Wild About Houdini shares the details of Houdini's suspended straight jacket escape in Los Angeles.
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For years I've been trying to uncover details of Houdini's first suspended straitjacket escape in Los Angeles. While his 1923 escape is well represented in photos and newspaper clippings, his 1915 escape has proven strangely elusive. This would have been a major event with a massive crowd and snarled traffic, yet there's no mention of it in either the Los Angeles Times or the Herald. How could that be? If fact, the only clue that it ever happened at all is this short undated film clip:
This has been especially vexing as L.A. is my home and I've tasked myself with uncovering all the Houdini connections I can. I've actually been entertaining the idea that the above film is misidentified and there never was a 1915 Los Angeles escape. Maybe this is Oakland? We know Houdini did an escape there before coming to L.A.
But on a recent visit to the Magic Castle, librarian Joe Fox finally helped me crack the case. He showed me a flyer from the 1987 televised séance The Search For Houdini. Joe wondered if I had ever seen it. I told him had. In fact, I own one myself. But I haven't looked at it in years, so I popped it open anyway. There, much to my astonishment, was a paragraph about Houdini in Los Angeles with key details about the 1915 escape. As if to mock me, it referred to it as one of Houdini's "best documented" escapes.
I don’t mean a lock of hair or a toe nail—nothing weird.
This Saturday, April 9, one of the largest auctions of Houdini memorabilia ever held will take place in Chicago, held by Potter & Potter Auctions. You can download a pdf of the catalogue. And the whole shebang is up on Live Auctioneers where you can also bid on these fabulous items from anywhere in the world.
Why so fabulous? No matter whether you are wealthy or not, you will likely be able to purchase something touched in some way by Harry Houdini, the world’s greatest escape artist and icon of the 20th century, in this auction.
Do you want a lockpick he might have twiddled between his fingers or toes to free himself from some diabolical device?
Or you can buy one of his sets of props that he used for the trick where he swallowed a bunch of straight needles and then some thread, thereafter removing the thread from his mouth with the needles dangling along its length.
There are buckets full of Houdini’s handcuffs and various forms of restraints, including these metal mittens that will set anyone into bondage a quiver; and a display of restraints also owned by Houdini and later used as a lobby display for the 1950s Tony Curtis biography of the escape artist.
Lot 120 features two canisters of 35mm film featuring 26 minutes of clips of Houdini, some perhaps not seen by anyone in 90 years. The frame grabs below are enough to make Houdini collector’s wet their pants. Read the rest
The Cancer of Superstition, a non-fiction treatise commissioned from author H.P. Lovecraft, was found in a memorabilia collection in a defunct magic shop.
Magician Harry Houdini asked Lovecraft to ghostwrite the text for a book project, but died shortly thereafter. Now it goes to auction.
The collection bounced around after Beatrice Houdini’s death in 1943 and was never truly catalogued or ‘mined’ in all that time. The papers were never researched or inventoried,” said Potter & Potter president Gabe Fajuri. “In all that time, no one seemed to realise the significance of the manuscript.”
Fajuri said the collection was recently bought privately, and when “the new owner began sorting through the mountain of paperwork, he began putting the pieces together, and in the process discovered the manuscript and its significance”
From the excerpts, it sounds exactly as you'd imagine a Lovecraft text about superstition to sound ('superstition is an “inborn inclination” that “persists only through mental indolence”' etc). There is some debate over the authorship, with S.T. Joshi identifying CM Eddy. If you want it, expect to pay $25,000-$40,000 for it. Read the rest
The Right Way To Do Wrong presents a unique opportunity to experience Harry Houdini in his own words. A collection of the master magician's interviews of police, grifters, swindlers, and criminals of all sort. These papers also give a fantastic glimpse into Houdini.
I expected another dreary book of magic, written in dated English, with references to things I'd never understand. What I found is a fascinating collection of captivating essays that also open a window into who Harry Houdini was! While I very much enjoyed hearing stories about how turn of the century pick-pockets plied their trade, I also learned that Houdini has a goofy sense of humor. Peppered with corny jokes and oddball witticisms, we not only learn the secrets to some of histories greatest magician's tricks, but get a glimpse into the author.
For fans of magic, or just budding con-men, I highly recommend The Right Way To Do Wrong.
The Right Way to Do Wrong: A Unique Selection of Writings by History's Greatest Escape Artist (Neversink) via Amazon Read the rest
He's been dead since Halloween, 1926, but Harry Houdini just won’t die. The old bastard really won’t go away.
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In 1910, Harry Houdini magically flew over a field near Melbourne, Australia. OK, he was in an airplane. But I hadn't known that the great magician was an aviation enthusiast. Houdini's demonstration was the first heavier-than-air flight in Australia. Apparently, it was a real nail-biter that ended in success. Now, Smithsonian Air & Space reports on the effort to find Houdini's plane, if it still exists.
He flew a Voisin biplane that he’d bought in Germany the year before. Powered by a British ENV engine capable of 60 to 80 horsepower, it sailed over trees, rocks, and fences, reported the Melbourne Argus, then wavered slightly. “Ah! Cabre, cabre!” shouted Antonio Brassac, Houdini’s French mechanic. “The word signifies the action of a rearing horse,” continued the Argus, “and it indicates that the plane, like the horse, will almost inevitably come to grief.”
"The Hunt for Houdini’s Airplane" Read the rest