“Houdini Night” produced by Larry Weeks

Larry Weeks Magic Historian

Larry Weeks, the man who called himself “Houdini’s biggest fan”, passed away on October 13 at age 95. He was buried October 24, at Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, not far from Houdini’s grave just as he wished. The Official Houdini Séance in Danvers MA will pay tribute to Larry Weeks tonight on Halloween, the 88th anniversary of Houdini’s death.

Unfortunately, I missed my chance to meet Larry.

He was supposed to come to the Official Séance in 2012 in Fort Worth that I attended, but that was the week of Hurricane Sandy and his travel plans had to be canceled.

In 1981, I became a member of the Society American Magicians Southern California Assembly #22:

A short business meeting was held, and part of it was the third reading vote acceptance of Joe Notaro as a new member.  He is a student of Houdiniana and brought part of his collection in for exhibition.  He has photos, programs, posters, old and new books, and items of escapology. [MUM Volume 71 1982]

Had I lived in New York instead of Southern California at the time I became a member of the S.A.M., I may have met Larry and seen a showing of the Grim Game at “Houdini night” that he produced for Parent Assembly No. 1 in New York City:

The Oct 2 [1981] meeting of the Parent Assembly was truly inspirational.  A vast gathering of members, friends and guests met for “Houdini Night”, produced by Larry Weeks. Before the evening’s entertainment however, it was announced that the annual service at Houdini’s grave site will be held on Nov. 1st this year.

In keeping with the “Houdini Night” theme, Larry Weeks introduced those present who were friends, acquaintances, or scholars of Houdini.  These included: Sidney Radner, Mrs. Billie Dunninger, Dr. Joseph Fries, and Dr. Morris Young. [And Milbourne Christopher and Walter B. Gibson who each gave a talk and shared Houdini memories]

Larry displayed a miniature pair of Darby cuffs, which Houdini actually had made for his dog, Bobby, to slip out of.  The only escape dog.

Larry Weeks presented the entire film, “The Grim Game” Houdini’s first feature length film.  Although not an accomplished actor by any standards, Houdini’s skill and presentation were intriguing to watch.

A wonderful evening – thanks to Larry Weeks, Milbourne Christopher, Walter B. Gibson, Parent Assembly, and most of all Houdini

[MUM Volume 71 1982]

Have a Great Houdini Night!

H A P P Y  H A L L O W E E N !

Addendum:  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]

LINK: There Will Be No Fighting Over The Grim Game…Period!

298-27 Sphinx Sept 15, 1919 v18n7 (L302-27)

Sphinx Sept 15, 1919 v18n7

Many of us have been wondering what ever happened to Larry Weeks copy of “The Grim Game”.

As far as I know, it hasn’t been seen publicly since the 1980s:

Well, that could all change in the near future.  See Kevin Connolly’s post for more information.

Tomorrow, I will do a post about almost viewing the Grim Game at “Houdini Night” in 1981

Update: John Oliver was told 4 copies were made of The Grim Game and are now in private collections. Apparently a friend of John Oliver’s said he saw it last year at a home out east, and that after Larry Weeks passed they were to be made available.



Albany, October 12, [1926](By U. P.)  – Harry Houdini, the magician, has an incomplete fracture of one of the bones of the left foot, received last night when a 200-pound weight slipped and fell on his foot during one of his acts.  The muscles of the foot and other bones also were badly bruised, but his manager said today Houdini would appear at the theatre tonight, as usual.

Wood to Frikell Correspondence WRT Accident

This surprising communication was received by Samri Frikell [AKA Fulton Oursler] from Mrs. Wood, a medium, shortly after the accident to Houdini.

Three years ago, Doctor Hyslop: [meaning the spirit of Doctor Hyslop –Editor] said to J. Malcolm Bird of the Psychical Research Society: “The waters are black for Houdini,” and he predicted that disaster would befall him while performing before an audience in a theatre. Doctor Hyslop now says that the injury is more serious than has been reported and that Houdini’s days as a magician are over! [Spirit Mediums Exposed By Samri Frikell]

First off, I put very little stock in this weird prediction by Mrs. Wood. But what I find interesting is the ad attached to the prediction that describes Houdini getting hurt when a weight is dropped; There is no mention of the Water Torture Cell.

usdfull copy

Image courtesy of “The Key” by Patrick Cullition

I always heard the accident described this way:

While performing at the Capital Theater in Albany, New York, Houdini was being locked in the stocks and preparing to be hoisted upside-down over the Torture Cell.  But just as he was being raised from the stage, one of the cables loosened and twisted, causing the heavy stocks to shift and fracture his ankle. [WildAboutHoudini]

