Mirror Keys – “Hidden where no one can find them?”


The above press photo just sold on eBay for $97.50. Congratulations to the winner!

It is an amazing photo of Bess Houdini and the Mirror Cuff originally published on April 13, 1936, the day that Thurston died.

And what Bess said in the publication is just as amazing:


Back of Press Photo with words for publication

“She said the keys to the handcuffs have been hidden where no one can find them.”

What did she mean by this statement?

Notice that “keys” is plural.


0_0_5627_7892Oakland_Tribune_Tue__Apr_14__1936_ (1)


Below is the photo that just sold on eBay for $132.50 that is referenced in the comments below.

s-l1600 (3)

Here is another photo courtesy of WAH to ponder:



Here is another photo (dated November 10, 1936) from WAH to ponder:

bess mirror


UCLA FTVA Master Mystery Contents

UCLA Film Televison Archive Logo

As promised, I am going to review each incomplete version of the Mastery Mystery (i.e., The Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlhany and UCLA FTVA) that I have seen and go over what pieces they contain and don’t contain.  This post will focus on the UCLA FTVA copy of the Master Mystery.

The UCLA FTVA does not contain Episode 8 or Episode 10, but it does contain all of the other episodes ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15) on 16 mm safety print reels that were transferred onto two VHS tapes for non-circulating research and study.

UCLA Media Lab

Below are the UCLA Master Mystery Episode Descriptions:

Episode 1:

International Patents, a firm controlled by Balcom and Brent, has made a fortune by inducing inventors to trust the marketing of their inventions to their care, and then keeping the inventions off the market to protect holders of previously existing patents. Brent, tormented by a guilty conscience, decides to make amends and release the patents to the world. On the eve of his decision, he and his foreign representative, Flint, are stricken down by the Madagascar (or laughing) Madness. A giant automaton, whose secret retreat is under the home of Brent, administers poison by the smoke of candles and pursues Eva, Brent’s daughter, to her boudoir, while Quentin Locke, the newly hired manager of Brent Laboratories, has been bound in a straight jacket brought by an ambulance which came to remove Brent to the sanitarium.

Episode 2:

International Patents, Inc., a firm controlled by Balcom and Brent has made a fortune by keeping patented inventions off the market. A giant automaton that lives under the home of Brent has secretly administered poison through the smoke of candles that causes the Madagascar (or laughing) madness. Quentin Locke, the newly engaged head of the laboratories endeavors to aid Eva, daughter of Brent in solving the mystery. While Flint is captured by the automaton and given an antidote for the laughing madness, Locke has a chemist friend working to find an antidote for Brent. Through Flint, the automaton arranges for Eva to go to to the docks in order to get a antidote, as she mistakenly thinks that Locke and the chemist have failed. While Eva is chased by the automaton, Locke is thrown from the dock by henchmen while bound and shackled in chains.

Episode 3:

Balcom and Brent, owners of International Patents, a firm that has made a fortune by keeping patented inventions off the market, quarrel, the outcome of which leaves Brent stricken by the “Madagascar (or laughing) madness.” A giant automaton whose secret retreat is under the Brent house is responsible for the crimes committed and Quentin Locke, the newly engaged head of the laboratories endeavors to aid Eva, daughter of Brent, in solving the mystery. In attempting to find an antidote to restore Eva’s father to sanity, Locke has been thrown from a dock by the emissaries of the automaton. Miraculously he escapes. One of the emissaries is captured and put in jail, and Locke impersonates him in order to get to the automaton at the acid mills. Eva is coerced into going to the acid mills to meet Locke, but instead is abducted by the automaton. Locke is left suspended over a seething vat of acid, with Eva unwittingly the key to his demise should she open the door to where Locke has been shackled.

