Tag: Houdini

The Year in Review, 1926

To All our Magic Friends, We Wish You a Happy New Year!

2019 is upon us and we thought it would nice to look back on 1926.  We intend for this to be a yearly feature but didn’t think of it until now so we are starting with earlier years and working our way up to the present day.  We figure by the time the sun burns out, we will have matched the year in review with the previous year.  We’re happy that we will have completed our task but a little melancholy about the end of the universe as we know it.  And we know it as having a heat and energy-radiating center that affects our planet according to the portion of the globe facing the center.

But we began this post with the word “Happy” and we should continue in that vein.

Unfortunately the year 1926 wasn’t good for the magic world.  Harry Houdini died just after 1 pm on October 31st of that year in Detroit.  See the New York Times coverage of the event here. He did not pass performing the Water Torture Cell (aka “Upside Down”) but from a vicious (or as our spellcheck suggested “viscous”) attack in Montreal. His remains were moved to New York for burial days later. Some historians suggested he was being silenced by agents for Spiritualists.  Houdini was intensifying his efforts to expose the fraudulent practitioners.  Others suggested it was an accident, still others believe it was just an an attempt to humiliate Houdini gone wrong.  Whilst talking with the students, Houdini accepted a challenge from one of them to be punched to demonstrate his excellent musculature.  The student punched the great magician before he could get ready and continued punching until Houdini asked him to stop.

The punch(es) may or may not have ruptured an appendix that may or may not already been infected, thus spreading infection through his peritoneum and leading to his eventual death.  He allegedly left an estate worth $6,743,910 in today’s figures. According to a November 1st edition of The Montreal Gazette published ten-years after his death, Houdini’s spirit could not be encountered by séances attended by his wife or brother.

For all things Houdini, we turn always to Jon Cox’ incredible site, Wild About Harry.

So, that was one of the big news magic items during that year.    Earlier in October, 1926, the film The Magician was released.  It was panned for being too gross as one would expect when one is dealing with using the blood of maidens to make life; with the central character being a magician and a surgeon.  Critics have later praised the film for its innovative storytelling and cinematography.  We haven’t seen it yet and understand at least one of the scenes is “unwatchable” for the gruesome transformation of a character bitten by a venomous snake.  We’re not big on watching others in pain, so we might fast forward through this section and determine later whether it is essential to the plot.  The movie had nothing to do with Houdini – who scrupulously avoided drinking or obtaining blood from maidens and stuff.

Carter the Great published one of his greatest posters, “Carter Accused of Witchcraft.”  The poster is remarkable and dark.  It features the gallows on which he will be executed and text giving us hope that the great magician will cheat death and perhaps prove he is not using witchcraft.  We would have included the image for you to peruse but the only link we could find was from an eBay auction and we have a policy about endorsing products for sale – especially where we don’t get a cut.

“Professor” Joseph Dunninger published his Popular Magic Book in 1926.  The book cost fifty-cents.  In today’s money that would be $6.78 plus shipping.  Things are not as cheap as they once were.  It used to be we could buy just about everything (except for TVs) cheaper than we can now.  If we had a time machine, we would use it to go buy things in 1926 and tell Houdini to avoid Montreal.  We would sell the things we brought back through the time vortex and feel good that we helped Houdini live a long and valuable life.

Continue reading “The Year in Review, 1926”
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What Goes Into Inventing a New Magic Trick?

What goes into inventing a magic trick?

That’s a question we are trying to answer as we develop, possibly for sale, an effect that could be popular with close-up magicians.  Because that’s what we do, close-up magic, it seemed natural to make commercial offerings of the tricks we do for audiences in the amateur rooms at The Magic Castle.

So we have this trick that audiences seem to enjoy and it really just depends on sleight of hand invented by our forbears.  We don’t know who invented the classic force – perhaps Johann Hofzinser back in the 1800s or someone more recent.  We want to credit the right person and so we search.  We can tell you one thing for sure, do not look up “Classic Force” on Google from your work computer.  Wow.  There is something not right with this world.

The second part of the trick involves a false pass of an object.  Who invented that?  Maybe one of Hofzinser’s friends or students or maybe it was T. Nelson Downs (“The King of Koins”).  We want to credit this move to its rightful owner as well.

But inventing a trick means more than giving credit to the right person.  We found we needed to write instructions for magicians wishing to practice the effect and performing it to maximum effect.  We are not big on giving a link to the magician and letting him or her find the instruction video on-line.  It seems impersonal and an easy way out.  We’re more of a UF Grant kind of organization with illustrated instructions covering each move and describing how to perform said move.

Let’s assume we get past the crediting and the instruction writing, the next step will be to come up with a name that grabs users’ attention.  We never had a name for this trick.  It was always just the effect we working on.  We’ll have to work on that as well.

Finally, we have to write ad copy that doesn’t mislead potential buyers.  We want to be honest about the effect to be presented from the audience’s point of view, the skills necessary to perform the effect, any angle issues, and whether the performer will need to practice to perform.

Let’s assume we get the ad copy correct and have no blatant lies in our listing, we will have to get friends and associates to write one sentence, objective recommendations for the effect.  We know some influential people and maybe they would be kind enough to write such praise.  We’d like some of the praise to follow the current trend of “fooled me badly,” “the kind of trick you will carry always” “I was floored” “Not since biblical times has such a miracle been seen,” “I rank the inventions as Sliced Bread, [the yet to be named trick] and the cotton gin,” “if I could buy only one trick that I would use constantly it would be …” “the finest trick of its kind anywhere” or the ever popular “I wish this wasn’t being sold so I could be the only one who had it.”

Then comes the pricing.  We don’t know how to price an ordinary deck of cards (with which one can perform second deals) and the special gimmicks that make the trick possible.  We’re thinking the cards could be supplied by the performer so we would only need to send the gimmicks.  They don’t weight too much – maybe a couple of ounces but they are specially made and cost us about $14 each.  So we’re looking at a total cost of $30 or so.  By checking mark-up of similar effects, we figure that means we should charge anywhere from $45 to $75.

Of course the second we launch the effect, we’ll learn from the various forums that the trick was actually invented by someone either a year ago or back in the 1920s.  We’ll feel terrible, apologize and take it off the market.

That’s just how we work.  We believe in not stealing effects, even if it is done without actual knowledge.  We don’t steal jokes either.  In fact, we have a non-stealing philosophy about most things – we’ll steal a kiss from our sweetie or steal fake fruit from a movie set if the script calls for it – but otherwise we’re this side of taking things we don’t own outright.

We wonder how so many magicians can invent new tricks, take the criticism of theft that comes from the magic public; or worse, failure to properly credit the innovators who invented parts of the trick.  They must have iron constitutions.  It would send us into a shame spiral – and not a good kind where you’re ashamed that you won a beauty contest over someone who came in second only because she couldn’t remember a good answer to one of those questions asked by celebrity judges.  A bad kind of shame spiral where you doubt everything you have ever done and assume no one like you.

We thought about copyrighting, patenting or trademarking the trick to prevent theft – assuming we are the inventor of the trick but our research shows that none of these intellectual property laws would help.  Copyright goes to the expression of an idea on paper or in action.  We could copyright our instructions but someone could come along with a new set of instructions and avoid a copyright claim.  A trademark only protects indications of origin of the effect.  As long as the thief differentiated the source with a new trademark or name for the trick – which right now would be easy because it doesn’t have a name – he or she would be scott-free.  A patent would not help because we would have to expose the secret to the patent office and to the world.  There would be nothing to sell, the secret would be out.  There are plenty of examples of patented magic tricks.  We would normally link such things but do not want to give away secrets — even very old ones.

Maybe we’ll keep the trick in our act, teach magicians we know if they ask, and watch as they improve upon it in their performances.  No shame spiral is likely and pride is almost certain to come.

If you see us and want to know the trick (assuming you are a bona fide magician) we’ll share it with you if it isn’t already obvious from our performance.  Sharing is caring and we care deeply about our wonderful art and the friends we have met.  The same friends we would have imposed upon to write glowing reviews such as “I literally lost control of my bodily functions upon seeing the effect,” or “this is the kind of trick with which you can start a cult.”

