Is this flipped photo really from 1904?


The David Copperfield (DC) mirror cuff (shown above) is nearly always shown with its best side – with less plating missing.  It is believed that the Harry Houdini (HH) image in the photo was flipped to mirror it.  All other advertisements and postcards that I have seen, have the photo of HH holding the DC mirror cuff facing the other way without a date written on it.

This photo in DC’s museum has 1904 written on it, so does that mean it was taken in 1904? That’s what we are led to believe.  Note: March 17th, 1904 is the date of the famous Daily Illustrated Mirror Challenge.

Well, if we flip the photo (see below) to be facing the original way, 1904 becomes 4091.

10DCwithHoudiniPhoto_zps7986e002-1-300x234 flipped

So what does this mean?

Not sure, but we need to find when this image or a similar image was first seen.   Below is the first image, that I was able to find.  It has 1907 written on it, but it is actually from 1909. So far, not so good for 1904.

mirror handbill from laid bareHowever, below is a clearer image of him “sitting in a chair”, with the DC mirror cuff, but it is not dated.


If we examine his 1904 pitch book cover below of him “sitting in a chair”, it may very well be the same suit, hair, and chair as the image of him holding the DC mirror cuff.

harry023 (1)

1904 Pitchbook 20 pages Credit: John Bushey

The below postcard which sold at auction for $474 and matches the image on the 1904 pitch book shows it much more clearly, and it definitely appears to be the same suit, hair and chair and could have been taken during the same photo session in 1904.

HH Postcard Around 1904

Epilogue: On Saturday May 14th, 1904 Harry Houdini (HH) was presented with the solid silver manacle.  The solid silver manacle was always thought to be pictured in the photo with HH sitting, but we now know that it is really the DC mirror cuff.  HH obviously doesn’t want us to know that this is the DC mirror cuff, which could explain why he is covering the key hole and the center of the cuff in the photo. On March 20, three days after the challenge, Houdini offered a challenge to the Mirror that he would offer 100 guineas to anyone else who could get out of the cuffs with him present, which implies to me that HH was not supposed to be in possession of the DC mirror cuff. That said, it is likely that this photo with the DC mirror cuff was taken before he officially received the solid silver manacle and may have even been taken during his London engagement at the Hippodrome.

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Update: The photo from the 1904 pitch book also appears in The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin as well as a similar image in Silverman which was signed by HH on Aug 1904:

Photo of HH from The UnMasking of Robert-Houdin

Photo: The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin


Photo: Silverman

Update 2:

HRC 1904 photo

Photo: Harry Ransom Center


Ann Forrest as described by Houdini

298-82 snippetSnippet of Still 298-82 from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

HOW HOUDINI DID IT. Ann Forrest, who has played the heroine in Houdini’s picture, “The Grim Game,” at the Pentridge since Thursday, is described by Houdini himself as “one of the prettiest girls on the screen.” She was born the Isle of Fan, just off the coast of Denmark, and received her education there. She is of a true Danish type, with masses of blonde hair, large blue eyes, and the complexion of a milkmaid. Houdini referring to the love scenes he played with Ann Forrest, pathetically complained that he could not “love” Ann Forrest with Mrs. Houdini as a spectator. After a consultation, Houdini solved the problem giving his wife a cheque to spend in the bazaars, whilst the love scenes were being filmed.

[ Burnley News Saturday 20 November 1920]

Houdini to Write Kellar’s Biography

thegrimgame Arthur Moses Image

Kellar sitting in chair on set of The Grim Game Credit: Arthur Moses Collection

Houdini to Write Kellar’s Biography is the title of an article that appeared on August 16, 1919 in the Motion Pictures News Magazine.

Below is the text from that article:

The oldest of the great magicians of the past who is still living is Prof. Harry Kellar, Dean of the Society of American Magicians, now residing in retirement at Los Angeles.  Houdini is a particular friend of the famous conjurer and the latter had decided that the noted escape artist and star of “The Grim Game” shall write his biography.

Houdini is a well-known writer as well as illusionist, and has published numerous books on magic and kindred subjects.  He will begin at once adding to his large collection of data on the life of Kellar and will compile this material, adding the facts that he knows and will give to the story the continuity that will weld it into a delightful record of a most remarkable life.

According to Silverman notes, HH completed several hundred pages of the book, which remains unpublished in a private collection, together with some one hundred letters from HH to Kellar.

Just like the Grim Game, this material needs to become public.

Case For and Against Psychical Belief

The Case For and Against Psychical Belief Book Cover

On November 29 to December 11, 1926, there was a symposium, The Case For and Against Psychical Belief, at Clark University in Worchester, Massachusetts.

Mr. Harry Houdini was to have been a speaker in this symposium, but his untimely death prevented.

The ideas for a seminar had come to Dr. Carl Murchison (1887 – 1961) during a luncheon in the grill room of the Bancroft Hotel in Worchester, Massachusetts. The Clark University psychology professor was dining with Professor McDougall and Harry Houdini and began talking about spirit mediums, psychic phenomena, and other matters relating to psychical research. Professor McDougall and Mr. Houdini were on friendly terms, but disagreed “concerning certain matters that had become of wide social interest because of newspaper emphasis.”  Murchison suggested they and other noted authorities should argue the entire matter in a public symposium.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was unable to attend the symposium, but he submitted a paper, “Psychic Questions As I See It.” He believed the key to validating physical mediumship lay in ectoplasm.

20141125cDr. Crandon presented his wife’s Margery astonishing phenomena.le-roiMina-Leroi-Crandon-Houdini-demonstrating-the-Seance-Box-Sir-Arthur-Conan-Doyle5-520x313

In consultation with Mrs. Houdini, it was agreed that the best existing statement of Mr. Houdini’s convictions in this field are represented in the chapters on Slate Writing and other methods, Spirit Photography, Sir Author Conan Doyle and Houdini’s Conclusion from A Magician Among the Spirits.  This book was only two years old at the time, and Mrs. Houdini agreed that it still represented Mr. Houdini’s final convictions on the subject.


  • The Case For and Against Psychical Belief, Carl Murchison, editor
  • The Medium Who Baffled Houdini by Elaine M. Kuzmeskus

The last tricked “spirit” photograph of Houdini in 1926; Who are the Spirits?

I thought I would share a tricked photograph of Houdini that I came across recently.


To debunk the “spirit photographs” that mediums were claiming as proof of their communication with the dead, Houdini manufactured his own.

I wasn’t sure if I had ever seen this tricked photo before.  I searched my library of Houdini books and found similar but different photos of Houdini with the same “Spirit Extras”.

  • Christopher’s Houdini a Pictorial Life p 177
  • Kalush’s The Secret Life of Houdini Laid Bare p 248

Neither Christopher nor Kalush identify the so-called “Spirit Extras”.

Christopher refers to it as the last tricked “spirit” photograph of Houdini in 1926.

Who are the spirit extras?  Feel free to guess. Bragging rights for the first one to get it correct in the comments.