Let the Grim Games begin

298-48

John Cox at Wild About Houdini shares HUGE Houdini news today:

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has acquired the only known print of Houdini’s 1919 feature, The Grim Game. The movie has undergone a full restoration by renowned preservationist and silent film scholar Rick Schmidlin. The restored film will have its world-premiere at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood in March with a live score conducted by composer Brane Zivkovic. It will then play on the TCM network later this year.

Click here for a link to the rest of the news shared by John Cox.

Search for “Pearson’s Weekly”

William Bennet the MirrorRep and HH

1904 image of Will A. Bennet

One of the many mysteries of the famous Mirror Handcuff Challenge on March 17, 1904 is the identity of the “Mirror representative” who challenged Houdini with the famous cuff. His name, Will A. Bennet was not known to Houdini Historians until January 1, 2014, when I shared an April 1910 article I found from an Australian Newspaper.

NYPL image of Will A Bennet

1913 image of Will A. Bennet. (Image courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Later in 2014, Paul Davies at Handcuffs.org found evidence that Will A. Bennet was a real person and shared another version of the “How I Handcuffed Houdini” article that appeared in February 1909.

However, the 1909 version of the article did not mention the Mirror representative’s name.

The main difference between the 1909 article and 1910 article is the following sentence:

“Will A. Bennet, press representative, Moss Empires, London and the London Hippodrome, recently told in “Pearson’s Weekly” of a match he made at the Hippodrome with Houdini the Handcuff King, now appearing at the Tivoli Theatre, Sydney.”

Both articles reference the “Pearson’s Weekly” Magazine as the original source.

So did the Mirror representative’s name appear in the original article or did it manifest itself in 1910?

And what is the significance of when and where it appeared?

Thus, the search to find the original article that must have appeared in “Pearson’s Weekly” Magazine sometime between March 1904 and Feb 1909 [April 1910].

Well, thanks to Paul Davies, we know that the original article is not in Pearson’s Weekly in 1904, 1905 or the last half of 1906.

And thanks to a Librarian that I contacted at The British Library, we know it is not in the first half of 1906. So that leaves 1907, 1908 and Jan/Feb 1909 left to search, which are held in microfilm at the British Library. Given its scope, the Librarian suggested I hire a freelance researcher to finish the search. That is when I contacted Narinder Chadda, a Houdini colleague of mine, who grew up in Birmingham and had been following the excellent discussion on Handcuffs.org.

Narinder and his daughter who is completing her MSc studies in London were delighted to carry out this search on everyone’s behalf.  Narinder’s daughter did all of the legwork on Thursday.

So what did we find and what is the significance of it?

The “Pearson’s Weekly” was a UK 16PP tabloid magazine published by C A Pearson Ltd, edited by Peter Keary and others. It ran weekly from 26 July 1890 to 1 April 1939.  “Pearson’s Weekly” was the first magazine C. Arthur Pearson set up when he left the employ of George Newnes and “Tit-bits” weekly tabloid in 1890. “Answers” magazine created in 1888 by Alfred Harmsworth [who owned Daily Mirror in 1904] was the other imitator of the Tit-bits weekly.  The “Tit-bits”, “Answers” and “Pearson’s Weekly” were all successful popular journals that thrived and for around fifty years formed parts of a trinity.

“Tit-Bits” measured about 12 inches high by ten inches wide, normally had 16 pages, and was bound in green covers smothered in advertising.  “Answers” was similar, but bound in salmon-pink covers.  “Pearson’s Weekly” elected on a larger format, about 15 inches high by 11 inches across, and its 16 pages consequently gave its readers rather more words for their pennies; it was bound in dark red-covers.

“Pearson’s Weekly” was notable for its publicity stunts and fictional short stories.

Fiction – literature in the form of prose, especially short stories and novels that  describes imaginary events and people.

  • Invention or fabrication as opposed to fact

Does this mean that the story appeared in Pearson’s Weekly as fiction?