Episode 4:

Balcom and Brent, owners of International Patents, Inc., a firm that has made a fortune by keeping patented inventions off the market, quarrel; the outcome of this leaves Brent stricken with the Madagascar (or laughing) Madness). A giant automaton whose secret retreat is under the Brent house, is responsible for the crimes committed. Quentin Locke, the newly engaged head of the laboratories, but secretly an agent of the Department of Justice, endeavors to aid Eva, daughter of Brent. Captured by the emissaries of the automaton, Locke is suspended over a vat of seething acid, but miraculously manages to escape. Locke decides that one of the patents, for a diving suit, must be tested. He knows that if anything happens to his airline it would mean certain death. The automaton sends one of his emissaries underwater to cut Locke’s airline. Locke manages to escape the diving suit, but is then shackled and put in a crate to be thrown off the dock, while Eva is in the clutches of the automaton.

Episode 5:

International Patents, Inc., a firm that has made a fortune by keeping inventions off the market, is owned Balcom and Brent. Brent has been overcome by a giant automaton whose secret retreat is under the Brent house. Quentin Locke, a Department of Justice operative, has fallen in love with Eva, daughter of Brent, who is engaged against her will to Paul, son of Balcom. Seeking evidence, Locke goes to an old warehouse dock, where he is abducted by emissaries of the automaton, shackled, put in a crate, and thrown off a dock. Miraculously he escapes. Locke goes to Deluxe Dora’s penthouse to ask questions and investigate Paul, but he is caught in a trap when a smoke bomb goes off. Deluxe Dora and her henchmen take Locke to the roof, and tie him to the bottom of a water tower. When water begins pouring in, it looks like certain death, but miraculously, he escapes. Locke and Eva meet at the apartment of Davis, the inventor who was promised restitution by Brent before his attack of laughing madness. Locke and Eva find themselves in an apartment with a ticking time bomb, planted by Zita Dane.

Episode 6:

International Patents, Inc., a firm that has made a fortune by keeping inventions off the market, is owned by Balcom and Brent. Brent has been overcome by a giant automaton whose secret retreat is under the Brent residence. Quentin Locke, a Department of Justice operative, in trying to solve the mystery, keeps an appointment at an old inventor’s where a bomb has been planted, timed to explode at eight o’clock. When the bomb goes off, the automaton is carried away by his emissaries. Eva and Locke tend to the dying inventor, who says that the automaton was created by a fanatical inventor in Madagascar named Dr. Q, who gave the automaton a human brain. Eva announces her plans to call for the release of all the patents at the directors board meeting the next day. Eva and Locke, on the trail of the automaton, find themselves in the clutches of a “Mad Genius” who has invented an electric chair. While Eva is abducted by the automaton, Locke is strapped into the electric chair, which means certain death.

Episode 7:

Quentin Locke, accumulating evidence against Herbert Balcom of International Patents Inc., enters the den of Dr. Q, the mad inventor, with Eva Brent. They are overpowered by a giant automaton and its emissaries, and Locke is strapped in an electric chair. Locke escapes in time to rescue Eva from the clutches of the automaton. Quentin follows Paul to the Black Tom Cafe, his underworld domain. There Quentin finds Deluxe Dora, who says that she will help him implicate Paul in illegal doings, but it is a ruse. Quentin and Eva find themselves led into conspiracy’s tangled web. Dr. Q’s emissaries wrap Locke up in barbed wire, while the automaton pours deadly acid on the floor that starts to flow towards Locke struggling on the ground.

Episode 9:

Quentin Locke, at the command of the automaton, is overcome, bound, and thrown beneath a descending elevator, while Eva has been abducted. At the very last minute, Locke escapes his bindings and manages to escape, aided by Zita Dane who is dressed like a man. Zita Dane admits that her jealousy of Eva and Locke prevented her from intervening earlier. To the Chinese Curio Shop comes a man from Madagascar, and Long Fang, a Monarch of the Underworld, is introduced. Deluxe Dora tells Eva Brent that there is a man who knows of a cure for Eva’s father, but he sails for Madagascar that night. Eva and Locke are led into a trap at the Chinese Curio Shop, and are attacked by the automaton and its emissaries. Locke is strapped to a wall.

