Showing posts with label Daisy White. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daisy White. Show all posts

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Magic Detective Podcast Season 1 Complete

With the addition of episode 31, I've decided to wrap up season 1 of my podcast. I am NOT stopping the podcast. It will be back in October. I just realized I was coming up fast on the 1 year anniversary and with all that is going on in my life, now would be a good time to stop. One of the major things is a move to another state. So right now, my library of research material is split between two locations and it would make doing the podcast somewhat difficult.

Year In Review

When I first decided to do the podcast, I was unsure if I would even find any listeners. Though I figured if a few of my blog readers went to the podcast, I'd be ok. The blog has traditionally had a LOT of readers, though that has declined since my focus has been the podcast. As of right now, I have over 4200 downloads of the podcast. Those are not huge numbers by popular podcast standards, but for a niche topic like magic history, I'd say those are pretty good. And the best part, they continue to increase each month as more and more people find out about the show.

I took the approach to just jump in with both feet knowing I'd figure out how to do the podcast along the way. I did enough preliminary research to know what I needed to do on the backend. The most important thing was sound quality, as I noticed that was one thing that could make or break a podcast. As far as topics, I didn't really think that would be an issue. I had an early list of some 30 potential stories to cover. That list then grew to 100. And now the list stands at over 150. So there are several years of episodes planned.

My first thought was to do the show kind of like popular talk radio shows, with segments, a main topic and then shorter segments. But I don't think I was quite pulling that off the way I had wanted. Then a friend of mine contacted me and said, 'why not try one topic'. So I did, and by episode 4 (Servais LeRoy) I was onto the one topic concept and that worked out better. Another listener contacted me and asked if I could include the references of where the information was coming from, so I soon added the book/magazine references as well. I love the fact that my listeners, YOU, have helped shape the way the show has grown.  One other thing I've attempted to do is link episodes. So if there is a reference to a certain magician in one podcast, and I've covered them already, I can tell the listener to go to Episode such and such, to learn more. IF I were a listener, I would LOVE this particular service.

I think one of the biggest surprises was that it took 3 Episodes to cover Harry Kellar's life. I really covered a lot of ground in those podcasts. The only person who has taken more is Houdini because frankly, I could have just done the entire podcast on his life. In truth, I contemplated that originally, and you'll notice that Houdini's name comes up in almost every podcast. I think there might be 3 podcasts that his name is not even mentioned. But other than that he is a fixture of the podcast. And in Season 2 you can expect considerably more Houdini.

Wyman The Wizard
I love the fact that I covered so many obscure magicians like Wyman the Wizard, Brush, Minerva, and Ablini. They all had incredible stories to tell and deserve their place in the history of magic. As I researched each of them, I contemplated how they would feel, all these many years later to hear their name being spoken of. I try to give everyone a fair shake and if there is a lot of 'negative' stuff to their life, to not focus on it, or at least approach it delicately. I hope I've been successful there. The one person who comes to mind is The Great Raymond. He had a difficult life. He was a great performer, but not the kindest person offstage. Albini was another, he was an alcoholic and chose to insult his audiences during his shows. I believe this was his style, kind of like an early Don Rickles. However, some audiences 'got' him and others did not. And sometimes he was sloshed when he was performing which didn't help.

I think one of my favorite episodes was the one of T.Nelson Downs. I was amazed at the amount of information I discovered on Downs. I continued to find info even after the podcast was completed. I did an extra article on Downs here on the blog to cover something I missed. I could probably do another episode on him easily if I really dug deeper.

My least favorite podcast was Frederick Bancroft, but not for the reason you might think. I did a great deal of research and was happy with what I uncovered. Then as I was scripting out the podcast, I learned that Gary Hunt had written an article on Bancroft in Magicol Magazine, and I didn't have access to it. I just KNEW that some of the stuff I had would potentially be wrong. Sure enough, AFTER, I put up the episode, I found the article and Gary had discovered details that corrected the history. Bravo for him! But not so happy for me. I did mention the corrections in the following podcast. Oh well, win some, loose some.