Well I can tell you, that the story (How I Handcuffed Houdini) is not listed in George Locke’s 1990 book, titled Pearson’s Weekly – A Checklist of Fiction 1890-1939.

So did the story appear in Pearson’s Weekly as non-fiction?

Click this link to find out what Narinder and his daughter found.

Click this link for some observations of what was found.

Special Thank You to Narinder Chadda and his daughter of the UK and Paul Davies of Australia for their significant efforts in the search for “The Pearson’s Weekly”.

 

HOUDINI THE GREAT Story Treatment Part II

Continuation of HOUDINI THE GREAT Story Treatment by Frank O’Connor and Dore Schary, dated January 3, 1936:

Do Spirits ReturnThat night at the show, thousands of people have crowded into the theatre to listen to the startling expose that Houdini has promised.

Houdini is back stage making preparations for his Chinese torture cell trick.

Houdini tells his assistants that he will perform the trick after his talk and expose.

Houdini goes to his dressing room to prepare himself for his appearance. When he gets to his dressing room, a figure of a man clothed in black hat and coat approaches him.  He tells Houdini that he is here to convince him, that he, Houdini, must not give his message tonight.

The man takes a gun from his pocket; Houdini rushes him and the man fires and Houdini staggers under the impact of the bullet which hits him in the stomach.  There is a sound of another shot and the black garbed man falls into the shadows of the curtained corner.

The door is opened by a group of excited people who want to know what has happened.  Houdini doesn’t say that he has been wounded.  He merely, says – I’ve seen a man kill himself – for his God.

Houdini, still not telling anyone that he has been wounded, goes out on the stage and gives his message to the audience.

He tells them that the subject of the message has been slightly altered due to something he has suddenly learned.

He tells them that there is a God, that they must believe that. He tells them that there is a hereafter and they must believe that too. And he says that they must not believe those crooked and ruthless charlatans who bleed them in the misled hope that they can establish contact with the spiritual world.

He tells them that someday they will all learn the secret but that they will not learn it from fakers who produce phony hands and spooky voices form wired chambers.

And after his speech, he prepares for his trick, a dangerous ordeal which he accomplishes successfully.

After he gets out of the cell at the conclusion of his act, he staggers and falls to the floor.  The curtain is rung down as the audience applauds and cheers wildly. Bess and Powers and some others rush to Houdini. He tells them that he has been hurt – that he is dying.

Bess holds him in her arms.  He tells her not to be frightened – that someday, somewhere, they will see each other again.  He tells her that someday she, too, will learn the secret he is learning now but she will never learn until her time has come.

He tells them all that they must believe in God and that he is happy that he has found out the truth before he died.

THE END!

79 Years Ago Today – HOUDINI THE GREAT Story Treatment Part I

I thought I would start the New Year by sharing a couple paraphrased parts of a Story Treatment titled HOUDINI THE GREAT by Frank O’Connor and Dore Schary, dated January 3, 1936

Buzz Saw Houdini

 

Bess gives birth to a baby boy but it dies at the same time Houdini frees himself from the buzz saw escape.

 

Later on in the treatment…

 

Bess is taken. Houdini is told that if he will agree to cancel his proposed unmasking of the spiritualists, his wife will be returned to him safe and sound, but if he goes through with his plans, his wife will be in serious danger.

Houdini, stalling, asks for some proof that his wife is still alive and he is told that he will receive a message from her in the form of a letter which will indicate to him that she is all right.

The following morning, Houdini receives a note from Bess.  It is apparently a simple, straight-forward note, telling him that she is well and that he should do whatever he thinks best.  However, this note employs the use of many of the words used in the mind-reading code that Bess and Houdini had worked years ago during the vaudeville days.

