Houdini Hall of Fame Memories

Houdini Hall of Fame June 1980

Just recently, my mom came across some pictures of our family visit to the Houdini Hall of Fame in June of 1980.  Yes, that is me in the photos above.

I had been looking forward to this visit for over a year.  You see, I had written a letter to the museum the year before requesting some information.

The museum sent me some printed material (envelope is postmarked March 22 1979) that included a letter, postcard, brochure and a guide book.


Houdini Museum Response LetterPost Card:

Houdini Museum Post CardBrochure:

Houdini Museum 1979 BrochureHoudini Museum 1979 Brochure (other side)

Guide Book:

Houdini Museum Guide Book Cover

Although my visit was 33 years ago, I still remember it.  For me, the highlights were seeing the original mirror handcuffs (before they were unavailable to the public) and the water torture cell (before it burned down), although I don’t have a picture of me with either artifact.  The low lights for me, were that the items and displays did not appear to be well cared for; and there was not a museum magic/gift shop as advertised in 1979, although, I did leave with a souvenir poster of the Milk Can.

Houdini Museum Souvenir Milk Can Poster

Below is a page by page comparison of the 1980 Guide Book (from my family visit) with the guide book from the 70’s that the museum sent me the year before.

1980 GuideBook Comparison to 1979Below is the brochure from 1980.  Feel free to compare it, with the one from 1979 above for some subtle differences:

Houdini Museum 1980 BrochureHoudini Museum 1980 Brochure (other side)


Houdini Display is Dark Again at Whittier Museum (and remains Dark)

Two Weeks ago, I attempted to see the Houdini Display with the Russian Manacle at the Whittier Museum, but the docent with the key never showed up; apparently there have been some problems.

I called the Museum this past Friday and they promised someone would be there this weekend with the key. They told me to make sure I arrived before the last tour, which is at 3 pm.

On Saturday, my wife, son-in-law, daughter, grand-daughter and I made the trip to the Whittier Museum to try and see the Houdini Display with the Russian Manacle.

Grandpapa and Grand-Daughter at the Whittier Museum

Grandpapa and Grand-Daughter at the Whittier Museum

We arrived at 2:45 and the door was locked due to a tour in progress and only 1 docent on the premises.  There were 3 other people waiting that had arrived at 2:00 and were told by the docent that they could not join the tour that had just started, but would have to wait outside for the next one at 3:00.

We had driven in from Los Angeles and the other 3 people had driven in from Hollywood to see the Magic Exhibit.  At 3:00, our tour began with the docent telling us that the magic exhibit upstairs was closed and that we would be getting a tour of the down-stairs on the Whittier experience.  At first I thought the docent was joking.  This was not the case; we were told that we needed to arrive at 1pm to see the magic exhibit and we could come back tomorrow.  I let the docent know that I was here two weeks ago and called yesterday to confirm that I would be able to see the magic exhibit.  The docent confirmed what I already knew, he was the docent that was supposed to be here two weeks ago with the key.

Well, I wasn’t about to drive all this way a second time and not see the Houdini Display and the Russian Manacle or was I.

I can tell you one thing, at this point, there was no way my family was going to participate in a 45 minute tour of the Whittier experience. We were just about to walk out, until I finally was able to talk the docent into foregoing the Whittier tour and taking us upstairs to see the Magic exhibit.

The elevator doors to the second floor opened; Were we finally going to get to see the Houdini display and the Russian Manacle?

The first thing that the docent announces as we exit the elevator is that we can’t see the Houdini display on the right because the lights in the display won’t come on.

You had got to be kidding me.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone.

Apparently, 2 months ago, the museum had motion sensors for all the lights in the museum installed and since that time, the lights in the Houdini display have not come on.  So for 2 months and counting the highlight of the exhibit, display and museum has been in the dark.

Family trying to see the Russian Manacle in the Dark

Family trying to see the Russian Manacle in the Dark

After trying to see the Russian Manacle in the dark, I asked the docent if he was going to describe the other magic exhibits that were not in the dark; he proceeded to tell me that he was never given a script.  At this point, I took matters in my own hands and gave my family and the other 3 guests my own tour of the magic exhibit.