Daisy White
Another favorite podcast was Daisy White. She has always been a bit of a pet-project. She is an enigmatic figure in magic. Finding details has not been easy, but I did uncover some things a few years ago and wrote about them in the blog. I was always determined to find MORE. And this time around I did. But not only did I find more, I found photos of a young Daisy White!!! I am certain these photos have not been seen in over 100 years. So it was quite fulfilling to include those on the blog at the same time as I did the podcast episode.

About half way into the season I had this idea to start doing short podcasts, which would run no longer than 15 minutes. It was a big experiment really, and it turned out to be successful and I'd received a lot of positive comments on the short episodes. Some performers of old, just don't have enough information out there to cover a 30-45 minute podcast, but I can usually get at least 10 minutes worth. So the short episodes fit the need. The short episodes include: Frederick Bancroft, Litzka Raymond, Houdini & Anna Eva Fay, Minerva, Albini, and finally Talma Queen of Coins.

Oh and the two Doug Henning episodes were personal favorites because Henning was someone I saw in person and looked up to very much.  I was also happy to start including females into the mix, and though I've only covered a few so far, there are many more to come. The episodes featuring females include: Litzka Raymond Gibson, Minerva, Anna Eva Fay, Daisy White & Mercedes Talma.

I think the biggest revelation I had doing this podcast was finding out how inaccurate the David Price book, A Pictorial History of Conjurers in the Theatre is. Don't get me wrong, its a fantastic book. And it gets so much correct. But since the book was published, many details of various magicians lives have come to the surface and they are different from what is in his book. I still use it in every episode. I just try and double check the information. I do know a lot of his information came from Mahatma and The Sphinx.


As I have mentioned on the podcast, I would like to include some interviews with other magic historians and collectors during Season 2. I do not intend to do the entire season that way. But it would be nice to give the spotlight to some other folks so they can share their passion for magic history here. I am also considering having on some guest narrators.

There will be some changes coming to the blog too. About 80% of the Season 1 podcasts were scripted. So I plan to take those and put them up as blog articles, and include photos and images that I obviously cannot do on an audio podcast. It will help with SEO and will help future researchers. Because this platform is owned by Google, it tends to rank fairly high. So for those people who like to read, you can enjoy the blog. For those that like to listen, you've got the podcast. And for those who like both, hey, it's going to be awesome for you.

Some of the episodes planned for Season 2 include: Adelaide Herrmann, Anna Eva Fay, The Fox Sisters, Dr.Lynn, Signor Blitz, Dr. Walford Bodie, Henry Ridgely Evans, Frederick Eugene Powell, Richard Potter, Ching Ling Foo, and many MORE!!!! Oh, and the occasional episode on HOUDINI.

Right now I plan to have Season 2 start some time in October 2019. I am contemplating doing something special for the first couple episodes, but that I'm keeping to myself for now.  I do know I'm going to have more contests throughout the year. With any luck, I may even have some swag for fans of the podcast. I also intend to do more outreach to pick up a larger audience. So expect great things for Season 2! Until then, why not go back and re-listen to some of the podcasts, or check out the ones you missed. October will be here soon enough!

Thanks for being a listener and reader of The Magic Detective!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Daisy White Photos

Podcast Episode 24 is about the life of Daisy White and it's an eye opening episode. I found some facts that have never been revealed to the magic community, as far as I can tell. Along the way I found two images of her that are quite amazing. The photo at the top of the page actually has two pictures of her. The larger one shows her at age 25, the smaller one on the right surrounded by dolls is her at age 5.

Here is an amazing photo of Daisy, again as Gertrude Nickerson, in the year 1903. She would have been 22 years old in this photo. It's a much clearer image than the one above. I wish I had found this before I posted the picture on the podcast, but oh well.

It appears much of her music career took place in and around the Boston area. This worked out well for her because her birthmother lived in the Boston area, even though they did not know each other at the time. If you listen to the podcast you can hear how they eventually discovered each other.

Just for some perspective, this photo to the right is a more well known photo of her and possibly one of the last surviving images of Daisy. She was 46 when this photo was taken and she is actually surrounded by a group of magicians and their wives. Frank Ducrot is standing behind her in the larger image. This was during the time that she had been working at Hornmann's Magic Shop and just shortly before all the Bess Houdini/Arthur Ford nonsense.