Houdini gets the significance of the message which tells him very plainly where she is being held. Houdini contacts the police and Bess is liberated and the spiritualists are apprehended.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

Mystery Pictures Corporation

93 Years Ago Today, December 27, 1921, Houdini became the figurehead of The Mystery Pictures Corporation.  Note:  This is not the Houdini Picture Corporation (HPC), nor the Film Developing Corporation (FDC) which wishes you all A Merry Christmas and A Happy and Prosperous New Year

from Exhibitors Trade Review magazine

FDC: Houdini invested in the FDC in 1916.  It was founded upon a novel invention: a method of automated film processing, developed by Gustav Dietz. Offices were opened on Broadway, and a factory in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Houdini’s initial investment was $4,900 but the company was never able to turn a profit.  In April, 1918, Houdini fired Dietz and attempted to improve upon the mechanism himself, assigning his brother, Theodore W. Hardeen, to run the company, all to no avail.

HPC Stock Certificate dated June 1921

HPC: It seemed only natural that, owning a film processing company, he should make his own films, rather than relying on the resources and expertise of a motion picture studio. He formed the Houdini Picture Corporation (HPC) in early in 1921. By October of 1921, seven months after incorporating HPC, Houdini had wrapped up two full-length feature films, The Man From Beyond and Haldane.

Even though The Moving Picture World had announced that the HPC would produce “four feature productions a year, in which Houdini will be the star,” the filmmakers must have quickly realized how impossible it would be to live up to this ambition.  So Houdini sought other ways to keep the FDC busy, and to shore up his film-making empire.

The Mystery Pictures Corporation was formed.

During his tours through Europe, he had discovered that there were many high-quality films there that might never be exported to the U.S.  What they lacked in popular American stars, they made up for in production values.  Harry Houdini was the President.  Hardeen was vice president and Harry H. Poppe served as Secretary.

Soul of Bronze PosterFilms imported for distribution included: 1918 French Film L’Ame du bronze (Soul of Bronze), Les Contes de mille et une nuits (A Thousand and One Nights), and 1919 Italian Film II mistero di Osiris (The Mystery of the Jewel).  Note: The Mystery of the Jewel was renamed and released as Ashes of Passion.

The Mystery of the Jewel

Realizing that producing his own features (as the Houdini Picture Corporation) and acquiring foreign films for distribution (as the Mystery Pictures Corporation) were losing propositions, Houdini finally brought his commercial film career to a close.

Source:

  • Houdini The Movie Star Film Notes by Bret Wood
  • The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman

A Look back at 2014

2014 was an amazing year for Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence (HHCE) for a number of reasons:
William Bennet the MirrorRep and HHStarted the year off with a post revealing a name for the representative from the Mirror.

That led to the folks at Handcuffs.Org doing a full scale search for the man.  Click on the link below and type William Bennett [aka William A Bennet and William Gray] in the Search for box and hit Go!.

Campbell and Grey Cheapside Handcuff PhotosSpeaking of handcuffs, I did a number of blogs on handcuffs in 2014:

Attended a number of excellent Houdini events with fellow Houdini “Nuts”:

haunted houdini 1 (1)Malibu Playhouse Flim Flam

Discovered and revealed several rare photos of Houdini in Hollywood:TMPW June 14 1919 WH HHHH Human Chain

Discovered and shared some fascinating information on Whitehead:whitehead

Set the record straight on some fallacies WRT Houdini:houdini smoking

Shared some incredible Grim Game ads, photos, and not widely known info about Houdini and the movie:airplane-collision-in-the-clouds

Shared some incredible Master Mystery ads, images, and not widely known info about Houdini and the movie:filmfun346356lesl_0374

Shared some incredible Terror Island ads and not widely known info about Houdini and the movie:amazing-under-water-scenes

Uncovered a 1926 railroad time table that may show the details of Houdini’s overnight train ride from Montreal to Detroit on October 23-24:1926 TimeTable Montreal to Detroit

Help unfold the Double Fold Milk Can Mystery:HofF Milk June 1980

Mentioned numerous times by John Cox at his Wild About Harry (Houdini) blog and Facebook pages:

Last but not least, my son got married in 2014 to a beautiful girl.

