Sunday, April 9, 2023

Houdini's spirit cabinet scares up $50K at auction

A spirit cabinet effect that Houdini performed as a "near perfect" escape at the New York Hippodrome in 1925 sold for $50,400 (including buyers premium) in yesterday's Potter & Potter auction of Houdiniana. This was the big seller of the 128 Houdini-related lots.

The bulk of the lots came from the collection of our friend Robert Somerdin who explained why it was time to sell in a special statement on the Potter website.

The other big ticket item was a straitjacket ($45,600) and a Houdini packing case said to have come 278 and once used to hold straitjackets. Bidding reached $32,000, but it did not meet the reserve and was a rare pass.

Overall, it was an auction of some surprises. Who would have ever thought a Margery pamphlet would sell for more than a Grim Game pressbook?

You can check out the lots with their prices realized at the Potter & Potter website.

Congrats to all the winners!


  1. Was this Spirit Cabinet escape supposed to take the place of the USD?

    1. Sid Radner used to say that. I'm skeptical. This wasn't an original HH creation. I think HH improved on it, but as a spiritualist effect it dates back to at least 1905. I think if anything was set to replace the USD, it was Buried Alive.

    2. The Potter catalog did mention this and I was wondering what your thoughts were. I wonder where Radner got that idea, possibly from Hardeen. Houdini may have told him the cabinet was a possible contender to replace the USD.

    3. Yeah, I would think Sid would have heard it from Hardeen.

      There is correspondence between Sid and Hardeen that sold at auction a few years back. I would love to read these letters as they made hold some answers. I thought DC had won them, but I could not find them at the museum.

    4. I remember that Potter auction. Had to be about 6 or 7 seven years ago. It had a lot of Hardeen letters to Radner.

  2. I enjoyed the auction, some strange prices…
    But why does Gabe have it this time of year?
    Easter weekend and tax time, if I was Robert I
    wouldn’t be too happy.

    1. This year tax day is October 15th. And Easter didn't stop me!
      But I agree there were some strange prices. Both high and low.