Another ad collaborates the 200 pound weight falling on his foot:


Houdini, Magician, Hurt When Weight Is Dropped

ALBANY, Oct. 12. – Harry Houdini, magician, who began a three day engagement at a theater here last night, suffered a painful injury to his left foot during the first performance. An X-ray examination today revealed an incomplete fracture of a bone and bruises to bones and muscles.  A 200 pound weight fell on his foot.  [The Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) 12 October 1926]

Silverman describes the accident as follows:

As Houdini was being hoisted upside down from the stage into the Water Torture Cell, during act 2, the cables twisted or swayed. The lurch cracked the clamped footstock and fractured his left ankle.  In one sense he was lucky. A physician later told him that if the stock had not broken it would have amputated his foot. Unable to stand on his left leg, he omitted the Upside Down but continued the show. The injured foot bandaged by a doctor backstage, he gave his act 3 anti-Spiritualist demonstration from a chair. With the aid of a splint and a leg brace he got through two more days of performances in Albany and three in Schenectady before opening in Montreal.

How would you describe the accident?

Special Thanks to Lisa Cousins for showing me the Magic Castle’s copy of Spirit Mediums Exposed By Samri Frikell which led me to get my own copy of the magazine.

UPDATE: Check out post by John Cox that gives Houdini’s version of the Albany accident.


Here is another account of the accident that goes with the image (i.e., ad) from The Key above:

Six inches, three seconds and the goddess of luck last night saved Houdini, master magician, from an injury which would have left his physical prowess only a memory.

When the heavy wooden frame binding his feet loosened as he lay flat on his back on the stage of the Capitol theatre, the vise-like snap of the stocks fractured his left foot.  He was being lifted by the shoulders for the beginning of the Chinese Water Torture Cell trick.

In another three seconds he would have been free of the stage.  Had the frame loosened then, its snap would have severed his leg.  Dr. Elwynn Hannock, who attended him, said today, Or had the frame struck his leg six inches higher, it would have snapped his leg, he said.

Houdini plays today and tonight.  When the foot is better, he will try the Chinese trick again.


There wasn’t a counter weight.  I found an article by Houdini Himself, in the January 1919 Strand Magazine where he states:

“It is this element of danger that makes my Chinese torture-cell a good trick. Before doing the trick the audience sees the narrow glass case filled with water and my legs clamped with a three hundred and fifty pound weight.  It then watches me as I am lowered, head downward, into the water.  In sight of the audience the case is then locked and closed.”


Image courtesy of houdinitribute.com


The Key has a photo with a caption that reads:

“Kukol handles the block and tackle while Vickery and Collins prepare to guide Houdini into the cell.”

The Key also says:

that Houdini laid flat upon his back on a mat resting on the stage floor while his assistants and members of the volunteer committee clamped down the stocks-shaped cover of the Cell upon his legs.  Ropes lowered from the flies were then hooked on to the corners of the cover securing Houdini, and by means of a windlass in the wings the cover was slowly raised until Houdini was suspended head-down, directly above the transparent and water-filled Cell…

It appears that the weight referred to in Newspaper accounts, is really referring to the stocks-shaped cover.


Has Houdini lost his marbles?

HH playing Marbles

The above item just recently sold on eBay for $1,115.00; It had 42 bids and 11 bidders.

The description of the item was as follows:

Another Large Album we are breaking up…Mostly Early Entertainment Personalities….Keep an Eye out since there are about 300 signed Pages ….

This album page is 10×13 with a 6 x 4 vintage page which is signed by Harry Houdini

Signed in fountain pen….I believe it reads….Yes Siree and like you are rustling this off in a Hurry…..Houdini   Jan.1925

Almost looks like Harry Houdini….Signature shows some wrinkling from gluing on the page…

I am doubtful if the signature can be removed…Certainly can be cut out or also simply left alone….

Newspaper or magazine images enhances the album page…

Also included the second page in the album after the signature entry which is a newspaper clipping about Houdini….

Begging to be framed……

Although, I suspect the main interest and value in this piece is Houdini’s handwriting and signature, I actually find the clipping of Houdini playing marbles, to be of much greater interest since I don’t believe that I have seen that image before.

HH playing Marbles w Boston Champion

It is an image of Harry Houdini playing an Exhibition Game with Jack Walkenstein, the Greater Boston Champion.

I tried to locate the clipping in online databases, but to no avail; if anyone knows where that image appeared, please let me know.

Congratulations to the winner!