Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Rosehill Racecourse in Sydney to be redeveloped

ABC News reports that Rosehill Racecourse in Sydney, Australia, will be relocated, and the area on which it has stood since 1883 will be turned into a "mini-city" of 25,000 new properties, green space, and a Metro station.

What does this have to do with Houdini? Well, Rosehill was one of only three fields where Houdini flew his Voisin biplane. While he learned to fly at Hufaren parade grounds in Germany and clinched the honor of Australia's first flight at Diggers Rest near Melbourne, it was at Rosehill that he made his final and most harrowing flight on May 1, 1910.

All I ask is one of the streets in this new development be named in honor of Houdini!

Thanks to Tom Waller for the alert.

Bring home a piece of 278 for the holidays

Before I wrap up the blog for the year, I wanted to give a shoutout to Roger Dreyer's Houdini Revealed and this terrific new novelty he is offering. When I visited Roger's amazing museum in September, he gifted me this authentic piece of 278 brick that sits on a miniature 278 base (a clear plastic dome fits over it all; the dome is off in the image below). I love it!

While I don't yet see this on his website store, Roger said these are available for purchase. So if you're interested in gifting a piece of 278 to a loved one or yourself, give Roger a shout HERE.

Roger also offers full 278 bricks and assorted wood pieces that are listed on his website. So you have many ways of owning a piece of Houdini's home this holiday season.

Thank you, Roger!

Monday, December 4, 2023

Houdini's Denver dives

On October 13, 1907, Houdini leapt manacled from the roof of the band pavilion at Denver's City Lake Park. The stunt was similar to his leap just a few weeks earlier in Los Angeles. But it wasn't advertised. Houdini did this jump primarily for newspapermen and photographers on the day he arrived in the city. This resulted in terrific coverage, as seen below.

The Denver Post, Oct. 14, 1907

The photos taken that day by Daily News staff photographer Ralph Baird were enlarged and displayed in the lobby of the Denver Orpheum. (Including the image at the top of this post, which I'm excited to confirm is Denver.) But The News felt the public would like to see Houdini perform the feat for themselves, so they arranged for him to repeat the stunt on Sunday, Oct. 20. It was unusual for Houdini to repeat an outdoor stunt during the same engagement, but he agreed to do so.

The Daily News, Oct. 17, 1907

It's interesting to see that Houdini wanted a ladder placed atop the pavilion this time so he could make a higher jump. During the first jump, he had hit the bottom of the lake. However, at the last moment, Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer objected to the stunt.

The Daily News, Oct. 20, 1907

Houdini stayed out of the controversy, but The News took the mayor to task for what it saw as his hypocrisy. In an Oct. 31st editorial called "Awake at Last," the paper sarcastically congratulated the mayor for suddenly waking up to the city's blue laws and how he would now, no doubt, close down the saloons and gambling halls that line his pockets. They conclude:

And there are any number of other things for the mayor to do, now that he has taken this high moral resolve. And it thrills us with joy to know that we were the unwilling instruments bringing this great good to the city. [...] Why, oh, why didn't we think of the Houdini jump sooner, and get the mayor's conscience waked up two years ago, in time to keep him from helping steal the franchises? But it's awake now; that's one comfort. There should be notable doings in the city pretty quick.

Mayor Spreer

Mayor Spreer survived the scandal and became the only Denver mayor elected to three terms. However, he didn't survive the 1918 flu pandemic and passed away during his third term.

The site of Houdini's Denver leap still exists today. While the pavilion has been rebuilt, it is, presumably, still in the same spot. A terrific Denver Houdini location. Maybe the current mayor, Mike Johnson, can put a historical plaque in the pavilion commemorating Houdini's October 13, 1907 leap and make up for his predecessor denying the citizens of Denver that second jump? Just an idea!

Want more? You can view or download an assortment of newspaper clippings from Houdini's 1907 Denver appearance as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon below. Thanks to my patrons for supporting content like this.

