What’s Wrong with these Pictures?


GG DVD ARTWORKLet’s start with the obvious.  The DVD artwork for both pictures is from a poster from “The Grim Game”.

GG Posters

Now, let’s briefly discuss the two films that Houdini wrote and produced.

The film (“The Man From Beyond”) had its faults, but critics agreed that one scene alone was worth the price of admission.  “It has a whale of a punch,” Variety said. “Houdini does a sensational rescue of the heroine in the Niagara Falls rapids, and it has a kick that would carry any audience”.

Regrettably there was nothing in “Haldane of the Secret Service” to match the Niagara Falls rescue in “The Man From Beyond” or the fantastic escapes of his earliest films (e.g. “The Grim Game”).  He (Houdini) read his reviews with dismay. He compared his cost sheets with his income statements. Sadly, he removed his pending productions from the active file and brought his career as a picture producer to an abrupt finish. [Houdini, The Untold Story by Milbourne Christopher]

The Grim Game last seen in Allentown sixty years after Houdini’s Last Message to the American Public

Grim Game Lobby Card eBay

Thanks to John Cox at Wild About Harry doing some research at the Margaret Herrick Library, we have evidence that the Grim Game screened in 1974.  I was also fortunate enough to see this evidence at the library as part of my Grim Game research.

The Morning Call Logo

My latest research has uncovered the showing of the silent movie, “The Grim Game” at a 1986 magicians convention in Allentown PA.  Below is text from the Article by Bill Gernerd, that appeared in The Morning Call on September 05, 1986:

A magicians convention in Allentown this week may discuss a rumor that an unknown magician is planning to disclose the secrets of some illusions – such as sawing a person in half – on a videotape to be sold to the general public.

An estimated 250 members of the Magicians Alliance of Eastern States, a fraternal organization of magicians from Maine to Florida, are meeting in the Allentown Hilton.

Joseph Keppel, a Bethlehem magician handling public relations for the convention, said yesterday the subject could be raised during one of the convention’s business sessions. But he also indicated there’s a strong possibility “it won’t be mentioned” amid feelings “the less said, the better.”

He said thus far, no one knows the identity of the magician who’s going to make the disclosure. And he said he understands that the magician will be promoting his disclosure of magical secrets on some national television talk- show programs.

But that concern aside, Keppel looks forward to another successful convention, noting it’s the fifth time the Eastern States group will be meeting in the Lehigh Valley area. The group last met in this area in 1978 in Reading “because there were no good convention facilities here in Allentown.”

The Eastern States group grew out of an organization of four Pennsylvania magic groups, those in Allentown, Lancaster, Harrisburg and York, to initially form the Keystone Federation of the International Brotherhood of Magicians in 1931.

The late William Endlich, a Macungie dentist, founded both the state organization and the Eastern States group and served as the latter’s executive director to the time of his death in the 1960s, according to Keppel.

The group actually hosting this year’s convention is the Allentown Society of Magicians.

Keppel, incidentally, will be leaving in about three weeks for a European tour with one of the nation’s premier magicians, Harry Blackstone Jr.

And in conjunction with the convention of the magicians, the Lehigh County Historical Society has opened a display of magician’s “tools” in the museum in the Old Lehigh County Courthouse.

The society also will host a performance and lecture on the history of magic at 2 p.m. Sept. 14 and will sponsor a magic workshop for children, ages 7 through 12, Sept. 20 at 11 a.m. in the Gold Courtroom of the old courthouse.

The History of Hocus Pocus display will be available for public inspection until Jan. 7, 1987.

Meanwhile, the convention will close tomorrow with an all-star show, open to the public, at 8 p.m. in Trexler Middle School, 15th and Greenleaf streets, Allentown.

Among features for that show will be the illusions of Joe Eddie and Betty, who will be bringing with them a leopard and a 250-pound Burmese python. They will share the spotlight with Slap Happy, who recently appeared on a televised young comedians special; Harry Maurer, voted best opening act in Atlantic City, and Scott Drucker.

Other performers for convention activities will come in from Texas, New York, Washington and Ohio.

Another convention highlight will be the showing of the silent movie featuring Houdini, “The Grim Game.”

Most of the convention activities will be closed to the general public because performing magicians “will be explaining their tricks as they work them,” according to Keppel.


