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 and


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