Thursday, May 2, 2013

Clearing the name of HOUDINA


On Feb 11, 2012, I wrote a blog article called Houdini Going Postal, in which I relayed the story of a confrontation between Harry Houdini and Francis P Houdina. I found out about the article from one of my readers who forward newspaper clippings of the event. The story is also covered in the book, The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman.

The short version of the story is that Houdini claimed he was getting mail from Houdina and vice versa and what set him off was a bill addressed to Houdini but was for items that went to Houdina. Houdini went to confront Francis P Houdina at his place of business and a scuffle broke out.

Well, turns out the whole thing was staged. Imagine that, Houdini setting up an event just to gain publicity, shocking. I was contacted by the son of Francis Houdina who had plenty of documentation to prove his story was correct. The name 'Francis P. Houdina' is fictitious. The 'Francis P' part comes from Harry Kellar's fathers first name, the Houdina part is easy enough to figure out. There was a co-worker mentioned in the story as well George Young. That name came from Dorothy Young's last name. Apparently, the two young men were only 18 year olds at the time. And they were from a town not far from Appleton Wisconsin. There is a bit more to the story, but I'm just going to leave it at the story of Houdini and the workers at Houdina Co. is false, a staged story devised by Houdini.

I'm not giving the actual names of the people involved because the individual who contacted me hinted he'd rather not put the spot light on the living members of the family. I'm not really sure that would happen, but I'll gladly honor his wishes.

9 comments:

  1. Whoa! This is a major scoop! Great work, Dean.

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  2. I'm about to post a link to this story on my blog. Hoping you'll share the "more to the story" at some point. This is really a big deal. You made a discovery beyond Silverman and Kalush!

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  3. While nothing would surprise me when it comes to Houdini, it seems odd he would seek publicity at a time when he clearly didn't need it. His new show wouldn't open for about another four and a half months, and they even subpoenaed him at the inconvenient time just before his WOR broadcast. Also, we know Houdini was quick-tempered when it came to his imitators or anyone else who would even come close to using his name, so his altercation with Houdina makes sense. Does the evidence deal more with the name Houdina being fictitious or with the altercation itself? With all due respect to Houdina's son, and despite Houdini being a publicity hound and master manipulator of perception, the son's claim just doesn't ring true. Nonetheless, it would be really interesting to see what evidence the family says they have.

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    1. I was sent photos and documents that basically showed the person contacting me was who he said he was and was related to Francis P. Houdina. He told me his father was 51 when he was born, so the son would have been born around 1958. He also said that his father was 18 when the supposed altercation with Houdini happened. He also told me his father didn’t reveal that the event was staged until two weeks before he died. The father is no longer around to ask, nor is Houdini. I can’t answer the reasons why or the motivations behind the event. I am relaying basically that the son of Francis Houdina claimed the entire thing was staged. He told me the name was fake, and the origins of the name, but to honor the privacy of the family members, I left out the actual names of Francis Houdina and George Young.

      Why did Houdini write about the altercation in a letter to T.Nelson Downs if the whole thing was fake? Why were the courts involved if it was fake? The Francis P. Houdina had an article in TIME Magazine two weeks before the alleged altercation, so why would either party need the publicity? Certainly a lot of questions for such a minor event. But in the end the only thing we have to go by is the word of the man who was Francis Houdina who told his son the event was staged.

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  4. While I don't buy the son's story (only because it's anecdotal), it's still really fun to speculate about the possibilities. As we all know, Houdini was really good at staging events, so none of us can be 100% sure of anything. In any case, thanks for sharing this info, Dean! I really enjoy reading your blogs even though I don't comment that often. All the best. Tom

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    1. Good point about HH's letter to Downs. If he did stage the whole thing, he certainly covered his tracks.

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    2. Tom, THANK YOU for commenting and following my blog! Please feel free to comment anytime. And that goes for all my readers, I always enjoy reading what other people think about the various topics.

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  5. Now that we know that Francis P Houdina and George Young were really only 18 years old would that mean its possible the book Secret Life of Harry Houdini was anecdotal as well

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  6. Wasn't there a story also stating there was a packaged delivered for Hank Houdini to the Houdina Radio Control Company at 1476 Broadway? I always understood mail was delivered by address not name! At least mail is sorted and delivered that way for as long as I remember!

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