I felt so fortunate to find the three photos (top, bottom and upper left), that I'm hoping somewhere along the way to uncover more photos of Daisy. My guess is that theatrical magazines of the early 1900s may have better images of her in her 20s when she was working in musical theatre as Gertrude Nickerson.

Then the lower photo is her around 22 years of age. She was into musical theatre and performing under the name Gertrude Nickerson. Listen to the podcast for even more information about the life of Daisy White. There is an article on this blog about Daisy White, but much of that information has changed, and it's all updated in the podcast.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Men Who Fooled Houdini

There is an amazing story of how a young Howard Thurston fooled Herrmann the Great. He fooled him with a Rising Card effect. Thurston invited a newspaper man to join him on the day he was to present the trick to Herrmann. In a rushed performance, only a few minutes before Herrmann's show was to begin, Thurston had four cards selected and returned to a pack of cards and each one, one at a time floated up out of the deck. Herrmann was amazed and said so. The next day the newspaper had a headline that read, "The Man Who Mystified Herrmann." Thurston, understandibly got really full of himself really fast. His bubble was soon burst however, when he met with Herrmann the next day and Herrmann was incensed over the headline. He felt he had been used, and he had been. Plus, Thurston had not fooled Herrmann the Great. He fooled Leon Herrmann, Alexander's nephew. And Leon was no where near the magician that his Uncle had been.

Back in those days, you sometimes needed a boost, something to give you an edge to break into show business or make a bigger name in show business. Defeating a rival or besting the number one person was a great way to get publicity.  For those interested, the story is well recounted in the wonderful Jim Steinmeyer book, The Last Greatest Magician In the World, Chapter 6.

As I stated in a previous column, Houdini really felt like he was number one and in many ways he was. It is said that he made the claim that he couldn't be fooled by a trick if he saw it three times. In Houdini's defense, this is not a unrealistic statement. In magic we are taught not to repeat a trick. The reason being, after a spectator sees a trick once, they are more likely to catch on to the method with a second viewing. There are exceptions of course. But when people know you've made a statement like Houdini's, someone is liable to try and prove you wrong. Keep in mind, none of the following stories appear in any of the Houdini biographies. But they all appear in print in other books. The first one, is fairly well known magic lore.

He Fooled Houdini

The event took place Feb 6th, 1922 at the Great Northern Hotel in Chicago. There was a banquet for the Society of American Magicians and Houdini was the guest of honor. At some point in the evening Sam Margules brings Vernon over to meet and show Houdini a trick. One article I read said, Houdini rolled his eyes and reluctantly agreed. The young Dai Vernon, brought out a deck of cards, shuffled them and had Houdini remove a card and sign it. Houdini wrote 'HH' on the card. Then Vernon, took the signed card and placed it second from the top. Everything was very slow and deliberate. Vernon then turned over the top card and there was the selected-signed card. Houdini was stunned. Dai Vernon did the trick again. The second time Houdini was also surprised. He began to call out possible methods, all of which were incorrect. A third showing, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and seventh and Houdini was fooled each time. One telling of the story features this addition, "Mutual friends seated at the table said: "Don't quibble, Harry, you're fooled this time". According the a promotional piece of Vernon's, Houdini finally made the admission and added, "Vernon is certainly the best man I have ever seen with cards." 

Thereafter, Dai Vernon, who was going by Dale Vernon at that time, used the moniker 'He Fooled Houdini' in all his promotions. Quite reminiscent of Thurston's approach with Herrmann. If you're wondering about sources, I found this story in Genii Magazine, but also in the book, He Fooled Houdini-Dai Vernon A Magical Life by Bruce Cervon and Keith Burns, and it's in other books as well. 