Photo at the top of this post from the McCord-Stewart Museum.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Limited edition 'Magical Rope Ties and Escapes'

Philip David Treece at has released a high-quality reprint of Houdini's Magical Rope Ties and Escapes. This is a limited edition hardback (100 numbered copies) printed and bound in the UK by a specialist short-run printer. It is a full facsimile produced directly from an original copy, with all the plates reproduced as plates, just like the original. As you can see below, it's a beauty!

Magical Rope Ties and Escapes was originally published in the UK by Will Goldston in 1921. It was never released in the U.S. The only other reprint I'm aware of was a paperback by Houdini's Magic Shop in 2011. Of all Houdini's books, this is the one that contains the most photos of him.

You can purchase this new limited edition of Magical Rope Ties and Escapes at

Thank you, Philip!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Want to hear unreleased Houdini voice?

My Wild About Harry on Patreon is going strong with 80 paid members enjoying loads of exclusive Houdini content. I'm very grateful to all my patrons who help support my work. 

Today, I'm sharing a special incentive to bring more patrons into the fold. If we can reach 100 paid members by year's end, I will post one minute of audio from Houdini's Water Torture Cell patter that has never been made available to the public.

This is not from the recent David Copperfield transfers. This is from an entirely different source that you will see with your own eyes. It's wild stuff.

We're just 20 members away from this goal. So if you join today, you'll not only be supporting my work and unlocking a wealth of exclusive content, but you'll be moving yourself and everyone closer to hearing unheard Harry!

Check out membership details by clicking the image below. Hope to see you inside.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

The enduring mystery of David Blaine

I'll just share this here without much comment. It speaks for itself. I was perplexed when David said this back in 2018, and I remain perplexed that he's still saying it today.

David is an admirer of Houdini, so he must know this isn't true, right? Or could the drama of the Tony Curtis movie somehow be stuck in his head? I guess David Blaine is just doing what David Blaine does best. Baffling us!

Thanks to Dave Thomen for this clip.


Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Barbara's Vaudeville Scrapbook

I recently stumbled upon a remarkable Facebook page called Barbara's Vaudeville Scrapbook where the relatives of George Channing Eggleston, an electrical engineer and stage lighting man from the vaudeville era, share photos from a scrapbook they inherited.

In 1907, Eggleston traveled with the O Hana San & Co. and shared the bill with Houdini in San Francisco and Los Angeles. While there are no photos of Houdini himself, there are many photos of Franz Kukol and the Houdinis dog, Charlie (with a fresh haircut). I've never seen any of these images! Below is a sample shot of Franz and Charlie.

You can see more photos on the page itself. Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated since 2021. I reached out to page owners but haven't heard back. I've also shared all the Houdini-related images on my Patreon.


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Houdini's humor

Once, during a Q&A, someone asked me if Houdini used humor in his act. I told them I didn't think so. That Houdini took himself pretty seriously. In fact, he once kicked a comedian (hard!) in the leg when he began telling jokes as Houdini struggled in a straitjacket.

But Patrick Culliton later told me I was mistaken. Houdini did use humor in his act. From that moment, I've kept an eye open for evidence of this, and, by gosh, it's out there! Check out the below from Houdini's appearance at the Regent Theater of Varieties in Salford, England.

This point was further driven home when I was shown a remarkable document at the Harry Ransom Center last year. It's a typewritten page of all the jokes Houdini had at hand during his performances. The jokes are pretty corny, largely dependent on puns and colloquialisms, but they apparently worked on audiences of the time. It's a fantastic glimpse at a part of Houdini's act that is (almost) forgotten.

Where can you read this remarkable document? The Harry Ransom Center, of course! Or you can read it as a member of my Patreon by clicking below.

Thanks to my patrons for supporting my research and content like this.


Monday, November 27, 2023

Songs Called 'Houdini': Who Did it Best?

Here's a clever video by YouTuber Naomi Cannibal that breaks down three pop songs called "Houdini," including the most recent single by Dua Lipa.

Here's another "Houdini" for your consideration. In 1962, Walter Brennan released his own "Houdini" single. You can hear it on YouTube by clicking the image below. It's plenty folksy!

