

Those who attend will also receive priority registration for the 2024 Expo in Las Vegas, which will include a tour of David Copperfield's museum.

Before the end of the year I had heard there were only about 20 spots left. So if you're thinking about attending, I wouldn't wait much longer to register. Just go to https://magiccollectorexpo.com.

Hope to see you there! 

Monday, January 9, 2023

Houdini named to the Masonic Hall of Fame

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library (SRMML) have inducted Houdini into The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History, on display through October 25, 2024, at Supreme Council headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts. The Hall of Fame exhibition honors Masons, both past and present, who have made outstanding contributions to American history. 

The year's other inductees are: Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Thurgood Marshall; the Mayo brothers, and Paul Revere. Not bad company!

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Brother Houdini joining the order.

Thanks to Delmar Proctor for the alert.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Watch Terror Island's missing scene

Today I shared to my Patreon the overboard box escape footage from Houdini's 1920 film Terror Island. This scene is missing from the only known print of the movie. Until now, the only place you could see it was at the Catalina Island Museum. But now you can watch it by becoming a patron! Just click below.

Thank you to my patrons (61 strong) who support all that I do here on WILD ABOUT HARRY.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Houdini meets the Red Baron

Here's bit of Houdini fiction that slipped past me last year. Der Rote Baron und der Anschlag auf Houdini (The Red Baron and the Assassination of Houdini) by Tomos Forrest is a German language novel that pairs Houdini with the Red Baron. This is not as far out as it might sound. Here's a translation of the book's description:

Manfred von Richthofen, a fighter pilot in the First World War, is known to everyone not least because of the honorable nickname "Red Baron" that his enemies gave him. The most successful German fighter pilot had the idea of painting his Fokker D 1 triplane bright red to challenge all opponents. But it was a long, sometimes rocky road to his first mission as a fighter pilot, which took him from the dangerous mission as a dragoon reconnaissance aircraft on the Russian border to Verdun and finally to Ostend. There he meets a lovely lady and the uncanny escape artist Harry Houdini. Through him, he is drawn into a strange and extremely dangerous story...

So did Houdini ever meet Richthofen in real life? Maybe! In 1909 Houdini made a deal with the commander of German army troops stationed at Wandsbek near Hamburg. In exchange for using the Hufaren parade grounds to practice flying his new Voisin biplane, Houdini would give flying lessons to the German soldiers. It's been suggested that von Richthofen might have been among those soldiers.

With the outbreak of World War I, Houdini expressed regret at teaching the Germans to fly. He destroyed all photos taken of him with the soldiers, except for one that slipped through below. So is the young Red Baron in this shot?

You can buy Der Rote Baron und der Anschlag auf Houdini at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.


Thursday, January 5, 2023

Joe Notaro teases new book for 2023

Our great friend Joe Notaro wrapped up another year of his terrific blog Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence over the holidays with THIS POST looking back on his stories from 2022. Joe's approach is to post once a week and remain history-centric. Not a bad approach as you can see how much ground Joe covers in a year. He even made his own visit to the Harry Ransom Center (right).

Joe also teased that his "next book" will be coming out in 2023. Last year Joe released Houdini's long lost novella The Zanetti Mystery, which was an inspired project and is a must for any Houdini bookshelf. What does Joe have up his sleeve for 2023? I can't wait to find out!

Joe posts to HHCE every Sunday (and I try my best to not post on Sundays) so if you don't already visit each week, make it a habit!

UPDATE: Joe has announced his new book on his blog HERE.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Free reading of 'Trumpets and Table Tipping' in LA

Next Tuesday, January 10, there will be a free reading of "Trumpets and Table Tipping", a new Houdini play by magician and author Charlie Mount. The reading will be held from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd West, Los Angeles (near Universal Studios). Below are details.

Theatre West New Works Play Festival 
by Charlie Mount
~ A Free Play Reading ~

The great magician Harry Houdini battles a Clairvoyant at a country home in Sleepy Hollow.

Nick McDow Musleh ● Samantha Layton Gregory ● Mary Elizabeth Somers ● Amelia Vargas ● Cecil Jennings ● Ben Scuglia ● Liv Denevi ● David Baer 

During a day in Sleepy Hollow, New York, in 1913, Harry Houdini visits his friend Kathleen D’Arcy, who is suffering from tuberculosis and must not be upset. Kathleen has engaged a clairvoyant to contact her dead husband and Houdini must decide whether to challenge the veracity of the clairvoyant or expose him as a fraud, which would put Kathleen’s fragile emotional health, and therefore her life, at risk. 
And there is the question of whether or not Houdini possesses strange and outré powers of his own, as Kathleen’s daughter Eliza believes, and the skeptical Dr. Jasper Perry does not. Houdini’s wily wife, Bess, proving to be a master magician herself, skillfully navigates matters towards a satisfying conclusion.

