Monday, July 31, 2023

Houdini's history with the S.A.M. told in new book

Magic In America: The Story of The Society of American Magicians by David Goodsell with Theron M. Christensen and edited by David Charvet, is a new book that tells the remarkable 120 year history of the S.A.M.

David Goodsell spent many years traveling to research libraries and museums to collect everything about the history of the Society. His meticulous research and complete writing formed this first-ever complete story of the Society of American Magicians. As David became ill, he called on his friend Theron M. Christensen to write some chapters. After David passed away, another David, David Charvet, took over the job of editing the massive manuscript. The results are historic, entertaining, surprising, and monumental.

The book includes a chapter on "The Houdini Years" with a wealth of information about Houdini and the organization that was such a big part of his life. In general, I feel like Houdini's involvement with the S.A.M. is never really given the proper amount of attention in biographies. This book certainly makes up for that!

Magic In America The Story of The Society of American Magicians is published in a standard and Deluxe Edition. You can purchase directly from the S.A.M. website

Want more? Check out my Patreon to read the original letter sent to Houdini in 1908 accepting his (temporary) resignation from the S.A.M.

Thanks to David Charvet.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Get ready for 'Houdini's Schooldays'

In 2021, Joe Notaro released Houdini's long lost novella The Zanetti Mystery, an important work and a must for any Houdini bookshelf.

Earlier this year Joe teased that he would be publishing another Houdini book in 2023. Today Joe has revealed that book as Houdini's Schooldays.

Click over to Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence to read the full details of what sounds like another groundbreaking book from Joe!

Friday, July 28, 2023

Challenge packing case postcard sells big on ebay

It has been a while since I've seen something of note sell on ebay, but today was one of those days. The below unused postcard shows Houdini in front of a challenge packing case in Rochester, New York. While not unknown, it's a great image that sold for a whopping $2,350.00.

The auction didn't identify exactly when and where this was taken, but I can! This appears to be Houdini's challenge from the Rochester Box & Lumber Co. on November 10, 1911 at the Temple Theater in Rochester. This week also saw him escape from his Milk Can filled with beer by the Moerlbach Brewing Co. Below is an ad for that engagement and the theater as it appeared in Houdini's day.

Congrats to the winner!

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Mystery of the Houdinis baby (solved)

This photo tends to draw a lot of comments and curiosity when it appears online. The Houdinis never had any children, so who is this mystery baby? Could it be Houdini's niece, Marie Blood? His nephew, Harry Houdini Hardeen? Or could it be Houdini's daughter!?

I actually discovered the answer a while back via a notation on an original photo in the collection of Dr. Bruce Averbook. However, I recently found a newspaper clipping that confirmed everything and explains it as well as I can, so here you go:

Atlantic City Daily Press, August 13, 1908.

The Houdinis visited the Infant Incubators on June 22, 1908, which also happened to be their 14th wedding anniversary. This was before the exhibit had officially opened to the public on June 27. Houdini was playing a two week engagement at Young's Ocean Pier Theatre in Atlantic City at this time. You can see Houdini and the "Infant Incubators" sharing the bill below.

Atlantic City Daily Press, June 27, 1908.

Want more? You can unlock 20 newspaper clippings related to Houdini's eventful 1908 Atlantic City engagement as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon below.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Master Mystery at The Silent Movie Theater

Here's an early photo of what became known as The Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles, CA. As you can see, this photo was taken when the theater was playing Houdini's The Master Mystery.

Film buff John Hampton built The Silent Movie Theater in 1942. Hampton owned a near complete 16mm print of The Master Mystery containing far more material than what has ever been made commercially available. Patrick Culliton recalls seeing the complete serial at The Silent Movie Theater in the late 1950s and early '60s. The theater would also occasionally show The Man From Beyond and Haldane of the Secret Service.

The Silent Movie Theater closed in 1997 and John Hampton's print of The Master Mystery is today housed in the Packard Humanities Institute. It can be viewed at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, as I did in 2018.

You can read a history of The Silent Movie Theater, including details of its dark ending, at the excellent blog I Am Not A Stalker.