Episode 11:

At Paul’s instigation, Eva has been abducted; and one of his followers disguised as a minister attempts to perform a false marriage ceremony. Quentin Locke, meanwhile, has been bound and placed under the coverings of a sofa, where he is left to the tender mercies of the Madagascan. After a miraculous escape and a brawl with Paul’s men, Locke follows the wounded Paul to a fishing shack. Zita Dane hides Paul in the attic of the shack, and Locke swears that he will find him. While Eva is being abducted by the Automaton, Quentin Locke is tied and bound head to toe in a fishing net.

Episode 12:

Quentin Locke, while in pursuit of Paul, is overpowered by the emissaries of the Automaton and is entangled in the meshes of a fishing net, while Eva is left helpless before the advance of the Automaton. Locke miraculously escapes the fishing net and they escape. Eva acquires proxies that give her absolute control over International Patents, Inc., and now she can force Balcom out of the company. Locke gives Balcom 24 hours to arrange his affairs before his arrest. Balcom persuades Locke to come to his apartment, under the pretext that Balcom will turn state’s evidence. Meanwhile, Zita and Paul join forces at the home of Dr. Q, and decide on a pretext to get Eva to the office of a hypnotist on River Street. Locke arrives at Balcom’s and the apartment is full of unseen chlorine gas. Zita decides to save Locke, explaining her secret love for him. Zita and Locke rush to the hypnotist to save Eva, and Locke finds himself trapped in a noose, suspended over a fire trap.

Episode 13:

Eva, hypnotized by a medium and carried through a secret panel into a Chinese Temple, has been turned over to the Automaton and its emissaries, to be offered as a sacrifice to the rays of the Burning Eyes of the Fire God. Quentin Locke, attempting her rescue, is made captive and suspended over a fire trap with a noose around his neck. Miraculously he escapes in time to save Eva. Zita Dane, reaching the cross roads of conscience, offers further assistance in untangling the affairs of International Patents, Inc., while at the same time trying to find records to confirm that Brent is her father. Balcom prepares to do away with important documents to conceal his manipulation of the company. An important clue is the record of Zita’s birth, which would help solve the mystery. The Automaton takes Brent, while Eva and Locke discover that his cave is beneath the Brent house. Locke encounters Balcom in the secret passages of the cave, and both are buried in an explosion.

Episode 14:

While trying to solve the mystery of the Automaton and the underground passages beneath Brentrock, Quentin Locke encounters Balcom and a struggle ensues. An explosion occurs and they are buried beneath the wreckage. Meanwhile Eva and Zita have sought to discover an outside entrance to the underground retreat. Balcom has been killed by the explosion, and Brent is rescued. Dr. Q finds that with Balcom’s death, he is no longer under his influence, and discovers from Balcom’s diary that Zita Dane is his daughter. He explains to Locke, Eva, and Zita that Balcom, knowing his hatred for Brent, brought him back from Madagascar. Balcom took advantage of Dr. Q’s insanity, and used his invention, the Automaton, to accomplish his evil ends. Many years previously, Balcom had told Dr. Q that his wife and children were dead, one of the blows that wrecked his intellect. As Dr. Q announces that with Balcom’s death the Automaton will bother them no more, the mechanical man bursts into the room.

Episode 15:

[No description was supplied by UCLA]

The Episode Title Cards listed the episode number (e.g., Six) followed by Part One:






Episode Six Part One

This was followed by FORWARD title card(s) and footage recapping the previous episode.

Each episode ended with the following title card:

The continuation of the


will be shown at this theatre


As far as I can tell, these 13 episodes are complete with the following exceptions:

The last title card from Episode 1 found on all other versions (e.g., Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlany) is not included:

As the shadow on the sun dial lengthened.

The Baker’s Dock sequence in Episode 3 shows two thugs left on the dock instead of three after HH and the first thug hit the water. Kino’s George Eastman House footage shows three thugs left on the dock at this point and then mentions a second thug hurling himself into the water to finish the task that cost the first thug his life. But UCLA FTVA does show a giant fish swimming [not on George Eastman House footage] when all of a sudden there is a splash from HH and the first thug hitting the water.  The first thug is then seen floating up, which is followed by HH escaping his chains.