(*COVID Policy: Masks must be worn at all times in the theatre except for children younger than three years. The actors will remove their masks only while performing.)  

The reading is part of the Theatre West New Works Play Festival 2023. For more details visit the event page on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Guest Blog: Houdini at Park East Synagogue

Over the holidays our friend Benjilini, magician and author of Benjilini on Houdini, gave a talk at the historic Park East Synagogue in New York City, which remembered their "most magical member" with a special Shabbat Chanukah Dinner on December 23. Today Benjilini provides us with a full report of what sounds like a magical evening.

On a bitter cold and stormy day, I arrived by a car service to the Park East Synagogue located on 163 East 67th St. in Manhattan, NY on Fri., Dec. 23rd for my Houdini presentation at 1pm.

I was escorted into the building thru a security check point. Cantor Benny Rogosnitsky was so excited to see me! With a huge hug he told me, "I know you are going to do a great job, "Benjilini on Houdini!"

Cantor Benny's assistant immediately handed me my payment for the evening. She took me downstairs to their main Ballroom to set-up my display on a long table and provided me with easels which I requested from them.

After my set-up, I took a photo and recorded a small 2 minute video. Cantor Benny took a photo with me and was quite pleased that this program was on the site of John Cox WILD ABOUT HARRY who he apparently knew.

I walked the 18 blocks to the San Carlos Hotel to drop off a few things. My room was 4 stars! I was very surprised by this huge room because I would probably, like Houdini, only be asleep for about 3-5 hours on my return after the event in the evening.

I returned to the Synagogue for the outdoor and indoor Chanukah candle lighting. We prayed in the wonderful 1890 Huge landmark Synagogue followed by a most tasty Sabbath meal along with the close to 100 people for this sold-out event.

Many people went to my display table, as I stood by my Houdini pieces to provide much additional information. Finally, after my introduction from Cantor Benny, it was my turn. After much discussion about the close relationship between Houdini and Rabbi Bernard Drachman (1861-1945) who began his relationship with Houdini during his Bar-Mitzvah in 1887 until Houdini's passing in 1926, I allowed a few people to come up and speak about Houdini.

A Rabbi who knew Rabbi Drachman's son's before their passing told the audience a story that was not mentioned in Rabbi Drachman's book. After Houdini donated a sum of $500 to Rabbi Drachman in order to receive his father's set of Maimonides books the story continues. Here is something new about Houdini that was NEVER mentioned in any book including mine as well. Some years after the event, the Park East Synagogue had a huge leak within its building. Houdini payed the entire amount for its repair and provided the final payments to complete the mortgage of the Synagogue. So, the historic Park East Synagogue stands to this day thanks to Jacob Weisz who later became the legendary Harry Houdini!

Most speakers would never allow three other people to come up and interject and speak at the podium. By doing this, we heard from a licensed Doctor that there was no effective antibiotics to treat Houdini's bursted appendix back in 1926 along with the story above. Also, the President of this Synagogue is responsible for closing the streets by the Machpelah Cemetery where Houdini is buried located in Glendale, Queens on Halloween to keep away those who continually come there on that day to create mayhem and chaos.

After displaying certain pieces, I performed three magical effects. A metallic circle created by Juan Mayoral back in 2001 transformed into the "Star of David." I provided a wonderful introduction before I placed handcuffs on Cantor Benny who hired me for this historic event. After he could not escape, I had him place the handcuffs on me but behind my back. I quickly and thankfully, escaped from these handcuffs as "Houdini." However, my original "Chanukah Dreidel Enlargement" effect, whereas, the small dreidels are transformed into 10 times their original size but now filled with candy using the only two young girls that attended this Sabbath dinner, created a loud and huge applause!

From the ending of that presentation until I left on Saturday evening from the Synagogue about 30-50 people continued to stop me and say, "I enjoyed your entire presentation!" "Why?" "It was 'genuine' on your part. You clearly showed your love for Houdini but your magic tricks are fantastic!"

