Continued from Sequence B

Houdini, running furiously approaches the station and looks at Bess sitting on their trunk crying.

Bess lets Houdini know that everybody is on the train going to Philadelphia where they are to appear in a performance at the Grand Theatre, a performance and paycheck they will undoubtedly miss.

Houdini sits on the trunk beside her and shows her the handcuffs he picked up in an old shop for six dollars.

The attendant tells them they can’t leave their trunk there and that there aint no train that stops here until tomorrow.

Suddenly there is a whistle from an express train and Houdini runs out on the tracks cuffs himself to the rail.

The train grinds to a screaming halt and the conductor asks if Houdini is trying to kill himself and Houdini replies he just trying to get to Philadelphia.

The conductor tells Houdini to unlock the cuffs and get out of here, but Houdini doesn’t have the key.

The conductor looks at him in silent rage and tries to open the cuffs to no avail.

Houdini tells conductor that if he puts his trunk, wife and himself on the train that he will be out of the cuffs before he can say Philadelphia.

The conductor tells Houdini he’s won and Houdini proceeds to get out of the cuffs under the cover of a handkerchief.

Bess and Houdini are sitting in one of the seats when a porter comes up to them and tells them there is a gentleman in the parlor car who would like to see Houdini.

Bess and Houdini follow the porter into the car and approach Martin Beck, the gentleman who was so amused at Houdini’s stunt on the tracks.

Beck tells that them they are in the wrong line of business, that the theatrical woods are full of best minding reading acts in the world, but the handcuff stunt you just worked on the tracks is valuable if he can do that with cuffs that aren’t prepared.

Houdini tells Beck the cuffs weren’t prepared and he can do it with any cuffs any locks.

Beck motions to a Sherriff sitting in a chair to take out his handcuffs and clamp them on Houdini’s wrists.

Beck puts his handkerchief over them and Houdini makes short of work of them.

Beck tells Houdini to forget about the mind-reading act, that he is going to make Houdini a headliner, and to be in his New York office the next morning at ten o’clock.

The next morning, they meet with Beck who has planned an European tour in which Houdini will be billed as an escape artist, accept challenges and perform miracles of liberation.

Beck informs Houdini, Mr. Powers (who acted as advance man for Sandow and Lillian Russell) is going to act as his manager, travel with them and arrange bookings and publicity.

The next morning, the boat whistle blows and you see Beck, Powers, Bess, Houdini and Mrs. Weiss.

Bess kisses Mrs. Weiss good-bye and then shakes hands with Beck as Houdini crosses over him to his mother.

Houdini kisses his mama and she tells him maybe I won’t be here to welcome you when you come back.

Houdini tells her she certainly will, but she says you never no God’s will.

Houdini tells her that the Old Fellow upstairs better have you here when he gets back or he is going to be mad at him.

Mrs. Weiss tells Houdini not to talk like that.

Houdini reiterates she will be here and that he is going to bring her jewels, silks and beautiful things.

Mrs. Weiss tells Houdini that there is only one thing she wants him to bring and that’s a leather pair of slippers from a little shop boot shop in Hamburg like she used to have when she was a little girl.

Houdini says he will get them and Mrs. Weiss reiterates if anything should happen to her, that he must always feel that she is near him.

Houdini doesn’t answer but kisses her.

To be continued…Sequence  D


Continued from Sequence A:


Bess Riley, a very pretty Irish girl with her two girlfriends make their way down front to watch Prospero The Second’s performance.

Erich Weiss, now Prospero The Second, takes the stage and makes a hat dance off his hat and around the stage and back onto his head.

One of the girls reiterates that he’s got a wire on it.

Erich takes the hat off his head and tosses it toward Bess and her friends and as they try to catch it, the hat gets crushed between them.

Bess looks up at Erich and he tells her it is alright, the important thing is that there are no wires on the hat as Bess nods.

Erich continues his performance and makes an orange tree appear from a seed in full bloom and throws out a couple of the oranges to the audience.

He then tells the audience he is going to put an empty bowl over a bowl with rice and turn the rice into wine, but first he needs someone from the audience to make sure there is no substitution.

Bess joins him on stage and holds the bowl with rice, while Erich sets the empty bowl on top and covers the bowls with a napkin.

Bess hands are shaking and the bowls fall and cover her dress with red wine.

Erich tells the audience the red wine got here a little quicker than expected.

The curtain closes with applause from the audience.

Erich tells her not to worry about the dress or her mother that he would take care of both.

