Is this flipped photo really from 1904?


The David Copperfield (DC) mirror cuff (shown above) is nearly always shown with its best side – with less plating missing.  It is believed that the Harry Houdini (HH) image in the photo was flipped to mirror it.  All other advertisements and postcards that I have seen, have the photo of HH holding the DC mirror cuff facing the other way without a date written on it.

This photo in DC’s museum has 1904 written on it, so does that mean it was taken in 1904? That’s what we are led to believe.  Note: March 17th, 1904 is the date of the famous Daily Illustrated Mirror Challenge.

Well, if we flip the photo (see below) to be facing the original way, 1904 becomes 4091.

10DCwithHoudiniPhoto_zps7986e002-1-300x234 flipped

So what does this mean?

Not sure, but we need to find when this image or a similar image was first seen.   Below is the first image, that I was able to find.  It has 1907 written on it, but it is actually from 1909. So far, not so good for 1904.

mirror handbill from laid bareHowever, below is a clearer image of him “sitting in a chair”, with the DC mirror cuff, but it is not dated.


If we examine his 1904 pitch book cover below of him “sitting in a chair”, it may very well be the same suit, hair, and chair as the image of him holding the DC mirror cuff.

harry023 (1)

1904 Pitchbook 20 pages Credit: John Bushey

The below postcard which sold at auction for $474 and matches the image on the 1904 pitch book shows it much more clearly, and it definitely appears to be the same suit, hair and chair and could have been taken during the same photo session in 1904.

HH Postcard Around 1904

Epilogue: On Saturday May 14th, 1904 Harry Houdini (HH) was presented with the solid silver manacle.  The solid silver manacle was always thought to be pictured in the photo with HH sitting, but we now know that it is really the DC mirror cuff.  HH obviously doesn’t want us to know that this is the DC mirror cuff, which could explain why he is covering the key hole and the center of the cuff in the photo. On March 20, three days after the challenge, Houdini offered a challenge to the Mirror that he would offer 100 guineas to anyone else who could get out of the cuffs with him present, which implies to me that HH was not supposed to be in possession of the DC mirror cuff. That said, it is likely that this photo with the DC mirror cuff was taken before he officially received the solid silver manacle and may have even been taken during his London engagement at the Hippodrome.

Related Posts:

Update: The photo from the 1904 pitch book also appears in The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin as well as a similar image in Silverman which was signed by HH on Aug 1904:

Photo of HH from The UnMasking of Robert-Houdin

Photo: The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin


Photo: Silverman



Ann Forrest as described by Houdini

298-82 snippetSnippet of Still 298-82 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

HOW HOUDINI DID IT. Ann Forrest, who has played the heroine in Houdini’s picture, “The Grim Game,” at the Pentridge since Thursday, is described by Houdini himself as “one of the prettiest girls on the screen.” She was born the Isle of Fan, just off the coast of Denmark, and received her education there. She is of a true Danish type, with masses of blonde hair, large blue eyes, and the complexion of a milkmaid. Houdini referring to the love scenes he played with Ann Forrest, pathetically complained that he could not “love” Ann Forrest with Mrs. Houdini as a spectator. After a consultation, Houdini solved the problem giving his wife a cheque to spend in the bazaars, whilst the love scenes were being filmed.

[ Burnley News Saturday 20 November 1920]

Houdini to Write Kellar’s Biography

thegrimgame Arthur Moses Image

Kellar sitting in chair on set of The Grim Game Credit: Arthur Moses Collection

Houdini to Write Kellar’s Biography is the title of an article that appeared on August 16, 1919 in the Motion Pictures News Magazine.

Below is the text from that article:

The oldest of the great magicians of the past who is still living is Prof. Harry Kellar, Dean of the Society of American Magicians, now residing in retirement at Los Angeles.  Houdini is a particular friend of the famous conjurer and the latter had decided that the noted escape artist and star of “The Grim Game” shall write his biography.

Houdini is a well-known writer as well as illusionist, and has published numerous books on magic and kindred subjects.  He will begin at once adding to his large collection of data on the life of Kellar and will compile this material, adding the facts that he knows and will give to the story the continuity that will weld it into a delightful record of a most remarkable life.

According to Silverman notes, HH completed several hundred pages of the book, which remains unpublished in a private collection, together with some one hundred letters from HH to Kellar.

Just like the Grim Game, this material needs to become public.

Case For and Against Psychical Belief

The Case For and Against Psychical Belief Book Cover

On November 29 to December 11, 1926, there was a symposium, The Case For and Against Psychical Belief, at Clark University in Worchester, Massachusetts.