Houdini’s Last Message to the American Public appeared in The Morning Call, Allentown PA as part of an editorial about him the day after he died:

It is true, most unfortunately, that experience is a hard school but we must all learn in it, and no other.

The light of another’s experience will not illuminate the path of youth very much.  It is only after he has had his own hard knocks that he can profit by them.

Starting out thirty years ago as a magician, I have passed hundreds who did not know that success was just another name for hard work.  Those in the arrogance of their youth rarely listen to their elders.  Nevertheless, I say that inspiration plays little part in success and chance plays less.  What little success I may have had has come from making up my mind in early youth to be the best in my line no matter what is cost in hard work, and never to deviate from the course.

People often commend me for my courage; often say, indeed, that I am a performer of miracles of courage. This is far from true. I do nothing anyone else could not do with equal practice and years of toil.  When I train to jump from a high bridge, don’t think I jump from the great height all at once. It is all by gradual stages.  I get a ladder, and each day jump from one rung higher than the day before.  When I scaled a 7-story building in a certain motion picture, I started by climbing up one story and coming down, etc., till I had gone the seven. This is the whole secret of getting to the top of anything.

It is the same training under water.  I started by holding my breath 10 seconds, increasing it gradually (in a swimming tank) until eventually I could remain under for two minutes.  When I was half my present age I did four minutes in a tank.

Many scientists and students of psychic phenomena say I have supernatural power.  This obviously is absurd.

No one possesses supernatural power.  No supernatural power is manifested in this world. Do not, therefore, be superstitious.  Don’t be afraid of spirits or spooks! There are none. Don’t dash by graveyards. Don’t fear the dark. I have slept in haunted houses and cemeteries, and the only thing I ever caught was a cold.

UPDATE: Also, in 1986, after a broken wand ceremony conducted at Houdini’s grave at Machpelah Cemetery in New York, on October 31st, Larry Weeks gave a lecture on Houdini and showed “The Grim Game” at the Glendale Public Library which is a short distance from the cemetery. [The Magic Circular Vol. 80 1986]


Houdini’s Magic Shops to feature exclusive footage

Film-Canisters-e1296228725933While on the internet, I came across a post for the Houdini Picture Corp that implied Houdini’s missing movies have reappeared and will soon be on display and available to the general public at Houdini’s Magic Shops. Below is a snippet from the post:

Houdini’s movies stayed in the family for some years following his death on October 31, 1926. While in the basement of a brother-in-law’s home, the films were discovered by an inspector who ordered the cartons of films be removed immediately as they were combustible. Sadly, a fortune Houdini films were hauled off as rubbish. But like Houdini himself, the films reappeared and will soon be on display and available to the general public at Houdini’s Magic Shops.

Unfortunately, it did not take me long to realize that the Houdini Picture Corp post (which is not dated) is old and that the full hour of The Grim Game and missing footage from Terror Island and The Master Mystery will not be on display and available soon at Houdini’s Magic Shops.

Wishful thinking on my part!  My Bad!

For more information about the state of Houdini Films, see the plea from Patrick Culliton to “Safe the Houdini Films Before it is too late

See “The Grim Game” at the Hinson House on Saturday

Nitrate Film Canister 1Now that I have your attention,

While going thru my Houdini magazines, I came across an article, titled, “Houdini” by Marie Hinson Blood as told to Robert Olson.  This 25-page article illustrated with photos, clippings and other memorabilia gives some Houdini inside facts from an interview with Marie Hinson Blood, the niece of Houdini.

I thought I would share one of the inside facts in this blog:

Houdini made several movies and Marie can rattle them off just like that. “The Grim Game”, “Terror Island”, “The Man From Beyond”   and “The Master Mystery”. Her father had all of these movies.  Every Saturday friends would try and get into the Hinson house to see one of the films they would show. They could only take a certain number of people, others having to wait until the next Saturday evening. They were all on reels in big tin can with covers.  One day a fire inspector came and found these films stored in the basement.  Because of their extreme danger of being highly flammable, the inspector said they would suspend all of their fire insurance if they did not get rid of these films. So, her father threw them away. [The New Tops, September 1985]

I find the order of the movies that Marie could rattle off interesting, “The Grim Game” is first and “Haldane” is not listed.

If we could only turn back the clock.

I hope I am invited to the next Saturday evening’s showing of “The Grim Game”.