With a great program, great prayers, delicious food, wonderful accommodations at the Hotel, it was hard to say, Good-Bye. Cantor Benny told me before leaving on Saturday night, "Benjilini on Houdini, you did not just perform a great program as everyone is talking to me about it, YOU hit it out of the ballpark!"

I stayed very calm throughout the entire weekend. I do not know why their response to my entire presentation was so highly effective? However, I have found a new mission. I must provide many additional Houdini lectures with combined magical effects performed by me. I pray to the Almighty, for the Park East Synagogue to rehire me for many future events. I pray to the Almighty that our magical organizations, etc. will recognize my talents and hire me to present these lectures on Houdini as well as having me perform too in 2023 and beyond. I feel it is my TIME! -Benjilini

Thank you Benjilini!


Sunday, January 1, 2023

Houdini in 1923

Let's kick off 2023 with a brief look back at what Houdini was up to 100 years ago.

The new year saw Houdini on the road for what would be his first coast to coast tour since 1915. At age 49 he was back hanging from high buildings, clocking an amazing 19 suspended straitjacket escapes in the course of the year. He once again appeared at all the major vaudeville houses in all the major cities. But he also opened himself up to the new chain of "Junior Orpheum" theaters. These required performers to do three shows a day instead of two and featured a movie as a main attraction. This brought Houdini to cities that had never experienced the escape king in person. He also toured Texas for the second time in his career.

If theater managers feared audiences had forgotten Houdini during his five year hiatus from vaudeville, those fears were quickly put to rest. Houdini was as popular as ever. His movies had provided an avalanche of publicity and audiences were thrilled to now see "Houdini in Person." What they saw was the same act he had presented years earlier; Needles, straitjacket, The Water Torture Cell, and challenges from local businesses. He did experiment with a few new feats, such as being tied to a post inside a ring of burning flames in San Fransisco. He also may have tried his Water Torture Cell escape in full view of the audience in a few select theaters.

The year would also see the release of his last film, Haldane of the Secret Service, with Houdini making personal appearances if an opening lined up with his tour. Haldane was released by F.B.O. who promoted the film as a cavalcade of Houdini's greatest escapes. That isn't what audiences got and the movie was received poorly. But Houdini seemed unfazed by the failure of his final Houdini Picture Corporation production. He had moved on from movies and was focusing more of his time energy on his new passion; spiritualism.

Having given spiritualistic debunking demonstrations as part of his The Man From Beyond roadshow the previous year, Houdini now presented a more fleshed-out lecture, compete with a slide show. He gave these in several cities on his tour as well as at colleges. Publicity for his lecture in Los Angeles eclipsed his regular act at the Hillstreet Theatre, especially as he had become embroiled in a bizarre spirit photograph mystery at the First Spiritualist Church. But Angelenos could still see the old Houdini in action with a suspended straitjacket escape from the Examiner building and an escape from a ball and chain at the bottom of the swimming pool at the Ambassador Hotel (possibly his last outdoor water escape).

Always quick to embrace new technology, Houdini began giving short talks on radio, spelling out his beliefs on spiritualism and giving magic lessons. He also became a Mason.

While appearing in Denver, Houdini met up with his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was in town on his own lecture tour. The subject of spiritualism, which had initially bound them, was now putting a strain on the friendship. Doyle was especially troubled by a splashy multipart series of articles that appeared in the Oakland Tribune under the banner headline, Houdini Unmasks the Mediums. "It is so filled with errors that I don't know where to begin," said Doyle. The author felt compelled to write a detailed rebuttal in the paper, bringing their private debate into the public and putting more strain on their friendship.

Houdini's high profile position on Spiritualism earned him an invitation to join a committee formed by the Scientific American magazine that would investigate claims of true mediumship. This gave Houdini the opportunity to go head to head with notable mediums of the day, such as George Valiantine and Nino Pecoraro. These colorful encounters garnered headlines across the country. While Houdini may have started the year in his old guise of Mystifier, he ended it with a new identity; Debunker.

On Christmas Eve, Conan Doyle penned Houdini an angry letter, stating, "You can't bitterly and offensively--often also untruly--attack a subject and yet expect courtesies from those who honor that subject."

Houdini's answer might have best been expressed by the old show business axiom; You ain't seen nothing yet!

Want more? This month I'm offering patrons an exclusive PDF preview of my Ultimate Houdini Chronology, showing everything Houdini was up to in 1923. This is the first reward of the new year and a special one. Just click below to go.