Catchy Novelty Used For Houdini Serial

 According to the Exhibitors Herald and Motography May 3, 1919:

An advertising novelty that has caught the fancy of the theatre-goer and has therefore been the means of gaining no little amount of attention in behalf of the production it exploits is the invisible ink herald manufactured as an accessory to advertise the appearance of Houdini, the handcuff king, in “The Master Mystery,” the super-serial produced by  B.A. Rolfe for Octagon Films, Inc.

A sheet of paper but four or five inches in size, this novelty herald contains no visible ink advertising copy beyond the question, “Can you solve the mystery?” printed at the top of the sheet, and a footnote printed at the bottom instructing the processor to hold the sheet over the heat for a short while.  When these instructions are carried out the heat brings to the surface a scene from “The Master Mystery”, picturing Houdini caught in the coils of the villians of the story, together with the following reading matter: “How does he escape? See Houdini in B. A. Rolfe’s super-serial, ‘The Master Mystery.’”

On August 12, 2016 Chuck Romano did an excellent blog, Houdini – Movie Marketing – Part 2, where he noted:

  • Motion Pictures News also mentioned this clever novelty
  • Collectors can only dream if one of these rare pieces of Houdini ephemera still exists

At the time, I commented that A Master Mystery Hold-to-Light Mystery sheet does exist.  One (Lot 131) sold at Potter & Potter Auction on April 9th 2016 Auction for $325.

131. Houdini, Harry. The Master Mystery Hold-to-Light Mystery Sheet. New York: B.A. Rolfe, [1919]. Promotional novelty advertisement (4 1/8″ x 5 1/4”) for the Houdini serial, revealing an illustration of Houdini held captive by two men, upside-down in chains, and captioned “How Does He Escape?” when held over a heat source. Creases, corner tear upper left.

Well, apparently another one of these rare pieces (seen at top of this post) has surfaced and was part of a lot of Houdini Memorabilia on eBay that sold for $45.  Congratulations to the winner.

LINK: L302-26 Grim Game Still in Color

The following is a snippet from an article by B.G. Henne that appeared on January 23, 2015

“It’s probably a good thing that Weeks waited so long to part with the film, if he handed over the reels in the ‘80s when TCM was bonkers for colorizing everything, it could have wound up looking like this:”

Click link below to read full article and see full still in color

What was the Worst Fix Houdini had ever been in? Part 2 of 2

In part 1, I asked the following question:

  • So, if you asked Houdini what was the worst fix he had ever been in, what would he say?

Well Charles F. Oursler caught up with him one day in Baltimore Maryland while he was lunching and asked him that very question:

“They had contrived a trap from a bent sapling, to which I was bound, and the devilish feature about it was that if I made one false move, I would dislodge the lowered end of the sapling, send it flying high into the air, and probably tear myself almost in half.

But I got out.  I dislocated my ankle in doing so, but I got out. Yes, that was about the worst fix I ever was in. I don’t want any more like it. “

Source: The Eagle Magician Volume 1 No. 11 September 12, 1916

Houdini Connection – Potential Economic Impact to Community

“The Houdini connection is worth an estimated $1 million a year in economic impact in the community” according to an Associated Press (AP) story for the economic impact of the Houdini connection for the small populated area of Appleton, WI, where Houdini spent just a small part of his childhood. This, even though Houdini famously said: “The best escape I ever did was the day I left Appleton!”  Imagine the huge  impact Scranton’s Houdini Museum has in the Northeastern U.S. area which draws from over 55 million people, or about about 17% of the U.S. population on less than 2% of the nation’s land area.
Here are a few recent ways Scranton’s Houdini Museum is reaching out and bringing these potential customers to their area:
1) Associated Press newswire story covered around the world with 5 sample links:
2) On Mysteries at the Museum, The Travel Channel, twelfth time this year alone.
Apr 29: Saturday, 8am | 7c
Mysteries At The Museum: Doyle & Houdini
      Filmed at Scranton’s Houdini Museum
Doyle & Houdini, Host Don Wildman examines a captivating portrait.

      The Travel Channel put it up on youtube and Amazon as well.

3) HoudiniOpoly! Highest funded & most backed KickStarter in Scranton history. The 2nd highest funded Houdini project in KickStarter history.



What was the Worst Fix Houdini had ever been in? Part 1 of 2

So, if you asked Houdini what was the worst fix he had ever been in, what would he say?

