Saturday, September 23, 2023

Christopher Awards roundup

When I was 16, I decided I didn’t want to be the next Houdini. I wanted to be the next Milbourne Christopher. That's why I'm so honored to have been among this year's recipients of the Milbourne Christopher Awards. The ceremony was held at the Garde Arts Center in New London, Connecticut, last Saturday, September 16, 2023 (which also happened to be David Copperfield's birthday).

I had arrived in New London the night before, so I had a full day before the ceremony. I started off with breakfast with David Haversat who had brought some amazing Houdini treasures from his collection for me to see. He also gave me a set of Milbourne Christopher's handwritten notes from Houdini The Untold Story. We talked for a long time about collecting and Houdini and hatched an idea for a potential book project. In fact, I would have been happy to talk to David all day, but I had a plan for the afternoon. So I set off on an hour's drive to Farmington, Connecticut, in search of a little-known Houdini location. Which I found!

These are the rapids on which Houdini filmed part of the climatic action of The Man From Beyond. Not Niagara Falls. Farmington! (This is also the location D.W. Griffith used in Way Down East.) I really didn't know what to expect. I only had the address of the former Winchell Smith Grist Mill, which I discovered is today part of Miss Porter's School. But the rapids are easy to see and enjoy, and because it was Saturday, I had them all to myself! (If you want to see video, check out my Instagram.) Also down the street is the Elm Tree Inn where Houdini and his crew stayed during the shoot in May 1921.

It was then back to New London for a quick lunch and rest before the big show!

The Award ceremony was held in the Garde Arts Center in downtown New London. It's a beautiful old theater built in September 1926. Things kicked off with a reception of delicious hors d'oeuvres and a bar. I was happy to see many friendly and familiar faces, including Adele Rhindress, Blackstone's Elusive Moth, who, as always, was so sweet and supportive.

The awards ceremony was hosted by Thomas Ewing. I got a nice laugh during my acceptance speech when I shared my defaced childhood copy of Houdini The Untold Story. The Christopher Award itself includes a handsome plaque, a heavy-duty magic wand in an engraved wooden pop-up display case, and a Milbourne Christopher gold token.

Below is a list of this year's winners:

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

As a surprise, an additional award was presented to David Haversat, who has long worked with The Milbourne Christopher Foundation and, along with Thomas Ewing, puts on these Awards each year.

After the awards presentation, we were treated to a terrific and very funny magical performance by Tim Wright. Tim did his excellent Skilldini act and a special Abbott's Magic act which had the room rolling. A great show. 

But there was still one more surprise waiting for me. 

When we returned to the hotel for an after-party, magician Rob Allen, who had traveled from Niagara Falls (not Farmington!), invited me to his room, saying he had brought something to show me. I nearly fainted when he took it from its case! Yes, that's the famous steel straitjacket from the Tony Curtis Houdini movie! Rob even let me put it on, and it fits (just). What a fantastic way to end a magical day.

Thanks again to The Milbourne Christopher Foundation for making this dream come true. You can see more photos from the event and my subsequent "Ambassador's Tour" on my Patreon.



  1. I don't remember the steel straitjacket in the film, but then I've only seen the movie once or twice. Nice to see Christopher's name on the marquee. We owe him big time for some great Houdini books.

    1. Click the last Related link and you can watch the scene.

    2. Oh my! I keep missing your related links! I should have looked there. That was a marvelous scene, and a great post! I love those revisits! A Photo of HH in that steel jacket would be a doozy if it ever surfaces.

  2. Didn’t I read that the steel straight jacket from the Curtis movie was indeed an actual Houdini prop? Perry.

    1. Yes, I believe Dunninger said it had been used by Houdini, but when and were I have no idea.