He Fooled Houdini First

Here's a story you may not have heard. In 1907, Houdini and Karl Germain were both in England. Germain, happened to run into Houdini at a banquet and decided he wanted to amaze his friend. He then proceeded to present his favorite pocket trick, the term that was used then for close-up magic. The trick was called The Spirit Writing On Cigarette Paper.  Houdini watched like a hawk, but in the end was amazed by the presentation. Did he fly off the handle or ask that the trick be repeated numerous times? Apparently not. Germain used a somewhat unorthodox method for this one showing and he felt it best not to share the 'how' with Houdini, who then might have been offended by the ruse. This story comes from Stuart Kramer's Germain the Wizard book, the Miracle Factory edition.

Houdini Enjoying The Magic

This final story comes from THE ODDS AGAINST ME: The Autobiography of John Scarne. This story takes place at Horrnmann's Magic Shop in NYC. Some of the players involved in the story include Frank Ducrot, Daisy White, Jim Collins, Houdini and a young John Scarne. Mr. Scarne had come to the shop to take lessons in magic from Ducrot. However, upon his first set of lessons in card magic, he asked Mr. Ducrot about midway during the lesson if maybe he could skip cards and learn something else. Ducrot asked why, and Scarne tells him he already knows cards pretty well. Ducrot asks to see something, figuring they'll be some rather simplistic tricks. But to his amazement, he is dumbfounded by what he sees. He calls Daisy White into the room, she worked as a demonstrator at the shop, and Scarne repeats the tricks. Fools them both!

Ducrot, who has been around magic his whole life, wants to know where he learned this, and Scarne tells him he learned it from card mechanics. It's the first time, Ducrot has heard this term. He suggests that Houdini, who is in town performing, and habitually stops by the shop, should see these tricks. So Ducrot sets up a meeting and a few days later, young John Scarne gets to meet the great Houdini.

Houdini shows up at Horrnmann's shop along with Jim Collins. He is greeted cordially by everyone and then introduced to the 'kid'. According to the Scarne story, Houdini took out a beat up deck of cards and started to do some manipulations and asked Scarne if he could do those. Scarne was about to when Ducrot interrupted and said, "That's easy for Johnny, but it's not what I wanted you to see." And encourages the kid to show Houdini the same tricks from a few nights earlier.  The first trick he does is a signed card to pocket which catches Houdini by surprise. In fact, most if not all the tricks amazed Houdini. Scarne could tell by Houdini's reaction that he'd been fooled multiple times. But he didn't come out and say so. Instead, Houdini invited Scarne to come to the theater and see the show and then he wanted to have him come back to the dressing room so he could show Bess some of these clever gambling style tricks.

John Scarne went on to become a regular at Horrnmann's and quite popular among the magicians in NYC. So popular that Frank Ducrot eventually suggested to Scarne that he use the tag line "The Magician Who Fools Magicians."


So here you have three different stories of Houdini being fooled and you have three different endings. In one, Houdini is livid. In the second, there is no mention of his temper flaring, in fact, Germain mentions that he purposely did not share the secret so as to avoid that potential disaster. And in the third instance Houdini is fooled and very cordial.

Do I believe the stories? Yes, I believe all three took place. Do I believe they happened the way they are told? No.

Vernon made no bones about not liking Houdini. His feeling was Houdini was a bad magician and escapes were not magic. So I tend to think there is a bit of an anti-Houdini bias that creeped into the story. Do I think Vernon fooled Houdini with a version of what we know today as The Ambitious Card? Yes, I do. Vernon was a revolutionary card man. He learned all the sleights of Erdnase and, like John Scarne, knew methods used by gamblers and perfected them. The methods and techniques for The Ambitious Card were not as well known in Houdini's day. Nor was that kind of close-up style card magic popular. It would take Vernon and others to make it popular over time. So I do believe the story is true, but I tend to think there might be a bit of embellishment along the way. For example, I have seen the dates listed by Vernon as 1919, and 1922, so something is wrong there (it was definitely 1922).  The quote where Houdini supposedly admits defeat and calls Vernon the greatest man with cards he's ever seen, I think is false. I think that was made up for promotional purposes as it appeared in a promo piece of Vernon's.  In fact, Vernon even says on page 131 of Dai Vernon A Magical Life, "Harry would never admit that anyone could fool him". So I don't believe Houdini said that he did. In addition, if you've ever read Elliott's Last Legacy, Houdini felt, at least in 1923, that the two best card men in the country were Dr. James Elliott and himself, no mention of Vernon.

