Wednesday, July 17, 2019

'Pulling Back the Veil in Search of Cecelia' at The Breman Museum

Today marks the anniversary of Houdini's mother's death in 1913. So this seems like the right day to share that Rolando Santos will be presenting a lecture called "Harry Houdini: Pulling Back the Veil in Search of Cecelia" on July 28 at the The Breman Museum in Atlanta. This is the final lecture 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 website, Facebook or Twitter.


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

'Before Houdini' by Jeremy Holt released

Today sees the release of Before Houdini, a new graphic novel by Jeremy Holt with art by John Lucas. This is a followup to his 2018 book, After Houdini.

The exciting second volume of the After Houdini saga explores the origins of the elusive master of magic, the man who would become…Houdini.

London, 1888. A shadowy killer stalks the streets of London, his appetite for blood unleashed upon the city’s lower classes. To defeat him, MI6 turns to its most top-secret team: four teenage agents with extraordinary gifts—including a young American immigrant with a talent for illusion . . .

After Houdini began the story of Josef Houdini, son of the famous Harry Houdini—brilliant illusionist, acclaimed escape artist, and top-secret covert operative. Now we turn back the clock and meet Ehrich Weiss, a young man whose skill at picking locks is about to land him the adventure of his dreams, and pull him into a war that will affect his life—and his son’s—for years to come. This is the story of Ehrich’s strange beginnings, from before he was a world-famous magician. Before he was a master of espionage. Before he was...Houdini.

A special exhibition called Before Houdini: The Making of a Graphic Novel will be on show August 9 to September 22 at the Jackson Gallery at Town Hall Theater in Vermont. Details here.

Purchase Before Houdini at (U.S.) and (UK).


Monday, July 15, 2019

Houdini and I call "Action" at The Breman Museum

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of giving a lecture about "Houdini in Early Cinema" at The Breman Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. My talk was part of their Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini programing.

I'm happy to report that it was well attended and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I know I did! The staff at The Bremam were fantastically friendly. Their museum is a beautiful and even sacred space with powerful exhibits on Jewish life and the Holocaust. It was a great honor to have been invited to speak here. Oh, and I ran into a familiar face in the lobby! (True size of us both.)

This was a quick trip so I didn't have time to seek out the former sites of the Hotel Ansley or the Forsyth Theater where Houdini performed in 1912 and 1915. But I was able to swing by The Wimbish House which was just a short walk from my hotel. Houdini gave his Spiritualism lecture here on March 13, 1924. The Wimbish House still stands as does its adjoining auditorium (both pictured below). The Atlanta Woman's Club is also still active. I've been in touch and I'm hoping they might have some archival material related to Houdini's historic visit. Stay tuned.

I arrived at The Breman early and was given the VIP treatment by the wonderful staff. Whenever I do one of these talks, I'm always a little nervous about whether my presentation will play properly with their own a/v system. But I was in the good hands of Dwayne McBride, and setup proved to be a snap. Dwayne is from Flatbush and he was excited to hear that Houdini lived in Flatbush for a time. (Dwayne, if you're reading this, here's that link.)

I then had time to enjoy the museum and Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. This is the touring exhibition created by David London which opened last year in Baltimore. The Breman has a special section devoted specifically to Houdini in Atlanta, with genuine artifacts from the Hotel Ansley and Forsyth Theater. They've also added a display related to Houdini's use of mass media. I was told the exhibit has been enormously popular, as has all their special programing.

It was now time for my talk. This time I wasn't showing a Houdini movie, so I expanded it to a full hour with more clips, including the unseen overboard box escape from Terror Island. After my talk we had a Q&A with some great questions (always my favorite part). A nice surprise was meeting author James Mahaffey, who told me he had uncovered some new details about Houdini in Atlanta that appear in his book, Atomic Adventures. So that's one to get!

Thanks to everyone at The Breman for inviting me to speak and making this trip possible. And to everyone who came out to hear the talk.

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini runs through August 11, 2019. For more information visit The Breman Museum's website, Facebook or Twitter.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Houdini in Atlanta

This weekend I'm headed to Atlanta to give a talk on "Houdini in Early Cinema" at The Breman Museum as part of their Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini programing. My talk is on Sunday, July 14, at 2:00pm and is free with general admission. Click for details.

This will be a quick trip, so I don't think I will have time to do any Houdini archeology in the city. But here are some of the sites associated with Houdini in Atlanta.

(Atlanta Time Machine.)

The Forsyth Theater stood at the northwest corner of Forsyth and Luckie Streets. Houdini first appeared here during the week of January 1-7, 1912. He returned April 19-25, 1915. During his 1915 engagement he was challenge by the Red Rock company to escape a packing case. It was also reported that he escaped from his "tank" (likely the Milk Can) after it had been filled with Coca Cola. Unfortunately, the Forsyth and the building that housed it is now long gone.

In January 1920 Houdini’s The Grim Game played for a week at the Strand Theater located at 56-58 Peachtree Street (not be be confused with the later Strand Theater on Decatur Street). Terror Island also played here in May 1920. The theater closed in 1923.

(Cinema Treasures)

Houdini himself returned on March 13, 1924 to give his spiritualism lecture, "Can the Living Communicate with the Dead?", at the Woman's Club auditorium at Wimbish House. Happily, Wimbish House still stands and is still home to the Atlanta Women's Club.

During this 1924 trip Houdini stayed at the Hotel Ansley, which stood on the south side of Williams Street between Forsyth and Fairlie. It later became the Dinkler Plaza Hotel. It was razed in 1972.