I don’t think the Society of American Magicians (S.A.M.) would be happy with how their collection is being portrayed by the museum and that the Houdini Display has been in the dark all this time.

Trek to Whittier Museum to see famous handcuff

Whittier Museum Magic Exhibit

Yesterday, I finally made the trek to the Whittier Historical Society & Museum in Whittier, California to see the exhibit called Behind Smoke and Mirrors: The History of Magic and Illusions that supposedly features one of the five famous handcuffs that are uniquely Houdini.

I say supposedly for a couple reasons.

First reason:  No one showed up with the key to open the museum so I never got to see the exhibit or the Houdini display that featured one of his five famous handcuffs.

What are the five famous Houdini handcuffs you ask?

Mirror Challenge Handcuff, Séance Handcuff, the Bell Handcuff, the French Handcuff with Letter Lock and the Russian Manacle.

What famous Houdini handcuff is supposedly on display?

Closeup of Russian Manacle on Display Board

Closeup of Russian Manacle on Display

Russian Manacle

Second reason: Is this really the famed Russian Manacle we see Houdini actually wearing in photographs?


Steve Santini has his doubts and John Bushey believes it is THE Russian Manacle.  See the Forum at Handcuffs.Org: S.A.M. collection in Whittier, for their expert opinions.

Either way, it would have been nice to see the exhibit and the Houdini display, which besides the Russian Manacle, included handcuff display boards created by Edward Saint and a dress worn by Bess Houdini.

The exhibit closes July 13th, so there is still time if someone has the key.

Police Reporter is West Point’s own Edward H Martin

GG Pressbook CastAs a result of last week’s blog, In search of the Police Reporter, I received an answer as to why one thinks that the actor Ed Martin from the Grim Game is none other than West Point’s own Edward H. Martin, USMA 1898:

I think “Ed Martin” is West Point’s own Edward H. Martin, USMA 1898 for two reasons:

1) Years ago the USMA Library was fortunate enough to have a collection of files about graduates from the nineteenth and early twentieth cents. that had been compiled by the USMA Association of Graduates (we still have them but they are in remote storage right now)- I looked in the file for EHM and found a card that stated that EHM late in life had become a movie actor, but did not offer much more than that (sometimes “information cards” were submitted by graduates who had knowledge of the activities o fother grads)

2) I recently did a search in the Ancestry.com Library Edition database and found an image of a WWI draft registration card filled out by someone named Edward H. Martin that gave his date of birth as July 2, 1874,his occupation as actor, and his employer as the “Lasky Film Co.”

[Paul Nergelovic, Reference Librarian, United States Military Academy Library]

I then asked Paul, if it would be possible to get an image of the WWI draft registration card:


Not only did Paul send me the WWI draft registration card image above, he also sent me links to some Oregon newspapers (scanned by University of Oregon] that have photos of Edward H. Martin.

A photo of Edward H. Martin from 1908:

EdwardHMartin Photo 1908


A sketch, same year:

EdwardHMartin Sketch 1908


If I compare the photos from 1908 with the 1919 stills from the Grim Game, the reporter on the right with the straw hat in the still below could be our man.

298-7 ebay What do you think?

Last but not least, Paul also got the Special Collections and Archives Division to kindly pull the file on Edward H. Martin from remote storage.  It actually contained a carbon copy of a letter dated  January 25th, 1936 from J.S. Murphy, Chief Clerk of the Oregon State Penitentiary to Mr. Quincy Scott, (of the)The Oregonian, Portland, OR. about the activities of Edward H. Martin after his release from the penitentiary; here is an extract of relevant content:

“…in March 1916, he went to work for the Thanhouser Film Corporation.  He remained there until October, 1916, when he moved to Los Angeles, Cal.  His address there being 827 Green Ave.  He was still working for the Thanhouser Film Corporation.  On November 13, 1916, he went to work for the Jesse L.Lasky Feature Play Co. …”

Based on all the evidence above, I think it is safe to say that the police reporter from The Grim Game is West Point’s own Edward H. Martin.

Special Thank You to Paul Nergelovic, Reference Librarian, United States Military Academy Library