Houdini Jack-o’-Lantern 2017

By Tom Interval

Last year I skipped my annual ritual of carving a Houdini jack-o’-lantern, but on this day—the eve of Halloween and of Houdini’s 91st death anniversary—I’m pleased to share a few photos of the one I made this year. (View jack-o’-lanterns from previous years.)

Houdini jack-o'-lantern


And a little closer:

Houdini jack-o'-lantern


And a little farther:

Houdini jack-o'-lantern


And here are a few pictures for those who are interested in the process of carving our man’s magical face into a pumpkin.

1. I created simplified, high-contrast artwork from the famous Strobridge litho, dubbed by magic collectors as “Houdini for President.” The white parts of the high-contrast image represent the sections cut out of the pumpkin, so I had to be sure all the black parts were interconnected so the finished jack-o’-lantern was stable (i.e., so pieces of the face—especially the eyes and mouth—didn’t fall off).

Houdini jack-o'-lantern template

2. I imported the artwork into Word, lightened it, and printed it as a light-gray template.

Houdini jack-o'-lantern template

3. After hollowing out the pumpkin, I trimmed the template, taped it onto the pumpkin, and traced the lines with pokes of a safety pin to transfer the design.

Houdini jack-o'-lantern template with pinpricks

4. If you look closely, you can see the pinpricks.

Houdini jack-o'-lantern pinpricks in pumpkin

5. With small pumpkin-carving tools, I sawed away for quite a while, being particularly careful around the more delicate areas, such as the eyes, ears, and mouth.

The finished jack-o’-lantern could have turned out a bit better, but I’m happy with it overall since Houdini’s likeness came out fairly well.

Houdini jack-o'-lantern

Happy Halloween!





Posted in Anniversaries, Art, Death, Halloween, Holidays, Sculptures | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Memory of Henry Muller

By Tom Interval

Henry Muller in 1992 (Photo: Doug Johnson)

Henry Muller in 1992 (Photo: Doug Johnson)

Henry Muller, cofounder of the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame, a public museum and tourist attraction operated in Niagara Falls, Canada, from 1968 to 1995, died on Feb. 28 in Hamilton, Ontario. He was 86 years old.

Here’s Henry’s official obituary, reproduced from YourLifeMoments:

MULLER, Henry – Born July 12, 1930 in Hlohovec, Czechoslovakia, died at 1:45 pm on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Bella (Zucker) Muller, by his four children, Jerry (Sharon), Alice (Ben Zion), David (Joyce) and Michael (Adrienne), by his grandchildren, Elisha (Laura), Sara (Alan), Joseph (Keren), Tali (Jesse), Liat, Matan, Jacob (Aviva), Rachel, Rebecca, Isaac and Abraham, and by his great-grandchildren Nadia, Julia, Maya, Hannah, Daniel, Benjamin and Lily. Mr. Muller was the founder of Muller’s Meats, Houdini Magical Hall of Fame, Cavalier Motel and the Niagara Industrial Mall, a respected businessman and entrepreneur and a lover of Niagara Falls, Canada. Funeral Thursday, March 2 at 1:00 pm at the Adas Israel Synagogue in Hamilton, Ontario followed by interment at Lundy’s Lane Cemetery in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Muller, with Dr. Harold A. Stein, opened the Hall of Fame in May 1968 at 5019 Centre Street. The attraction housed many significant items from Houdini’s personal collection, including some of his childhood props, posters, a multitude of handcuffs and leg irons, a wooden packing crate he used for underwater escapes, and the famed Water Torture Cell.

Four years after opening, the Hall of Fame moved a half block southeast to 4983 Clifton Hill, into the old Victoria Park Railway Station, where it remained until it burned down 23 years later, on April 30, 1995.

While some of the collection, including the Water Torture Cell, was destroyed in the fire, a lot of the paraphernalia survived and exists in many private collections.

Heartfelt condolences to Henry’s wife, Bella, and the rest of the family.

A Note from Henry’s daughter, Alice (Muller) Rubinfeld:

Alice wants to inform readers of this blog that her family found in Henry’s closet “a number of items of Houdiniana that we were not aware still existed.” I emailed her for more information, which I’ll include in a separate blog post along with Alice’s contact information.


Posted in Collections, Henry Muller, Houdini Magical Hall of Fame, Joseph Dunninger, Physical | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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



Posted in Anniversaries, Death, Halloween, Holidays, Photoshop Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in animation, Art, Chains, Drawings, Dynamite, Literature, Paintings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.”


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).


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.


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.


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.



Posted in Art, Buildings, Locations, Paintings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Children: Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World’s Greatest Escape Artist

Posted in Anniversaries, Biographies, Birth, Books, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Bess, Books, fiction, Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment