Houdini-opoly creators Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Scranton Houdini Museum just shared with me a RARE LETTER REVEALING AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OF HOUDINI’S PHILOSOPHY that is available at Manhattan Rare Book Company for $9,500. The description is as follows:
”The one great way to succeed in the world is to make up your mind to do certain things, go after them and get them…”
HOUDINI, PRAISING “DOGGED DETERMINATION” AND “STICK-TO-IT-IVNESS”, OFFERS HIS ADVICE ON THE SECRET TO SUCCESS.
The letter, responding to a request by an American teacher S.D. Green to offer inspiring words to his students, is typed on Houdini’s letterhead and singed in ink “Houdini”. It reads in full:
278 W. 113th St.
New York, N.Y.
October 6, 1922.
Mr. S. D. Green,
Department of Business Instruction,
Trenton, N. J.
Dear Sir: –
Just returned from Boston where I have been appearing in person with my latest production “The Man from Beyond”, therefore my apparent procrastination in answering your letter of Sept. 18.
You ask me to inspire a double quartette of boys to do better work in school, to be better citizens in the business world. What could be a better example than your “stick-to-itveness” [sic] in having written three letters until you pugnaciousness has caused me to write this letter.
The one great way to succeed in the world is to make up your mind to do certain things, go after them and get them and if they follow your example, they must succeed.
I have had a young man come into my office for five months. There was nothing for him to do but last night I had to rush him per special automobile to get the Wolverine express to get in Detroit in time. Had he not possessed the dogged determination to get a position in this field he would have been entirely forgotten.
Trust that the boys will look upon this example right in their midst as a far better example than going abroad and looking for the bluebird.
Houdini was famous for insisting that he didn’t have any special talents or magical abilities, but that his success was the product of intense hard work and practice. In an oft-quoted passage from a 1918 interview in American Magazine, he explains:
“You must not think for one moment that these things came easy to me; that I have done them because, for instance, I have ‘double joints,’ as they are called. I have only to look at the mirror to see the results of the hard, grueling work I have gone through. The constant mental and physical strain has turned my hair gray; and, at forty-six, I look ten years older than I really am… No one except myself can appreciate how I have to work at this job every single day, never letting up for a moment… In each tow where I play I hire an empty stable, or loft, or room, and here I put in hours upon hours of study and experiment. But when I have perfected a thing after weeks and months of study and practice, there is a sense of satisfaction I cannot describe….”
Written at the height of his fame, the letter to Mr. Green underscores Houdini’s deeply-held belief in hard work and dedication.
Note: “The Man from Beyond,” which Houdini mentions in the first sentence of the letter was a silent movie he starred in; it opened a few months earlier in April 1922.
WITH: A subsequent typed letter signed to Mr. Green from 1924 reading:
Dear Mr. Green: –
Your letter was mixed up with a bunch of mail. Came to light this morning.
You have my permission to use the letter written to you by me on October 6, 1922, for the purpose stated in your letter.
Will you kindly change the tautology in the fourth paragraph where I say “to get the Wolverine Express, to get to Detroit”.
Trusting you will attend to this.
Main letter: One sheet of 8×10.5 inch letterhead with Houdini’s image on the top left. New York: October 6, 1922. Usual folds; fine condition with very strong Houdini signature. Subsequent letter: 5.5 x 8.5 inch sheet letterhead, usual folds.