Hollywood Citizen News, May 3, 1947.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Dean Carnegie on Tony Curtis, The Other Houdini

Our friend and Angel patron Dean Carnegie discusses Tony Curtis and Houdini (1953) on his excellent The Magic Detective Podcast. We love Tony. We love Houdini. We love Dean! So click below to have a listen:

Ep 92 The Other Houdini - Tony Curtis

You'll also want to check out Dean's blog to read about Houdini's strange edit

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Houdini's Masonic 100th at The Invisible Lodge

Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending a gala Masonic event at The Invisible Lodge to mark the 100th Anniversary of Houdini becoming a Freemason on July 17, 1923. The event was held at the Long Beach Scottish Rite Cathedral in Long Beach, California. Even though I'm not a Mason myself, I was able to attend as a guest.

The Invisible Lodge International was founded in 1953 by illusionist Sir Felix Korim. It is unique in that to join, one must be a Mason and a magician or a pursuer of an allied art form. Lee Grabel, John Calvert, Harry Blackstone Sr., Peter Reveen, Sid Radner, Carl Ballantine, and Herb Zarrow were all members. Not only was this night about celebrating Houdini, but was also a celebration of the 70th Anniversary of The Invisible Lodge.

The evening kicked off at 5pm at the Long Beach Scottish Rite Cathedral and Cultural Center, a magnificent building dedicated in September 1926 and today a historic landmark. I was greeted by Past Master and Invisible Lodge President JR Knight, who gave me a special Houdini 100th deck of cards and a Masonic Houdini coin made just for the occasion. Also looking after me and giving me the VIP treatment was Ralph Shelton, Past Master and current Grand Chaplin, and a skilled magician who regularly performs at the Magic Castle. Several attendees remembered me from the online Masonic Houdini symposium I had the pleasure of participating in back in June.

Drinks and dinner were served in the ballroom and I was honored to find myself seated beside Grand Master Randall Brill. A big deal! Dinner was delicious, and we were entertained at our tables by strolling magicians. Houdini posters were set up on the stage, along with a large mirror on a backdrop. More on that mirror later. It was now showtime!

On the second floor of the Scottish Rite Cathedral is a large theater. The proscenium reminded me of the surviving Houdini vaudeville houses I've visited. In fact, the entire building is filled with evocative history and references to famous Masons who called this building home, including actors Ernest Borgnine and Tom Mix. (Can you tell me the Houdini Tom Mix connection?) The evening's show was emceed by Adam Hanin and featured magic performances by Eric Lampert, Ralph Shelton, and David Benitez aka Marsan the Magician. It was a terrific show.

I was then in for a rare treat. We all moved into a conference room lined with portraits of U.S. presidents who were also Masons, including Houdini's pal, Theodore Roosevelt. Here several new members were initiated. The Invisible Lodge is unique in that, being a club, they are able to invite guests to such events. However, parts of the ceremony that revealed some Masonic secrets were omitted. It was fascinating to think I was witnessing what Houdini went through 100 years ago at his own Cecile Lodge No. 568 in New York. While ritualistic, the ceremony was loose and I was struck by just how much fun the members have together.

It was then back to the theater for what was billed as a "world record attempt for the most simultaneous escapes." Twenty-three members received lessons in how to escape from a Siberian Transport Chain (now more commonly called the "Houdini Chain Escape") and did so on stage while one new member had to contend with a 100-foot rope tie. I'm happy to report that everyone escaped and the world record was secured!

It was after 11pm, but the evening was still not over. It was back down to the ballroom, which was now set up for a midnight Houdini seance. JR would conduct the seance and also give demonstrations of psychic power. While JR did some prep, I was happy to answer questions about Houdini for the attendees.

Somehow I never realized until that day that Houdini became a Mason on the 10th anniversary of his mother's death. Certainly, Houdini would have been aware of this as July 17 was a sacred date for him. Was this just a coincidence? Or did Houdini request that be the day he joined the Order? Maybe he would tell us tonight.

The seance proceeded at midnight. JR created a script using excerpts from the 1936 Final Houdini Seance and the 2004 Official Houdini Seance conducted by Invisible Lodge member Peter Reveen. Pomp and Circumstance and Rosie, Sweet Rosabel played while JR called on Brother Houdini to return. I don't know if it was the late hour, the building's energy, or the haunting strains of Rosabel, but there seemed to be a real spirit present. I took pictures. But they all, spookily, turned out like this.