Bess and Erich approach the house in a carriage; Erich rings doorbell and Mrs. Riley opens the door and asks Bess what happened.

Mrs. Riley tells Bess to get inside and slams the door shut on Erich who leaves.

Later, Erich returns to house in an automobile with a new dress and rings door bell and Mrs. Riley answers again and lets him in this time.

Bess looks beautiful in her new dress and Erich gets the okay to take her for a ride in the automobile.

The car bogs down and Erich and Bess walk over to a wooden fence, where Erich lifts her up, sets her on it and puts his arms around her.

The two are in love and Bess kisses Erich.

Erich then remembers he has a show in an hour and helps her off the fence and they go to the car.

They jump start the car and Erich asks if Bess will come see his show tonight.

Bess says she will see it every night from now on.

Later, Erich returns to the house and rings the bell and Bess escorts him.

Waiting for him, is Bess’ father, her brothers Edward and Joseph and her mother.

Mr. Riley asks Erich about wanting to marry his daughter and Erich confirms that he does.

Mr. Riley asks what kind of magician he is and how much money he makes.

Erich takes over the scene and produces a bouquet of flowers which he hands to Bess, offers his gloves to Edward as they magically disappear, and then produces a cigar from Edward’s ear, followed by a producing a lit cigarette for Joseph which Mr. Riley slaps from his hand.

Mr. Riley asks Prospero what is real name is.

He takes a little piece of paper from his pocket, strikes a match and burns the paper. As the others watch he rubs the ashes on the back of his forearm and you slowly see the letters, “W E I S S”.

Mr. Riley thinks he just saw the devil himself, sends Bess to her room, and tells Erich there’s no place for him in the family and tells him to get out.

Erich says goodnight and tells them he hopes the dove of peace will find haven in their home, as he bows and suddenly from the folds of his coat he produces three doves that fly into the house.

Suddenly Bess comes from the side of the house to join Erich.

Erich and Bess get married by the Justice of the Peace.

Erich tells Bess that there are things she doesn’t know about him yet and that she has to swear on her life never to tell anyone no matter what.

Bess swears so help her, God!

Erich tells her that’s not enough, she has to swear on her life and her love for him.

Bess is a little worried and asks if he believes in God.

Erich tells her it is not a case of believing, but that all the things he can do himself are by the power and the will he has.

Bess tells him that God gave him that power.

Erich says he gets the power from working and is not saying there isn’t a God but so far he has been getting along on his own.

Bess swears on her life and love for Erich.

Erich takes Bess to her new home, where Mrs. Weiss is waiting with open arms.

The next morning, Erich tells Bess they have to begin to look for work and that they are going to have the greatest mind-reading act in show business that he learned from Robert Houdin.

Bess asks if Robert Houdin will mind if Erich shares it with her.

Erich says he has been dead for along time and he would like to be a man like him with his reputation and greatness.

Bess asks if they will known as Mr. and Mrs. Prospero?

Erich says no that’s not good and that he was thinking of taking Houdin’s name.

Bess suggests changing the name to Houdini because it sounds better and it really means like Houdin.

Erich thinks about it, and says they will be called The Great Houdinis.

To be continued…Sequence  C


I thought I would start February off by paraphrasing the first sequence (Sequence A) of THE GREAT HOUDINI Original Story and Screen Play by Frank O’Connor and Dore Schary, dated February 1, 1936.

I am fortunate enough to have script no. 1363 from Vanguard Films that was copied Apr 3, 1944 in my possession. It contains eights sequences (A, B, C, D,E,F,G and H) which I will try and paraphrase in future posts.

Sequence A:

Its 1896 and Prospero The Great is appearing at the Grand Theatre in New York with an Automata that sees all – knows all – tells all.

Rabbi Weiss is giving Hebrew lessons and is not happy that his 12-year old son Eric missed them again.

Mrs. Weiss asks Sophie to run downstairs to see if she can find him at Hugo Schultz lock shop.

Meanwhile, Eric extends his hands and Hugo clamps the heavy manacles and locks on the little boy’s wrists.

Sophie finds Eric, he escapes the cuffs to the surprise of Hugo, and the two leave the shop but end up stopping in front of the Grand Theatre where there are posters of Prospero and Automata. Only appearance tonight.

Eric gets a handbill and tells Sophie he wants to go tonight.

Eric gets home and his father wants him to promise that he will never go to the lock shop again. Eric doesn’t want to lie so he shakes his head No.