I am truly blessed and look forward to 2015, when hopefully we all get to see the Grim Game:

298-27 Sphinx Sept 15, 1919 v18n7 (L302-27)

L302-14

Enjoy the rest of 2014 and see you next year.

LINK: The Grim Game Review by Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz

Grim Game Lobby Card eBayOur friends, Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA did a nice review of The Grim Game that they were fortunate enough to see several times in NYC, when they were living and performing in New York City, shown by collector Larry Weeks.

MUM New York, August 1919 page 20Check it out:

You will also find some other nice Grim Game links at their website:

Is 2015 the year of The Grim Game?

Related Posts:

Random Treasures Inaugural Auction was a Grim Game

Last Week, Random Treasures International had their inaugural auction that had approximately 25 Houdini items up for bid. Twelve of the items got passed on without a bid, including a Buried Alive Poster for $13,000. The starting bids were awfully high on most items IMHO.  The items that did sell were the photos and movie related items and they went between $200 and $410 w/o auction fees, despite many of them being cropped on the web-page.  I bid on one item and won, or at least I thought I did, but when I checked the site later, there was no confirmation.  I sent an email via LiveAuctioneers to Random Treasures International requesting status, but never heard anything one way or another. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.  That said, there were three Grim Game stills for sale, L302-54 (Lot 80), L302-14 (Lot 82) and L302-42 (Lot 84) which I would like to comment on:

L302-14

To read about the events that led up to Houdini going over the wall in the movie, see the following post: Over the Edge With Death Below and Imprisonment Above!

 

L302-54To read about why Houdini is being visited at the jail cell in the movie, see the following post: THE GRIM GAME Cinema Trade Promotion (Stills 298-54 and 298-63)

 

L302-42

And keep reading this blog to find out what the scene in still L302-42 is all about:

As Houdini creeps toward the door of the Lodge, the unknown assailant seizes a bolo from the wall and hides under the cot.  Houdini cautiously, closes the door behind him and strikes a match.  He throws the burning match on the floor, then turns and starts towards Ethel’s unconscious form.  He steps in his tracks as the burning match which he dropped near the cot is put out by a hand from under the cot.  Houdini is standing very close to the cot when he sees this.

We see Houdini’s boots standing near the cot. The bolo swings viciously toward them and they crumble.

We then see that Houdini, has swung himself to the rafter, leaving the boots on the floor.  He swings his legs over the rafter, reaches down and lifts the cot from over his man.  In the light we recognize Allison.

Houdini drops from the rafter and a terrific fight ensues between Allison armed with the bolo and Houdini.  [Paraphrased from Paramount Files at Margaret Herrick Library]

The Hungarian Handcuff

If you were observant, my last two posts on handcuffs, had references to a Hungarian Manacle and a Hungarian Cuff.  And if you were really observant, you would have noticed in the ad with Houdini wearing the Hungarian Cuff that is was upside down.

Hungarian Cuff The Boston American April 26 1904

The Boston American April 26, 1904

So what is the deal with this Handcuff?

According to The Key by Patrick Culliton on page 141:

Houdini named this cuff the Hungarian Manacle. It is known today as “the Séance Cuff” because Sid Radner uses it at his annual Houdini séances.

 

HUNGARIAN MANACLE Denver Post June 12 1904

The Denver Post June 12, 1904

According to The Secret Life of Houdini Laid Bare on page 109:

The so-called séance cuffs were called the “Hungarian Cuff” by Houdini and they were pictured by him in numerous articles [two of them are displayed above] as well as on his famous poster.

houdini-poster

Hungarian Seance Cuff

The Hungarian Manacle/Cuff is thought to be an earlier prototype of the Mirror Cuffs. These cuffs, unlike the Mirror challenge cuffs, are adjusted by moving screws in and out against the wrists so they could have been used to challenge people with different wrist sizes. It was originally thought to feature a single Bramah lock on the handcuffs shaped like a figure eight.  But thanks to Chris Gower who examined them in quite good detail when he met Sidney Radner at The Magic Circle, we know that:

They do NOT have a genuine Bramah lock on them and use a 5 slider copy lock, possibly French – the sort of cheaper Bramah locks found on small boxes. [Handcuffs.org – April 26 2007].