Houdini Magic Shop Owner Aids JFK Investigation

Geno Munari, magician and owner of Houdini’s Magic Shop in Las Vegas and, most importantly for us here in Southern California, Disneyland, had a key role in finding historical documents related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Harry Connick, father of performer Harry Connick, Jr. served as district attorney in New Orleans and in that role ordered the destruction of files related to JFK’s assassination.  Apparently the order wasn’t followed and some of the files, 67 boxes in total, remained.  The police officer charged with destroying the documents thought they may have some historical relevance and copied them for safekeeping.

Years or decades later, the files showed up on eBay and Mr. Munari bought them.

Investigation enthusiasts and scholars are delighted the files still exist and are combing the boxes for insight into the assassination, according to the website American Free Press.

As a side note, Inside Magic once uncovered files relating to the attempted theft of a magic trick invented by a rather famous magician who travelled through the United States.

Paw Paw Lawton was a part of the Inside Magic staff back in the day when we distributed this blog through cutting and pasting together a newsletter sent to over 20 subscribers on our list (six were members of our own family or claimed to be related by marriage.  The image above was our first logo.  In the latter case, it turned out that Tony Spain was not properly married to our sister-in-law because he had been married three previous times, to the same woman, and none of those marriages were properly ended by divorce.

Tony has held a grudge against Inside Magic since and once had a website called, Down with Inside Magic and its Terrible Blogging (downwithinsidemagicanditsterribleblogging.io).  That site became inactive after one or two (actually one and a half) blog posts and our recent check of the very tough to remember or type URL shows the site is long gone.

Our sister-in-law was devastated and turned over to Paw a letter in which Tony was about to publish Paw’s Glass and a Half where liquid was poured into a glass from a pitcher and yet was able to hold all of the liquid poured.  Sort of a Multum in Parvo but with the added benefit of no set-up.  The trick was never published by Paw or Tony.  Tony is lazy and never got around to publishing the secret or claiming the trick was his.  Paw thought the secret was too good to share because he kept it in his act until his unfortunate passing in the early 2000s.)

But from that one experience we realized how important pieces of paper could be.  We used to think paper with writing on it was a novelty that would fall out of fashion.  After extensive research, spurred by our sister-in-law’s jilting, we learned that many things were written on paper; such as the Magna Carta, the Constitution of our very country, and shopping lists.  That discovery in the early 1990’s essentially changed our way of thinking.  So imagine how excited we are to learn that a magician, Geno Munari purchased 67 boxes of pieces of paper and audio tapes for any reason, much less the New Orleans’ investigation of the Kennedy assassination.

We are old enough to remember the assassination although our memory is only of the funeral and the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.

We credit our outstanding memory to taking some extract from jellyfish that we learned about on a late-night/early morning infomercial.  We didn’t even know jellyfish had brains much less great memories.  We wonder often what the typical jellyfish remembers.  Perhaps good times as a young jellyfish with its jellyfish mom and dad and its ambitions to be a great jellyfish that other jellyfish will remember in their great memory banks right before they are used to make supplements that we purchase online.  But that’s us.

We wonder about a lot of things, constantly.

We wonder why jellyfish, with their great memories, would put themselves into a position where they could be used for the scientists who derive the extracts.  We wonder if by taking the extracts to help our own memory, we are actually capturing some of the jellyfish memories.  Perhaps that is why we like the ocean so much.  Maybe we are living the hopes and dreams of so many jellyfish.  Or maybe we just like getting wet and having sand in our shoes and walking uncomfortably back to our car to deposit the sand throughout.

We just bought a new/used Nissan Eczema and love it  but it is filled with beach sand and the interior smells of dead fish.  We don’t know why they stopped making it in 1989 but it is a great car with very few seatbelts but it does have a cigar lighter that works so we have that.

Back to our story.  We are delighted to see Mr. Munari’s name associated with this historical event and subsequent investigation that has lasted since the assassination of JFK – more than 15 years have passed since November 22, 1963, maybe more than 15, but at least 15 years.  We’re not good at math.

Check out the full story here.

Visit Mr. Munari’s Houdini Magic Shop here.

Science Channel Greenlights Houdini Series

The Science Channel is set to carry a docuseries titled Houdini’s Last Secrets.  The series purports to be an expose of Houdini’s effects by looking at the scientific and engineering allegedly utilized in the effects performed by the great magician.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series will feature not only engineers and scientists but illusionists to “unravel the mystery around the man who caught a speeding bullet, survived live burial and imprisoned himself inside a water tank, spurring celebrity and conspiracy theories. The show will also look into the late magician’s personal life, through authentic scrapbooks, letters and pictures, to piece together his legacy.”

