Houdini’s Grand Magical Revue 102 Years Ago


Houdini premiered his “Grand Magical Revue” in British cities through the spring of 1914.  It probably played a dozen times.  Above is an ad from the Library of Congress for a performance that was presented 102 years ago, today at the Palace Theatre, Hull.

Below are brief descriptions for each effect:

  1. The Crystal Casket – Houdini opened the show by picking a number of coins; he seemed to toss them toward the box that was suspended by two ribbons over the stage.
  2. Good-Bye Winter – Houdini’s title for Morritt’s disappearance of a person atop a stack of tables.
  3. Money for Nothing – Houdini’s version of the classic coin-catching routine, where he would produce five hundred gold sovereigns from a cloth bag, .
  4. The Arrival of Summer – Morritt’s production of a lady from a pyramid-shaped box.
  5. Calico Conjuring –  Houdini cut and burned and then magically restored a long strip of cloth.
  6. Metamorphosis -Houdini closed the show with his popular trunk illusion



  • Hiding The Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer
  • Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss by Kenneth Silverman
  • The Illustrated Houdini Research Diary Part 4: 1911 to 1915 by Frank Koval

Woman Magician, Dorothy Dietrich, gets the two highest honors from The Society of American Magicians.

Magic’s most notable society gives Pennsylvania native an 8 page feature cover story in their MUM magazine, and separately the rarely bestowed Presidential Citation.


Dorothy Dietrich of Scranton Pennsylvania, originally from Erie PA, has been awarded magic’s most prestigious award, The Presidential Citation, as well as an 8 page feature cover story in their magazine, MUM, for her many historical accomplishments.  The Society of American Magicians is one of magic’s oldest, richest and most prestigious organizations with hundreds of clubs and thousands of members around the globe.  The Presidential Citation is the highest award the Society of American Magicians can bestow to any magician worldwide, and even rarer to be given to a female  in the male dominated field.  The Citation from President David Bowers to Dietrich along with business partner Dick Brookz states it is for “constant efforts to elevate and advance the art of magic” and “extraordinary support promoting the goals and the values of The Society of American Magicians.”  Dorothy commented “of all the many things I’ve accomplished in my career, this is a highpoint.  I couldn’t be more proud.” Bio at  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Dietrich)

Rankopedia.com’s  “Greatest magician of all time” ranking places Dorothy Dietrich in the top seven only proceeded in order by Houdini, Copperfield, Criss Angel, David Blaine, Penn &Teller, and Doug Henning.  No other woman appears in their listing of the top 20 magicians. http://www.rankopedia.com/Greatest-magician-of-all-time/Step1/3376.htm?

Brainz.org’s listing of the “10 Greatest Escape Artists in History” proclaims “Dorothy Dietrich is probably the best-known female escapologist of all time,” and named her as one of the top four with Houdini again being number one.

BulletCatchDietrich is considered the first woman to gain prominence as a female magician and escape artist since the days of Houdini, breaking the glass ceiling for women in the field. She’s the first and only woman to have performed the jinxed catching of a bullet in her mouth. a feat that has killed twelve men and injured many others.  The bullet catch is the one stunt Houdini announced he would do and then backed out of.  She’s also the first woman to perform a straitjacket escape while suspended hundreds of feet in the air from a burning rope as shown on a Home Box Office Special The World’s Greatest Escapes.

Houdini-in-Grim-Game-at-Houdini-Museum-Scranton-PA-640x480Last year she uncovered Houdini’s best, and believed lost, film “The Grim Game.” It was restored and shown for the first time in 96 years at the finale of the week long Turner Classic Movies Festival in 2015 and televised last October. TCM flew Dietrich out to Hollywood for the premier of the restored film as the closing event to a standing ovation.  Additionally she replaced Houdini’s bust at his grave site destroyed by vandals and missing for over 30 years.  She is founder and director of The Houdini Museum of The Only Building in the World Dedicated to Houdini, originally the first Houdini museum in New York City at The Magic Towne House before moving the collection to Scranton, PA. in 1980.