Earlier, I mentioned that there was a large mirror set up on the ballroom stage. During the seance, it was covered with a cloth. Near the end of the seance, the cloth mysteriously dropped'll have to be a member of my own secret society on Patreon to see what happened next:

Members lingered after the seance, but I was dead tired, so I bid my goodbyes and headed back to LA. It was a full evening to be sure, but what a wonderful time. Everyone was so welcoming and warm and excited to show me their building and share their club. I learned that Masons are charitable, civil, civic-minded, dedicated to camaraderie and community, and true custodians of history and tradition. They are also far less secretive than people think. No, I don't believe Masons secretly control the world. But from what I experienced on Sunday, maybe they should!

Thanks to JR Knight, Ralph Shelton and Randall Brill for making me feel so welcome and for honoring Houdini. To learn more about Masonry, visit

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Wild About Harry crosses 10 MILLION pageviews

I'm thrilled to see that WILD ABOUT HARRY has just crossed 10 MILLION pageviews since the site went live back in late 2010. Thanks to everyone for your support. Houdini lives indeed!

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Rapper Nas uses Houdini clip to tease new album

The popular rapper Nas (Nasir Jones) used a clip of Houdini on his Instagram to tease his new album (Magic 2). Musicians continue to have an affinity for Houdini and this is just another example of how Houdini remains a part of pop culture. Nas's Instagram has 6.7 million followers.

While most saw this and wondered what the new album would be, I saw this and wondered which suspended straitjacket escape this was. There is one visible clue. Very briefly a large sign for Pureoxia Ginger Ale can be spotted on a building in the distance. 

Pureoxia Ginger Ale was made by the Pureoxia Company in Boston. So could this be Boston? If so, this could be Houdini's escape outside the B.F. Keith’s Building at Tremont Street on Feb. 28, 1917 or his escape at the Boston Post Building on Washington Street on Dec. 22, 1921.

Below are more musical Houdini fans.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The aeroplanist in Nottingham

The Football Post in Nottingham, England, announces Houdini's upcoming appearance at the Empire Theater for the week of January 9, 1911. Nothing groundbreaking here. I just really like the photo and the use of the word "aeroplanist."

The Football Post, Jan. 7, 1911.

Houdini first appeared in Nottingham in 1909 at Barrasford’s Royal Hippodrome. Now he was at the Empire. During his run he was challenge by joiners from Henry Vickers & Son to escape packing case. Houdini returned to the Nottingham Empire in 1913, 1914, and 1920. During his 1914 engagement he presented his Grand Magical Revue, making the Empire one of only a handful of stages to have featured Houdini short-lived magic show.

The Nottingham Empire stood on S. Sherwood Street and saw many famous entertainers during its long life. It closed in June 1958 and stood empty until it was demolished in 1969. Today a modern extension of the Theatre Royal occupies the site.

Here's the outside of the Empire in its final year. Home of the aeroplanist!

Monday, July 17, 2023

The mother scrapbook and a year of discovery

Today is the 110th anniversary of the death of Houdini's mother Cecelia Weiss. It's also the one year anniversary of a remarkable experience I had with what's called "the mother scrapbook."

The great John Gaughan owns this rarity and last year he allowed me to take it home and "live with it" for several days. Turns out I had it on the anniversary of mama's death. I now mark this as the start of a remarkable year of coming to know Houdini in a deeper way. From this scrapbook to the Harry Ransom Center to Houdini's travel diary to David Copperfield's museum and the Houdini voice tapes to the collection of Bruce Averbook in Cleveland. It's been an incredible year of discovery and it all started here.

So on this dual anniversary, I thought I'd redirect you back to the post I did about the enigmatic mother scrapbook. Just click the image below to open it back up.

P.S. I fully intend to have another year of discovery.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Thalia Kids Book Club Camp visits 278

Dan Gutman, author of Houdini and Me (and a patron), took the Thalia Kids Book Club Camp to Houdini's Harlem brownstone and shared this fantastic photo on his Twitter. How thrilled would the real Harry and Bess Houdini have been to have all these great kids at their home.

