Saturday, May 18, 2019

New French edition of A Magician Among the Spirits

A new French edition of Houdini's A Magician Among the Spirits has been released by Fantaisium as Un Magicien chez les Médiums. The translation is by François Montmirel.

Earlier this year Fantaisium relaesed Houdini's The Right Way to Do Wrong as Manuel du malfaiteur: Révélations sur les criminels qui gagnent.

You can purchase Un Magicien chez les Médiums at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.fr.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Grim Game gem

I'm off to Catalina "Terror" Island for the Catalina Island Museum's 100th Anniversary screening of The Grim Game and Silent Film Benefit. The location of the screening has been moved to Overlook Hall at 209 East Whittley in Avalon. The hall was built in 1929 and is adjacent to the Hotel Catalina where the Terror Island crew stayed in 1919 (and where I will be staying). Looks like a prefect venue for this screening.

I may not have time to update the blog while I'm away, so I thought I'd leave you with this Grim Game gem from my collection. I bought this original lobby card in the late 1970s from Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Hollywood Blvd for $75. That seemed like a lot back then. It's now hard to believe there was ever a time you could buy a Houdini treasure like this over the counter. (A Grim Game title lobby card recently sold at auction for $5,500.)


Hope to see you on Catalina!

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

When Truth came to the U.S.

It was 43 years ago today on May 15, 1976, that the great BBC documentary The Truth About Houdini first aired on American television. Along with several new books and The Great Houdinis, the airing of this first major Houdini documentary in the U.S. was part of that year's celebration of the 50th anniversary of his death. It helped fuel the "Houdini renaissance" of the 1970s, not to mention my own obsession. It's still my favorite Houdini documentary.

To mark the day, check out my post from 2017 all about:

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Patrick Culliton launches 'Houdini The Key' forum

The great Patrick Culliton has launched a private website forum devoted to discussing Houdini's secrets, especially those revealed his seminal 2010 book, Houdini The Key. Patrick will also use the site to provide book updates and corrections. The catch is you have to own the book (click to buy) and register to get in. But secrets await!


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Monday, May 13, 2019

Houdini secrecy oath sells on eBay

A handwritten Houdini oath of secrecy signed by locksmith Gilbert Dawes and witnessed by Franz Kukol sold on eBay over the weekend for $988. The oath is dated February 10, 1911 when Houdini was performing at the Empire Theater in Leeds. Below is a photo and the auction description.

Click to enlarge.

This rare and famous letter was a oath of secrecy from Harry Houdini's Locksmith; in the letter Mr. Gilbert Dawes agrees to not to disclose the secrets of Houdini. The second individual in the letter is Houdini's apprentice. We contacted the current living relatives of Gilbert to learn that the famous living magician Edwin Dawes is a relative of the late Gilbert Dawes and found records of his existence. Dated 1911. 
Henry Muller (1930 –2017), was the founder, owner and curator of the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada. Mr. Muller purchased this letter in 1967 along with other Houdini original locks, keys, illusions and paraphernalia from Joseph Dunninger. Dunninger had acquired them from Houdini’s wife Beatrice and his brother Hardeen, to whom Houdini had bequeathed the collection. The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame existed from 1967 to 1991. In 1991, a fire consumed much of the museum. This item was on display in a part of the museum that was not consumed by the flames. The keys are now is custody of the late Mr. Muller’s son David. David is offering a COA and will field any questions about the keys' chain of custody for authentication purposes. I also encourage you to do your research on the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame to validate my information. These are museum pieces of history and would be a exciting item to own! (see attached photos)

Does anyone recall seeing this letter on display at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame (because I don't)? It will be interesting to see if more Henry Muller rarities surface on eBay. Muller died in 2017

Thanks to Kevin Connolly for the alert.

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Houdini's Last Secrets repeats on Discovery UK

The 4-part series Houdini's Last Secrets will repeat on the Discovery Channel in the UK this month. The first two episodes, "The Torture Escape" and "Catching a Bullet", will air back to back on May 18. The last two episodes, "Siberian Prison Conspiracy" and "Buried Alive" will air on May 25.


Houdini's Last Secrets features George Hardeen and magician Lee Terbosic investigating select Houdini mysteries. The series originally aired on the Science Channel and can be purchased on Amazon and iTunes.

For reviews of all four episodes check out my Episode Guide below.

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

'Magic and Theatre in the Time of Houdini' at The Breman Museum, May 19

The Breman Museum in Atlanta will host a special lecture by actor, author, and magician Max Howard about "Magic and Theatre in the Time of Houdini" on May 19 at 2:00pm. This is part of their Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini programing.


Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini runs through August 11. For more information visit the Breman Museum's websiteFacebook or Twitter.  I will giving a talk on Houdini in Early Cinema on July 14 at 2:00 PM.