EscapesThe 2006 Columbia Encyclopedia included Dietrich among their “eight most noted magicians of the late 20th century”.  Early on, as a teenager, she already was dubbed as “The First Lady of Magic.” Dietrich, often called the Female Houdini, has duplicated many of Houdini’s original escapes.  In addition to escapes and large-scale stunts, Dietrich performs magic with live animals such as doves, rabbits, poodles and ducks. She’s known for sawing men in half, and for levitating volunteers from the audience.  Dietrich has created special shows for such companies as Maidenform, Pooltrol, Yago Sangria, Manhattan Shirts, as well as fashion and cosmetic companies. She is a regular performer for trade and industrial events.

In the 2013 hit film, “Now You See Me,” Isla Fisher played an escape artist named Henley Reeves. In an interview Fisher said, “I watched all of Houdini’s work and Dorothy Dietrich, who is amazing, you have to watch her.”  “I got to train with Dorothy Dietrich” and “studied the life and work of illusionist Dorothy Dietrich to prepare for the role.”

TV appearancesDorothy Dietrich’s many appearances on national TV includes Home Box Office Special “The World’s Greatest Escapes” as special guest star, You Asked For It, Travel Channel, Magic Road Trip, Mysteries at The Museum, The Bill Cosby Variety Show, The Tom Snyder Show along with Kiss, Evening Magazine, The Montel Williams Show, twice with Rich Little on You Asked For It, Real People, TV Land’s Myths & Legends, Exploring The Unknown, Biography Channel’s Dead Famous-Houdini, Just For The Record, The Best of Everything, Klein Time with Robert Klein, Man and His Mysteries with Dick Van Patten, Pierre Ferland’s Autobus du Canada (three segments), SyFi Channel’s Deals From The Dark Side, Huff Post TV on Houdini’s Birthday, NPR Weekend edition  Trials and Tribulation of being a woman in a man’s field, PBS On The Pennsylvania Road, PBS Strange and Unusual Museums, and PBS Conversations.  Part of popular culture she was even mentioned in a segment on House MD in a scene about her bullet catch. (Year 8, Segment 8, Perils of Paranoia).

MUM Magazine story. (http://houdini.org/dorothydietrichbiographymum.html)

More Terror Island Posters

Last week we looked at a photo of some lost Terror Island Posters. So why should this week be any different.  Below are more posters which are found on page 12 of the Terror Island Pressbook.


Back in the day, exhibitors could purchase One Sheet posters for 12 cents, Three Sheet Posters for 36 cents, Six Sheet Poster for 72 cents, and the Twenty-four Sheet Poster for 1 dollar.  Can you imagine what one of these posters would go for today?

Now if we could just find one of these posters that survived.  That would truly be amazing!

And the winner of the Grim Game vs Terror Island at Potter & Potter’s Auction is?


On April 9th, Potter & Potter had a Houdiniana Auction that featured a large number of Houdini Movie Stills from the Grim Game and Terror Island.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

There was 16 Terror Island Movie Still Lots:

  • 178, 179, 184, 186, 188, 189, 190, 193, 194, 195, 202, 209, 210, 219, 220, 230

There was 14 Grim Game Movie Still Lots:

  • 175, 176, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 203, 204, 217, 218, 221, 224, 231

Terror Island Notes: Lot 230 from Terror Island was misidentified as being a Movie Still from Haldane of the Secret Service. Lots 179, 190 and 210 listed the wrong serial number.

Grim Game Notes: Lot 232 from the Master Mystery was misidentified as being a Film Still from the Grim Game. Lot 204 listed the wrong serial number.

Terror Island lots brought in $9150 before buyer’s premium.

Grim Game lots brought in $8400 before buyer’s premium.

The highest Grim Game Lot (L302-87) below brought in $1700 before buyer’s premium.


The highest Terror Island Lot 230 (L318-19) below brought in $950 before buyer’s premium.


So based on the numbers who do you think won?

If you log into Live Auctioneers you can see all the auction results.

Lovecraft Letter – Witchcraft Article

Witchcraft Manuscript Lot 67 Potter and Potter Aug 23 2014

After writing the Astrology Article, Lovecraft’s next job for Houdini was to write an article on witchcraft as evidenced by an October 11, 1926 letter to Wilfred Blanch Talman:

“This present season I’m as busy as hell with some special revisory work which I’ve been doing for the well-known conjuror Houdini. I’ve done stuff for him before; but last week he performed in Providence, and took the opportunity to have me go over a lot of stuff which required constant consultation. It was the raw material for a campaign against astrology; and being somewhat in my line, (I had a campaign of my own on this subject in 1914) I rather enjoyed the digging up of data—though it was beastly laborious, and forced me to work continuously till night before last with very little sleep. If it doesn’t knock out all the star-gazing charlatans in the country, I shall feel deeply disappointed!  My next job for the sprightly wizard is an article on witchcraft which makes me lament with redoubled intensity the lack of a peek at the Waite book.”

Just like the Astrology manuscript, the Witchcraft manuscript also exists and has been seen at auction a couple times:

Lot 179 of the October 31st 2002 Swann Auction – Magic: Featuring the Manny Weltman Houdini Collection

Lot 179 Witchcraft Manuscript Swann 2002 Auction

Lot 67 of August 23rd 2014 Potter & Potter Auction – Houdiniana:

Houdini, Harry. Witchcraft. An unpublished manuscript by Houdini. [New York?], 1926.

Detailed and important typescript with a profusion of holographic corrections and additions in Houdini’s hand throughout. The subject covered is, broadly stated, witchcraft. Houdini examines the entire subject, and gives a thumbnail sketch of its history, drawing and quoting heavily from published sources. More specifically, near the end of the manuscript Houdini writes in detail about the Witch of Endor, a medium in ancient times who wasreportedly able to summon the spirit of Samuel at the command of King Saul of the Kingdom of Israel. In much the same way Houdini crusaded against spiritualists in his 1924 book A Magician Among the Spirits (several subjects from which appear in passing in these pages), so does this manuscript demonstrate his unwavering crusade against pillars of the spiritualist faith, which so often used Bible stories as support for its cause. A total of 62 numbered pages on 4to sheets, typed on rectos only, some significantly larger after cutting-and-pasting. The professional tone suggests a guiding editorial hand, while the hundreds of corrections in Houdini’s hand show his tendency toward misspellings and awkward phrases. Some corrections are in pencil or red pencil. A copy of an unsigned letter regarding Houdini’s work on the manuscript, dated July 16, 1926, is included, and shows that this was one of the last publishing projects he was working on before his death. Accompanied by a letter of provenance tracing the ownership of the manuscript.

[Sold for $15,000]


Is it possible that the Astrology manuscript and Witchcraft manuscript were to be part (chapters) of the “The Cancer of Superstition” book that Harry Houdini hired Lovecraft and his friend C.M. Eddy, Jr. to write?

It would be nice to see all of the pieces (outline and chapters) put together and published in some form:

  • handwritten outline, by H.P. Lovecraft, published in The Dark Brotherhood
  • handwritten manuscript by Eddy that included revisions with Lovecraft’s penmanship, the first chapter (‘The Genesis of Superstition’) of three is published in The Dark Brotherhood.  According to Eddy family members, the first two chapters were approved by Houdini and the third sent to him while Houdini was on tour.
  • typescript manuscript (article) , as offered for sale by Potter & Potter, which includes three parts (‘The Genesis of Superstition’, ‘The Expansion of Superstition’ and ‘The Fallacy of Superstition’) not published.
  • Astrology handwritten manuscript (article) by H.P. Lovecraft not published.
  • Witchcraft typescript manuscript (article), by H.P. Lovecraft (?) that included revisions with Houdini’s penmanship, not published.


  • Selected Letters II – H.P. Lovecraft

Mirror Keys – “Hidden where no one can find them?”


The above press photo just sold on eBay for $97.50. Congratulations to the winner!

It is an amazing photo of Bess Houdini and the Mirror Cuff originally published on April 13, 1936, the day that Thurston died.

And what Bess said in the publication is just as amazing:


Back of Press Photo with words for publication

“She said the keys to the handcuffs have been hidden where no one can find them.”

What did she mean by this statement?

Notice that “keys” is plural.


0_0_5627_7892Oakland_Tribune_Tue__Apr_14__1936_ (1)


Below is the photo that just sold on eBay for $132.50 that is referenced in the comments below.

s-l1600 (3)

Here is another photo courtesy of WAH to ponder:



Here is another photo (dated November 10, 1936) from WAH to ponder:

bess mirror


UCLA FTVA Master Mystery Contents

UCLA Film Televison Archive Logo

As promised, I am going to review each incomplete version of the Mastery Mystery (i.e., The Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlhany and UCLA FTVA) that I have seen and go over what pieces they contain and don’t contain.  This post will focus on the UCLA FTVA copy of the Master Mystery.

The UCLA FTVA does not contain Episode 8 or Episode 10, but it does contain all of the other episodes ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15) on 16 mm safety print reels that were transferred onto two VHS tapes for non-circulating research and study.

UCLA Media Lab

Below are the UCLA Master Mystery Episode Descriptions:

Episode 1:

International Patents, a firm controlled by Balcom and Brent, has made a fortune by inducing inventors to trust the marketing of their inventions to their care, and then keeping the inventions off the market to protect holders of previously existing patents. Brent, tormented by a guilty conscience, decides to make amends and release the patents to the world. On the eve of his decision, he and his foreign representative, Flint, are stricken down by the Madagascar (or laughing) Madness. A giant automaton, whose secret retreat is under the home of Brent, administers poison by the smoke of candles and pursues Eva, Brent’s daughter, to her boudoir, while Quentin Locke, the newly hired manager of Brent Laboratories, has been bound in a straight jacket brought by an ambulance which came to remove Brent to the sanitarium.

Episode 2:

International Patents, Inc., a firm controlled by Balcom and Brent has made a fortune by keeping patented inventions off the market. A giant automaton that lives under the home of Brent has secretly administered poison through the smoke of candles that causes the Madagascar (or laughing) madness. Quentin Locke, the newly engaged head of the laboratories endeavors to aid Eva, daughter of Brent in solving the mystery. While Flint is captured by the automaton and given an antidote for the laughing madness, Locke has a chemist friend working to find an antidote for Brent. Through Flint, the automaton arranges for Eva to go to to the docks in order to get a antidote, as she mistakenly thinks that Locke and the chemist have failed. While Eva is chased by the automaton, Locke is thrown from the dock by henchmen while bound and shackled in chains.

Episode 3:

Balcom and Brent, owners of International Patents, a firm that has made a fortune by keeping patented inventions off the market, quarrel, the outcome of which leaves Brent stricken by the “Madagascar (or laughing) madness.” A giant automaton whose secret retreat is under the Brent house is responsible for the crimes committed and Quentin Locke, the newly engaged head of the laboratories endeavors to aid Eva, daughter of Brent, in solving the mystery. In attempting to find an antidote to restore Eva’s father to sanity, Locke has been thrown from a dock by the emissaries of the automaton. Miraculously he escapes. One of the emissaries is captured and put in jail, and Locke impersonates him in order to get to the automaton at the acid mills. Eva is coerced into going to the acid mills to meet Locke, but instead is abducted by the automaton. Locke is left suspended over a seething vat of acid, with Eva unwittingly the key to his demise should she open the door to where Locke has been shackled.

Episode 4:

Balcom and Brent, owners of International Patents, Inc., a firm that has made a fortune by keeping patented inventions off the market, quarrel; the outcome of this leaves Brent stricken with the Madagascar (or laughing) Madness). A giant automaton whose secret retreat is under the Brent house, is responsible for the crimes committed. Quentin Locke, the newly engaged head of the laboratories, but secretly an agent of the Department of Justice, endeavors to aid Eva, daughter of Brent. Captured by the emissaries of the automaton, Locke is suspended over a vat of seething acid, but miraculously manages to escape. Locke decides that one of the patents, for a diving suit, must be tested. He knows that if anything happens to his airline it would mean certain death. The automaton sends one of his emissaries underwater to cut Locke’s airline. Locke manages to escape the diving suit, but is then shackled and put in a crate to be thrown off the dock, while Eva is in the clutches of the automaton.

