Trip to New York is Extra Special

Last week, I shared my adventures in Scranton, PA with my friends Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz (D&D). Well the adventure didn’t stop there.  After three incredible days of being treated like a celebrity in Scranton, D&D took me to NYC for one more extra special day.

June 15th, Monday morning, I picked up D&D at the Houdini Museum and between the three of us we had a lot of fun navigating our way to Queens, NYC.  Once we got to Queens, we made a pit stop (which I highly recommend, LoL) and had lunch before proceeding to Machpelah Cemetery.  It was a beautiful day when we arrived.

1099What an incredible feeling came over me, when I turned right into the cemetery and saw Harry’s bust sitting atop the monument in all its grandeur for the first time in person.

1175Thanks to the efforts of D&D, this bust returned permanently in September 27, 2011 after going headless since 1993.

1227Visiting Houdini’s gravesite had been on my to-do list for years and now I could check that box.  It was definitely a surreal feeling.

1092That said, I was surprised, as was D&D, about a few things we observed at the site.


  • The grass looked like it hadn’t been cut in quite a while – Dorothy made a phone call and was told had they knew she coming for a visit, they would have cut it
  • Houdini’s grave stone was covered with tasteless cards, rust deposits from various items left, and graffiti (i.e., someone had actually drew a heart on it).
  • There was no sign of any work being done on the SAM Mosaic emblem, other than the fact that there were some additional stones missing since D&D last visit.

1134While, we couldn’t do anything about the missing stones on the SAM Mosaic emblem, we could do our best to clean up the gravestone, tasteless playing cards, and weeds.

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And speaking of missing stones, D&D have made arrangements to have Leopold’s and Gladys’s (Houdini’s brother and sister) markers that got vandalized in the early 1990’s restored permanently later this year.  The Gladys and Leopold headstones were damaged when they were used as batterers to destroy the benches (which have since been replaced). So I was able to see the benches that got replaced in 1996 by S.A.M. with help from David Copperfield and James Randi, the bust that got replaced in 2011 by D&D, and in the near future, Gladys and Leopold headstones being replaced by D&D.  Plus the SAM Mosaic tile will be getting a face lift hopefully soon, courtesy of the S.A.M.

1230While we were at the cemetery, we wanted to also pay our respects to Larry Weeks who passed away on October 13, 2014.  He called himself “Houdini’s Biggest Fan” and was the previous owner of the only known complete print of The Grim Game before he sold it to TCM in 2014 just before he passed away.  After a number of phone calls, we were finally able to locate where he is buried; which is just on the other side of the hill from Houdini.


After a nice afternoon at the cemetery, it was time to go to our next special destination, which wasn’t too far away. Oddly enough, it started to rain as soon as we made preparations to leave the cemetery.  Thank goodness, we had nice weather during our visit with Harry and company.

By the time we arrived at our next stop, the brief rain had stopped.

1351Our next stop was at Fred Pittella’s apartment which was like a Houdini and Escapes Museum.  This was not only a first for me, but also D&D. Our jaws dropped as we entered this shrine where every wall, display cabinet and trunk was filled with Houdini, Hardeen, and Competitors memorabilia. Fred by far has the largest and best collection of escape king memorabilia that I have ever seen.

1279This included an incredible handcuff collection which included extremely rare pairs of Bean Giants.

1349One of my favorite items was the original box and keys for Houdini’s Defiance Handcuff Act.


Credit: Fred Pittella Collection

Note: The Defiance Handcuff Act did not provide keys for at least two of the handcuffs in this ad: the Houdini Bell-lock Cuff and the Russian Manacle.

1309He definitely needs to publish a book on Escape Kings. Fred was an amazing host and allowed us full access to his entire collection. It was amazing to see the originals of so many items that have been published, along with items that have never been published. I wish I could have spent another day just going through his albums of rare photos, letters, playbills, and programs.  If I am ever in the area again, I will definitely take Fred up on his open invitation to come back anytime.

1483It was getting late and we had 8 pm tickets to Monday Night Magic, New York’s Longest Running Magic Show.  So off we went. The theatre was located in Greenwich Village at the famous landmark, the Café Wha?

1475There is a reason, this is New York’s Longest Running Magic Show; it was “that good”.

MondayNightMagic NYC 001The MC and performers were all first-rate professionals and each one in their own unique way contributed to a fantastic evening of magic and entertainment.  And the management there was great as well. I highly, highly, recommend seeing Monday Night Magic.

1486After the show, we walked around the block to a diner, had some ice cream and hung out with all of the performers and people that made the show happen.  D&D shared their thoughts and expertise with the performers. We were having so much fun, we lost track of the time. It was now early in the morning the next day and we still had to drive back to Scranton, PA.

After hearing some more amazing stories from D&D, we pulled into the parking lot of the Houdini Museum in Scranton,PA  about 4:30 am and said our emotional good-byes.  This was an extra special trip and experience that I will never forget.

Special Thanks to Fred Pittella for sharing his amazing collection and to Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz for a trip of a lifetime.

10 thoughts on “Trip to New York is Extra Special

  1. Thanks for that magical history tour Joe! Glad you and D&D had a great time. Had never heard of Fred Pitella’s museum until now.

  2. Thank you Joe! I will check on the web address from time to time to see when it goes up. Manhattan is on my bucket list for this October. It’s too hot right now for my tastes, but will visit Fred’s museum if and when I arrive there. I definitely want to see 278.

    • Hi Leo!
      I want to clarify. We went to Fred Pittella’s apartment to see his collection which was like a Houdini and Escape museum, hence the name of his website. D&D made the arrangements.
      We had planned to visit 278 as well, but just ran out time. It gives me an excuse to go back.

  3. Great stuff, Joe! So envious you got to see Fred’s collection.

    You know, this piling of junk on top of Houdini’s grave stone has to stop. I’m especially distressed to hear items are being left that cause rust stains. Knock it off, people!

    • Thanks!
      Fred’s collection is off the charts and a must see the next time you are in the area.
      WRT the grave stone, I couldn’t agree more; We need to show proper respect.

  4. Thanks for the report. Great to see people looking after HH’s grave as he had done for past colleagues in his lifetime. Bravo everyone.

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  6. I’ve visited Houdinis grave many times over the years. Last time was just a few weeks prior to your visit. The Macpalah gates were locked so I had to park my car at the adjoining cemetary and my wife and I then found a pathway….a creepy pathway…. to Macpalah.

    I do have a question…..I see that Hardeens headstone is far smaller than Houdini and others in his family aside from Gladys and Leopold (both missing in the above photos but I have seen them in the past). I know Gladys and Leopold were cremated. Was Hardeen cremated as well?

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