Radner with Seance Cuff on table

Image courtesy of Robert Sciarrino/ The Star-Ledger

Mirror Handcuff on Table

Unsatisfied, Houdini developed the diabolical Mirror Cuffs, which is said to consist of two nested Bramah locks.

Master Locksmith, Mick Hanzlik, suggested that Houdini wanted something bigger and brighter so that they could be seen at the back of a theatre, so the Mirror Cuffs were created. [Handcuffs.org – May 29, 2007]

10DCwithHoudiniPhoto_zps7986e002 (1)

Image of Mirror Cuff in David Copperfield Collection

As far as I know the only time that the Hungarian Manacle/Cuff was used by Houdini was to take a photo with them to be used for advertisements and the poster.  If you are aware of other times, please share.

Of course, now they are used at the annual Houdini séances.

2012 Seance Table with Cuffs

Image from 2012 Seance I attended

According to interviews with Sid Radner, he knows how to get out of the Séance cuff without the key.  When asked how long it would take for him to get out of them, he said “not too long, but I know the secret”. In fact, I read on Handcuffs.org that there is an article on Radner and the séance handcuff that has three photos showing him shaking the handcuffs off with the cuff falling open at the locking end.

In Backstage with Sid Radner [Mystifier 1st Qtr 1994], he mentions that sometime in the near future, he will supply the missing link to the Mirror Handcuff Challenge.

Are prototype cuffs like the Hungarian/Seance cuff the missing link to the Mirror Handcuff Challenge?

When were these handcuff photos taken?

Campbell and Grey Cheapside Handcuff Photos

These photos were all taken by Campbell and Grey, Cheapside and they might have been taken at the same session. If this is true, the photos below suggest they were taken sometime in 1903.

1903 Handcuff Photos from Original H Scrapbook

1903 Morris Young Collection

However the photo below suggests it was taken March 1904 during his engagement at the London Hippodrome.

Frank Koval photo

The famous photo of Houdini on stage at the London Hippodrome was also taken by Campbell and Grey, Cheapside the day of the Mirror challenge.  If this is true, then it was taken on March 17, 1904.

HoudiniHandcuffedLondonIllustratedMirrorRepresentative

What about the photo with Houdini sitting in a chair with the Mirror Cuffs now in David Copperfield’s collection.

Harry_Houdini-sittingWhen was it taken?  The photo in David’s museum has 1904 written on it.

10DCwithHoudiniPhoto_zps7986e002 (1)

Is that the same suit in the photo where he is sitting as the photos where he is standing? Possibly!

Is that the same haircut in the photo where he is sitting as the photos where he is standing? Not so sure!

When was this sitting photo published, first?  I would love to know.  There is evidence, he gave out signed copies with this image, as well has had handbills with the image advertising upcoming shows.   All the ones that I could find have dates from 1909 to 1914. Anyone know of any earlier?

mirror handbill from laid bare

1909

Mirror Hippodrome Sheffield Jul 26

1913 Engagement Cancelled due to death of Houdini’s Mother

 

Mirror Handcuff Photo from Origal H Scrapbook

1914 Signed

If you have any additional thoughts or other information on possible dates for these, please share.

Source:

  • The Boston American April 26, 1904
  • The Original Houdini Scrapbook
  • Houdini The Career of Ehrich Weiss
  • The Illustrated Research Diary
  • The Secret Life of Houdini Laid Bare
  • Houdini His Legend and His Magic
  • Handcuffs.Org