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Friday, May 10, 2019

Dorothy Dietrich among Stories for Kids Who Dare to Be Different

Legendary magician and escape artist Dorothy Dietrich appears in the new children's book, Stories for Kids Who Dare to Be Different: True Tales of Amazing People Who Stood Up and Stood Out by Ben Brooks with illustrations by Quinton Wintor.

The follow-up to Ben Brooks's New York Times bestselling Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different, this book offers more extraordinary true stories of amazing people who broke the mold and changed the world for the better. The resulting message? Be yourself, and your dreams might come true.

Dorothy is also the co-founder and curator of the Houdini Museum in Scranton, and a great friend!

Stories for Kids Who Dare to Be Different: True Tales of Amazing People Who Stood Up and Stood Out can be purchased at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Is that Julie Karcher in The Grim Game?

While enjoying The Grim Game at the Sierra Madre Playhouse last Friday, I spotted something--or rather, someone--I've never seen before. When Houdini/Harvey Hanford is being arrested and wrestled into a police car, among the bystanders is a woman who appears to be Julie Karcher.


Julie Karcher was a fixture in the Houdinis lives. She can be spotted in many photos, and when the Houdinis has their first lunch with Sir Arthur and Lady Conan Doyle in England, it's recorded that Julie was there as well. According to Marie Blood, Bess and "Aunt Julie" knew each other from school days. She was Bess's "companion abroad and on shopping expeditions" as well as the Houdinis housekeeper (she lived in 278). As with the rest of the family, she was fluent in German. She later joined Houdini's 3 Shows and One as an assistant and helped Bess make the costumes.

Julie did accompany the Houdinis to Hollywood for the making of The Grim Game and Terror Island, so I think it's entirely possible she got a little cameo in the film. The woman in the film has her same jaw line and she's very small in stature, just as Julie was (smaller than Bess, in fact). Alas, no Bess in sight.

So what do we think? Is the woman in The Grim Game the ever present Julie K?

Julie Karcher and Bess in Hollywood (1919).

After Houdini's death, Julie remained by Bess's side. In 1927 she moved with Bess and the family into 67 Payson Ave. But after Bess met Ed Saint and moved to Florida in 1932, Julie seems to vanish from her life. According to Marie Blood, she went to live with Julia Sawyer's mother. I'm not sure what ever become of her. But as she was intimately involved with the Houdinis for so many years, what an amazing interview subject she would have been!

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Make a long distance call on Houdini

In 1997 the Houdini Historical Center in Appleton released a limited edition series of Houdini phone cards. They came in four sets of three cards and featured Houdini images from the HHC (which at the time housed the Sidney Radner collection). Below is Set #1.




I'm not entirely sure all four sets were produced. I've only ever seen the first set for sale online. My set #1 has a sticker on the front that reads: "These phone cards are for collectors only - no phone time is included." This appears to have been placed over another sticker showing the cards were good until 1998.

I've also never seen the "special lenticular motion card" that was sent by mail to those who collected all four sets. Is that the Mama/Harry/Bess card show above I wonder?

Would love to hear from anyone who collected all the cards. Leave a comment below. Don't call!

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Mystifier, Third Quarter 1997

Continuing my issue by issue look back at the Mystifier, the newsletter of the Houdini Historical Center that ran from 1991-2003.


The Third Quarter 1997 Mystifier kicks off with the news that author Kenneth Silverman has donated all his research papers from his seminal biography Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss to the HHC.

His thoughtful gift represents a significant addition to the Center's archives. The research notes themselves amount to four cubic feet of notes, papers, photocopies, and computer generated note cards. With Silverman's trademark professionalism, the contents are filed both chronologically and according to subject – and invaluable tool for future researchers.

The newsletter only runs 4 pages this time. As with the previous issue, it is largely taken up with HHC business. Margaret A. Ehr is announced as the new HHC Curator. It notes the Houdini Club of Wisconsin has made a donation of $250 to support a special special Changing display case. Once again members are reminded of the Museum Shop exclusives, including the previously announced phone cards and a new HHC t-shirt.

Sid Radner devotes his entire "Backstage" column to a review of the Goodspeed Opera House's new Houdini musical. (Include with the newsletter is a flyer for the production.) Says Sid:

In addition to the great artistic talent that went into the production, a great deal of magic expertise was involved. Audiences who see the musical will see some of Houdini's most famous escapes performed on stage, including the Upside Down Straitjacket Escape, the Metamorphosis, and the Chinese Water Torture Cell.

He concludes by announcing that the Official Houdini Seance will be held on the stage of the Goodspeed Opera House following its performance of Houdini on October 30th.