Each of the episodes will seek to discover the secret behind one of Houdini’s effects.

Said Science Channel General Manager “Harry Houdini is the definition of mind-blowing. He was clearly ahead of his time when it came to using engineering to accomplish his stunts, so much so that his methods continue to be debated by today’s master magicians. It’s no wonder that just the name Houdini still stirs the imagination of people, nearly a century after his death.”

Variety reports that the first effect to be explored / exposed will be the Water Torture Cell escape and the other shows will include stunts that we don’t believe Houdini actually performed such as “burning alive” and “catching a bullet.”  In fact, we are rather sure Houdini did not perform the bullet catch after receiving advice from Kellar.  We defer to John Cox, the Houdini expert, for his recollection.

The best scenario would be that the scientists, illusionists and engineers on the show fail to solve the mysteries and keep the secrets safe but unfortunately, we fear that won’t happen.

The show is set to premiere on the Science Channel on January 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Read The Hollywood Reporter’s exclusive on the show here.

Check out John Cox’ Wild About Harry website here.

Magic, Mystery and Houdini in New Play

The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini was a comic book from 2017 and is now set to be a multi-level New York play with three different takes on the story.

According to the website ComicBook.com and The Hollywood  Reporter, detective Minky Woodcock, star of Titan Comics and Hard Case Crime’s graphic novel The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini, is starring on the stage of New York City’s Theater 80.  The show opens today and runs until November 10th and according to our theater critic, “sounds really cool.”

Our theater critic has not seen the show yet and our budget (and certain court obligations) will not allow him to travel to New York City to see the presentation.  But Cyrus (our critic goes by only one name – often the same name on consecutive days) likes that there are essentially three different plays in one show.

The show is presented on three different floors of the Theater 80 and audience members get to pick whether they will take on the roles of spiritualists, pragmatists, or the guests of Houdini himself.   The show will present differently according to the role they select.  We don’t know if the producers thought of this but that could actually make audience members want to see the show two more times.   They probably did think of that but in case they didn’t we think it is an unexpected benefit of staging the play from three different perspectives for audiences.

“Minky was created by artist, author, and playwright Cynthia von Buhler. Minky is a private detective in the 1920s with a fondness for rabbits. She debuted in the four-issue miniseries The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini in 2017, which earned critical praise. The hardcover collection of the series released in August.”

According to ComicBook.com, Minky is played by Pearls Daily who was not only the model for the comic book but also named Miss Coney Island in 2018.

Cyrus says another benefit of the show being shown on three different levels is that audience members will want to see the show again and again.  We couldn’t tell if Cyrus was being sarcastic because he knew we said that earlier in this article or if he didn’t read what we wrote and just happened to mention the exact same thing we had mentioned.

We don’t like Cyrus – the name, not the person.  The name is so old-fashioned and hardly in keeping with the personality Cyrus is trying to pull off using the name.  He is going for sort of a Freddie Mercury meets Ryan Gosling image – neither of which fit the name Cyrus.  When he called himself Aunt Bee (a misspelled version of the co-star from The Andy Griffith Show), he adopted a Robert Redford / Paul Newman / Madam Curie air that frankly scared us.

We are glad that week is over.  Plus he didn’t play Robert Redford and Paul Newman from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid but used Redford from The Natural and Newman from the logo of the popular salad dressing brand.  Madam Curie was played pretty much as we all remember her, riddled with nuclear radiation and speaking French with a decided wheeze.

Cyrus doesn’t speak French, so that was quite a trick.  Of course, we don’t speak French either so he could have been just making up the words he spoke and wrote.  In which case, we apologize in advance to the actors and director of King Lear about which Aunt Bee wrote a several page critique in French soon to be published here even though there was very little magic performed in the show.

Check out the Theater 80’s website for show times and tickets here.

Inside Magic Letters to the Editer

It is the stated and occasionally followed policy of Inside Magic to publish letters to the editor.  If you have a question for the editor of this esteemed virtual news outlet, please send your comments or questions to editor@insidemagic.com.  While the editor is not always available or conscious, when he is, he is really on his game. 

