2013 – An Amazing Year for HHCE

Houdini Nuts Get-Togehter Nov 2013

2013 was an amazing year for Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence (HHCE) for a number of reasons:

Houdini Nuts Get-Together Exchange

Participated in an exchange of ideas regarding the life of Harry Houdini and his enduring effect on modern history with John Cox, Patrick Culliton, Arthur Moses, and Stacey Zimmerman.


Shared a number of not widely known facts about the Houdini movie starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh:

mysterio (Al Pitroff) 1913

Buffalo Evening News November 21, 1913 clipping courtesy of Bill Mullins

Researched and shared evidence WRT when Houdini may have first publicly performed his suspended strait-jacket escape from a building, as well as where he got the idea from:

Houdini Grim Game Limited Edition 1 of 10

Acquired a signed limited edition Grim Game Three Dimensional Giclée Print by Disney Artist Dave Avanzino:

Marc Wanamaker Bison Archives Grim Game Image

Photo courtesy of Marc Wanamaker, Bison Archives

Discovered several rare behind the scenes shots from The Grim Game in the book, Aviators in Early Hollywood by Shawna Kelly:

298-07 Ebay

Discovered the true identity of the police reporter in The Grim Game:

The Fort Wayne Journal - Gazette Fort Wayne Indiana 19 Oct 1919 Page 5B

Shared some incredible Grim Game ads and not widely known info about Houdini and the movie:

houdiniPaperRobotPages (1)

Shared some incredible Master Mystery ads and not widely known info about Houdini and the movie:

bustcloseupShared research on how many times Houdini’s bust was replaced:

Hall of Fame Back CoverShared memories and ads from Houdini Magical Hall of Fame:

Shared Houdini’s last message to the American public:

Shared Houdini’s connection with the last days of the Father of American Music (Stephen Foster):

Mentioned numerous times by John Cox at his Wild About Harry (Houdini) blog and Facebook pages:

And last but not least, my daughter had a baby girl, my son got engaged, and I survived a heart-attack.  I am truly blessed and look forward to 2014.

In 2014, I will start the New Year by sharing some new information I came across about the Mirror Handcuff Challenge.  You won’t want to miss it.  See you next year!

What is Houdini’s Greatest Stunt on Screen?

Care to take a guess?

1920 03 20 The Picture Show Image 1

During an half an hour interview, Houdini was asked the following question:

WHAT do you consider the greatest stunt you have done for the screen?

“ Another incident in the same picture,” answered Houdini.

“ I stood in the archway of a prison, thus –“ Here he took up a crouching position, in the corner of the room, and enacted the whole thing for my benefit.  “ A heavily loaded jerry, going at twenty-two or -four miles an hour rolled by me.  I threw myself on the ground, completely rolling over between the fast revolving fore and hind wheels over and over, till I caught the transmission bar, and hung there for very dear life! Thus was I carried to the aid of the heroine.  Though my words may not convey very much, this was my greatest stunt.  It allowed of no rehearsals – I said to the camera-man, ‘Get this now or never!’  And had I made the slightest false move I should have been crippled for life, if not killed ”.  [The Picture Show, March 20, 1920 p19]

Here is another account of the incident.

Here is another great stunt from the Grim Game.


The Prison/Truck stunt(s) sound amazing, as does the Strait-Jacket/Awning/Wall stunt(s). For me, I need to see the movie to decide which one is the greatest stunt.

Special Thanks to Bill Mullins who shared with me the “Half-An-Hour with Houdini” Interview and photo from The Picture Show Magazine.

1920 Kinema Comic Insert

1920 Kinema Comic InsertThis is a large paper insert issue given away with comics.  It measures 212mm x 103mm.

The writing at the bottom of the card reads:

Presented with No. 3 of the Kinema Comic, May 8th, 1920.
The Handcuff King

Note: Paramount-Artcraft was the picture company that made “The Grim Game”.  The Handcuff King image on the card is from still L302-55:

HHCE L302-55 11x14

According to Arthur Moses, the British Boys weekly “The Kinema Comic” ran a serial “The Amazing Exploits of Houdini” (“Written by Houdini Himself” – or so it says) and always began on page 6 and continued on to others.  These were tales of pure fiction with maybe 2% fact thrown in. The weekly serials began with the v1n1 April 24, 1920 issue.