Episode 5:

International Patents, Inc., a firm that has made a fortune by keeping inventions off the market, is owned Balcom and Brent. Brent has been overcome by a giant automaton whose secret retreat is under the Brent house. Quentin Locke, a Department of Justice operative, has fallen in love with Eva, daughter of Brent, who is engaged against her will to Paul, son of Balcom. Seeking evidence, Locke goes to an old warehouse dock, where he is abducted by emissaries of the automaton, shackled, put in a crate, and thrown off a dock. Miraculously he escapes. Locke goes to Deluxe Dora’s penthouse to ask questions and investigate Paul, but he is caught in a trap when a smoke bomb goes off. Deluxe Dora and her henchmen take Locke to the roof, and tie him to the bottom of a water tower. When water begins pouring in, it looks like certain death, but miraculously, he escapes. Locke and Eva meet at the apartment of Davis, the inventor who was promised restitution by Brent before his attack of laughing madness. Locke and Eva find themselves in an apartment with a ticking time bomb, planted by Zita Dane.

Episode 6:

International Patents, Inc., a firm that has made a fortune by keeping inventions off the market, is owned by Balcom and Brent. Brent has been overcome by a giant automaton whose secret retreat is under the Brent residence. Quentin Locke, a Department of Justice operative, in trying to solve the mystery, keeps an appointment at an old inventor’s where a bomb has been planted, timed to explode at eight o’clock. When the bomb goes off, the automaton is carried away by his emissaries. Eva and Locke tend to the dying inventor, who says that the automaton was created by a fanatical inventor in Madagascar named Dr. Q, who gave the automaton a human brain. Eva announces her plans to call for the release of all the patents at the directors board meeting the next day. Eva and Locke, on the trail of the automaton, find themselves in the clutches of a “Mad Genius” who has invented an electric chair. While Eva is abducted by the automaton, Locke is strapped into the electric chair, which means certain death.

Episode 7:

Quentin Locke, accumulating evidence against Herbert Balcom of International Patents Inc., enters the den of Dr. Q, the mad inventor, with Eva Brent. They are overpowered by a giant automaton and its emissaries, and Locke is strapped in an electric chair. Locke escapes in time to rescue Eva from the clutches of the automaton. Quentin follows Paul to the Black Tom Cafe, his underworld domain. There Quentin finds Deluxe Dora, who says that she will help him implicate Paul in illegal doings, but it is a ruse. Quentin and Eva find themselves led into conspiracy’s tangled web. Dr. Q’s emissaries wrap Locke up in barbed wire, while the automaton pours deadly acid on the floor that starts to flow towards Locke struggling on the ground.

Episode 9:

Quentin Locke, at the command of the automaton, is overcome, bound, and thrown beneath a descending elevator, while Eva has been abducted. At the very last minute, Locke escapes his bindings and manages to escape, aided by Zita Dane who is dressed like a man. Zita Dane admits that her jealousy of Eva and Locke prevented her from intervening earlier. To the Chinese Curio Shop comes a man from Madagascar, and Long Fang, a Monarch of the Underworld, is introduced. Deluxe Dora tells Eva Brent that there is a man who knows of a cure for Eva’s father, but he sails for Madagascar that night. Eva and Locke are led into a trap at the Chinese Curio Shop, and are attacked by the automaton and its emissaries. Locke is strapped to a wall.

Episode 11:

At Paul’s instigation, Eva has been abducted; and one of his followers disguised as a minister attempts to perform a false marriage ceremony. Quentin Locke, meanwhile, has been bound and placed under the coverings of a sofa, where he is left to the tender mercies of the Madagascan. After a miraculous escape and a brawl with Paul’s men, Locke follows the wounded Paul to a fishing shack. Zita Dane hides Paul in the attic of the shack, and Locke swears that he will find him. While Eva is being abducted by the Automaton, Quentin Locke is tied and bound head to toe in a fishing net.