Dear Sir or Madam:

In your most recent blog post, you commented that Harry Houdini was dead.  I wondered why you would mention this well-known factoid.  Were you just in need of space to be taken up or was this supposed to be real news for the “professional” magician?  What was the point?  Are there people who think Harry Houdini is not dead?  Or were you being metaphorical and saying his legacy is dead? Or, maybe you were saying his spirit lives on but his body is dead and buried?  Again, what was the point?  Who else is dead that you should tell us about?  I subscribe to Inside Magic to get the latest news not the late news.  Did you hear that Lindbergh made it to Paris?  He did, he flew solo across the Atlantic.  That’s all. Pick it up, please.

 

Editor’s Response:

It has been a while since we commented on the living or non-living status of Harry Houdini but your email reminds us that it is about time to again remind readers that Harry Houdini died at 1:26 on October 31, 1926 at Grace Receiving Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.  The cause of his death was ruled an accident resulting from a blow received several days earlier in Montreal whilst reclining in his dressing room.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his widow and surviving family.  There is discussion of having yearly séances in honor of Houdini and to test the theories of spiritualism against which he fought so valiantly.

The Lindbergh news is not really magic related and so that was probably why we didn’t pick up on it – that is our bad and we accept the blame.  Good for him.  We hope his experience will be positive for all interested in flying.

Ironically, “Pick it Up, Please” was the title of our first top 100 hit in 1972.  It was actually the B-side of “Don’t Litter, Bug!” but got much more radio play thanks to our great A&R man, Zanzo O’Hara.  We peaked at 47 with the 45 RPM record and still receive royalties from it.  It was sampled on Eminem’s Marshal Mather’s “The Way I Am” track on his groundbreaking “The Marshal Mathers’ LP.”  Eminem said he loved the “funk and instructive tone to the bridge on our 45.”  That was good enough for us.  It was also used as the background sound for a movie about a carnival funhouse that is haunted by bad people.  We don’t know why they used it.  There was nothing funky or instructive about the scene in which it was used.  A woman and man, each younger than 21, get on the ride and look at each other before the cart in which they are riding goes through the front “gate” of the fun house.  They never return but part of their clothes return, albeit blood stained.

“Pick it Up, Please” was part of the whole Litter Lyrics Craze that lasted from August 1, 1972 through December 13, 1972.  Although it was short-lived and rarely recalled these days, it was an important movement in the industry.  We recorded the 45s (there was no LP) in Detroit at Motown Records “Trash Heap” mobile studios – so named for the campaign Barry Gordy and the studio launched to both take advantage of the Litter Lyrics Craze and to clean the city.  We actually came up with the beat and lyrics whilst picking up tin cans (not the modern aluminum version; which are much lighter and less likely to cut someone if not properly handled) with Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.  We weren’t with them per se but on the same crew.  The funk/bass was based on Stevie’s “You Haven’t Done Nothing” that he was working on and would later incorporate the Jackson Five in the song.  We went up when he went down but the beats are about the same.  We asked Stevie later if he minded if we used that funk procession and he shook his head.

We never spoke with Marvin Gaye but did speak with a guy who did and he said he was a great guy.

 

Dear Editer:

Why do you have so many tpyos in your text?  Don’t you read what you write?

Editor’s Response:

Excellent point.  We really should be more careful.  Most of our text is written whilst we are traveling from gig to gig in a poorly suspended circus wagon on a Sanyo MBC 550 (Double Sided Disc Drive) with 256k of memory running the latest version of WordStar 1.25.  As you likely know, as you seem familiar with limited functionality in some of the older programs, WordStar 1.25 did not have a spelling or grammar editor.  So, what we do, is take the text and translate it through Google into “English” from “Bad English.”   We then publish the converted version.  Sometimes, we get tired and the road, she is bumpy and winding, and we do not act as completely as we should.  We watch the flowers and trees from our path along the freshly hewn mud tracks, practice our back palm and give thanks to the Almighty for all that has been given us.  We beg your pardon for taking this respite in our editing to enjoy nature, sunsets, and the gentle rhythm of the wagon as we head to our next performance.

Still, as Hank Aaron once said, “being lazy isn’t a job.”

He was of course correct.  We should always strive to do our best, swing for the fences, have abnormally large wrists and forearms, and leave enjoying life to moments when our work is complete.

