Friday, June 28, 2024

Triangulating The Houdinis first appearance

While doing some research recently on the awesome Ask Alexander, I came across an "In Memoriam" Houdini penned for his friend Alexander Weyer in the May 1921 MUM. It sent me down a few rabbit holes! But the hole I want to explore today starts with what Houdini writes in the second paragraph:

The very first engagement I played with Mrs. Houdini at the Fall River Museum, then under the management of J. S. Dunbar, I lectured on the entertainment and it fell to my lot to introduce Alexander Weyer to the public. He was then posing as a strong man, and his particular feat consisted of forcing nails through two inch planks with his bare hands. This was the incident which proved to be the inception of a life long friendship

This made me sit up! Houdini appears to reveal here when and where he and Bess made their debut as The Houdinis, information that has never been published as far as I know. At least, he almost does. But with some searching and triangulation of facts, I think I can zero in on this magical moment. It's not a home run, but let me run my work past you.

Houdini provides us with the year 1894 and a place, the "Fall River Museum." As to the date, the Coney Island Clipper announced that The Brothers Houdini would become The Houdinis on July 28, 1894. The first confirmed engagement for The Houdinis I've been able to find was during the week of October 15 at Barton's Theatre in Newport, Virginia. So their debut would need to fall somewhere between those dates.

As to the place, there was a Fall River Dime Museum in Kansas. But I don't think that's what Houdini is talking about here. I believe he's talking about the Wonderland Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts. To make the case even stronger, that museum was managed by G. F. Dunbar. Yes, Houdini calls him J.S. Dunbar, but it all fits too well for this not to be the place.

Fortunately, the Wonderland makes our work easier. The museum began its Fall 1894 season on August 20. It then closed prematurely on September 29 to become a new theater (the Columbia). So that narrows the search to a mere six weeks. And look what we find on the bill for the week of September 10!

The Fall River Daily Herald, Sept. 8, 1894.

There is WEYER working as a strong man, just as Houdini said. This would be a home run if we were just looking for Weyer. But we're also looking for The Houdinis, and they are not on the bill, darn-it.

However, there could be any number of reasons why they are not listed. They may have been a late addition. Or because, as Houdini says, he was working as the "lecturer" (which we might think of as an MC today), it could be that was his primary role this week, and he did Metamorphosis with Bess as an added attraction. That's not a bad way to test it out before an audience. So I don't think it's fatal to the case that The Houdinis are not advertised. And this is likely why it has never been found before.

So did The Houdinis make their debut at the Wonderland Museum in Fall River during the week of September 10, 1894? I think it's a pretty darn good possibility. But if you can do better, let us hear your theory in the comments below.

Houdini also talks about reuniting with Weyer in Liege, Belgium, which is the second rabbit hole I've been exploring with the help of Bill Kalush of the Conjuring Arts Research Center and Eric Colleary at the Harry Ransom Center. But that's one I'll save for another time.

Want more? You can read Houdini's full MUM "In Memoriam" for Weyer and view related research as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon below.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Houdini's Water Torture Cell 1 oz Silver Coin

Spectres has produced a 1 oz silver coin celebrating Houdini's Water Torture Cell. The coin is legal tender with a face value of 1000 Francs CFA. Details below.

Step back into the golden age of magic with Spectres' Houdini's Water Torture Cell coin. This 1 oz .999 pure silver coin pays homage to Harry Houdini, the illustrious Hungarian-American illusionist and stunt performer. Celebrating the centennial legacy of the Water Torture Cell, invented in 1912, this coin captures the essence of one of the most daring feats in escapology. A limited edition of just 1000 coins worldwide, each piece intricately shaped and proofed with color, the coin features a vintage illustration of Houdini in his self-named "Upside Down" escape act. This coin is not just a tribute to Houdini’s iconic 1912 invention but also a valuable piece for collectors and enthusiasts of American history. 

You can buy the Houdini Silver Coin directly from Spectres. I've been told they have 8 left. I've also seen it available from sellers on eBay.