Harold Kellock says in his book “Houdini His Life-Story” (1928) that “The Kinema Comic” serial ran for seven years.


The Master Mystery postpones Buried Alive Stunt on Stage

filmdaily Sunday Aug 25 1918 page 4

“The Master Mystery” Film Daily Ad – August 25 1918

Harry Houdini is recovering from injuries received while working in the new Houdini (Rolfe) serial [The Master Mystery] at Yonkers, Houdini bumping against a wall while making an indoor descent in a parachute. His left wrist was fractured and bruises suffered, but the injuries will not prevent him from opening with the Hip show, New York, Aug 22. [Variety Fri August 16 1918 page 6 Vaudeville]

“Everything” opens Thursday August 22, 1918 at the Hippodrome (aka the Hip) in New York.

Buried Alive on Stage PosterHoudini appeared with his left hand bandaged.  He explained that because of an accident in which his wrist was fractured, he could not present his burial trick.  But he escaped from a straight jacket, while hanging head down, at a height near the top of the proscenium.  He must have been in pain, for he never did the escape quicker in public. [Variety Fri August 30, 1918 page 16 Show Reviews]

Houdini felt called upon to apologize for the simple nature of his stunt. [New York Tribune August 23 1918]

Several acts left “Everything” at the Hippodrome Saturday [Nov 2], including Houdini, Reynolds and Donegan, and Gerda Guida, the Danish danseuse. They had been engaged on a ten-week basis with contracts expiring and not renewed.  Houdini had been working under a handicap ever since the opening of the show because of a broken bone in his wrist. [Variety Fri November 8 1918 page 5 Vaudeville]

When Houdini returns to the Hippodrome he promises to present the most sensational act he has ever attempted.  In full view of the audience, lying flat on the floor of the stage itself, he will allow himself to be covered with three tons of sand — dumped on him out of a big automobile truck.  Then he will dig himself up through the pile in less than 60 seconds.  To make it more difficult Houdini will be put in a strait-jacket before the sand is dumped on him.  The date of his reappearance at the Hippodrome will depend on his complete recovery from a recent accident in which he broke his wrist. [Variety Fri November 29 1918 page 7 Vaudeville]

Harry Houdini was in New York Monday [Dec 2] with the plaster cast off his wrist.  He has a ten weeks’ leave from the Hippodrome.  Three of them have been spent by Houdini before the camera [The Master Mystery].  He may play vaudeville during the other seven weeks outside Greater New York, according to permission given by the Hip management. [Variety Fri December 6 1918 page 11]

Buried Alive Poster 1926Buried Alive Stunt on stage is postponed until September 1926.  The escape is finally debuted at the Majestic Theatre in Boston:

  • John Cox blog – Ad shows Houdini performed Buried Alive in 1926
  • Dean Carnegie blog – Episode 3 Additional Information (Includes another 1926 Buried Alive ad)

Another Ending to the Tony Curtis Houdini Movie

TC JL Flower

Paramount Picture Corporation

Kevin Connolly over at Houdini Himself replied to my post that described two different endings with the following comment:

I haven’t read the script in a very, very long time, but I seem to remember that there was a third ending. As I try to remember it, I think it was just Bess (Janet Leigh) at the end by herself and Houdini has been dead for a while. I think she was doing something with a flower setting.

As promised, I said that I would do a blog about the third ending that Kevin mentioned.

The second draft screenplay (Yellow) dated August 5, 1952 ends as follows:

After Otto smashes the glass front of the cell with his axe, there is a close shot of a crystal vase of red roses on a table before a half-opened window.  A gust of wind whips the curtains back against the vase.  The vase topples to the floor and crashes.

We then see Bess dressed for traveling, packing a wardrobe trunk.  She crosses the broken vase, gathers up the red roses, and sees a small note twined around the stem of one of the roses.  She lays the roses on the table and curiously unwinds the note from the one red rose.  The wind whips the lace curtain across her face, shrouding it like a mourning veil.  As she brushes the curtain aside from her eyes to read the note:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Even after I’m dead

I’ll still love you.

As tears well in her eyes she glances up from the red rose to a faded yellow poster on the wall.  The music of the Dime Museum comes softly over the poster of Houdini at the age of twenty, wearing his ill-fitting dress suit and pulling a rabbit out of a silk hat, the age old symbol of the magician.

The End.