Thank you for the shame.  We needed that.  We were starting to feel better and less regretful for those errors made on purpose or by accident.  Your note brought us right back to reality.  Being lazy isn’t a job, indeed.

Still there is a part of us that enjoys the quiet ride through the meadows and the watching without comment the change of seasons against the setting sun as we head to our next job.

 

Dear Tim:

I love your website.  I wish there was more about when magician’s died.  Could you set up a special page that had the exact time and death (maybe even the cause of death) for every prominent magician?  We can start with one, Chung Ling Soo a/k/a Billy Robinson died while performing the bullet catching trick in England.  There must be others.  We’ll keep reading and looking forward to this feature.

Editor Responds:

Thank you for loving our website.  While the Editor is related to “Tim” he is not “Tim” but the flattery is sufficient to end the discussion right there.  Your idea about a special page for the exact time and cause of death brings the shade of concern into our room.  Why would you want this?  What happened in your life that causes you to want such information or to want this information from this otherwise fun-loving website?  Who has hurt you child?  Have you lost someone in your family, witnessed such a gruesome and unexpected accident, or do you just love numbers?  If the latter, we may reconsider our prohibition and  just publish the date of death for those magicians with a prime number in their last year or full date of death.

When we first started Inside Magic in the late 1940s, the world was just coming back to its pre-war state.  We had a job with one of the largest magic factories in the Midwest and carried our  lunch bucket to the “duck pan” part of the mill where we pressed, turned and finished duck, chick and chicken pan tricks.   We had pride in our work and friends.  Some of the friends returned from the Great War maimed or psychologically damaged.  We vowed we would never celebrate the death of any magician or magician’s assistant.  We might mention that it had happened but our site would not be a graveyard for those wishing to visit, honor, or even take vengeance against the dead.

Years passed and the other modern magic newsletters (this was before the web) had in memorial pages listing the recent passing of every magician in every far region of our vast world.  We felt their work was sufficient and since our heart was not in discussing the passing of former friends and yes, lovers, we kept to our award-winning stories of interest to the Professional Magician.

So, just as we wouldn’t include information about Lindbergh landing in Paris at the end of his solo trip, we won’t discuss the passing of great magicians.  It’s just policy.  May we direct you to other sites established for just that purpose, Dead Magicians.com; Magicians who used to be alive.com; and Magic performers who perform no more because they dead.com.

Magicians, History and Corn Dogs

You can ask anyone, what does Inside Magic like?

Those in the know will say, usually with a chirpy tone, cool magic stuff from magic history and corn dogs.

Taking the list in order, we look constantly for cool magic stuff from magic history.  We have a key to the city given to Harry Blackstone Jr. given by the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan.  We have posters and pictures of great magicians through the years.  Some of our fondest memories have been eating corn dogs.

Other great memories have been talking to older magicians about the magicians they have seen or with whom they worked.

We recalled a wonderful conversation about Harry Blackstone, Jr. (the impetus for our mention of my souvenir) and how compassionate he was for his staff and assistants.  He certainly did not need to be – he was the star and his show was a hit.  But he was.

We have a multi-page letter handwritten by Doug Henning in response to our question, “how can a magician who is only 12 make it as a professional.”

Not surprisingly, he did not tell us to get an agent, make posters, berate theater managers; but to practice the art, learn the rules of being a magician and have fun.

We work in a wonderful art.  People genuinely love to be entertained and fooled and corn dogs.

We provide two out of the three and the more we do it, the more entertaining it becomes for us and our audience.

We wonder how the younger generation learns about our grand history.  Perhaps there are still meetings over an occasional corn dog where mustard-stained young performers can hear stories of Willard the Wizard, Thurston, Houdini, Kellar, Dante and our favorite, Harry Blackstone, Jr.

Although the image is not of Harry Blackstone, Jr. or any deep-fried hot dog, we think the poster used by Kellar displaying his “latest” illusion of “self-decapitation” is illustrative of our wonderful history.  No one – at least no one we have seen in the last 20-years has performed “self-decapitation” and even decapitation of others has fallen into disfavor (correctly in our humble opinion) due to world events.  But his poster was drawn in sketch form, colored in, placed on lithographic machinery and literally inked with several different passes – one for each color – leaving a space to make the poster applicable to the town or setting where Kellar would soon perform.  How wonderful.