Below is a video that gives a good look at the coin. You can also watch an unboxing video HERE.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Trudy Monti's new edition of The Zanetti Mystery

Our friend Trudy Monti has published a new paperback and hardcover edition of Houdini's The Zanetti Mystery.

Houdini's last published book, a romantic murder mystery thriller, was originally published as an 8-week newspaper serial, combining his love of mystery with his desire to expose fraudulent mediums. Thirty-five years of study and thirty-five years of experience gathered in every quarter of the world by the master of a unique profession went into the making of The Zanetti Mystery by Houdini in 1925. 

AND NOW – Ninety-eight years later, Houdini’s novella is presented to the public as Houdini’s final book.

Of course, Joe Notaro first collected and published The Zanetti Mystery in 2022. Trudy tells me she embarked on this project before she was aware of Joe's book. Her edition does not include the extra content one finds in Joe's book, but she did commission nice new original cover art. 

Hey, if the world is big enough for a dozen different editions of A Magician Among the Spirits, etc., I think it's big enough for two Zanettis!

You can purchase Trudy Monti's The Zanetti Mystery on and Joe Notaro's edition of The Zanetti Mystery is also still available from

Monday, June 24, 2024

Walking tour of Houdini's Appelton, July 10

The History Museum at the Castle will offer a walking tour of Houdini's Appleton on Wed., July 10 at 6:00 PM. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.

Celebrate Harry Houdini’s 150th birthday by exploring the myths and reality of Houdini’s brief life in Appleton. Visit the location where his childhood home once stood, sites of fictional magical feats, and his father’s synagogue. Explore the city that Houdini called home.

The History Museum at the Castle is located at 330 E College Ave, Appleton, WI 54911-5715. Once the home of the Houdini Historical Center, the museum still has a dedicated Houdini exhibit and research archive.


Sunday, June 23, 2024

Houdini's Coffin wins UK soapbox derby

A coffin-shaped racer paying homage to the great Harry Houdini escaped with top honors at Sunday's Red Bull Soapbox Race at Alexandra Palace, outpacing 58 other wacky entries, reports The Standard

Thousands of spectators packed the grounds to witness the return of the event to British soil. The global competition challenges teams to cobble together the most outlandish gravity-powered vehicles imaginable before hurtling them down a treacherous hill.

The Hurry Houdini team from London were crowned this year’s winners. They said "a lifetime of preparation" had gone into the race and that they would be back to defend the title next year "with a few tricks up our sleeves."

You have now officially seen it all.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

130 years bound

Today is Harry and Bess Houdini's 130th wedding anniversary. The couple married in Coney Island on June 22, 1894. To mark the occasion, here's a beautiful unpublished photo from the collection of John C. Hinson showing the Houdinis in 1924. Forever bound!

"We have starved, and starred together. We have had our little tiffs but your sunny smile, and my good (?) sense always smoothed out the bitterness. I love you—love you—and I know you love me. Your very touch, your care of me dearest and the laughter in my heart when you put your arms around me prove it. Think dear heart, twenty five years. . . .yours till the end of the world and ever after."
-Note written by Houdini to Bess on
their their 25th Anniversary

Want more? You can read the original 25th anniversary letter from Harry to Bess as a member of my Patreon below. This gem comes from our friends at the Harry Ransom Center.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

High-Class Vaudeville in D.C.

Houdini played Washington, D.C., many times during his career. Starting in 1914, Houdini's regular Washington venue became B.F. Keith's Theater located in the Riggs Building at 1426 G Street and 615-627 15th Street. This was Washington's home for "High-Class Vaudeville."

Below is an unusually detailed vaudeville playbill from the September 20, 1924, Washington Times. This is a great way to see what kinds of acts shared the stage with Houdini during any given week.

Here's an ad for the following week. As you can see, Belle Baker, who once disrupted Houdini's act, was the new headliner. Note the reminder at the bottom of the page that Houdini would be closing out his engagement that night.

While B.F. Keith's Theater is long gone, the building facade survives. This is especially nice as it was also the site of a suspended straitjacket escape (in 1922). Today, what would have been the entrance to the theater is the Old Ebbitt Grill.


Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The Houdinis in the bordello

In the 2014 Houdini Miniseries, there's a scene in which the young Harry and Bess find themselves unknowingly booked into a brothel. Turns out this is based on reality. In fact, I now believe I've discovered precisely when and where this happened, thanks to a letter in the Boston Public Library and a scrapbook in the Library of Congress.

I'm sharing this one as a "History Exclusive" on my Patreon. Click the image below and all will be revealed.

My Patreon is going strong content-wise, but we seem to have stalled at just over 80 members. That's still far from the goal of 100 members, which will unlock unreleased Houdini audio. So, if you've been on the fence, why not take the leap, support my work, and enjoy all the pleasures within.

Monday, June 17, 2024

LINK: Houdini monkeys with a buzz saw

The photo below has long been somewhat of a mystery. But now our friend Joe Notaro has discovered an issue of Motion-Play Magazine for May 25, 1919, which describes Houdini's encounter with the buzz saw. Click to read at Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence.

This article also answers the question of what "trick" Houdini is showing DeMille in this photo.

Thanks Joe!


Sunday, June 16, 2024

Inside the Hulme Hippodrome

This video takes you inside the abandoned Hippodrome in Hulme, England, where Houdini performed in February 1909. Here's hoping it can be saved.

Music Hall and Theatre Review,  February 19, 1909.

For more on the theater and the effort to save it, check out the Save Hulme Hippodrome website.


Thursday, June 13, 2024

Houdini chases spooks in Charlottesville

On March 4, 1924, Houdini appeared at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia. This was part of his first spiritualism lecture tour that year. In most cities, Houdini only gave a single lecture. But here at the Jefferson, he gave a matinee and an evening lecture. The lectures were given under the auspices of the Kiwanis Club to benefit the Children's Home.

The Daily Progress reported that both lectures were well attended. It said Houdini's "stereopticon pictures" (slide show) was "rather tiresome," but the remainder of the lecture was "very entertaining," with Houdini demonstrating how mediums produce paraffin hands and how spirits write messages on slates.

Houdini also escaped from his Milk Can and showed film of The Grim Game plane crash and his suspended straitjacket escape in St. Louis. This is the first account of Houdini showing films as part of his lecture that I've encountered. He may have been taking advantage of the fact that the Jefferson was also a fully equipped movie theater. In fact, both The Grim Game and Terror Island had played the Jefferson during their first runs.

Happily, the Jefferson Theater still stands in Charlottesville today. Restored in 2006, the theater is located at 110 East Main Street and is a popular live venue. The official website says the theater has hosted many famous performers, "ranging from Harry Houdini to The Three Stooges." I can't speak to the Stooges, but we know Houdini was here!

Want more? You can access a collection of newspaper clippings related to Houdini's Charlottesville lectures as a Scholar member of my Patreon below.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Houdini Night with the Tropical Masonic Lodge #56

The Tropical Masonic Lodge #56 in Southwest Florida will present a special "Houdini Night" on June 18, 2024. This is an interactive lecture on the life and masonic career of Brother Harry Houdini, with a dinner and a meeting. It is open to Masonic friends and families.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

'Houdini A Magical Odyssey' in Warsaw

A new play, Houdini Odyseia Magiczna (Houdini A Magical Odyssey), will debut at the Senatorska 35 in Warsaw, Poland, this Thursday, June 14, and play through June 19. The play is written and directed by Michał Walczak. Houdini is played by Piotr Sierecki. Ewa Dąbrowska is Bess.

You can get more information and buy tickets HERE.  


Monday, June 10, 2024

"Houdini" works magic for Eminem

Like Dua Lipa before him, conjuring the name Houdini has worked magic for Eminem, with his new single, "Houdini," topping the U.S. and UK charts. The following comes from Billboard.