Episode 12:

Quentin Locke, while in pursuit of Paul, is overpowered by the emissaries of the Automaton and is entangled in the meshes of a fishing net, while Eva is left helpless before the advance of the Automaton. Locke miraculously escapes the fishing net and they escape. Eva acquires proxies that give her absolute control over International Patents, Inc., and now she can force Balcom out of the company. Locke gives Balcom 24 hours to arrange his affairs before his arrest. Balcom persuades Locke to come to his apartment, under the pretext that Balcom will turn state’s evidence. Meanwhile, Zita and Paul join forces at the home of Dr. Q, and decide on a pretext to get Eva to the office of a hypnotist on River Street. Locke arrives at Balcom’s and the apartment is full of unseen chlorine gas. Zita decides to save Locke, explaining her secret love for him. Zita and Locke rush to the hypnotist to save Eva, and Locke finds himself trapped in a noose, suspended over a fire trap.

Episode 13:

Eva, hypnotized by a medium and carried through a secret panel into a Chinese Temple, has been turned over to the Automaton and its emissaries, to be offered as a sacrifice to the rays of the Burning Eyes of the Fire God. Quentin Locke, attempting her rescue, is made captive and suspended over a fire trap with a noose around his neck. Miraculously he escapes in time to save Eva. Zita Dane, reaching the cross roads of conscience, offers further assistance in untangling the affairs of International Patents, Inc., while at the same time trying to find records to confirm that Brent is her father. Balcom prepares to do away with important documents to conceal his manipulation of the company. An important clue is the record of Zita’s birth, which would help solve the mystery. The Automaton takes Brent, while Eva and Locke discover that his cave is beneath the Brent house. Locke encounters Balcom in the secret passages of the cave, and both are buried in an explosion.

Episode 14:

While trying to solve the mystery of the Automaton and the underground passages beneath Brentrock, Quentin Locke encounters Balcom and a struggle ensues. An explosion occurs and they are buried beneath the wreckage. Meanwhile Eva and Zita have sought to discover an outside entrance to the underground retreat. Balcom has been killed by the explosion, and Brent is rescued. Dr. Q finds that with Balcom’s death, he is no longer under his influence, and discovers from Balcom’s diary that Zita Dane is his daughter. He explains to Locke, Eva, and Zita that Balcom, knowing his hatred for Brent, brought him back from Madagascar. Balcom took advantage of Dr. Q’s insanity, and used his invention, the Automaton, to accomplish his evil ends. Many years previously, Balcom had told Dr. Q that his wife and children were dead, one of the blows that wrecked his intellect. As Dr. Q announces that with Balcom’s death the Automaton will bother them no more, the mechanical man bursts into the room.

Episode 15:

[No description was supplied by UCLA]

The Episode Title Cards listed the episode number (e.g., Six) followed by Part One:






Episode Six Part One

This was followed by FORWARD title card(s) and footage recapping the previous episode.

Each episode ended with the following title card:

The continuation of the


will be shown at this theatre


As far as I can tell, these 13 episodes are complete with the following exceptions:

The last title card from Episode 1 found on all other versions (e.g., Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlany) is not included:

As the shadow on the sun dial lengthened.

The Baker’s Dock sequence in Episode 3 shows two thugs left on the dock instead of three after HH and the first thug hit the water. Kino’s George Eastman House footage shows three thugs left on the dock at this point and then mentions a second thug hurling himself into the water to finish the task that cost the first thug his life. But UCLA FTVA does show a giant fish swimming [not on George Eastman House footage] when all of a sudden there is a splash from HH and the first thug hitting the water.  The first thug is then seen floating up, which is followed by HH escaping his chains.

So to make the most complete 15 episode Master Mystery, we need the 13 UCLA FTVA episodes, plus Episode 8 from Kino (or McIIhany EPISODE 4] and Episode 10 from Kino with the addition of the first part of UCLA FTVA Episode 11 that recaps where Episode 10 left off.  Plus, we need to add one title card to Episode 1 of the UCLA FTVA version and merge the UCLA FTVA Baker Dock sequence in Episode 3 with the George Eastman House footage found on Kino.