You can purchase Houdini and Me by Dan Gutman at

Friday, July 14, 2023

Dash and the duplicate Water Torture Cell

We are all familiar with the letters Houdini wrote to his brother Hardeen after his mother's death in 1913. But I had never seen a letter from Hardeen back to Harry. That's why I was so excited to find a handful of such letters at the Harry Ransom Center.

The first thing that struck me was Hardeen starts off his letters with, "My dear brother Ehrich." Dash using Houdini's real name was eye-opening in itself. Then in a letter dated December 28, 1913, I found this intriguing nugget:

  A fellow by the name of Bedwin came to me a week a go and wanted to sell me the U.S.D. trick for $250. I went to see it and this fellow must have gone to see you at every performance as he has the thing built just like yours, BUT he cannot do it upside down, he only has his hands stuck out of the top, but the trick looks great. He has worked around New York a week or so, but is a bad show man and can not get any work. I offered him a hundred dollars for the trick, but he refused to take it.
    Now what do you think about it, I was going to buy it just to take it off his hands, but will wait until I hear from you.

There was no follow-up in the file and I'm not able to find any mention of a magician named Bedwin performing in New York at this time. Maybe someone else wants to run with this? I do wonder what happened to his Torture Cell?

Want more? You can read Dash's full 2-page letter, which includes some interesting personal details, as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon by clicking below.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Appleton's Houdini's Escape Gastropub is closing

Sad news today. The popular Houdini's Escape Gastropub in Appleton, Wisconsin, will be closing on July 16. Houdini's Escape has been part of Houdini's hometown since 2013. The following can be read on their website and Facebook page:

Houdini's Escape Gastropub has made the difficult decision to close on July 16, 2023. We have had the pleasure of serving the Fox Valley Area for the past 10 years, but have continued to feel the lasting impacts that COVID-19 has had on the restaurant industry. 

We are asking customers to use their gift cards prior to closing on 7/16/23. We will also be running 50% off top shelf alcohol while supplies last. 

With Houdini's closure comes some exciting news. The building will be undergoing renovations to become the new home for Taste of Thai. 

We would like to thank all of our loyal customers for their support throughout the years.

It's a shame to lose this landmark that celebrated Appleton's favorite son. Here's hoping Taste of Thai will leave up a few of the Houdini posters that long graced the walls of Houdini's Escape.


Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Michael Albright to design the Houdini diary book

I have some exciting news today about the upcoming Houdini diary book. Michael Albright has come onboard as the book's designer. If you check out Michael's official website, you'll see why this is such great news. He is an artist and a superstar in the world of design.

Michael designed the Dai Vernon book Revelation for Mike Caveney, who is also publishing the diary book. Says Mike, "I have published over 50 books on the history and practice of Magic but the one Michael designed has been called not just the most beautiful book I have ever published, but the most elegant book in the magic world."

This book will reproduce every page of Houdini's very first travel diary from the collection of Dr. Bruce Averbook, along with annotations written by myself and images from major collections. How all those elements come together is a design challenge, so it's in the right hands! I can't wait to see what Michael Albright does with Houdini.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Experience 'Der Große HOUDINI' at Burg Güssing

A new play by Sabine James, Der Große HOUDINI, will be presented on the open-air stage at the foot of the Burg Güssing castle in Burgenland, Austria, July 11-30. Sabine James is a renowned harpist and her play uses music and song to tell Houdini's story. Sounds like a magical night in the land of Houdini ancestors.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit Burg Güssing

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Guess who's getting a Milbourne Christopher Award?

The 2023 Milbourne Christopher Awards have been announced and I'm thrilled to be receiving the Ambassador of Magic Award. Milbourne Christopher has been a lifelong hero and role model and to receive this award from The Milbourne Christopher Foundation is a huge honor.