The song’s impact has been similarly instantaneous, both in terms of its own consumption and in its lifting of associated cuts. “Houdini” has already racked up over 30 million official on-demand U.S. streams through Wednesday (June 3), according to early reports from Luminate, while also selling over 36,000 copies – both tremendous four-day numbers for any artist in 2024, let alone one twice the age of many contemporary superstars. The song has also elevated the rest of Eminem’s discography, with his non-”Houdini” catalog notching nearly 46 million streams combined over those four days, a 38% rise from the equivalent period the prior week. (A big part of that gain comes from 2002’s “Without Me,” whose iconic “Guess who’s back, back again” intro “Houdini” resurrects, and which is up 56% to over 3.1 million streams for those four days.)

Of course, Steve Miller is eating off the “Houdini” success as well: The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s eponymous band’s biggest Hot 100 hit more than doubled its streams over the same period, up 101% to 613,000. And yes, even that other recent hit of the same title is getting some spillover from the deluge: Dua Lipa’s “Houdini” was up 8% in streams over that period, to just over 2 million.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Bess and the "bad woman"

While reading Houdini: His Life Story by Harold Kellock recently, the following paragraph jumped out at me as containing an intriguing mystery:

Page 209: Another lady of the halls who cut a wide swathe among the European nobility bobs up in the diary for a time. She was on the same bill with Houdini and elected to make a confidante of Mrs. Houdini. She was a rare dark beauty. Her apartment was fitted in queenly splendor, and in the boudoir her pink perfection reposed on sheets of finest black satin. An amorous German prince had presented her with a toilet set of pure gold, and her jewels represented the taxed sweat of thousands of peasants of several countries. "I think –– must be a bad woman," Houdini confided to his diary, and speculated as to whether he was doing right in permitting his wife to associate with her.... The former idol of princes is now fifty and has settled down as a saleswoman in a five-and-ten emporium in New York City.

As this woman was still alive in 1927-8 (at age 50), it's clear Kellock is being careful not to name her. So who was she? All we know is what we have above. Is that enough to suss out the identity of the "bad woman"?

Please share any thoughts or ideas in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

NBN interview with Julie Carpenter

Here's a wonderful interview with our new friend Julie Carpenter, author of  Harry and the Highwire: Houdini's First Amazing Act. Very interesting to hear how she became an author and her experiences with Houdini. And Banjoe! Enjoy.

You can purchase Harry and the Highwire at or You can also buy directly from the publisher Green Bean Books.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Houdini's belt buckle secures $37,820

A silver belt buckle that Houdini was wearing when he went into Grace Hospital sold over the weekend in a Goldin auction for $37,820 (with buyer's premium). You may recall this same belt buckle sold for $90,000 in Potter & Potter's 2021 auction of the Salon de Magie collection. It appears the winner of that auction removed it from the frame, which gives us a nice look at the back.

The precipitous drop in price marks, in my opinion, a return to sanity. As precious as this is, I thought $90,000 was far beyond its value. This price feels right. Could this be an indication that Houdini auction prices are coming back down to earth? I guess we'll find out when the next big ticket item shows up.

By the way, is Houdini wearing the buckle on the below pic? Hard to tell, but maybe.

Congratulations to the winner.

Want more? I've archived more photos of the buckle and its excellent letter of provenance on my Patreon.

Monday, June 3, 2024

The Jerusalem Ballet presents HOUDINI

The Jerusalem Ballet presents an original Houdini-themed ballet at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. Choreography is by Nadia Timofeeva. Houdini is performed by Mikhail Butzuk. HOUDINI debuts tomorrow, June 4, followed by performances on June 18 and September 16.

You can buy tickets and see more images from the ballet on the official website.


Sunday, June 2, 2024

Eminem drops his own "Houdini"

Less than six months after Dua Lipa released her chart-topping single "Houdini," another major artist has released a single called "Houdini." This time, it's Eminem (aka Marshall Mathers aka Slim Shady). The rapper got an assist teasing the release from magician David Blaine on Instagram. The song's release on May 31st marked the biggest streaming debut of Eminem’s career.

The song only mentions Houdini's name in passing (it is the second time Houdini has been named-checked in an Eminem song), but I really like it. It's funny and a breath of fresh air. I also love the single's artwork above. 

You can watch the official music video below or in fullscreen on YouTube.