So to make the most complete 15 episode Master Mystery, we need the 13 UCLA FTVA episodes, plus Episode 8 from Kino (or McIIhany EPISODE 4] and Episode 10 from Kino with the addition of the first part of UCLA FTVA Episode 11 that recaps where Episode 10 left off.  Plus, we need to add one title card to Episode 1 of the UCLA FTVA version and merge the UCLA FTVA Baker Dock sequence in Episode 3 with the George Eastman House footage found on Kino.



William H McIlhany Master Mystery Contents


Master Mystery 1918 VHS McIlhany 1998 001

As promised, I am going to review each incomplete version of the Mastery Mystery (i.e., The Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlhany and UCLA FTVA) that I have seen and go over what pieces they contain and don’t contain.  This post will focus on William H. McIlhany Special Edition Video released in 1998.

Master Mystery McIlhany Video Release FrontMaster Mystery McIlhany Video Release Back

The Master Mystery (1918) Video Release by Williams H. McIlhany by arrangement with The Douris Corporation Owners of the Raymond Rohauer Motion Picture Archive runs for 193 minutes on two VHS tapes. Part 1 of 2 runs for 1 hour 56 minutes and Part 2 of 2 runs for 1 hour 18 minutes.

Edited from the original 15 chapter serial (1918) with full music score & editorial notes.

The following title cards appear at the beginning:

William H. McIlhany presents


The Master Mystery (1918) starring Harry Houdini


Released by arrangement with The Douris Corporation Owners of the Raymond Rohauer Motion Picture Archive


Digitally Mastered by James Starr


Music by Michael D. Mortilla Published by MIDI-LIFECRISIS-BMI Copyright 1998, All Rights Reserved.


Special Edition Copyright 1998 William H. McIlhany.  All rights reserved.


The Master Mystery, digitally titled the Houdini Serial was copyrighted in 1918 and released in 1919 by B.A. Rolfe and Octagon Films.  Houdini was forced to sue the producers to recover about $33,000 of his promised share of the profits.


What you are about to see may be the best surviving version of this 1918 serial, Rohauer edited the serial, originally 15 chapters, into approximately 11 chapters.  Compared with the novel based on the original 15 chapters, the Rohauer version contains most of the story content.


The missing footage included repetitive chapter openings. We have added footage not in the Rohauer archive and hope that an even more complete video release will be possible in the future.


Raymond Rohauer Presents HARRY HOUDINI in THE MASTER MYSTERY (1919)

It added its own Episode Title Cards [EPISODE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 8, and 9] which had no correlation to the original 15 episodes with the exception of Episode 1 and part of Episode2.  EPISODE 1 included Lockpicking a door, a Handcuff Release and Straitjacket escape.  EPISODE 2 had him tied to wall with rope.  While tied to wall with rope, EPISODE 3 had him using his feet to strangle a guy, get his key’s and open door [originally in Episode 2];  EPISODE 3 also included packing crate escape [originally in Episode 5] with underwater footage not in Kino, and concluded with Barbed Wire and Acid [originally in Episode 7].  EPISODE 4 started with Barbed Wire escape [originally in Epsiode 8] and ended with being bound in rope in an elevator shaft [originally in Episode 8].  EPISODE 5 had him escape the elevator [originally in Episode 9] and concluded with the Strangulation Torture [originally in Episode 9].  EPISODE 6 started with Strangulation Torture Escape [originally in Episode 10] and ended with being put in an Electric Chair [originally in Episode 6]. Episode 7 included the Electric Chair escape [originally in Episode 7].  After EPISODE 7, the following title card appeared:

The following footage from three Rohauer chapters has been arranged in what is believed to be their original order

EPISODE 10 flashed on the screen and was followed by Fishnet escape [originally in Episode 11/12].  EPISODE 11 followed with the Noose escape [originally in Episode 12/13].   After EPISODE 11, we go to EPISODE 8 where he frees himself from underground wreckage [originally in Episode 14] and then the serial concludes with EPISODE 9 [originally in Episode 15].  After the serial was over, the following title card appears:

Additional incomplete chapter footage not in the Rohauer archive.