Mr. Harry Houdini was to have been a speaker in this symposium, but his untimely death prevented.

The ideas for a seminar had come to Dr. Carl Murchison (1887 – 1961) during a luncheon in the grill room of the Bancroft Hotel in Worchester, Massachusetts. The Clark University psychology professor was dining with Professor McDougall and Harry Houdini and began talking about spirit mediums, psychic phenomena, and other matters relating to psychical research. Professor McDougall and Mr. Houdini were on friendly terms, but disagreed “concerning certain matters that had become of wide social interest because of newspaper emphasis.”  Murchison suggested they and other noted authorities should argue the entire matter in a public symposium.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was unable to attend the symposium, but he submitted a paper, “Psychic Questions As I See It.” He believed the key to validating physical mediumship lay in ectoplasm.

20141125cDr. Crandon presented his wife’s Margery astonishing phenomena.le-roiMina-Leroi-Crandon-Houdini-demonstrating-the-Seance-Box-Sir-Arthur-Conan-Doyle5-520x313

In consultation with Mrs. Houdini, it was agreed that the best existing statement of Mr. Houdini’s convictions in this field are represented in the chapters on Slate Writing and other methods, Spirit Photography, Sir Author Conan Doyle and Houdini’s Conclusion from A Magician Among the Spirits.  This book was only two years old at the time, and Mrs. Houdini agreed that it still represented Mr. Houdini’s final convictions on the subject.


  • The Case For and Against Psychical Belief, Carl Murchison, editor
  • The Medium Who Baffled Houdini by Elaine M. Kuzmeskus

The last tricked “spirit” photograph of Houdini in 1926; Who are the Spirits?

I thought I would share a tricked photograph of Houdini that I came across recently.


To debunk the “spirit photographs” that mediums were claiming as proof of their communication with the dead, Houdini manufactured his own.

I wasn’t sure if I had ever seen this tricked photo before.  I searched my library of Houdini books and found similar but different photos of Houdini with the same “Spirit Extras”.

  • Christopher’s Houdini a Pictorial Life p 177
  • Kalush’s The Secret Life of Houdini Laid Bare p 248

Neither Christopher nor Kalush identify the so-called “Spirit Extras”.

Christopher refers to it as the last tricked “spirit” photograph of Houdini in 1926.

Who are the spirit extras?  Feel free to guess. Bragging rights for the first one to get it correct in the comments.

Reuel Meditz conducts a Live Score for Harry Houdini’s Film

11222190_1020121138031971_6088671548215331512_nSounds like Reuel Meditz had a fun night Sunday, July 19th, performing at the Paramount Stateside Theater in Austin for the Houdini film, “The Grim Game” during its first Texas premiere.

11059984_10205794789123594_1431327149334424925_nAccording to Reuel Meditz on social media, it was an honor to see his name on the marquee sign in front of the Paramount State Theater and be part of this historical project.
11745533_1020120958031989_5983325864792573526_nIt was a very enthusiastic audience and Reuel had a blast playing for everyone.

11182153_1020121174698634_4022622326252209363_nAfter his live piano performance, Reuel answered questions.

According to social media, it was an “amazing score” and “great night”.


The Grim Game has a Score to Settle

BraneScore_TheGrimmGame-300x200Brane Zivkovic conducted a live performance of his new original score for Harry Houdini’s silent film, The Grim Game, at the TCM Classic Film Festival (Egyptian Theater in Hollywood) on Sunday March 29, 2015.

GG Screens Austin Texas 071915

Now on Sunday, July 19, 2015, Composer/Pianist Reuel Meditz will accompany the film with his own original score at the historic “Stateside at the Paramount Theater” in Austin, Texas.

I wonder why they decided to change the music for this screening.

It will be interesting to hear thoughts and impressions on Reuel Meditz’s score compared to the Brane Zivkovic’s score.


John Cox at Wild About Houdini who wrote an incredible review of the screening in Hollywood had this to say about Brane’s Zivlovic’s score:

The new score by Brane Živkovic might be the most controversial aspect of the restoration. Make no mistake, his music is beautiful, and it works incredibly well in places. But this is Živkovic’s first score for a movie, a specialized skill, and he makes a few unconventional choices for a silent film, such as occasionally using no music at all. The decision to not score the jail cell shackle escape was a point of discussion after the screening. I personally liked the choice to let the escape play in total silence. I thought it created tension, almost like a silent drum roll. But others felt thrown. Also, by the end of the film, his four compositions were starting to feel repetitive. But I was happy and relieved that he created a whole new piece for the final plane chase and crash. Still, I’m hoping TCM allows a little more work on the score — perhaps having Živkovic compose a few new pieces and bringing in a music editor — before the movie hits the TCM channel.

