If you are near a TV on Easter Sunday, you may want to take a peek at the Houdini documentary that will air in England. I worked on it towards the end of last year with David Copperfield, Ken Silverman and Alan Davies. I haven’t seen the documentary yet, but they are sending me a DVD of it. I think you can download a player to watch it online, but I have to look into it. Hopefully, sooner or later it will be on TV in the USA. If you watch it, please let me know what you think of it, positively or negatively. I hope you enjoy it.
I would guess when many of you read the title of this post you would think that I was going to unveil the secrets of Houdini’s magic and escapes. This couldn’t be farther away from the direction I will be going here. What I’m asking is how did he mentally and physically maintain such a vigorous and strenuous lifestyle for over 25 years.
Let’s take for an example the program above as a for instance. When Houdini was performing at the Sate Lake theater he was 48 years old. Sometime before or as soon as Houdini started his run for the week in town, he would perform an outdoor escape to help promote the show. This would be a straitjacket escape as Houdini would hang from office building, an escape from a locked packing crate after being thrown into a river, or a manacled bridge jump etc. I’m sure many of the rivers that Houdini was cast into weren’t the healthiest places to be.
During this run, Houdini would perform four times a day. He probably made his first appearance of the day at 1PM and his final performance was most-likely around 9:30 that evening. What kind of magic and escapes did Houdini do? Well, over the course of 25 years, it could have been the “Water Torture Cell” and the “East Indian Needle Trick”; you can add or subtract “The Milk Can”, the “Metamorphosis”, and escapes from straitjackets, handcuffs or ropes. The act could expand or contract as needed. For the most part, the act was a physically demanding one.
Now for the middle of the week, how about a challenge? Challenges were performed to renew interest in the show or to maintain a steady stream of customers at the box office. Either way, it was added to Houdini’s workload for the week.
All of the above brings us back to, “How did Houdini do it all?” In a 25-30 year career, how many times did he escape from a straitjacket, either on stage or hanging upside down outside of a building? How many times did Houdini perform the “Milk Can”, the”Water Torture Cell”, the “Metamorphosis”, escapes and challenges etc.? My thoughts are that the count would in the multiple thousands. I don’t think ten thousand for a grand total of these escapes would be out of the question.
I would have to say Houdini’s fortitude has been overlooked, but must be added to the equation to what made him into a legend in his own lifetime. Most of us have some kind of fortitude, Houdini had so much more so.
With a never seen before CDV of Houdini appearing two weeks ago on Ebay, this beauty has just made its’ debut there too. This cabinet photo can be yours for just $199.00, maybe less. The seller will consider an offer( they already have one), so you might be able to add this to your collection for even a better price. With the CDV, and now this rare cabinet photo, you can really build a great Houdini collection.
And I thought I saw it all when it came to Houdini. Amazing!
This piece is listed on eBay and it has me scratching my head. The seller describes it as an original CDV photo. From what I can see, it just doesn’t look right. It doesn’t look-like a photo, but a printed picture. The image is attached to a CDV card, not processed as a single piece. Finally, this is a format rarely used by 1925, pre-1895 would be closer.
Any thoughts on this?
The above picture seems to have “disappeared” on its’ way to the new owner. The picture is an 8×10 and is inscribed to a Chas. Diestel. The inscription is dated Aug 19/26. If you ever see this image or are offered it for sale, please notify me or the United Sates Postal Service. I think I might be more understanding than the post office would be. Thanks.
Here’s a a rare image of Houdini. This photo was removed from a Houdini scrapbook that Marie Hinson owned and gave to me many years ago. She was a niece of Houdini. Marie was such a nice lady, a real sweetheart. If you ever met her, she was like part of your family as soon as you met her. Thanks Marie.
Edward Saint. Need I say more?
UPDATE: Here’s how Ed Saint’s or should I say Bess and Ed’s place looks like today.
This is the companion to the postcard I posted yesterday. This is a profile image from the same sitting. Houdini must have liked it as he used it on his Christmas card one year. This is image was also used as a bookplate after Houdini’s death. If you put these two postcards side-by-side, they would make a great “Wanted” poster. Enjoy.