Tag: Houdini

Houdini Magic Shop Owner Aids JFK Investigation

Inside Magic's First LogoGeno 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Magic Shop in Las Vegas and, most importantly for us here in Southern California, Disneyland, had a key role in finding historical documents related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.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

Flop SweatThe 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 HoudiniThe 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.

Houdini: The Pinball Game. Heaven on Four Legs

Inside Magic Image of Houdini Pinball Back GlassThere 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!

From Houdini OpolyInsideMagic 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

Inside Magic Image of Houdini and DoyleThe 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.

Magicians are Cognitive Artists

Inside Magic Image of Salvador DaliAt the very same institution where Houdini was fatally punched in the gut, McGill University in Montreal, psychologists and neuroscientists are trying to learn more about their respective fields by studying how magicians fool people.

We read about the investigations into psychology and magic in a recent issue of The Atlantic.

Jay Olson is one of the researchers working on what a recent issue of the journal of The Frontiers of Psychology call “neuromagic.” In an article “The Psychology of Magic, the Magic of Psychology,” Mr. Olson reported on a fascinating study where subjects were shown the same trick over and over until they figured it out.  We now have scientific data to support the maxim that a magician should never perform the same effect twice.

Mr. Olson studied the psychology of forcing.  To his credit, Mr. Olson refused to disclose the secret of the forcing technique he used.  He was able to successfully force a card on a subject 98 percent of the time – and 91 percent of the time, the subject felt the choice was entirely free.  The study authors wrote, that magic “can provide new methods to study the feeling of free will.”

Perhaps more importantly, some curious magicians might hope, the study can teach an effective forcing technique that works 98 percent of the time and leaves nine out of ten participants ready to swear the choice was entirely free.

Again, Mr. Olson refused to disclose his secret method.

We urge you to visit the study’s website to learn more about the work done and the areas of investigation.  It really is a fascinating read.  Like painters are masters of perceptual illusions, the study notes, “magicians are the cognitive artists.”

Check out additional articles in the field here.

Magic and Magicians Still Going Strong

Inside Magic Image of The Grim Game PosterMagic and Magicians endure.

Time and Life magazines paid homage to our noble profession’s gathering in Indianapolis this weekend by looking back at the 1947 Society of American Magicians held in Chicago in 1947.

If you follow the link to the Google books page of that original Life Magazine article you can see wonderful images of some of the greats performing for the Life cameras.  It could be that Dr. Harlan Tarbell did perform the Balancing an Egg on a Fan While Blindfolded trick as part of his nightclub act.  Maybe magicians did do Multiplying Golf Balls in a strip club and drew all eyes from the dancers gyrating on stage to their strained and stretched fingers. But is also just as likely that the convention attendees were doing what magicians do best at convention time – getting good press.

Time and Life’s website gives a link to the SAM 2016 registration page, a 2014 blurb on the ill-fated efforts to exhume Houdini’s remains to test for poisoning and a 1994 essay by Penn Jillette explaining why Vegas was the most logical place for magic to reside.  He has some snarky things to say about Siegfried & Roy and Melinda but that was the old, “bad-boys of magic” Penn.

From the post-war era, to the 1970s with Doug Henning’s The Magic Show raking in $60,000.00 each week on Broadway ($307,175.32 in today’s dollars), to David Copperfield’s globe-trotting success, and later David Blaine taking it to the streets with camera in tow, Magic has endured.

In that 1974 Time article reporting on that decade’s fascination in magic and magicians, James Randi  said the upsurge in interest is “a sign that our society is still healthy. When people stop being enthralled by a magician who can make a lady vanish, it will mean that the world has lost its most precious possession: its sense of wonder.”

Like the Dude, Magic endures.

Houdini & Doyle Trailer

Houdini & DoyleWe love Houdini and all things Houdini.  So, when we saw the new trailer for Fox Television’s new series Houdini & Doyle, we got giddy – or giddier.  We understand Fox purchased ten episodes so far and plans to launch this spring.  The trailer looks great even with the obligatory and historically inaccurate axe to the Water Torture Cell scene that has been with us since Tony Curtis.

You can check out the trailer here.

Fox has launched a webpage to promote the series with some great interviews, pretty pictures and a pithy exposition of the series.

Inspired by true events, HOUDINI & DOYLE draws heavily on the rich history of the period. Two great men of the 20th Century – Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – grudgingly join forces with New Scotland Yard to investigate unsolved and inexplicable crimes with a supernatural slant.

Ironically, “Supernatural Slant” was the name of our dance routine that catapulted us to national prominence in 1979-1980.  Some no doubt recall our participation in the syndicated television contest series, “Dance Your Booty.”  It was through that show that we learned the important lessons of show business:

  1. Get your money upfront.
  2. Trust no one, ever.
  3. Follow “Dry Clean Only” recommendations – especially for tuxedos.
  4. Stretch before performing.

You can visit the Fox website or for the definitive, straight dope, check out the number one source for all things Houdini, John Cox’ incredible website, Wild About Harry here.

Houdini, Voltaire and Fiction

houdini water torture cellAsk anyone who knows us – the real, deep down us – and you will learn that we love two things: Houdini and History.

Do not pay attention to the other things they say about us.  They’re just haters and most of those things allegedly captured on video tape are not crimes anymore and the tape is grainy and they did take place, technically, within International Waters (as defined before the startling and over-reaching 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea).

The Confabulist, a new book by Steven Galloway mixes history and Houdini together into a literary frappé with sprinkles of mystery and murder.  As much as we love history, you would imagine we love historical fiction.  And as much as we love Houdini, you would bet good money – perhaps your own – that we love fiction about Houdini.  Yet your imagination and betting prowess would be in error.

Myths, Voltaire once wrote, surround history like flies about a discarded meal.

Actually, the quote in French was, “Nous cherchons tous le bonheur, mais sans savoir où, comme les ivrognes qui cherchent leur maison, sachant confusément qu’ils en ont une.

And actually, that translates roughly to “We all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it: like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.”

But we only know one of Voltaire’s sayings and few people who know French, so we use the French quote we have memorized and attribute different meanings depending on the need.

We view Houdini’s legacy as sacrosanct – a wonderful word taken from “sacro” meaning “sugary” and “sanct” meaning “smell” thus a sugary smelling thing – and do not enjoy revisionist versions of his remarkable life told with reckless disregard for the truth as we choose to believe it.  We have few immutable things in our life.  We never use a “Family Restroom” when alone, we use new dental floss every time we floss and we do not make up stories about Houdini.

All that being said, we are looking forward to reading this new book.  It seems like our cup of tea – because we like our tea to be sugary and smell good – thus hiding the bitter taste of our hypocrisy and the stench of our self-righteous claims to be immutable.

According to Everyday E Book, “Galloway approaches his story as though it were a magician’s act, structuring the novel with the four elements of a trick (effect, method, misdirection, and reconstruction). In addition to sections from Houdini’s perspective, The Confabulist employs a first-person narrator, the fictional Martin Strauss. As the novel begins, Martin is an elderly man diagnosed with a rare brain disorder that causes him to recall false memories. We quickly learn that he is the man who killed Houdini — or, as he tells it, the man who killed Houdini twice. This intriguing hook sets up the central mystery of the story.”

We love books about Houdini, history and rare brain disorders even if it is a work of fiction.  In fact, this plot sounds a lot like a novel we are writing at this very moment about Houdini who is in a history class, studying rare brain disorders.  We call it, Houdini and History’s Head Case.  It is just a working title and we have not written too much yet but we have a dynamite back cover quote we will attribute to Voltaire.

Check out Mr. Galloway’s book on Everyday E Book for yourself.