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 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.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading Cardo somewhere. Could it be in the chapter on card manipulation in Fabulous Magic?