This included some nice footage of him hanging over vat of acid and the Baker’s Dock scene where he is thrown overboard in chains.

Unfortunately, The Jail Cell with the X-ray view of the lock, Diving Suit escape, Water Tower escape, and sofa escape are missing, as is much of the story.

That said, the William H McIIhany Special Edition Version contained all of the original footage, escapes and spoken title cards that appeared on Kino.  And it contained the underwater packing crate footage not on Kino, as well as the Baker’s Dock Chain Escape without the nitrate damage that appeared on Kino.

Next week, we take a closer look at the UCLA FTVA Master Mystery Contents which will fill in the rest of the story and the missing escapes.


Lovecraft Letter – Astrology, Superstition and Intervention of the Gods

[The following is a post that I wrote in January 2016 to be published at a later date, but based on a post today by John Cox titled, The Cancer of Superstition is FOUND!, which announced that Potter & Potter Auctions will be auctioning off a 31 page unpublished work in progress for The Cancer of Superstition, I thought I would share it now:]

In 1926, the magician Harry Houdini hired Lovecraft and his friend C.M. Eddy, Jr. to write an entire book combating superstition.  This work – perhaps analogous to Houdini’s previous work, A Magician among the Spirits (1924), a debunking of spiritualism – was to be called The Cancer of Superstition.  Houdini had earlier asked Lovecraft to write a rush article on Astrology, for which he paid $75.


Houdini Astrology Article by Lovecraft

Below is the first part of a letter dated Oct 26, 1926 from Lovecraft to his rumored best friend Frank Belknap Long:

Young Man: –

These occasional outings are, I assure you, most amply earn’d; for I am just now coping with the most hectick reincarnation of David V. Bushism imaginable.  My neo-Bush is our slippery friend Houdini, who was here early in the month, and rushed me to hell preparing an anti-astrological article to be finished before his departure – a matter of five days; for which I received the not wholly despicable renumeration of seventy-five actual dollars.  He says he has a devilish lot more for me to do, and has been trying to get me to meet him in Detroit at his own expense to talk things over – but I have maintained that I can do business best within sight of my native town’s Georgian steeples.  Just now I note in the paper that Houdini has had a breakdown – which must have occurred just after the last letter he sent me – so I fancy there will be a lull in negotiations.  I’ll send him a line of sympathy to jolly him along.  Poor Eddy, who with my aid has been doing some revision for the nimble wizard, is quite worried about his unexpected intervention of the gods.

No historical record exists at this time to suggest that Lovecraft did indeed extend those best wishes to Houdini to “jolly him along”.  If he did send the line of sympathy, it didn’t work, for five days after the letter was written, Harry Houdini would pass away.

Houdini’s untimely death on October 31, 1926 derailed the plans for the Cancer of Superstition book, as his widow Bess did not wish to pursue the project.  That said, parts do survive.  In 1966, Lovecraft’s detailed synopsis for “The Cancer of Superstition” and “The Genesis of Superstition” part written by Eddy was first published.

It was originally thought that the astrology article did not survive, but in April 2009, HP Lovecraft’s unpublished astrology essay for Harry Houdini surfaced and sold on eBay [item 120404416969]  for more than a solid five grand.

The guy who won the item is a Lovecraft guru in Utah and is on every Lovecraft panel at various conventions.  He bought it because he recognized the historical significance. Interestingly, this article was unknown for so long because magic collectors were passing it around because it had Houdini’s signature on it. There was talk that the winner might sell it to Brown University Lovecraft collection.


However, on August 16th, 2013, the first of the astrology hand-written pages started to be sold on eBay [item 370716061710].  The listing implied that each page would be offered for sale except for the last page signed by Harry Houdini, which would be kept by the seller.

Does anyone have any updates on the whereabouts of these pages?

It would be nice if copies of these pages on Astrology were published.