As for the Germain story. Yes I believe it and it likely played out just the say he described it. The one thing I left out, when describing the story, was the unorthodox move. Germain used an accomplice to make the trick happen, which is why it fooled Houdini. If he had used his regular method, Houdini likely would have not been fooled. In the end, Germain didn't go around bragging about fooling Houdini afterward, as Vernon had done.

Correction: An addition to the Germain story, Pat Culliton points out that Houdini was in America in all of 1907, so either the story is not true or Germain has his dates wrong. I meant to check the date too before posting and I didn't, so now I'm checking.

Further Correction: I went back and did the checking that I should have done in the beginning. It appears that Houdini was in England in 1907 for a short time. In the book The Great Houdini-His British Tours by Derek Tait, chapter 7 is about Houdini's brief time in England in 1907. Mr. Tait even mentions that Houdini wasn't thought to have made any appearances in the UK in 1907, but it turns out he did. Now, some still dispute this, and that's ok. I think, given the fact that Houdini was doing a gig for the Sheffield Empire Palace, and he had been there a previous time, that's proof enough for me that he was in England in 1907. Plus Germain, who was in England, claims to have showed Houdini a trick IN England at that time.

The final Scarne story is my favorite I think. In his biography, Scarne describes seeing Houdini's show for the first time and he is amazed by it. He clearly looked up to Houdini. Unlike the Vernon story, Houdini didn't loose his temper. He actually watched the magic for 20 minutes! And then invited Scarne to the theater so that he could show Bess. No doubt, that was also so Houdini could see the tricks again. But this event was less adversarial. The Vernon event with the whole, 'I Can't Be Fooled If I See A Trick Three Times' sets up more of a contest and pits Vernon against Houdini or vice versa.

Incidentally, I do believe this statement about Houdini bringing out a beat-up or well worn- deck of cards, from the Scarne story. I don't think it was intended as any sort of insult towards Houdini. Sure, Houdini could afford a new deck. But Houdini's card act was mainly a manipulation act and one of the keys in card manipulation are softer cards. There are techniques magicians use to make cards softer in order to manipulate them. Today, it's easy to purchase cards that are already softer and idea for manipulations, but this was not always the case. So I do believe Houdini carried this worn deck of cards which made his manipulations easier. It makes total sense.

I can also add, that a lot of old timers had this 'I can't be fooled' attitude for whatever reason. I personally, LOVE to be fooled. I'm not fooled often, but that's because I've been in the magic biz for a long time. If someone fools me with great magic, I really do love it. But I guess I also don't think of it as 'being fooled' either. That term has a bit of a negative connotation, like 'making a fool out of someone'. I prefer the term 'being amazed'. But in the early 20th Century, they were not out to amaze, they were out to FOOL!

By the way, the photo at the top of the page has NOTHING to do with any of the three stories. I just thought it made a good visual hook for the topic.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Oldest Magic Shop in America

The Oldest Magic Shop in the United States* opened it's doors in 1873. Located at 493 Sixth Avenue NYC, NY, it was started by two brothers, Francis and Antonio Martinka. Their original shop had 5000 square feet of room with a showroom in the front and a small theatre and workshop in the back. Martinka & Co. was different from many modern magic shops though. They not only sold magic, they built magic. Everything from small props of wood, glass and metal to large stage illusions were crafted in their shop. They possessed a skill that is rarely seen today.

Their shop was frequented by amateurs and professionals alike. The top names of the day, Robert Heller, Alexander Herrmann, William Robinson, Carter the Great, Harry Houdini and Harry Kellar purchased items from Martinkas. By 1902 it became the hang out for regular NY magicians and that's when Dr. W. Golden Mortimer and Dr. Saram Ellison proposed establishing an official organization for magicians. May 10, 1902 The Society of American Magicians was born in the back room of Martinkas Magic Shop.