William H McIlhany Master Mystery Contents


Master Mystery 1918 VHS McIlhany 1998 001

As promised, I am going to review each incomplete version of the Mastery Mystery (i.e., The Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlhany and UCLA FTVA) that I have seen and go over what pieces they contain and don’t contain.  This post will focus on William H. McIlhany Special Edition Video released in 1998.

Master Mystery McIlhany Video Release FrontMaster Mystery McIlhany Video Release Back

The Master Mystery (1918) Video Release by Williams H. McIlhany by arrangement with The Douris Corporation Owners of the Raymond Rohauer Motion Picture Archive runs for 193 minutes on two VHS tapes. Part 1 of 2 runs for 1 hour 56 minutes and Part 2 of 2 runs for 1 hour 18 minutes.

Edited from the original 15 chapter serial (1918) with full music score & editorial notes.

The following title cards appear at the beginning:

William H. McIlhany presents


The Master Mystery (1918) starring Harry Houdini


Released by arrangement with The Douris Corporation Owners of the Raymond Rohauer Motion Picture Archive


Digitally Mastered by James Starr


Music by Michael D. Mortilla Published by MIDI-LIFECRISIS-BMI Copyright 1998, All Rights Reserved.


Special Edition Copyright 1998 William H. McIlhany.  All rights reserved.


The Master Mystery, digitally titled the Houdini Serial was copyrighted in 1918 and released in 1919 by B.A. Rolfe and Octagon Films.  Houdini was forced to sue the producers to recover about $33,000 of his promised share of the profits.


What you are about to see may be the best surviving version of this 1918 serial, Rohauer edited the serial, originally 15 chapters, into approximately 11 chapters.  Compared with the novel based on the original 15 chapters, the Rohauer version contains most of the story content.


The missing footage included repetitive chapter openings. We have added footage not in the Rohauer archive and hope that an even more complete video release will be possible in the future.


Raymond Rohauer Presents HARRY HOUDINI in THE MASTER MYSTERY (1919)

It added its own Episode Title Cards [EPISODE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 8, and 9] which had no correlation to the original 15 episodes with the exception of Episode 1 and part of Episode2.  EPISODE 1 included Lockpicking a door, a Handcuff Release and Straitjacket escape.  EPISODE 2 had him tied to wall with rope.  While tied to wall with rope, EPISODE 3 had him using his feet to strangle a guy, get his key’s and open door [originally in Episode 2];  EPISODE 3 also included packing crate escape [originally in Episode 5] with underwater footage not in Kino, and concluded with Barbed Wire and Acid [originally in Episode 7].  EPISODE 4 started with Barbed Wire escape [originally in Epsiode 8] and ended with being bound in rope in an elevator shaft [originally in Episode 8].  EPISODE 5 had him escape the elevator [originally in Episode 9] and concluded with the Strangulation Torture [originally in Episode 9].  EPISODE 6 started with Strangulation Torture Escape [originally in Episode 10] and ended with being put in an Electric Chair [originally in Episode 6]. Episode 7 included the Electric Chair escape [originally in Episode 7].  After EPISODE 7, the following title card appeared:

The following footage from three Rohauer chapters has been arranged in what is believed to be their original order

EPISODE 10 flashed on the screen and was followed by Fishnet escape [originally in Episode 11/12].  EPISODE 11 followed with the Noose escape [originally in Episode 12/13].   After EPISODE 11, we go to EPISODE 8 where he frees himself from underground wreckage [originally in Episode 14] and then the serial concludes with EPISODE 9 [originally in Episode 15].  After the serial was over, the following title card appears:

Additional incomplete chapter footage not in the Rohauer archive.

This included some nice footage of him hanging over vat of acid and the Baker’s Dock scene where he is thrown overboard in chains.

Unfortunately, The Jail Cell with the X-ray view of the lock, Diving Suit escape, Water Tower escape, and sofa escape are missing, as is much of the story.

That said, the William H McIIhany Special Edition Version contained all of the original footage, escapes and spoken title cards that appeared on Kino.  And it contained the underwater packing crate footage not on Kino, as well as the Baker’s Dock Chain Escape without the nitrate damage that appeared on Kino.

Next week, we take a closer look at the UCLA FTVA Master Mystery Contents which will fill in the rest of the story and the missing escapes.