Monday, April 10, 2023

A Visit With a Houdini Collector & Magic Historian


I had the honor of visiting my buddy Wayne Alan this past weekend. Wayne is the owner of the Old North Theater in Danville VA. He is also a semi-retired illusionist and very busy magic historian. I don't think he considers himself a collector, but man does he have some crazy cool stuff!

For example, the photo above are sections from the Old Keith's Theater in Washington DC where Houdini did a hanging straitjacket escape in 1922. Wayne also has the air grate that was in Houdini's hospital room in Detroit. 

In addition, he has documents, audio recordings and artifacts that will make your head spin. And I'm sadly, not at liberty to divulge. I got to see and touch and item that belonged to a very famous magical artist from yesteryear. Again, can't say yet who it is because Wayne plan's to do a big reveal at some point. 

If all the Houdini stuff wasn't enough, Wayne has some Doug Henning items. He owns the Lion's Bride Cage, and he owns a sawing in half that was Henning's. Apparently, some claim it's not Henning's but Wayne say's it is. I saw it. Label is clearly from Owens Magic to Doug Henning. Stencil on the side says The Magic Show. And inside is a Sawing in Half. There are two cases for it.

There must be a story that goes with this, as it's not the Sawing is featured in the promotional photos. But it is without a doubt a Sawing in Half, that Henning owned and does have 'The Magic Show' stenciled on the case. Plus, the case is appropriate for that time period.  We did not put the entire thing together, but it was cool to see.

Wayne is intending upon building a Museum of Magic next to his theater and he has a building that is perfect in which to do it. I can't wait to see the finished thing, it's going to be spectacular.


  1. I love the idea of the air grate. :) Did Wayne say anything about when he might publish his Houdini book? It's been long in the making.

    1. He's been working on it for 30+ years. He has a lot of rather controversial opinions, but honestly, after talking with him, he's got a point on everything he mentions. And he has some source information that no one else has. I don't know when it will be published. I know when he'd like it to be done, but he's got a lot of projects on his plate. And he's got several other books in the works. Wayne does not sit around and do nothing, I'll give him that. I admire his tenacity. I wish I could tell you more about what he has planned, but he asked me to not share the info.

    2. John, sorry I left out the when he hopes to have it done. He'd like to have it finished next Spring (2024)