By Tom Interval
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Houdini in The New York Times, a website housing more than 125 articles and letters in The New York Times written by or about Harry Houdini. Please enjoy this brief history of the site and stay tuned for further updates regarding its future.
Have you ever browsed the old Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature? It was one of my favorite references in my alma mater’s library, and Houdini was the first thing I looked up in those massive green volumes.
Houdini-related articles were in abundance, and many appeared in The New York Times, which isn’t surprising considering Houdini lived in New York City for the greater part of his life.
As you might recall from the pre-Internet days, to view articles listed in the Readers’ Guide, you had to first find them on microfilm, then view the film on a microfilm reader.
For whatever reason, I fixated on the Times articles about Houdini and listed in a notebook everything I could find. Over the course of several months, I found every last article on film and printed a copy of each, storing them in a binder I titled, Harry Houdini in The New York Times. That was back in 1997, and the binder lived among my Houdini books for the next seven years.
With the advent of the World Wide Web, I learned to create simple websites by studying a beginner’s book on web design. Not too long after that, I developed my first significant website: Interval Magic: intervalmagic.com (see the original archived version on the Internet Archive).
With the Interval Magic site under my belt, I decided to build a website all about Houdini, my childhood hero. My original goal was to create a virtual Houdini museum of sorts, calling it Houdini Museum, which would include biographical information, news clippings, images, videos, audio, reference materials, and some personal photos from my trips to Houdini’s gravesite, the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, and the Library of Congress, where the majority of Houdini’s literature collection resides. I quickly purchased the domain houdinimuseum.org and got to work.
Realizing how time-consuming making the website would be, I decided, in the mean time, to post The New York Times articles I collected seven years earlier. After hand-keying more than 125 Times articles and letters and designing what was meant to be a temporary website, I launched Houdini in The New York Times in the Spring of 2004.
The site is a wonderful free (and ad-free) resource for Houdini researchers and enthusiasts, but it’s not the comprehensive Houdini site I had once planned. Now well into its 10th year, Houdini in The New York Times hasn’t changed much, but please stay tuned because I haven’t abandoned the original plan.
While my original idea for the site hasn’t seen the light of day yet, I’ve been working on it sporadically (albeit as slow as a snail crawling in tar) as I keep this blog active and plan to launch a completely revamped houdinimuseum.org in the near future. The new site will still include the Times material, but that will be only one small part of it.
I’ll say no more; however, in the months ahead, please follow this blog and accompanying Facebook page and look for teasers and announcements, which will include more info on the site’s content and an actual launch date. Until then, please enjoy Houdini in The New York Times as it celebrates its 10th anniversary.