See Houdini Escape while underwater on his Birthday!

H A P P Y  1 4 3 r d  B I R T H D A Y ! ! !

On Houdini’s Birthday in 1919, you could see him escape from shackles while under water in the Third Episode of “Master Mystery”.  Today, all you can see is Kino’s George Eastman House footage which is incomplete and suffers from severe nitrate damage.

That said, we know what Harry is wishing for on his birthday:

“Please release a complete version of “The Master Mystery” with all of its episodes complete” [Image:Missing scene from “Terror Island”]

We know Master Mystery is possible, not so sure about Terror Island:

May HH wish come true.  HBD HH!


Ottawa Manager Uses Horse Race to Boost “The Master Mystery”

According to the Exhibitors Herald and Motography Canadian Film News:

Manager Archie Laurie of the Strand Theatre, Ottawa, put over a neat stunt on the occasion of the presentation of the first episode of “The Master Mystery.”  Laurie seized the opportunity to secure considerable publicity by reason of the fact that a horse named “Houdini” won a race at New Orleans on the first day of the run, Monday, March 10 [1919].  The horse was a 10 to 1 shot, which fact made the boost more interesting.  He got in touch with the sporting editor of The Ottawa Journal, who readily consented to feature the winning of this horse in the report of the races.  The newspaperman also referred to the horse as “The Master Mystery” and then used a portion of his comment column to tell how a local race track devotee had cleaned up a pile of money by noting that Houdini was being featured at the local theatre on the same date as the horse was scheduled to run at Jefferson Park track down South.  As a result of this publicity, all the sport followers around town were talking about the hunch which the Strand Theatre had provided.

Laurie clipped the race report and the sport comment from the paper and placed them in a large frame in the theatre lobby.


Is the Houdini Museum one of the wierdest?

Here is a story on Penn Live that calls Scranton’s Houdini Museum one of the 9 weirdest museums in Pennsylvania.  In fact they are listed as Number 2.  Sounds awful, but when you read the story by the writer who attended the show he says…

“Scranton’s Houdini Museum features artifacts related to the life and career of magician Harry Houdini. Visitors are guided through the museum which is very small, yet packed with many amazing mementos from his life. The highlight of the museum, however, is the magic show conducted by two of the world’s best magicians, including Dorothy Dietrich, the only woman to ever perform a bullet catch with her mouth and escape from a straitjacket while suspended from a burning rope.”

Well, I had the distinct honor of visiting Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz at the Houdini Museum in 2015 and it was one of my best experiences:

I highly recommend you check it out and decide for yourself.

3 New HoudiniOpoly pawns announced

Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton have revealed three more pawn pieces for their upcoming HoudiniOpoly board game:
A Playing Card Pawn, a Trunk and a Plastic Gold Coin.
To go with:
Houdini’s Beer Barrel, Houdini’s Milk Can Escape, and a Hypnotic Eye.
Their kickstarter project ends in  3 days but turns out they keep it up for 2 weeks or more.  So there may still be time to participate at one of the following links below:

HH Fiction: Thoughts and Feelings of a Head Cut Off

Did Harry Houdini write a story titled, “Thoughts and Feelings of a Head Cut Off”?

According to Muriel Eddy:

I remember Mr. Eddy’s painstaking revision of Houdini’s: “Thoughts and Feelings of a Head Cut Off” ….. an experience which the master magician had undergone in his youth. Harry Houdini said in his story that somewhere in his travels he came across an ancient superstition that if a head was severed quickly and unexpectedly from a body, the brain in the head kept on thinking for several seconds!

According to Harry, the natives of Aden-Aden were anxious to test this theory, and when he visited that remote island they ganged up on him and ALMOST succeeded in amputating his head from his body….they must have been anxious to hear what the brain of a magician would think of, after it was separated from the body!

[BTW: Houdini owned a photograph (which can be seen on p. 107 of Meyer’s Houdini: A Mind in Chains) of decapitated sailors. A note on the verso in the hand of Bernard Ernst, Houdini’s attorney, states, “Picture taken on Houdini’s South Sea trip – sailors decapitated for mutiny on high seas.]

I am quite sure this story was never offered for sale by Harry Houdini, as it lacked the ring of veracity …  perhaps it WAS somewhat exaggerated! When we told H.P.L. about it he exclaimed:

“Oh, what I could have done with that story, but perhaps Houdini wouldn’t have liked it if I’d changed it TOO much. I took a lot of liberties with his “Pharaoh” story, but he seemed satisfied….but THIS one!” and a far-away look was in his eyes ……

Later on, we were discussing the possibility of the TRUTH of a brain functioning after death… and Lovecraft averred that perhaps the brain DID function.… for a few minutes after the death of one’s body.  It was a weird subject and there it ended! I sometimes wondered what Lovecraft’s true feelings regarding this matter really were!
[p. 18-19 The Gentleman From Angell Street, Muriel Eddy, 1961.]

