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 by...me? 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 jailbreak in Blackpool (UPDATE)

UPDATE: Apparently, this is not the station Houdini escaped from in 1905. While this was Blackpool's first police station, Houdini made his escape at the larger police station on King Street, which is no longer there. Thanks to Karl Bartoni for the info.

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.


Monday, February 13, 2023

'House of Houdini' cruise ship show

There's no shortage of ways to experience Houdini's story, even when on vacation. MSC Cruises is currently featuring a Houdini-themed musical acrobatic show called House of Houdini. Here's a description.

Celebrate a world of wonderous illusions and magic as we pay tribute to one of the world’s greatest artists, Harry Houdini. House of Houdini features contemporary music, elaborate costumes and amazing illusions as an international cast of performers sing, dance and spring into life across one of the most technically advanced theatres in the world, the MSC Carousel Lounge. 

If you want a taste of House of Houdini, check out this video from Simply Joyful Vacations on YouTube.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

The living Bessie

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the death of Bess Houdini on February 11, 1943, aboard a train outside Needles, California. I thought a nice way to mark the day would be to bring her back to life in the best way possible. Below is Bess in the 1938 film Religious Racketeers aka Mystic Circle Murder. If you've not seen this footage, you are in for a treat. This is currently the only sync sound footage of any member of the Houdini family. Enjoy.

Here's to Bessie!

Friday, February 10, 2023

USD dummy

Here's a photo from the July 27, 1974 Buffalo Evening News showing how the Water Torture Cell was displayed at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in its early days. 

Can't say I love the idea of a Houdini mannequin hanging inside this precious prop. But it's certainly preferable to the later water effect that leaked and damaged the cell. This display can also be seen a museum postcard for the 1970s below. 

You can see some other images of the Water Torture Cell on display at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame throughout the years via the links below.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Houdini spotted in Avignon

A user on the r/Magic Reddit shared this image of a Houdini painting in a pub in Avignon, France. You just never know where you'll run into old Harry!

This, of course, is not a real Houdini poster or even a reproduction of one. It's just a fantasy piece. If you're curious, Houdini was at Keith and Proctor's 58th Street Theater in New York on May 1, 1907.

 Au revoir.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Houdini arrives in Galveston (at last)

When Houdini ran away from home at age 12, he sent a postcard back to his mother saying he was going to Galveston, Texas. He never made it. Later in life, Houdini annotated the postcard and explained that he got in the wrong boxcar and wound up in Kansas City instead.

Even Houdini doesn't seem to remember why he was going to Galveston, writing on the card, "I was on my way to Texas?" But in looking at the history of the city in the 1880s, one can see that it was a port town with a steady influx of immigrants and a large jewish community. I suspect young Ehrich got a hot tip that there was ample work for young Jewish men in Galveston, and he was heading there to make money for the family.

It would take 37 years, but Houdini finally did make it to Galveston. During his second tour of Texas in 1923, he played the Galveston Opera House (right) on November 6. It was a one-day stop with a matinee and evening show.

This was an unusual engagement. Houdini was actually headlining at the Majestic in Houston this week. He and his fellow performers on the Majestic bill travelled to Galveston for this one day only, then returned to Houston. Al G. Field's Minstrels filled in at the Majestic while the vaudevillians were in Galveston.

The Galveston Daily News reviewed the show on November 7 (Vaudeville Brings a Crowed House). The final paragraph was devoted to Houdini.

Houdini, magician and mystic marvel, whose name did not appear on the program, did several amusing tricks. He escaped from a straightjacket in less than a minute, gave a demonstration of spirit writing and presented other tricks no less interesting.

In his book Houdini's Texas Tours 1916 & 1923, Ron Cartlidge says Houdini conjured a message from a recently deceased black pastor from Galveston during his spirit slates trick. Notice he didn't do his Water Torture Cell. I'm sure that remained back in Houston. I'm not sure why his name didn't appear in the program. He certainly appeared in the advertisements, as you can see at the top of this post.

This wasn't the only time Houdini played a one-day side engagement during his Texas tour. While playing Fort Worth later that month, Houdini travelled to Corsicana for a one day appearance at the Ideal Theatre on November 20, 1923. So it appears Karl Hoblitzelle and his Interstate Amusement Company had their own unique way of doing things, and that turned out to be a good thing for Houdini. It gave him the chance to finally visit the city of his runaway dreams.

Happily, the theater Houdini performed at in Galveston still stands and is beautifully preserved. It's still a popular venue for live performance. Below a video that gives a great look inside. You can visit their website at thegrand.com.

Want more? You can read related clippings for Houdini's engagements in Galveston, Houston, and Corsicana as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon. Just click below.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Houdini at the Alhambra 1900 brochure sells on eBay

A beautiful 4-page souvenir brochure for Houdini at the Alhambra Theatre in London sold on eBay this weekend for the not unreasonable price of $1,036.

This is not an unknown piece as all 4 pages are reproduced in Milbourne Christopher's Houdini A Pictorial Life. However, what's makes this one so exciting--apart from it being an original--is it contains a smaller tipped in program for the patriotic playlet "Soldiers of the Queen."

"Soldiers of the Queen" was a feature of the Alhambra bill when Houdini made his debut there in July of 1900. That suggests this is from Houdini's famous two month breakout run at the theater. "Soldiers of the Queen" was still playing at the Alhambra when Houdini returned in December, so it's possible this comes from that later engagement. But the play left that month, so this can only be from 1900. That makes it a pretty exciting and significant piece of early Houdini history.

Below is an ad from the July 4, 1900 Pall Mall Gazette showing Soldiers of the Queen, Chung Ling Soo, and Houdini all playing the Alhambra.

Congrats to the winner of this gem!


Saturday, February 4, 2023

Good day for a hanging

Yes, Houdini is going to be hung. He looks a little worried. Wouldn't you be?

Of course, what the paper means is Houdini is going to be hung by his ankles in a straitjacket from the Sun building. This is promoting his escape in Baltimore on April 26, 1916. Houdini was pretty deft at suggesting these types of attention grabbers. Click bait 1916 style.

Did he survive? You can find the answer HERE.


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Nic Bezzina's photos from The Houdini Diaries

Photographer Nic Bezzina has shared on his official website photos he created for the documentary The Houdini Diaries (re-titled Houdini's Lost Diaries when it aired in 2021). 

"I was commissioned to create a set of photographs that capture the quieter intimate moments of Houdini’s life away from the spotlight," says Nic. "These images were used to fill in the gaps where no archival footage exists and help create a sense of intimacy with the man behind Houdini’s persona."

The photos are very well done. You can see them all by clicking the image below.

Houdini's Lost Diaries aired as part of the series History's Greatest Mysteries. You can purchase the episode at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Houdini (1953) released on Blu-ray in the UK

A new Blu-ray of Houdini (1953) has been released in the UK by Signal One Entertainment. This is the first region specific Blu-ray release in the UK of the classic biopic. The disc also contains a still gallery. The cover uses the original poster art.

This is still the best Houdini biopic, IMO, and I'm happy to see it still being released on physical media. Houdini (1953) has made it to VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, and Blu-ray. It's also available for streaming in SD and HD.

You can buy the new Houdini (1953) UK Blu-ray direct from Signal One or on Amazon.co.uk.