Here's a list of the 2023 honorees:
Illusionist Award - Jason Bishop
Close-Up Award - Bernardo Sedlacek
Mentalist Award - Brian Curry
Ambassador of Magic Award - John Cox
Literary Award - Jim Hagy
Masters Award - Paul Lembo
Lifetime Achievement Award - Craig Diamond

The awards ceremony will be held at 6:00 PM on September 16, 2023 at the Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street, New London, Connecticut. The evening begins with a reception featuring fine hors d'oeuvres and complimentary wine followed by the presentation of the 2023 Christopher Foundation Awards. Festivities continue with a performance by Tim Wright as Skilldini.

To attend, please RSVP David Haversat at Tickets are $20.00 per person. Checks should be made out to THE MILBOURNE CHRISTOPHER FOUNDATION and mailed to David Haversat, PO Box 487, Oxford, CT 06478.

Hope to see you there!

The Milbourne Christopher Foundation was established by Maurine Christopher in 1989, and was created to perpetuate the memory of her husband and his lifelong interest in encouraging excellence, originality, and leadership in the art of magic. The award categories reflect Milbourne Christopher’s own diversified career.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Abbott's wants you to be ready for "Houdini 26:26"

There's no question the Centennial of Houdini's death on Halloween 2026 is going to be a big night for magic. Now the Abbott Magic Co. is getting out in front with a new publication, SEANCE HOUDINI 26:26: The 100 Year Houdini Seance. Here's a description:

The great Houdini died Oct 31st, 1926 and vowed that if it was possible to escape death he would return. Now with the help of this book, you can create your own Houdini seance on stage or in your home and be ready for the 100th anniversary of his death which will be Oct 31st, 2026 at 1:26 pm, or as we like to say Seance 26:26.

I'm not sure I'm ready to adopt their "Houdini 26:26" moniker, but I'm excited to see the hype already beginning for the 100th. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

The Invisible Lodge celebrates Brother Houdini, July 16

The Invisible Lodge will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Houdini becoming a Mason and their own 70th Anniversary with a gala event at the Long Beach Scottish Rite Cathedral in Long Beach, California, on July 16, 2023. The event is open to Masons and non-Masons. Below are details for what sounds like a terrific evening.

For more information and to purchase tickets visit The Invisible Lodge website or send an email to

I have my ticket and I'm looking forward to attending. Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, July 4, 2023

LINK: The secrets of Bess Houdini

Here's a well-researched article by Juanjo Villalba about Bess at the website EL PAÍS. The author generously provided links to my blog, so I thought I'd share the love. Also always happy to see Bess in the spotlight.

Click here or on the headline to read "The secrets of Bess Houdini, the magician’s wife who knew his escapist tricks."


Monday, July 3, 2023

Indiana Jones and the Flight of the Handcuff King

Count me among those who really enjoyed the new Indiana Jones film, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. But I'm still waiting to learn the full story of when Indiana Jones met Houdini. Say what? I'll let (young) Indy tell you himself.

Here's what I wrote when I first posted about this back in 2010:

Indy, played here by Sean Patrick Flanery, is referring to Houdini’s brief career as a pioneer aviator when he became the first man to fly a plane in Australia in 1910. Apparently, he did so with Indiana Jones by his side!

It’s possible this is more than just a throwaway line of dialogue. When it first aired on CBS from 1992 to 1993, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (as it was originally called) alternated episodes set during two different periods of young Indy’s life; Indy as a teen (played by Flanery), and a pre-teen boy (played by Corey Carrier). This could be a reference to an episode that was planned for the pre-teen Indy at some point in the future. Unfortunately, the series did not last that long.

This Houdini reference appeared in the excellent episode "Daredevils of the Desert" and was released on DVD as part of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones Vol 2: The War Years

I love Indiana Jones and I'm hoping to see the part recast and more adventures in the future. Maybe even one that shows us what happened in Australia when Indy met Harry!

"Where's Indy?"


Saturday, July 1, 2023

New Wild About Harry Patreon STORE

This month I'm excited to launch an all-new Patreon feature; a digital store. Here you can buy past PDF rewards, research, and more. And the best part is the store is open to EVERYONE, not just members. You can check it out by clicking the image below.

Of course, joining my Patreon is still the best way to receive all my rewards and research as part of your membership. But if you prefer your Houdini ala carte, this is another way to stay wild. 

Thanks for your support.