Showing posts with label Atlantic City. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Atlantic City. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hardeen Presents Houdini's Temple of Mystery

In 1918 Houdini was a busy man. Among his many projects was the creation of a Temple of Mystery. This was going to be a theatre in NY devoted to magic. Part theatre and part museum, the Houdini Temple of Mystery would employ all the latest gadgetry and gizmos to make the experience fun and educational for all who attended. However, it was not to be. Friends cautioned Houdini not to get involved in such an expensive project during war times.

The idea apparently was not completely dead. Jump ahead fifteen years and Houdini has long passed on. Hardeen however is now the busy performer. During a 1933 summer run in Atlantic City Hardeen opens The Houdini Temple of Mystery on the Steel Pier.  From reports of the time, the hall was very large and his run was quite successful. Jim Collins was his chief assistant and Mrs. Collins acted as stage manager.

The entrance to the Temple is on the far left of the photo
Hardeen presented a full show of escapes, magic and illusions. Much of the material was Houdini stuff but there was a lot of Hardeen magic there too. Bess Houdini visited the show once and was acknowledged by the crowd. There was more than one theatre on the Steel Pier and at one point Hardeen was competing with the comedy duo of Amos & Andy for tickets. One Sunday afternoon, Hardeen had 67,000 people show up during his shows that day. I don't know how many shows he did but that's a crazy amount of people. It was a record setting day for the Steel Pier and he beat out the crowds that attended Amos & Andy's show.

Hardeen, who was in his late 50's at this point, was doing the Underwater Packing Crate Escape, TWICE DAILY from the Steel Pier, this according to a blurb in the July 1935 Issue of The Sphinx.

The Temple of Mystery ran from , at least from 1933-1935, I can't find any record past that.
The Steel Pier originally opened in 1898. It was an important Atlantic City landmark and a popular place for entertainers to play. Some who worked the Steel Pier besides Hardeen include: W.C. Fields, Benny Goodman, The Three Stooges, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Glen Cambell and many more. The Pier was destroyed by a fire in 1982 and was rebuilt by the Trump Organization in the 1990's and is still there today.

*One note. I understand the Nov. Genii has an article on Hardeen appearing on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. I haven't read it or seen it and I HOPE I have not duplicated anything that was in the article, though I have a feeling the article just dealt with having Hardeen's character in this TV show.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Houdini in Atlantic City 1908

On June 17, 1908 Harry did a handcuffed jump off the Young's Million Dollar Pier in Atlantic City. According to the Kalush Biography, Houdini hit his head on the ocean floor and came up bloodied but free of the cuffs.

I've been to the AC Boardwalk many times and didn't realize that Houdini had jumped off the pier. In fact, I vividly recall the eyesore that the Million Dollar Pier had become. But today it has been taken over by Cesaers and converted into an upscale shopping site called "The Pier Shops at Cesaers".

1922 Atlantic City Houdini & Conan Doyle

This is a picture of the Ambassador Hotel. This is the location of the meeting and seance between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife and Harry Houdini. It was considerably easier to find than I thought. Apparently the folks in AC still remember this historic meeting.

The Ambassador Hotel was torn down but today the Tropicana Hotel and Casino stands on the very spot where Houdini and Doyle had their seance. It was also the final straw for Houdini who completely turned on Spiritualism after this and set about exposing the frauds and fakes. It ended his friendship with the Doyles as well.