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Attention Holiday shoppers

Here's one for you Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers. While I've seen Houdini tie-in advertisements before, I've never seen one on this scale. This ad for O'Gorman Co. "The Big Store" in Providence, Rhode Island, takes up nearly an entire page and is designed around Houdini. Not that I'm complaining!

The Evening Bulletin, Jan. 28, 1907.

Houdini was playing Keith's Theater in Providence this week. The O'Gorman Co. challenged him to escape from a packing case made by their shipping department on the night of February 5, 1907. Houdini got free in 38 mins. But he could never escape the great deals at O'Gorman's!

The Evening Bulletin, Feb. 5, 1907.

Happy shopping.


Thursday, November 23, 2023

Harry's Thanksgiving run

Here's an interesting find that ties nicely into Thanksgiving today. The New York Herald of November 27, 1891, ran an article covering footraces held by various New York Athletic Clubs on Thanksgiving day. Headlined OVER MUDDY HILLS, AND DALES, it reports that "roads were in wretched condition, the heavy rainfall making them so slippery that few of the contestants escaped headers in climbing up the hills on the course."

But it's the last two paragraphs that are of interest to us here:

    The annual championship run of the Olympian Athletic Club took place yesterday over the famous Mamlok-Reid course. The start was made from the Xavier Oval at 135th St. and Railroad avenue. Twenty-five men competed. After a stiff run over bad roads, ditches and hills H. Griffin won by fifteen yards over Harry Weiss, the second man. "Tom" Creed was third, "Billy" Meyer fourth and the others bunched. The distance was six and a half miles and the time 33m. 51 2-5s.
    After the run the boys repaired to Captain Smith's Jerome avenue roadhouse, where a fine turkey dinner was eaten. In the evening, the athletes attended the club's annual ball, held at Arlington Hall, where the all around championship prizes were awarded to the athletes having done the best general athletic work during the year. The awards were as follows:–M. Brever and H. Weiss each tied for the first prize with fifteen points, and on the toss, Breyer won and received the championship emblem.

I think there is an excellent chance that "Harry Weiss" is our Houdini. This was when he was a runner with New York Athletics clubs, and I'm reminded of the comment in his later show program that he was "one of the strongest cross-country runners and was looked upon as a dead sure winner on a rainy day or a muddy track." 

Unfortunately, here Harry missed first place by 15 yards and then missed out on his best athletic work emblem on a coin toss. Unlucky day! But at least he got a free Thanksgiving dinner.

Arlington Hall, where the runners held their annual ball, was located 19-23 St. Marks Place in what is now the East Village. It was a community hall and ballroom for the immigrant community of Little Germany in the Lower East Side. The photo to the right shows the hall around 1892. In 1966 it became the location of Andy Warhol's Electric Circus discotheque. So there's your Houdini-Andy Warhol connection! You can read more about the colorful history of the building HERE.

Here's wishing everyone a happy and lucky Thanksgiving.

Want more? You can see the full New York Herald article as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon below.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Newark's (barely) surviving Houdini theaters

I've long known that Houdini began 1925 with a week's engagement in Newark, New Jersey. What I didn't know was the theater. Thanks to an advert in the January 2, 1925 Jewish Chronicle, I now know it was Proctor's Palace located at 116 Market Street.

Whenever I learn of a new Houdini theater, I always jump over to the excellent Cinema Treasures website for more information and to see if the theater still stands. Turns out, the theater is still there, although it has been largely derelict since 1968.

An excellent overview of theater can be found in the blog The Forgotten Past of New Jersey. Proctor's was a rare double-decker theater, meaning it had two theaters stacked on top of each other. I've never heard of such a thing. The post also notes that the building was sold in 2016 with plans to demolish it. But a check of Google Maps shows the building still standing, seemingly untouched today. 

This isn't the only surviving Houdini theater in Newark. In November 1925, Houdini brought his "3 Show in One" to the Shubert Theater on Branford Place. Below is an ad for the engagement. I like the tagline: "WHY GO TO NEW YORK?... ALL THE GOOD SHOWS COME HERE!"

The Shubert later became the Adams Theatre and remained active into the 1980s. Like Proctors, the building survives today and is just waiting for its comeback.