Rabbi Weiss doesn’t say a word but takes the boy by the hand and takes him to the closet in the living room and won’t let him out or have any supper until he gives his word.

Mrs. Weiss convinces Rabbi Weiss that he shouldn’t let the boy stay there on an empty stomach.

Rabbi Weiss agrees that is okay for him to have a roll and butter.

Eric standing in the archway between the dining room and living room overhears everything and says Thanks, Papa.

Rabbi Weiss tells Eric he is going to lock him up again and is to stay there this time.

Eric says No Papa, No lock can hold me. I know all about locks.

Eric is in bed and tells his mother he wants to go to the show tonight.

She tells him he can’t go because he didn’t go to Hebrew class.

Eric is next seen getting out of the window, going down the fire escape, and making his way to the theatre.

Eric does not have the 5 cents in his pocket, but he does have the handbill he picked up earlier.

Eric offers the folded piece of paper to the doorman and tells him he has a very important message for Mr. Prospero. The doorman says he will give it to him.

The doorman is walking toward the stage. Eric, in back of him, slips up to the stage and runs in back of some scenery and observes everything.

Prospero takes the stage and presents his Automata and promises a reward of five hundred dollars to anyone who can prove that the predictions of Automata are produced by any other means than by thought.

The curtain is now down and Prospero presses a little device and the back of the Automata opens. Prospero reaches in and lifts out a legless man, John.

Eric steps on something and there is a loud clatter.  Moments later, Prospero has Eric by the scruff of the neck and wants to know why he is spying on him.

Eric says he wont tell anybody and he doesn’t want the five hundred dollars.

Prospero tells Eric he cuts out little boy’s tongues who tell people his secrets.

Eric calls his bluff, and says if you try it, he will tell everybody what he knows.

Prospero tells Eric he was joking and what can he do for Eric.

Eric says he can give him a job because someday he wants to be a great magician like Prospero.

Prospero agrees if Eric’s parents will let him go, but needs to know within an hour since they are leaving soon.

Mrs. Weiss put her arm around the boy and pulls him close to her and says that she is afraid to let him go into the darkness alone.

Eric reminds her that she always told him to never be afraid.

Mrs. Weiss tells him to say his prayers, write every day, and that she wants him to have some money.

She tries to shake some money out of a little bank on the mantle, but can’t get any out without the key that Eric’s father has.

Eric does something to the lock and in a moment the bank is open.

Mrs. Weiss reminds him that any knowledge he will have was given to him by God and he must never use it for evil.

Eric nods his head, takes a handful of coins, grabs his little bag he had already packed, kisses her quickly and then walks out to join Prospero The Great.

To be continued…Sequence B

Rare Letter(s) Revealing an Essential Element of Houdini’s Philosophy

Houdini-opoly creators Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Scranton Houdini Museum just shared with me a RARE LETTER REVEALING AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OF HOUDINI’S PHILOSOPHY that is available at Manhattan Rare Book Company for $9,500.  The description is as follows:


Typed Letter Signed

”The one great way to succeed in the world is to make up your mind to do certain things, go after them and get them…”


The letter, responding to a request by an American teacher S.D. Green to offer inspiring words to his students, is typed on Houdini’s letterhead and singed in ink “Houdini”. It reads in full:

278 W. 113th St.
New York, N.Y.
October 6, 1922.

Mr. S. D. Green,
Department of Business Instruction,
Trenton, N. J.

Dear Sir: –

Just returned from Boston where I have been appearing in person with my latest production “The Man from Beyond”, therefore my apparent procrastination in answering your letter of Sept. 18.

You ask me to inspire a double quartette of boys to do better work in school, to be better citizens in the business world. What could be a better example than your “stick-to-itveness” [sic] in having written three letters until you pugnaciousness has caused me to write this letter.

The one great way to succeed in the world is to make up your mind to do certain things, go after them and get them and if they follow your example, they must succeed.

I have had a young man come into my office for five months. There was nothing for him to do but last night I had to rush him per special automobile to get the Wolverine express to get in Detroit in time. Had he not possessed the dogged determination to get a position in this field he would have been entirely forgotten.

Trust that the boys will look upon this example right in their midst as a far better example than going abroad and looking for the bluebird.