By 1917, the Martinka brothers decided retirement was in order. They had been running this shop and a previous one in Germany for more than 50 years. They chose to sell the shop and it was purchased by a young up and coming magician by the name of Charles Carter. Known professionally as Carter the Great, he had become a great customer to the Martinkas. Practically his entire touring illusion show was built in the back rooms of the Martinka shop. Charles Carter had been touring for ten years and was feeling the need to settle down. Purchasing the magic shop would be the ideal thing for him.

Charles Carter had grand plans for Martinkas. According to the Carter the Great book by Mike Caveney, Carter planned to open Martinka Magic Shops all across the country. He even had plans to open a large theatre next to Martinkas to feature acts on the weekends and showcase illusions during the week. But none of it was to be and within a year Carter was looking for a buyer. He was loosing money in the magic shop business. Carter also had pulled in a partner after his initial purchase of the company, Alf Wilton. Mr. Wilton would eventually buy Carter out and get involved with a new group of people, John Collins, Frances Martinka, Theo Hardeen and Harry Houdini. The year was 1919.

What did Houdini do with Martinka's you might wonder. He purchased Hornmanns Magic Company from Otto Hornmann, and merged the two businesses together. Beyond that he did precious little. He was busy with his Film Company and history shows what a debacle that was. He sold his 51 percent controlling stock to Alf Wilton after only nine months as President of Martinka & Co..

Frank Ducrot
In 1920, the business moved to 304 West 34th St. in NYC, where it would remain for many years. The next owner, was Frank Ducrot, a popular New York magician. He hired Daisy White to work the front counter and to act as secretary and sometimes as his magic assistant.

Frank Ducrot died of a heart attack in 1938 and the shop was purchased by Al Flosso, and the name changed to The Flosso-Hornmann Magic Shop. Al Flosso was an old time vaudeville and popular Coney Island performer. He knew everyone in magic and he kept the shop bustling right up until his death in 1976 at the age of 80. His son Jack Flosso eventually took over the shop and just as his father had done, kept the spirit of magic alive and kicking in NYC.

The Flosso-Hornmann Magic Shop was a landmark that was visited by professional and amatuer magicians as well as famous Hollywood celebrities and other famous personalities. In 2000, Jackie Flosso sold the shop to Ted Bogusta in the hopes of retiring. In late Sept 2003, Jackie Flosso went to be with Francis & Antonio Martinka, Frank Ducrot, Charles Carter, Daisy White, Harry Houdini and Al Flosso. He was 77 when he died.

Today, Martinka's Magic Shop is an online magic shop and auction house. And I just found out that they have an actual shop in Midland Park NJ, the address is listed on the website. I think they are most famous today for their online auctions of antique magic, which I must admit have had some incredible items offered! You can see them at

*I understand there is some debate as to Martinkas Magic Shop being the 'oldest'. It certainly has to be the longest running magic shop in America.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Searching for Miss Daisy

Adrienne Barbeau as Daisy White
The first time I heard the name Daisy White was while watching the Houdini movie staring Paul Michael Glaser. Adrienne Barbaeu played the part of Daisy White and in the movie she worked for Hardeen in his show and then later shacked up with Houdini while he was struggling over the death of his mother. This of course is the fictionalized movie version of things. As easy as it is to become enamored with Adrienne Barbeau's portrayal of Daisy, I didn't give Daisy much thought beyond that.

Then I came across this statement "Houdini only ever loved two women, his mother and Daisy White." That's quite an eye opening statement especially given the way the legend of Houdini has been portrayed. By the way, that statement came from Maurice Zolotow, who was a show business biographer. His statement was from a review he wrote in the NY Times for the book HOUDINI: The Untold Story. By Milbourne Christopher.  Needless to say, that was all it took to cement my curiosity and send me on the search for the actual story.

Daisy White
Truth be told there was a real Daisy White. Her name was Gertrude Nickerson* and my research so far shows she was from Middlesex Massachusetts. She apparently got involved in musical theatre or musical comedy, probably in Vaudeville. How she got into magic initially is a bit of a mystery. She apparently worked for Servais LeRoy at some point, most likely in the 1920s. Whaley's Who's Who says that she learned magic as an assistant to Frank DuCrot and then later became a demonstrator at Martinka's Magic Shop (actually Hornmann's at the time). It's unclear though her actual path into magic as several sources give different accounts.

