Monday, August 4, 2014

The UnMasking of Harry Houdini Part 3

Time to examine more of Houdini's MAGIC and where it originated. Today, I'll cover some of the bigger effects in the show. The real news-makers!

The Origins of Houdini's Magic

First off is the Vanishing Elephant. Here is something that on the surface seems very outside the realm of what Houdini might do. But then again, he isn't merely doing a trick. He is setting a world record for vanishing the largest object in history! The routine has a lot of emotional appeal as well because it is a living creature. And it's being presented at the Hippodrome, on one of the largest stages in the world. When you look at it that way, it's a huge publicity generating illusions, yep, that is pure Houdini.

Was the Vanishing Elephant Houdini's creation? Nope. It was the idea of a British magician, Charles Morritt. Houdini had paid Morritt for the rights and plans to build and perform the illusion. He also paid for other illusions, one which Houdini called Goodbye Winter, which was a Vanishing Lady illusion. The Elephant Vanish was based on Morritt's Vanishing Donkey but on a much larger scale. Morritt never presented a Vanishing Elephant, so Houdini once again could claim it as his own. It was probably not one of the better illusions, but the positive publicity was enough to make Houdini happy.

Next, we have Walking Through a Brick Wall. Again, a very unusual illusion and right up Houdini's alley. It was presented in typical Houdini fashion, with a brick layer building the wall right in the middle of the stage. People could come and inspect the wall and find no trickery. After, having successfully walked through the wall on more than one occasion, he invited some brick layers from a local union to come and inspect the wall and they challenged Houdini to walk through a wall that they would build. They did and he did!

But the illusion wasn't an idea of Houdini's. It was sold to him by another British magician, Sidney E. Josolyne. There was a bit of controversy surrounding this purchase as another British magician, P.T. Selbit, claimed it was his illusion. Despite the controversy it became known as a Houdini illusion and put another feather in his magic cap.

More to come...

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