Mystifier
Volume 7, Number 3
Third Quarter, 1997
4 pages

Contents:
Silverman Donates Research Papers
Houdini Club Sponsors Exhibit Case
New Museum Shop Items
New Curator Joins HHC Staff
Backstage with Sid Radner

PREVIOUS ISSUE | INDEX | NEXT ISSUE

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Monday, May 6, 2019

Lindsay Benner brings Bess to the AMA Awards

The talented Lindsay Benner shared the following on her Instagram on Sunday. Lindsay is one of my favorite Magic Castle performers with her wonderful "Book of Love" act. I also hear she does a mean straitjacket escape. Lindsay was nominated for Stage Magician of the Year at the Magic Castle's 51st AMA Awards.


Bess's royal crown brooch was owned for many years by the Larsen family (it was a gift from Bess to Gerrie Larsen). It was purchased in auction by David Copperfield in 2017. He then sold it to Randy and Kristy Pitchford, who are related to Cardini.

It's wonderful to see the Pitchfords sharing the brooch in this way. Bess helped Gerrie Larsen found the Magigals, the first magic organization exclusively for women, so she would be thrilled to see her brooch adorning talented and successful female magicians like Lindsay.

Thanks to Athena Stamos for the tip.

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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Houdini sells out in Sierra Madre

He's been dead 92 years, but that doesn't mean Houdini can't still pack a house! Friday's screening of The Grim Game at the Sierra Madre Playhouse in Sierra Madre, California, was sold out and a big success.

The Playhouse, which opened in 1923 as a silent movie theater called the "Wistaria Theater", was nicely decked out with Houdini posters. I arrived early for a run-through and had great fun "helping" (meaning I stood and watched) the Playhouse's technical director, Todd McCraw, put up the theater marquee. The instructions said to just put up the name of the movie, but Todd and I agreed that "HOUDINI" had to be up there as well!

Every seat was filled and the evening kicked off at 8pm emceed by Playhouse president David Gordon. I came up first to introduce the movie and tell the story of its rediscovery and restoration. Kevin Liebson of the Catalina Island Museum, who co-sponsored the event, spoke about the museum's upcoming Silent Movie Benefit. Playhouse artistic director Christian Lebano then revealed plans to launch a series of classic film events at the Sierra Madre Playhouse.

Then came the movie with live accompaniment on the piano by the gifted Michael Mortilla. You may recall Michael provided music for last year's Silent Movie Benefit screening of Terror Island. He also provided the score for the original Bill McIlhany VHS release of The Master Mystery (which makes that version a must have). Michael's music was once again masterful. After the screening there was a Q&A panel with some great questions from the audience. The Houdini lobby posters were then raffled off.

I was thrilled by how many audience members commented on just how much they enjoyed the movie as a movie (not just a novelty). Many marveled at how surprisingly well made it was. There were even compliments on Houdini's acting! (I also spotted something new in the movie, which I plan to share in an upcoming post.)

It's a shame The Grim Game remains commercially unavailable because it really is the best representation of Houdini's film work. But that's what makes screenings like this one at the Sierra Madre Playhouse so special. What a treat it was to be part of this. My thanks to all.

Below are a few more pics for the evening.

Composer Michael Mortilla and attendee Joe Notaro (HHCE).
Ready to open the doors.
The big screen.
Who?
I'll do any job for Houdini.

The Grim Game will screen again at the Catalina Island Museum on Friday, May 17th. I will once again introduce the film (same jokes folks) and it will again be accompanied by Michael Mortilla. Click for details and tickets.

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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Houdini's 278 is coming back to life

It was one year ago today that news broke of the sale of Houdini's New York home ("278"). At the time, the new owners assured the Houdini community that they planned to preserve Houdini history. Today I'm excited to share the first image of the restoration in progress.

This photo was taken from the parlor level entryway and shows a now restored doorway into what was Houdini's library. The doorway had been walled off by the previous owner. But now we see exactly what it was like to step inside 278 and find Houdini himself in his favorite space.

QUESTION: What is your idea of comfort?
HOUDINI: Seated in a large arm chair in library and hearing Mrs. Houdini call up: "Young man your lunch is ready."

Thanks to the new owners of 278 for allowing me to share this pic.

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Houdini now a permanent resident of Catalina Island

The Catalina Island Museum has shared a first look at a new display devoted to Houdini's Terror Island which is now part of their permanent exhibition on Catalina history. Houdini filmed a large part of the movie on the island in late 1919.


You'll note the display features a video screen which plays the overboard box escape from the film. This footage is missing from the existing movie. It was uncovered last year by our friend Joe Notaro and it not available to view anywhere else. So Houdini fans who visit the island get a rare treat!

On May 17, the Catalina Island Museum will host a special 100th Anniversary screening Houdini's The Grim Game in their outdoor amphitheater with live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla. Click for details.

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