  • Collected Essays Volume 3: Science – Edited by S.T. Joshi
  • Selected Letters II – H. P. Lovecraft
  • eBay

KINO Master Mystery Contents

TMM KinoAs promised, I am going to review each incomplete version of the Mastery Mystery (i.e., The Miracle Factory, Kino, McIlhany and UCLA FTVA) that I have seen and go over what pieces they contain and don’t contain.  This post will focus on The Kino International DVD released in 2008.

The 1918 original was slightly longer than 5.5 hours. The back of the Kino DVD case implies “that portions of THE MASTER MYSTERY no longer survive today.  The Kino edition runs almost four hours, and bridges the missing passages with explanatory text.

Below is the explanatory text that appears on the DVD:

The remainder of episode three exists in fragmentary form.  Surviving footage of the Baker’s dock sequence suffers severe nitrate deterioration.  It is presented here by special arrangement with the George Eastman House.


A second thug, an expert swimmer, hurls himself into the fray to finish the task that cost the other his life.


In episode four, Locke investigates the emissaries by posing as a prison inmate.  He intercepts a secret message, but is accidentally locked in the cell.  Employing his escapists talents, Locke frees himself and (dressed as one of the emissaries), infiltrates the gang.  He is soon unmasked and dangled by his heels over a vat of acid.


In episode five, Locke decides to test a “self-liberating diving suit,” with Eva’s assistance. Beneath the waters of a nearby cove, he is shocked to encounter another diver.  The fellow diver draws a long knife and, “There, under the sea, commenced a battle royal.”  The underwater assassin severs Locke’s oxygen tube, but Locke manages to escape the water-filled suit.


The ingenious diving suit is reclaimed by a boatman, but when Locke goes to retrieve it, he falls into another of the emissaries’ traps.


After escaping the packing-crate, Locke is apprehended, bound and placed in a tank, which is steadily being filled with water (thus concluding episode five).


Episode six concludes with Lock [Locke] once again a captive of the emissaries, being strapped into the “Chair of Death”.


[End of episode 10] “During the mock wedding ceremony, Locke’s body is hidden inside a couch.  The Madagascan stabs the couch, presumably killing the man within. “


“In episode eleven, it is revealed that Locke avoided the blade of the Madagascan’s knife. Locke tracks the criminals to a fisherman’s shack.  His efforts to arrest the emissaries are thwarted by an old hags and he is wrapped in a fishing net, while the automation stalks Eva.”


The Kino DVD also has the following disclaimer title cards before it starts:

“THE MASTER MYSTERY was first released

in 1919 as a fifteen-chapter serial.


Portions of the film have been lost.


To compensate for the missing footage,

various distributors condensed and

rearranged the episodes to give the film

the illusion of completeness. “


This edition restores the episodes and

surviving fragments to their proper sequence,

using as a blueprint the published novel and

documents in the archives of the

New York Censor Board.


The Kino Video version was thought to contain chapters 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14 and 15 in complete form and fragments from chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 11.

Episode 1 is almost complete except for a couple of close-up shots (e.g., note written to Locke and a note written to Brent) that appear in the original.

And episode 2 that was thought to match the original does not.

Episode 2 includes the straitjacket and Houdini tied to the wall with rope, but does not include Houdini escaping from wall and the Baker’s Dock Chain escape until Episode 3 [both appear in Episode 2 in the original]. The Baker’s Dock sequence footage from Harry Ransom Center also suffers severe nitrate damage on the Kino version.  A more complete version exists without severe nitrate damage.

Most of episodes 3, 4, 5, and 6 are missing which includes the jail escape, vat of acid escape, diving suit, underwater footage of packing crate escape and water tower escape.  Although part of the vat of acid escape appears in “The Censor’s Report” which is part of the Special Features on the DVD.

Episode 7 is complete except for a few missing original title cards throughout.

Episode 8 appears complete.

Episode 9 is complete.

Episode 10 appears to be almost complete except for the end and Episode 11 is completely missing.

Episodes 12, 13, and 14 are complete.

Episode 15 is almost complete except for a close-up shot (i.e., note written to Locke) that appeared in the original.

Next week, we take a closer look at the William H. McIlhany Special Edition Master Mystery Contents.