BTW: TCM will air The Grim Game on Sunday October 18 at 8:00  PM (ET) and again at 11:45 PM (ET).  It will be interesting to see if they do a little more work on the score.

I would also love to hear the entire original score from 1919, as opposed to just the plane chase and crash which you can check out at this link on YouTube.

For a modern soundtrack and video of the plane crash, check out this link on YouTube.

UPDATE:  Below is the Musical Synopsis from the 1919 Press Book for “The Grim Game”

1919 Musical Synopsis TGG


“The Man From Beyond” and a Personal Appearance of another Escape Artist

Harry Houdini was known to make personal appearances at his movies.

While visiting Fred Pittella in NYC, he shared evidence of another Escape Artist making a personal appearance at one of his movies.  Fred graciously allowed me to share this evidence below:

In 1922 on Friday, Saturday & Sunday, December 15th, 16th, & 17th,  The Man From Beyond”was playing at the Stadium Theatre located at Third Ave & 119th street, New York.  As an added attraction in conjunction with Harry Houdini’s master production “The Man From Beyond”, the escape artist Genesta was to make a personal appearance and escape from a barrel of water:

Genesta and TMFB Pittella Collection A

Credit: Fred Pittella Collection

Wizard of wonders in his sensational and death-defying escape from a barrel of water. After being securely handcuffed by a committee selected from our audience and locked in a barrel.  This is positively the most sensational death-defying stunt ever attempted.  Bring your own padlock.  Inspect barrel in front of theatre. This barrel is the exact duplicate of the infamous torture barrel used in Russia by the Bolshevicks which many of the royalty were tortured and put to death.  To see it is to believe it.

Genesta Pittella Collection A

Credit: Fred Pittella Collection

Special Thanks to Fred Pittella!

FP_LOGO_0009_small_bannerPlease check out Fred Pittella’s excellent website, Houdini and Escapes Museum to see lots of photos of Fred’s magnificent Houdini and restraints collection.


Nevertheless, to get his picture talked about he made personal appearances with it for about three weeks…

He also created four touring companies, hoping to gain a national audience for The Man From Beyond by presenting it in connection with “The Houdini Wonder Show of 1922.” One or two well-known magicians or escape artists headed each unit, notably Frederick Eugene Powell…

Houdini appeared at the opening show of each unit, and made it clear that these were his shows, combined with his movie. [Silverman]


The so-called miracle of July 4, 1922

Ernst houdini

On July 4, 1922, Houdini was enjoying an Independence Day picnic and fireworks display at the suburban New York home of his lawyer and friend Bernard Ernst:

…my greatest feat of mystery was performed in 1922 at Seacliffe, L. I., on the Fourth of July, at the home of Mr. B. M. L. Ernest.  The children were waiting to set off their display of fireworks when it started to rain.  The heavens fairly tore loose.  Little Richard in his dismay turned to me and said:

“Can’t you make the rain stop?”

“Why certainly,” I replied and raising my hands said appealingly, “Rain and Storm, I command you to stop.”

This I repeated three times and, as if by miracle, within the next two minutes the rain stopped and the skies became clear.  Toward the end of the display of fireworks the little fellow turned to me and with a peculiar gleam in his eyes said:

“Why, Mr. Houdini, it would have stopped raining anyway.”

I knew I was risking my whole life’s reputation with the youngster but I said:

“Is that so?  I will show you.”

Walking out in front I raised my hands suppliantly toward the heavens and with all the command and force I had in me called:

“Listen to my voice, great Commander of the rain, and once more let the water flow to earth and allow the flowers and trees to bloom.”

A chill came over me for as if in response to my command or the prayer of my words another downpour started, but despite the pleading of the children I refused to make it stop again.  I was not taking any more chances.

[A Magician among the Spirits]

Note:  Although there is no reason to doubt Houdini’s story, Ernst himself omits it from his book (Houdini and Conan Doyle) about his friend.

According to the New York Times, the local weather that July 4 was “extremely humid”, though with no mention of a storm.  In that same week, the Brooklyn Bridge was closed to automobile traffic after engineers discovered a slipped suspension cable that had “warped in the drought.” [Master’s of Mystery]

H A P P Y  4 T H  O F  J U L Y  !