You can find wonderful posters of magicians and non-magicians throughout history at the Library of Congress for your viewing and enjoyment.  We hope you do.

Houdini: The Pinball Game. Heaven on Four Legs

There are three things we love: Magic, Houdini and Pinball Machines.

Imagine our glee to learn that our triad of triumph has been combined in one device.

The brand new Houdini Pinball machine from American Pinball Inc. in Streamwood, Illinois is a trifecta in our books.   It comes with special Houdini-esque obstacles and features that just makes us smile like a fool in a ball pit.

Consider:

  • Three Magnets to Control Houdini’s Magic (Remember the Thurston one had one magnet)
  • Over 20″ Launch into Houdini’s Steamer Trunk (Three more inches than a normal launch into a steamer trunk in non-pinball games)
  • Animated & Interactive Theatre Marquee (The glass is like a show.  No wooden numbers turning with a clunk and bump)
  • API Theater Stage  (The API Theater was a fine theater on the Bilbox Vaudeville Circuit later taken over by the forerunner of the Keith system)
  • Real Wood Laser Engraved Planchette (Like at the country fair where they carve your family name except this is for disembodied spirits through an Ouija board)
  • Theatre Spotlights (Of course.  Always shining from the front to enhance angles)
  • Custom Padlock & Gear Bumper Tops w/ Chains (Our first movie  made in Hollywood was coincidentally called “Custom Padlock and Gear Bumper Tops and Chains)
  • 6 Balls (because they are related to Houdini, likely larger than other pinballs)
  • 5 Multiballs (This is a quantum anomaly or simply five balls.  We prefer to think the former)
  • 10 Stage Modes including Straight Jacket Multiball (If you have never played pinball in a straitjacket you don’t know what you’re missing – but that’s okay because there are probably few that have so it’s not like you’re being left out of some really cool  group)
  • 3 Magician Modes (What? Who else would they put with Houdini? Kellar, maybe.  Dante, c’mon. Carrot Top, not even a magician)
  • 1 Master Magician Mode (You get to play as the Master Magician plays – includes cape between well-manicured fingers the bumper buttons)
  • 5 Secret Mission Combo Modes (Likely as H.H.)
  • 5 Houdini Silent Movie Modes (We would totally do voice-overs for the silent dialogue to compliment our playing)
  • 5 Jail Escape Hurry Ups (In our book, every Jail Escape is a Hurry Up.  We reviewed Houdini’s notes and found very little evidence that he trifled during any escape, especially a Jail Escape)
  • 1 Video Mode  (As far as we know, there was no video back in Houdini’s time – maybe he did a YouTube that we didn’t see yet)
  • Milk Can Playfield Multiplier

Imagine a game without a Milk Can Multiplier?  You cannot, can you?  It’s impossible.  Houdini wrote to his brother Theo “Dash” Weiss in 1919 “Now that I have the Milk Can and understand it’s multiplying effect, I cannot imagine the world without it.”  We have no word what response Theo provided his brother but likely it was along the lines of “Nope, I sure can’t, brother!”

The device is so pretty and so perfect, we just want to touch it and buy it.  It is more likely that we will touch it one day but not own it so soon.  Our magic friend Keiser got to try it out at the Arcade Expo in beautiful Banning California this weekend.  As he spoke about the Houdini machine and unrolled the special poster he brought us, we smiled beyond capacity; leading to slight tears to the corners of our well-chapsticked lips.  We were so enthralled, we worried that our special anti-enthralling medications were not working or, at best, overwhelmed.  But it was apparent, the medication was just whelmed – not overly or underly.

The machine cost a mere $7,000.00 USD ($6,999).  At $7.50 a show (assuming a complete sell-out of the back of the room Svengali Decks and knock-off Bullet Catch Trick with Nerf Guns), it would only take us a bunch of shows and lots of balloon animals (and we can only do poodles and giraffes (or poodles who look like giraffes or swords), to make enough to buy one.

Consequently, we are hoping one of our readers will decide to contribute the machine to us and perhaps through in some AC Generator wiring so we can play indoors.  We were going to do a Go-Fun-Me page but when we went to the site, it didn’t seem like a place one could raise money.  It seemed a little provocative.  We erased it from the computer and were thankful we didn’t use our own computer to search and find the site.