Sincerely yours,

[Signed] Houdini


Houdini was famous for insisting that he didn’t have any special talents or magical abilities, but that his success was the product of intense hard work and practice. In an oft-quoted passage from a 1918 interview in American Magazine, he explains:

“You must not think for one moment that these things came easy to me; that I have done them because, for instance, I have ‘double joints,’ as they are called. I have only to look at the mirror to see the results of the hard, grueling work I have gone through. The constant mental and physical strain has turned my hair gray; and, at forty-six, I look ten years older than I really am… No one except myself can appreciate how I have to work at this job every single day, never letting up for a moment… In each tow where I play I hire an empty stable, or loft, or room, and here I put in hours upon hours of study and experiment. But when I have perfected a thing after weeks and months of study and practice, there is a sense of satisfaction I cannot describe….”

Written at the height of his fame, the letter to Mr. Green underscores Houdini’s deeply-held belief in hard work and dedication.

Note: “The Man from Beyond,” which Houdini mentions in the first sentence of the letter was a silent movie he starred in; it opened a few months earlier in April 1922.

WITH: A subsequent typed letter signed to Mr. Green from 1924 reading:

Dear Mr. Green: –
Your letter was mixed up with a bunch of mail. Came to light this morning.

You have my permission to use the letter written to you by me on October 6, 1922, for the purpose stated in your letter.

Will you kindly change the tautology in the fourth paragraph where I say “to get the Wolverine Express, to get to Detroit”.

Trusting you will attend to this.

Sincerely yours,
[Signed] Houdini


Main letter: One sheet of 8×10.5 inch letterhead with Houdini’s image on the top left. New York: October 6, 1922. Usual folds; fine condition with very strong Houdini signature. Subsequent letter: 5.5 x 8.5 inch sheet letterhead, usual folds.

Links to Houdini Opoly News Since December

Supporters started receiving pawns and certificate last month and the creators Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz (D&D) just informed me that the games are getting ready to be shipped from the manufacturer to them, so we are getting close to seeing this amazing project come to fruition, can’t wait.

Below are related links of interest that D&D shared with me:

1)  Houdini Opoly used in college case study on how to run a successful Kickstarter!!!
We are mentioned at least 14 times in this 50 page thesis.  Do a keyword search for Houdini
Aalto University, School of BusinessThe main objective of this study was to discover and identify the key determinants contributing to a gaming crowdfunding campaign’s success.
3) Finished Houdini Opoly Parts at the factory
4) The proofs are back from the manufacturers.
We will be sent parts of the game out in December-(Pawns).
The proofs can be seen at
Below that are individual links to each of the ten proof pages as well.
5) Latest news can be found here well as here

Houdini’s escape from jail cell(s) in Amsterdam, January 1903?

I am amazed that other than the two posters above, that there is very little information about this jail escape.

According to Brainy History, Harry Houdini performed at Rembrandt theater Amsterdam on January 12, 1903 and escaped the police station Halvemaansteeg in Amsterdam on January 21, 1903.

Based on the Sphinx Vol 1 No 11 Jan 1903, we know Houdini was at the Rembrandt Theatre, Amsterdam, Holland Jan 1-31.

According to the two posters it was Jan 12, 1903, he escaped police station Halvemaansteeg. Note: One of the posters that lists Jan 12, 1903 at the top, also lists Jan 1902 at the bottom.

Frank Koval Research Diary for 1903 lists Jan 12 based on the poster (depicted on p19). Frank also references a photograph (most likely the basis for the posters) on p21 from the Sidney Radner Collection, which Houdini had written that it was probably taken in 1904. Koval states that Houdini was mistaken and that it was taken in 1903.

However, that photograph appears in The Adventurous Life of a Versatile Artist, with the caption: Houdini as Handcuffed and Manacled by the Dresden (Germany) Police, September 1900. Frank Koval’s Research Diary for 1900 has Houdini in Dresden the month of September and on Sep 20 escaping from cuffs and leg irons before Von Windheim, Germany’s highest police official.

That photograph also appears on German postcards from 1900 and 1902, that sold on eBay. So based on photographic evidence, it appears the image used for the poster(s) was based off an earlier escape in Dresden Germany not Amsterdam Holland.

According to Mahatma February 1903: Harry Houdini has returned from England and is now in Amsterdam, Holland. He broke out of two police cells in one day [no date given] – in a nude condition at that.

And last but not least, Silverman’s only mention is the following sentence on page 93: …escaping nude from an Amsterdam jail cell and conquering unusual bolted cuffs, horseshoe-shaped, that fettered his cross hands. [Source: Nieuwe Winschoter Courant, 23? Jan 1903.] FWIW: Houdini’s hands are not crossed on the Amsterdam poster.

That’s all I got, if you have additional information, please share.


