On Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, Patrick Culliton was interviewed and asked the following question:
Why do you think Houdini started to engage in anti-spiritual diatribe or became part of anti-spiritualism movement?
His chief assistant, a guy named James Collins said he first turned on spiritualists when he was a teenager.
His father died when he was 19 and there was some important insurance papers that they couldn’t find and Houdini pawned the watch his father had left him and paid a spiritualist to give him a reading and tell him where these papers were. And the papers weren’t there and the money was just gone and the watch was gone and that was sort of a pivotal event in Houdini’s life and kind of soured him on it.
H A P P Y F A T H E R ‘ S DAY ! ! !
We are very familiar with the above Prison Cell and Barrel Mystery Poster, which can be found in many Houdini books.
I recently just read a 2011 post that John Cox at Wild About Houdini did on the lost posters of Harry Houdini that referenced a 2010 post that Dean Carnegie did on the Prison Cell & Barrel Mystery
Both posts included the above photo of a Houdini theater display in Salem, Massachusetts, and commented about the poster on the right behind the packing crate possibly being a second Prison Cell and Barrel Mystery poster. Well, I knew I had seen a frontal image of that poster in a photograph when I visited Fred Pittella’s Houdini & Escapes museum during my special visit to NY in 2015. And that is absolutely a second Prison Cell and Barrel Mystery Poster. Below are two images I took during my visit that Fred has given permission to share.
Special Thanks to Fred Pittella
To kick off June, thought I would share a Pharmaceutical Calendar Ad from 1977, I recently acquired about Houdini escaping from prison when manacled in handcuffs and irons:
Before attempting one of his jailbreaks. Houdini had a committee of men thoroughly search him for keys, lock-picking devices or other implements that might help him escape.
He insisted that his escapes were authentic and had police certificates to prove that.
Before actually escaping from his prison cell, Houdini had to free his wrists and ankles from handcuffs and leg-irons.
[The ad goes on to describe various methods he would use to escape depending on if the handcuffs were regulation or not and whether he could reach the lock with his hand or not.]
Once his hands were freed, it was a simple enough to remove the chains and leg-irons. Only one step remained – opening the cell door.
[The ad goes on to say that Houdini was never very specific about how he performed this part of the jailbreak].
To get the real secret of the Cell Escape, highly recommend the David De-Val book
In honor of Memorial Day in May and Flag Day coming up in June, I thought I would do a quick post on Houdini’s “Whirlwind of Colors”.
This is the effect where Houdini turned a massive production of silks into a patriotic, get-on-your-feet extravaganza.
He performed it during the patriotic review show “Everything” at the Hippodrome during the 1918-19 season. Houdini did the silks from fishbowl production and produced a tame American eagle named “Abraham Lincoln” from the folds of a giant American flag. In reality, it was actually a red-tailed hawk passed off as an eagle that he trained himself.
This was also the last trick that Houdini performed onstage in 1926. That is for a finale, he drew from a small crystal bowl of colored water hundreds of yards of silken streamers and lastly a string of flags of all nations. Houdini collapsed at the end of the first act and this trick was actually finished by his assistants when Houdini was rushed to the hospital.
Source: John Cox, Patrick Culliton and Roger Dreyer
UPDATE: Fred Pittella just let me know that Houdini’s Whirlwind of Color is safe with him. This is how it looked when Bessie, Hardeen and Jimmy Collins performed it.
Image from Patrick Culliton’s The Key
And this is how it looks today in Fred’s Houdini & Escapes museum.
Special Thanks to Fred Pittella for allowing me to share.
Photo Credit: Images courtesy of Harry Ransom Center
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
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.
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.