There are a couple interesting stories about her work at Hornmann's Magic Shop. At this time the shop was located over on West 34st St in NYC. One day Max Malini walked into the shop. There were a number of other magicians around and Daisy was working behind the counter. Max walked up to Daisy and grabbed some of her red hair and with a pair of scissors cut off the handful of her hair. The clump of hair was then vanished and her hair was found to be perfectly restored!

Another story involved a young John Scarne coming into to the shop to meet Frank DuCrot of magic lessons. Daisy was there and introduced herself and kept Scarne company until Frank arrived. No one know Scarne at the time. Frank Ducrot and John Scarne went in the back room to start their lesson and John was a little unimpressed with the technique that Frank was teaching with cards. He asked if he could learn something other than cards and Ducrot, somewhat puzzled asked if he didn't like card tricks? Scarne said he already learned a lot from professional card mechanics and proceeded to show Frank Ducrot a number of mind numbing effects. Frank was so blown away he called Daisy to the back room and they both sat there for hours watching John Scarne do effect after effect. Ducrot told Scarne that he needed to meet Houdini, and he set up a meeting for them to meet. The night of the meeting, which was also at the shop, a number of magicians were there and they all went to the back room. Frank wouldn't let Daisy come in the back though, he made her stay at the front in case any customers showed up. Typical boys club attitude.

By all accounts Daisy White exuded sex appeal, though I'm sure they didn't call it that back then. She had a habit of wearing low necked dresses and was known to lean over the counters at the magic shop while doing demonstrations revealing her ample cleavage to the customers and no doubt selling all the inventory they had! The latest book on Houdini, Masters of Mystery by Christopher Sandford, has this description of Daisy, "...Houdini's voluptuous former assistant Daisy White, whose duties had sometimes called for her to parade up and down the stage in an overfull dress while the illusionist prepared his next trick in the background." So she apparently worked for Houdini as well.

Beyond her sexy figure, Daisy was a talented individual. She was an accomplished pianist and often played piano for shows put on by the SAM Parent Assembly. She was quite active in the Parent Assembly having helped put together ladies nights and worked on decorating the banquets. In the 1930s, she was involved in a court case in which a member of the Parent Assembly acted as her lawyer.

Back in the 1920s, Guy Jarrett the eccentric illusion designer, hired Frank DuCrot to present a collection of Jarrett's illusions at the Idle Hour Playhouse in NY. Daisy White was the assistant. It appears the show played a single date. But the unique illusions of Jarrett's were photographed with Daisy White in them. These photos later appeared in the pages of his incredible and controversial book on illusion magic simply titled, JARRETT.  He referred to Daisy as '118 lbs but with quite some gazangas'.

Houdini died unexpectedly in 1926.  After his death, his ever faithful wife discovered a safe in the basement containing love letters from women who had fallen for her husband over the years. Among these were some rather hot and heavy letters that came from Daisy White. Bess had a clever way of confronting the women. She invited them over her house for lunch and as they were leaving, she handed each one of them their letters back tied up nicely with a ribbon. It's unclear if Daisy was one of the invited ones. The confrontation with Daisy however seems to have been more personal. Daisy convinced Bess that nothing happened between her and Harry. This must have been the case because Daisy and Mrs. Houdini remained friends.

I had read in a number of biographies that Bess opened a tea room called 'Mrs. Houdini's Rendevous' in NYC for a period of time. The location of which was where Rockefeller Center is today. The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush, mentions a 'speakeasy' which was run by both Bess and Daisy White. From 1920-1933 serving alcohol was illegal in the U.S.. A 'speakeasy' was an illegal barroom. The Secret Life of Houdini goes one step further referring to the speakeasy as a brothel. This information apparently from Arthur LeRoy, but Patrick Culliton thinks and I agree, that this was a 'mischaracterization' referring to the speakeasy as a brothel. I don't honestly know if the tea room and the speakeasy were one in the same. The tea room apparently made no money because Bess wouldn't allow down on their luck performers to pay. But a speakeasy, well I can't imagine that going out of business during prohibition unless they were shut down by the authorities. No record exists of Bess or Daisy going to jail, as far as i could find, so that's not likely. It will remain an open question until I can dig further.