See or play the game, we would love to hear your experiences – and perhaps touch your hand to get some of your special luck.

We thank Keiser for his poster and his constant ability to fool us and be patient with our bad acting when we pretend to know exactly what he has done.

Check out the Pinball Machine with Everything here: https://www.american-pinball.com/games/houdini/; download the tech details here: https://www.american-pinball.com/games/houdini/docs/Houdini-Service-Manual.pdf; and the promotional materials here: https://www.american-pinball.com/games/houdini/Houdini-Pinball-Flyer.pdf

 

 

Houdini Museum Launches New Houdini-Opoly Board Game!

InsideMagic Favorite The Houdini Museum in Scranton launches its newest venture with a big social media boom. Dick Brookz and the lovely Dorothy Dietrich not only run the Nation’s finest Houdini Museum, but have now announced brought to life their vision for a board game called Houdini Opoly.  Mr.  Brookz says he and museum co-operator Dorothy Dietrich came up with the idea about two years ago based on the museum’s popular tours. “We go through Houdini’s life in a circle from beginning to end. Well guess what, that’s how a board game works.”
Like the other “opoloy” sounding boardgame based on ancient New Jersey shore, the Houdini Opoly features game board property is a place significant to Houdini’s life ranging from his birthplace in Budapest, Hungary to his burial place in New York City.  There are even two northeastern Pennsylvania in the game: One is Welsh Brothers Circus where he found his most steady work in the 19th century. The other, the Houdini museum in Scranton.  Yay!
Where can one get  ‘Houdini Opoly’ you ask?  Well, Mr. Brookz and Ms. Dietrich launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of the board game. While the goal for game players is to accumulate as many Houdini properties as possible using game pieces, dice and deeds, Mr. Brookz says he and Ms. Dietrich are striving for something much more. “The goal of the game is to get Houdini in people’s houses around the world. The goal of the game is to create a collectible.”
The magic couple think Houdini would have loved the game.  “I think he’d be all for it because he loved publicity,” said Mr. Brookz who added that the Kickstarter goal is to reach at least $8,000 to produce upwards of 1,000 editions of ‘Houdini Opoly’. Click here to learn more about the campaign.
Click here to Inside Magic’s Favorite Houdini Museum in the world! www.houdini.org

 

Houdini Month at University of Texas

The 90th anniversary of Houdini’s passing will be commemorated this month at the Harry Ransom Center at the beautiful University of Texas in Austin.

Curators have assembled restraints, love letters, scripts, press kits and handwritten descriptions of magic tricks for the very special exhibit.

Eric Colleary, Cline curator of Theater and Performing Arts, said Houdini stood out because of how he identified himself.

“Houdini was different than many others during his time for a number of reasons,” Colleary said. “He considered himself an illusionist, rather than a magician.”

The exhibit will include pieces related to Houdini’s debunking of spiritualism with a special presentation by Austin-based theater company The Hidden Room titled,  Houdini Speaks to the Living. Based on correspondence, essays, diaries and photographs from the Ransom Center, the performance will pit Houdini against Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the issue of spiritualism.

And there is even more.  The center will screen The Grim Game and a hold a cooking class based on the great performer’s favorite foods.

Magicians and chefs will learn to make chicken paprikash with fennel potatoes; Hungarian goulash with spatzel; and custard bread pudding with cherry sauce.  We knew we liked Houdini but now we realize we would have loved to eat dinner with him.  In fact, when we were younger, we were part of two person telepathy team known as Goulash and Spatzel.  We were trying to break into the niche market of Hungarian food lovers who enjoyed poorly rehearsed mentalism routines.  Surprisingly, it was not a success, but we ate well; so that was good.

From our perspective, it is heart-warming (in a good way, not like an organ transplant way) that Houdini continues to inspire and intrigue the general public.

“I’m very interested in illusionists’ performances and their ability to captivate and confuse audiences with acts that seem beyond the realm of possibility,” communication studies junior Alyssa Hollander said. “I even subscribed to a magic subreddit because I wanted to learn how to do card tricks.”

“Programs like these are not only fun and engaging, but they also help us to understand different facets of Houdini’s life and career that we may not have realized before,” Colleary said.

Check out the Ransom Center’s website for all of the details.