Sunday, May 7, 2017

HOUDINI Takes DC 2017

The ObscuraDay Event called Houdini Takes DC was a huge hit yesterday! They sold out, and I think they might have even over sold, which was fine by me! The event took place at the Tivoli Magic Shop in Washington DC. It's a a beautiful shop, though not really a magic shop. Check out the link if you'd like to learn more about them. They had a nice room for us and to start was Magic Historian and Collector Ken Trombly. Let me say, Ken has an INCREDIBLE collection. The fact he is willing to bring these priceless posters to events is beyond generous. Ken had 4 major posters and some smaller broadsides, as well as a folder filled with postcards and photographs.

Ken gave an overview of Houdini's life by showing the various items he had that
Ken Trombly
related to those periods. The audience sat riveted during his talk. He really delivered a great deal of information, and being able to see the actual posters and other memorabilia was the icing on the cake. I stood in the back trying to keep my big mouth shut and not interrupt. He spoke for a little over 30 minutes and showed some items that would have stunned a seasoned magic collector let alone a room full of history enthusiasts and lay people.

There was a break, for cherry pie ( a favorite of Bess Houdini and they served it at the previous Houdini event here as well).

Then they introduced me. I was supposed to do a show but ended up spending my time doing a mixture of magic and telling stories, some related to Houdini, some related to escapes, some related to associates of Houdini's. For example, I shared the story of Harry Cooke, a mentor of Houdini's and an individual who was present during the Lincoln assassination. I shared a story of a woman who found herself caught up in a haunted house and a seance. And I shared a ton of stories about Houdini. I tried to stay within the area that Ken had set during his talk but elaborated on various stories. I have found when talking about Houdini, I can go on forever, but I had to stay within the 30+ minute format....(I might have gone a little over).

Carnegie about to escape from Handcuffs.
The first piece of magic I presented was a newly discovered Houdini card trick. I say, newly discovered because I was unaware of it, lol. I found it in one of the Walter Gibson books and the trick comes from Houdini's notes. It's a strange sort of transposition trick with a card and it played really well. I followed this with my version of Cards Across, just to fill out the 'Houdini King of Cards' portion of my talk.

Next I moved into his early escapes, handcuff escapes specifically. And I went on to present two escapes, one from a pair of police issue regulation Smith and Wesson cuffs. The other from a pair of ungimmicked Hamburg 8 cuffs.

I wanted to give people a feeling for Houdini beyond just the regular stories, so I threw in the story of Harry Cooke, and how they were associated. I always thought their connection was because they were both escape artists. But I know believe that their connection was, #1 because of Cooke's Anti-spiritualist crusade years before Houdini was born, and #2, Cooke's connection to Abe Lincoln, who was Houdini's boyhood idol.

I shared the story about Cooke being summoned to Washington to demonstrate his ability to free himself from ropes. And here, I took the opportunity to present a rope escape.  I chose to use a technique found in Houdini's book, Magical Rope Ties & Escapes. The technique allows for an almost instantaneous escape from the bonds. In truth, Cooke had been tied up with 100 ft of rope and still escapes in seconds. I had 100 ft of rope on hand, but was saving it for later but ran out of time.

The closing routine was a Spirit Slate routine with a story. A true story? Sort of. Aspects of the story are true, but I do take liberties, it is a show after-all. The story is an emotional one, and I use it to help people understand the deep connection that people have when they see mediums....and also WHY Houdini was so angered by the whole thing because he knew the mediums were fake and playing off the emotions of the grieving.

At the end, I answered a few questions, spoke with numerous people after the program and packed up. All in all, I'd say the day was a HUGE success. I'd like to thank Julie Siegel for her great work AGAIN, and all her fellow Obscura staff. Thank you for inviting me to be part of your event! Also, I'd like to thank Tivoli Magic Shop and 826DC for letting us use their incredible space.


  1. This sounds very cool, I would have loved to be there and to see all of it..Great job!!
    michael griffin

  2. Sounds great. Wish we could have been there.
    Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz
    The Houdini Museum, Scranton, PA