According to Chris Perridas excellent HPL blog:

The sitz im leben [creation of alleged context] of the anecdote [short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person] has to be after the writing of “Under The Pyramids” (after February 1924) and prior to Houdini’s death (October 1926). Lovecraft was in New York nearly continuously from March 1924 to April 1926. Therefore one suspects that this would have been between April 1926 and October 1926.

There is no obvious reason to deny the veracity of Muriel Eddy’s report, thus it shores up the idea that Lovecraft, C M Eddy, and Houdini were in close communication.

Will this unpublished manuscript surface like the Cancer of Superstition manuscript or is it lost to history?


The Master Mystery Book Display Aids Serial Exploitation

Book Display Aids Serial Exploitation

A source of advertising which is creating a great volume of public interest in “The Master Mystery,” B.A. Rolfe’s super-serial starring Houdini, produced for Octagon Films, Inc., is the method employed in exploiting the novelization of the story published by Grosset & Dunlap.  The book was written by Arthur B. Reeve and John W. Grey after the scenario created by Arthur B. Reeve and Chas. A. Logue.

Through its distributing agencies, Grosset & Dunlap is placing the novelization of “The Master Mystery” in the book stores of every city where the picture is being shown.  Each shipment of books made by Grosset & Dunlap is accompanied by a suggestion for window display consisting of an attractively arranged lay-out of the books, embellished by the use of a quantity of 11×14 and 22×28 lobby photos.

So that booksellers will co-operate with the exhibitor and make the display at a time mutually beneficial, Grossman & Dunlap does not furnish the lobby photograph embellishments, but advises each of their customers to apply to the nearest theatre showing the Houdini serial for them.  As a consequence, the exhibitor is brought into actual contact with the book dealer with the result that both co-operate to the benefit of all concerned.

[Exhibitors Herald and Motography March 29, 1919]

Review of The Man From Beyond for the UK

It is not widely known that The Man From Beyond (TMFB) was released in the UK shortly after Houdini’s untimely death in 1926.

In a 2015 post, our friend, John Cox asked the question:

So who released the film in the UK in ’26, I wonder?

I shared with John that TMFB (5,700 feet) was reviewed and picked up by a London-based company (i.e., Unity Film Company) at a Trade Show on May 20, 1926 for release on Dec. 27, 1926.

[1927 The Kinematograph Year Book]

What I didn’t share was the actual review (page 64 below) from the May 20th, 1926 Kinematograph Weekly No. 986 that I obtained in 2015 from the British Film Institute:

There is another mention on page 62 in the same 1926 Kinematograph issue:

“Films at a Glance – Continued.”

Title and Renter:  MAN FROM BEYOND, THE  (Unity)

Running Time and Certificate: 60 min ()

Stars: Houdini

Type: Sensational drama

Remarks: Poorly constructed return-from-the dead story with rescue from waterfall climax.

Box-Office Angle: Mediocre popular book-ing.

Do you agree with the review?

Houdini in Riverside

The Mission Inn 3649 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, California

Houdini stayed at the Riverside Mission Inn while filming underwater “Deep Sea Loot” movie scenes at Elliotta Springs Plunge.

Elliotta Springs Plunge, 1920

Let’s take a closer look at the evidence.

Based on an autographed letter on Mission Inn stationary that sold at auction,

HOUDINI, Harry. Autograph letter signed “Houdini” to Don Turley, “We are out here on location. Xpect to be here about 5 or more days.”

Riverside, CA: 2 November 1919. 1 page on The Mission Inn stationery. With original mailing envelope addressed in Houdini’s hand. Condition: usual folds, envelope torn at right where opened. harry houdini autograph letter written while on location filming the master mystery.

Houdini was at the Inn on 2 November 1919 and expected to be there about 5 or more days.

I contacted Steve Spiller, the executive director at the Mission Inn Museum, for more information on Houdini’s visit.

Steve got back to me right away and let me know that he forwarded my request to Karen Raines, the curator of history at the Mission Inn Museum and Kevin Hallaran, the archivist at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum.

Karen was able to locate a November 6, 1919 article in the Riverside Daily Press paper that says he was staying in Riverside. She confirmed he did film the underwater scenes for the movie at Elliotta Springs, which is no longer there; it was up on Strong Street near Main.

Steve looked through their holdings and let me know that they didn’t have much information on Houdini’s visit, but did provide me a nice 1920 photograph of Elliotta Springs Plunge and an excellent reference to a book by a local author Joan Hall, called Through the Doors of the Mission Inn. Vol.1 that contained a very interesting chapter on Houdini’s stay in town.  Below are a few relevant excerpts:

In NOVEMBER 1919, the Riverside Press noted that world-famous magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, had been secretly staying at the Mission Inn for a week.  Normally, the publicity-seeking Houdini would have wanted the world to know where he was and what he was doing.  But in this instance Houdini was making a motion picture for Lasky Studio of Hollywood and he and the entire cast were quietly housed at the Inn.  Director Jim Cruze, a former motion picture star himself, was taking shots of Houdini in a series of underwater scenes at the Riverside’s Elliotta Springs Plunge. Crowds of fans were evidently to be avoided this time.

The plunge was located about a mile from the Mission Inn near north Main and Strong streets.  In 1898, William Elliott sank several wells to furnish a continuous flow of water to fill a large, public swimming pool.  The white sulfur spring water attracted swimmers as well as many early Hollywood motion picture companies.  Buster Keaton and Annette Kellerman were two stars who made movies in Elliotta.

While Houdini and the Lasky Studio crew were staying at the Mission Inn, Riverside experienced a sharp but quick earthquake on November 4.

Many years later, few Riversiders remembered Houdini had performed underwater scenes at Elliotta Plunge or that he had spent a week at the Mission Inn. The picture [“Deep Sea Loot”] was never completed and the Great Houdini received no publicity about his secluded Riverside visit.

Special Thanks to Steve Spiller, Karen Raines, Kevin Hallaran and Joan H. Hall for making this post possible.


Chef Houdini Recipes

In honor of Chef Gene, a fellow Houdini nut, who just got married, I thought I would do a post on Houdini recipes.

The first two recipes are courtesy of Houdini’s niece, Marie H. Blood:

  • Houdini’s Chicken Paprika:

  • Houdini’s Bread Pudding:

The last two recipes come from a couple vintage cookbooks I recently purchased.

  • Celebrated Actor-Folks’ Cookeries: A Collection of The Favorite Foods of Famous Players (1916), where Houdini has a recipe for “Bread-and-Butter Custard”:

  • The Stag Cook Book: A Man’s Cook Book for Men (1922), where Houdini has a recipe for “Scalloped Mushrooms and Deviled Eggs”:

Congrats Gene and Kirwan!  Hope you enjoy the recipes and the cookbooks.

Gotch Defeats Hackenschmidt and turns down Houdini

On April 3rd 1908 in Chicago, Frank A. Gotch defeated George Hackenschmidt the “Russian Lion” in an international wrestling match for the champion of the world.

Well supposedly in 1906, Houdini Defeated Hackenschmidt.   Let’s take a closer look.

According to Solomon in Disappearing Tricks:

The year 1906 also marks one of the earliest documented uses of cinema by Houdini. In March, a film listed as Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt was shown immediately after Houdini’s performance at Keiths Theatre, Boston. All we know of this film is its title and a one-word description in the unpublished managers’ reports of the Keith vaudeville circuit: “Fair.” The title of the film is ambiguous because it is not clear how Houdini might have managed to defeat the heavyweight wrestler George Hackenschmidt.”

Houdini befriended Hackenschmidt while they were both touring Europe. Hackenschmidt’s act consisted of feats of strength and displays of his muscular body.  It is quite possible that the victory over Hackenschmidt alluded to in this film’s title did not occur in an athletic contest.

According to Silverman:

“Not one to be outdone, Houdini threw Hackenschmidt. Like Sandow and other strongmen, Hackenschmidt had a popular music-hall turn, exhibiting his build in attitudes meant to recall statues. He and Houdini often compared receipts, Hack conceding that the boxoffice record of 210 pounds he set at Sheffield had been overcome only by Houdini, at 300. Houdini discussed with him the possibility of copromoting a top-rank wrestling match, and hoped to bring him to the United States, presumably as his manager to star in vaudeville.”

Well in 1908, Houdini made an offer to Frank Gotch through Harry Day the London Agent to appear in the London halls, but Gotch turned down England:

Later in 1908, there were ads that alluded to a likely return wrestling match between Frank A. Gotch, the champion of the world, and Hackenschmidt although Houdini was not the promoter or was he?