In the Amsterdam poster, the other nude photo of Houdini in the lower right hand corner is from the 1899 earliest Houdini Nudes that he had in an ad in Mahatma Magazine when he signed with Martin Beck.  The “nudes” were taken by Bushnell company in San Francisco in 1899.

John Cox also covered this picture…

That said, I believe the main image was taken in Dresden.

Special Thanks to Dorothy Dietrich, Dick Brookz and John Cox for sharing info on the other photo in the lower right hand corner.

An Hour With Houdini in His Thrilling Serial of Breathcatching Stunts

New York, Oct 5 – “No one works harder than Houdini,” declared an actor last week, which information suggested a visit to the studio where the big serial, The Master Mystery, is now in the making, with the famous handcuff king performing remarkable feats that defy the fates.

Tho the hour was early Director Burton King had already shot a scene in a Chinese club [found in Episodes 9, 12/13] which reeked of incense, grotesque idols, huge emblems and Oriental atmosphere.  And be it said every stick of furniture, bric-a-brac, matting and draperies were the genuine article.

Looking thru the immense studio-two of them—and many outbuildings filled with all the paraphernalia and furnishings of costly design convinced us that the Houdini serial will eat up a good-sized fortune before it sees the light of day.

A tank lined with thick glass 12 feet high was being built to accommodate the intrepid magician.  In a few scenes Houdini plays a secret service man and the adventuress, with her accomplices, are anxious to destroy the man.  Here is where the location man came in and ordered us all into big touring cars, camera and director leading the way to a tall apartment house up to whose roof we pussyfooted, for the tenants were curious and some were inquisitive-asking “Where’s the fire?” etc,

All the actors were in makeup and excited comment from the women on the opposite roof, who were hanging out their Monday [Sep 30, 1918] wash. No time was lost in arranging the scene [Episode 5], with the huge water tank as the principle objective, for the villains must throw him, bound hand and foot, into the depths of water and leave him to perish.  According to the script these were the directions given, and a paragraph added: “But how in h—- —- is he going to get out of it?”

But Houdini smiled like the cat who had swallowed the canary, for who has ever caught him in a place from which he had not extricated himself?

Looking at the formidable sheet iron cover of the ugly tank made us shudder, Suppose this time he could NOT get out? Perish the thought.  But his left wrist was in bandages the result of a fall while making a scene [Episode 1] which caused a severe dislocation.

“Now let’s rehearse a bit,” ordered the director, and the beginning of the scene was gone over, with Miss Britton in yellow satin and black fox furs, leading the cutthroats up the stairs.  All was bustle and excitement, with Mr. King shouting: “You do this,” “You remember that,” “Action over there,” Move quick,” “Ye Gods do you think this is a funeral?” And then they had to go all over it again and the plate was marked N. G., for a cook on the opposite building had loomed forward in the focus of the camera, spoiling the scene.

Finally Houdini, roped and helpless, was carried up a ladder and thrown into the dark aperture of the big tank. “Keep it up,” called the director, as the camera ground rapidly,” “nail down the cover”-Bill, move faster keep going—speech—hurry—now let him…down, Joe—Miss Britton, make them follow you—righto-good-stop.”

That scene was over, but the great Houdini was wallowing in the rising water with hands tied behind his back and the cover nailed tight.

Cold chills crept over us as we waited.  Supposing he were DROWN? “Shoot” came the command, and in breathless suspense we waited.  Suddenly the cover was flung off the top of the deathholding tank, and Houdini dripping wet, his hands free from the ropes, and raced madly after the conspirators.

He had done the trick.

Yet they say a screen star’s life is not a strenuous one!

Source: Billboard October 12, 1918


Image courtesy of Kevin Connolly

Here are my notes from the UCLA archive of The Master Mystery that describe the Water Tower Escape footage (which doesn’t exist on The Miracle Factory, Kino, and McIlhany archives):

  1. Water Tower is filling up with water and Harry Houdini (HH) is unconscious.
  2. HH wakes up when the water hits his face
  3. HH frees his feet first and places them on ladder for leverage.
  4. HH frees hands and starts getting rope off body.
  5. HH’s head is underwater and then he turns his body and you see his head coming out of the water but the rope is still around his neck tied to pipe.
  6. HH tosses and turns and gets rope off his neck and starts climbing ladder inside the tank
  7. HH opens lid and goes down ladder on outside of tank.

Special thanks to Kevin Connolly for allowing me to share the image of the Water Tower Escape from his personal collection.