 “I was performing in a portion of the west where there were a great number of Indians.  They were vastly interested in my performances, and when the sweeping challenges which I had issued were translated to them, they were deeply moved at what they regarded as my arrogance and effrontery.  They determined to test my powers.  Forthwith one of the big-wigs of the tribe sent me a messenger, who demanded to know if I would submit to be bound as they dictated, and agree to escape from their toils.  At first, I was tempted to stipulate that the nature of the test be explained to me beforehand, an invariable rule in my challenges.  But here was an unusual case.  The teasing uncertainty of it; the advertising possibilities; and many other features about it; appealed to my imagination.  I did not know what I was doing, but I told the Indians to ahead and do their worst.

The theater was crowded with Indians the next evening.  I invited their committee on the stage, and told them to proceed, I was then at their disposal, and made the most of their opportunity.  They bound me with thongs, and twisted the fetters until I could have struck them in my pain, but I let them go on.  I got out in less time than they required to bind me.

Would you believe it, they were not satisfied?  They wanted still further proofs of my prowess.  The next day a committee of red-skins called upon me and begged me to come to their land, where they gave me, then and there, about the worst test to which I have ever been subjected.”

Care to guess before I reveal the details in my next post?

Amazing Terror Island Related Photographs Sell at Auction today

Congratulations to the winner(s) of the above two photographs (Lot 304 and Lot 308) that sold at the Potter & Potter Spring auction on April 8, 2017 for $1500.00 and $1000.00, respectively.

304. Houdini, Harry (Ehrich Weiss). Candid Photograph of Houdini Aboard a Ship, Annotated by Houdini. Circa 1919. Houdini stands at the center of the deck, his arms wrapped around his wife, Bess, and a girl identified as Lila. Another woman, identified by Houdini as “Minnie” sits at his left. The annotations in ink on the image are in Houdini’s hands, with a later inked in date of 1919 at the lower left. 4 x 3 ¼”. Scrapbook remnants on verso, else good.


308. Houdini, Harry (Ehrich Weiss). Photograph of Houdini and Company Aboard a Train Car. Circa 1920. Houdini and eight other individuals, including his wife Beatrice, stand on the rear of a train car. Houdini, at the left, has one arm outstretched. Old ink notation in the lower margin identifies several of the individuals. Possibly taken during the production of a Houdini movie. 7 x 5”. Corners with slight damage.

These are amazing photographs for a number of reasons:

  • The girl identified as Lila is none other than Lila Lee, Houdini’s co-star in the movie “Terror Island” (TI).
  • The woman identified as Minnie in Lot 304 may very well be Minnie Mooser, sister of Hattie Mooser.  Both knew Houdini well. Both women were born in Nevada, Hattie in 1878 and Minnie in 1881, but grew up in Sacramento and lived in Los Angeles before ultimately moving to San Francisco.
  • There is speculation that Houdini may have been romantically involved with Lila and Hattie:
  • The man identified as J. Cruze in Lot 308 is none other than James Cruze, the director of “Terror Island”.
  • The photos most likely were taken while Houdini was filming the movie “Terror Island” on Catalina Island and Riverside respectively.  Houdini appears to be wearing the wooly jacket and light pants found in a number of stills for the movie. Still 318-9 can be seen below for comparison.

In addition to the photos, a nice Houdini Terror Island Movie Program (Lot 313) sold for $850.00

313. Houdini, Harry (Ehrich Weiss). Houdini Terror Island Movie Program. The Hippodrome Weekly, Vol. 1, No. 24 for the week of July 26, 1920, featuring Houdini and Lila Lee in a scene from Terror Island on the front wrapper. The interior features a “rhymed interview” regarding the film, and the program. Small 4to. Uncommon.

Houdini and Hardeen are Step-Brothers!!!

A P R I L  F O O L S ! ! !

Image courtesy of John Cox Collection

However, according to an article, When Houdini was President” by William Frazee in a 1953 MUM:

Some of the New York City boys told me that the research department of Paramount studios discovered that Houdini and Hardeen were step-brothers.  Well, it is no surprise to any of the old timers as we all knew this, but it came as a surprise to the younger generation.  As Houdini was the oldest one and both had the same mother, what was Houdini’s right name?

That said, Okito, a friend of William Frazee, wrote in the January 1954 MUM, that he had often heard rumors, yet could not possibly substantiate this fact.  In the same article, Okito mentioned that when he visited his late friend Ottokar Fischer in 1926 he proved to him by authentic documents that Houdini was born in Hungary and that his name was Ehrich Weiss.

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!