Next, Arthur Ford enters the picture. He was the Reverend of the First Spiritualist Church in NY. He befriended Daisy White. His charismatic charm won over Daisy and she became a spiritualist and even joined his church. On page 149 of The Houdini Code Mystery by William Rauscher there is a photo of an invitation card for a lecture being presented at Carnegie Hall by Daisy White which reads "You are cordially invited to attend a private demonstration given by courtesy of Miss Daisy White to expose the comparative virtues of Modern Magic, Mind Reading and Spiritualism". The date on the card was April 1929.

Arthur Ford apparently also won over Bess Houdini. Both The Secret Life of Houdini and The Houdini Code Mystery say that Bess & Ford were dating, though very discretely. They met after a lecture/debate on Spiritualism between Howard Thurston and Arthur Ford in which Ford easily won the debate. On February 8th of 1928, Ford gives Bess a message from Houdini's mother. Eleven months later, Ford, through his spirit contact Fletcher, produces a message from Houdini himself. Bess announced to the media it was the authentic and genuine message that she and her late husband had agreed upon.

Then all hell broke loose. The media began debunking the whole affair. Dunninger, the mentalist, got involved and pointed a finger at Daisy White saying she gave the information to Ford. One source said Daisy claimed she knew the code, as did a lot of magicians, but she did not know what the 'message was'. The United Press story that appeared in newspapers of the time said that Daisy knew Arthur Ford but "never discussed Houdini 'in that quarter or never had said she had got Houdini's code before his death." Ford also denied that Daisy had anything to do with it. However, The Secret Life of Houdini says "when some of Houdini's friends threatened to expose Daisy White's involvement, she threatened to go public with her sexual relationship with Houdini and she had 'one or more witnesses' ready to vouch for her story." Which was it really? Did she know the code? Did she give it to Ford? Did she have the affair with Houdini after-all?

To those questions, I don't have concrete answers. It's clear that history has revealed Houdini to be NOT the ultra-conservative straight laced individual that his biographers had painted him to be. Did he actually cheat on Bess or did he just have close relationships with other women? Hard to say. It's so easy to want to paint him into a modern day box and apply the loose standards of today to Houdini. Then again, there is the old saying 'boys will be boys'. We know he had some sort of relationship with other women, and pretty good chance with Daisy White as well. But beyond that we can only speculate.

Sometime in 1933 she was getting work as a numerologist. She had a business card that read 'Science of Sex and Numbers'. As I mentioned above, she gets involved in a court case over her mother's estate in Massachusetts. She eventually was awarded one half of the estate. Then after that Daisy vanishes from the magic literature.

I've been trying to track Daisy through and if I have the correct person, I think she died on August 6, 1993 in Athens TN, but I'm not 100% on that**. There are a number of Gertrude Nickersons and this one is the one who matches Daisy the closest, but I need further confirmation. (see note below)

That my friends is all I could find on the infamous Daisy White, so far at least. I'm going to ask a special request to my fellow magic historians. If anyone knows anything about Daisy White that I didn't cover, OR if you have photographs you'd be willing to share, please contact me at
I'm going to continue the research on Ms. White and eventually hope to be able to write a much longer piece on Daisy.

*This blog has been an exciting one and new information just came in regarding Daisy White's actual name. It's from a newspaper, so I still need to verify it, but you can read it in the comments below by Bill Mullins. Very thankful for the input by others!

** As I feared the information on Daisy's death is incorrect. Houdini The Man Who Walked Through Walls by William Gresham, published in 1959 says that Daisy had already passed on though they do not give a date. So she died prior to 1959. The hunt continues.

Special Thanks to Joseph Pecore, The Conjuring Arts Research Library, Ask Alexander, Patrick Culliton, John Cox and others who shared their knowledge of Daisy White. Also extra special Thank You to Patrick Culliton for allowing me to use his photo of the real Daisy standing (upper left).