In Memory of Houdini on the 90th Anniversary of His Death

By Tom Interval

It’s been 90 years since Harry Houdini (1874–1926) died on Halloween, yet his name lives on—a testament to the genius behind his showmanship, originality, technical abilities, and knack for attaining publicity. Unhappy anniversary, Harry.

In Memory of Harry Houdini

 

 

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Dynamite Houdini Punch-Out

By Tom Interval

houdini_illustrationI recently dug up a 1980 Dynamite article about Harry Houdini that includes a full-color punch-out of the master mystifier escaping from chains. To read more and to see an animated version of the punch-out, check out the full article—Dynamite Houdini Punch-Out—on the Interval Magic blog.

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Houdini Then and Now

By Tom Interval

We all have our time machines, don’t we? Those that take us back are memories, and those that carry us forward are dreams.
– Über-Morlock, The Time Machine (2002)

It’s about time. Literally and figuratively.

You see, this week I found a time machine of sorts, and I’m finally starting to use it. I write “finally” because it’s been around for almost six years.

You might have heard of it. It’s called Historypin, an online archive containing historical photos and videos people “pin” to corresponding locations on Google Maps.

But it’s not just about geographically pinpointing historical events and experiences. It’s a virtual cornucopia of then and now.

Users can superimpose old pics and vids onto Google Street View, allowing them to visually compare past and present locations using a slider bar to fade the old image in and out.

As someone who has already done historical location comparisons, I was excited about the prospect of creating Houdini-related pins on Street View. As of this writing, I have only five Historypin posts but plan to contribute many more as time allows.

Here’s one example most Houdini buffs will remember. It’s a well-known photo of our shackle-shedding hero with an unidentified gentleman in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1908. After doing some research, I’ve concluded the photograph was taken at the northeast corner of N. Pennsylvania St. and E. Wabash St., between the Grand Opera House (to become B.F. Keith’s) and the Denison Hotel. Houdini, who is standing on Wabash in the photo, would perform at Keith’s a couple years later. I’ve animated the picture so you can compare “then” vs. “now.”

hh_anim_ind

Thanks to Flickr user Evan Finch, I verified the location after I found the following postcard, which features wonderful painted art from 1908 showing the same intersection and the left side of the very same Pluto Spring sign board (bottom-center, just above and to the right of the car).

postcard

Another source that helped me pinpoint the location was an Indianapolis Sanborn Map from 1915—seven years after the Pluto Spring photo was taken. On the map, you’ll notice “Piano S. all fls.” within the pink rectangle on the left. It refers to the same piano shop that’s in the photo directly across the street from Houdini. It’s Pearson’s Piano House, located at the time at 134–136 N. Pennsylvania St.

map_02

Here’s a photo of Pearson’s, at the same Pennsylvania St. location in November 1928, courtesy of W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

piano

If anyone has more information about the Indianapolis Houdini photo, I’d love to hear from you. In the mean time, please jump into the virtual time machine and visit my Historypin Houdini collection for more examples of the past literally merging with the future.

 

 

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Happy 142nd, Harry

By Tom Interval

Harry Houdini, born March 24, 1874

Harry Houdini, born March 24, 1874

Newborn Erik Weisz (Americanized Ehrich Weiss), who would later generate fame, fortune, and folklore as Harry Houdini, escaped his mother’s womb in Budapest on this day in 1874.

For those who don’t know much about the man, calling Houdini a magician would be like calling Elvis Presley a singer.

Liberating himself from the bonds of bland, Houdini sculpted his own image as a performer of the impossible, redefining a profession now known as escapology.

His pitch: He could escape any contraption made of any material devised by even the most ingenious of inventors. This appealed to many people of his day—millions of immigrants like him, seeking to escape a mundane existence, fighting as underdogs to survive in a competitive world.

Aside from his boundless technical knowledge and ability to manipulate any lock, shackle, or rope, his true brilliance centered on manipulating the minds of his audiences with classic showmanship and innate charisma.

He almost died during each performance. At least, that’s what he wanted people to think. And they did. This, combined with his knack for getting front-page publicity in almost every city he visited, led to his superstar icon status and, ultimately, to his immortality. That’s why we’re still talking about him to this day.

Harry Houdini—self-liberator, illusionist, showman, author, actor, inventor, publicist, aviator, athlete, stuntman, scholar, magic historian, and fraud fighter—would have been 142 today.

Happy birthday, Harry!

– – –

Read more about Houdini:

Adults: Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss, by Kenneth Silverman
http://www.amazon.com/Houdini-American-Self-Liberator-Eclipsing-Sensation/dp/0060169788

Children: Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World’s Greatest Escape Artist
http://www.amazon.com/Harry-Houdini-Legend-Worlds-Greatest/dp/1419700146/

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Mrs. Houdini: A Novel

By Tom Interval

Mrs. Houdini: A Novel, to be released on March 1, 2016

Mrs. Houdini: A Novel, to be released on March 1, 2016

Mr. and Mrs. H would be pleased to know there’s a novel centered around their love life about to be published: Mrs. Houdini, by Victoria Kelly.

According to the publisher, Simon & Schuster (Atria Books), the book is a “captivating debut novel, meticulously researched and beautifully imagined, about the passionate marriage of Harry and Bess Houdini—a love story that defied death itself.”

Both the hardcover and ebook editions are available for pre-order on Amazon. The book ships on March 1.

Here’s the complete description from the Simon & Schuster promotional page:

A captivating debut novel, meticulously researched and beautifully imagined, about the passionate marriage of Harry and Bess Houdini—a love story that defied death itself.

Before escape artist Harry Houdini died, he vowed he would find a way to speak to his beloved wife Bess from beyond the grave using a coded message known only to the two of them. When a widowed Bess begins seeing this code in seemingly impossible places, it becomes clear that Harry has an urgent message to convey. Unlocking the puzzle will set Bess on a course back through the pair’s extraordinary romance, which swept the illusionist and his bride from the beaches of Coney Island, to the palaces of Budapest, to the back lots of Hollywood. When the mystery finally leads Bess to the doorstep of a mysterious young photographer, she realizes that her husband’s magic may have been more than just illusion.

In surprising turns that weave through the uncertain days of the dawn of the twentieth century and continue into the dazzling 1920s, Mrs. Houdini is a thrilling tale that will take you deep into the heart of one of history’s greatest love stories—asking what drives people to believe in something bigger than themselves—even as it reveals the famous magician’s most remarkable feat of all.

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Holiday Wishes

By Tom Interval

Best wishes to you and your loved ones this holiday season.

houdinixmas

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Happy Thanksgiving from Young Houdini

 

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Tom Interval, Interval Magic, Houdini Museum

hh_tday

Note: The image above is Photoshopped, which should be pretty obvious to graphic designers and Houdini enthusiasts.

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