As far as I know, Houdini never performed an outdoor stunt in Atlanta, although I've not given up hope that one may turn up. Possibly the good folks at The Breman have uncovered something?

Unless some major Houdini news breaks, I won't be updating the blog until my return. Hope to see some of you in Atlanta!

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini runs through August 11. For more information visit the Breman Museum's website, Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to to Perry Reed for providing info on the Strand Theater.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Mystifying man in St. Louis

Here's a terrific caricature of Houdini from the St. Louis Star and Times dated December 15, 1914. Once again this shows that, in his own time, Houdini was as identified with his Needles trick as he was with his escapes.

Houdini appeared at the Columbia during the week of December 14-20, 1914. On December 16, he accepted a challenge from the packers of the Famous-Barr Co. to escape packing case built on stage. On the December 18, Stix, Baer & Fuller Dry Good Co. challenged him to escape their own packing case after being searched and having a carpet laid below case on stage to prevent use of traps.

Needless to say, the "mystifying man" escaped both times.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

James Randi on his Shelton pool test

Here's a video in which James Randi talks about how his got his start in escapology, and also how he performed his own Shelton pool test on February 7, 1956. This is a feat that does not get a lot of attention, but I consider it a standout in Randi's career, especially as he did it in the same location as Houdini.

Despite the video name, "How to Beat Houdini", Randi did not do the stunt to beat Houdini's time (although he did so by 13 minutes). He was seeking to prove it could be done by natural means, just as Houdini always said. But that point was missed in much of the news coverage, which emphasized the record beating, as seen below.


Monday, July 8, 2019

Barry Spector's latest 278 wood lath creation

Our friend Barry Spector shares today his latest artistic creation using wood lath salvaged from Houdini's New York home (278). According to Barry, the door is about 30" and overall it stands about 36". Pretty great!

Barry took his inspiration for the famous image below. He says, "At some point, I'll get Harry in there."

If you're interested in Barry's work, he can be contacted at


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Musicians remain wild about Harry

Houdini continues to inspire magicians... I mean, musicians! Below are some relatively new CDs and MP3s that pay tribute to the master mystifier.

Houdini by 2 Kinds of Pie (Amazon)
Houdini by Vanakkara (Amazon)
Houdini by Drippy Astro (Amazon)

Below are links to even more Houdini inspired music. Enough to make a party mix!


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Checking up on the Examiner

Last month when I visited the historic Alexandria Ballrooms where Harry and Bess had their Silver Wedding Anniversary, I decided to swing by another downtown Los Angeles Houdini location, the Examiner Building. It was here on April 4, 1923 that Houdini performed a suspended straitjacket escape before a reported 20,000 people.

The building has stood empty since the Herald Examiner went out of business in 1989. In 2015 it was announced that the building would undergo a massive renovation and would open as a combination of creative office and restaurant space in 2017.

Looks like the renovation is taking longer than expected as the building is still covered in scaffolding. But work is clearly underway, and I look forward to the unveiling of this still very recognizable Houdini landmark.

You can see more photos of Houdini's Examiner escape via the links below.


Friday, July 5, 2019

LINK: Ottawa organ linked to famed magician Harry Houdini

The Times of Ottawa has a well-researched article by Charles Stanley about the antique organ that sits in the Houdini Seance Room at the Magic Castle.

Could the legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926) have owned and touched the keys of an organ built in Ottawa? 
It is a tantalizing thought — but undocumented. The provenance chain for the organ since leaving the Ottawa factory is missing crucial links. It is likely the possibility may, in fact, just be an illusion.

Click the headline to read the full article (which includes a quote from yours truly) at The Times.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

'Houdini's Trunk' with David London in Baltimore

Magician David London will be giving a special "living history performance" as Houdini at the Baltimore Theatre Project on July 6 & 13. Below are details.


In this living history performance, magician and storyteller David London will himself transform into Houdini as he tells the first-person account of the incredible but true story of one of the greatest magicians who has ever lived.

Discover the technologies, marketing prowess, and entertainment trends that allowed a Jewish immigrant to become a superstar magician.

Following the performance, audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions to Harry Houdini.

Saturday, July 6, 2pm
Saturday, July 13, 2pm

David curated the spectacular Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini exhibition currently at The Breman Museum in Atlanta through August 11.


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Arte Johnson dies at 90

Variety reports that comedian Arte Johnson has died at age 90. While famous for his Emmy-winning role on Laugh-In, we remember Johnson for his portrayal of Houdini in the obscure 1988 movie A Night At The Magic Castle.

You can read Johnson's full obituary HERE.


LINK: Houdini Is Alive

Author Joe Posnanski has updated his JoeBlogs with a post about receiving the galleys of his new book, The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini. Joe also shares some upcoming promotion details. Click the headline to have a read.

The book comes out Oct. 22, which means we are coming up on 100 days out. When that happens, I am planning on starting a weekly Houdini newsletter for those interested in knowing a bit more about Houdini, interested at all in the book, interested in hearing from some of the amazing people in the book or just interested in getting one more email per week. We’ll have some giveaways too, include a book tour schedule, all that jazz. I’ll give you details later if you want to sign up for that.

You can pre-order The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini at and Released date is October 22, 2019.


    Tuesday, July 2, 2019

    Hungarian Kalush

    The 2006 biography The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman has been released in Houdini's native Hungary as Houdini titkos élete (translation: Houdini's Secret Life). Below is the cover art.

    You can buy Houdini titkos élete at



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