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?
Trivia: What did Rudy have to do with Houdini’s last performance in Montreal?
Click here for the answer.
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.
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.
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!
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 . 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.
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.
Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton have revealed three more pawn pieces for their upcoming HoudiniOpoly
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:
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?
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]