Showing posts with label Dunninger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dunninger. Show all posts

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Happy Birthday Joseph Dunninger!!!


Good Ole, Joe Dunninger was born this day, April 28th, way back in 1892. He died March 9, 1975, so he just made his 83rd birthday and then passed away a little over a week later. Largely forgotten today by the magic community and certainly almost completely forgotten by the general public. Yet he was an incredibly fascinating character and his life deserves a far more extensive look than has been done in the past. 

On my podcast, episode 99, I covered the Young Joe Dunninger, and sometime later I'll go over other aspects of his career, like his foray into Mentalism, his work with celebrities, his marriages, his radio and TV appearances and more.

For now, here is an item you might find interesting. This is from my collection, a billet used by Dunninger while he performed at The Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. It is approximately the size of a post it note.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Josephine Dunninger Auction RIGHT NOW....


This blew my mind. But right now, Nov 19th on Facebook is Part 1 of The Josephine Dunninger Auction. This of course as billed as the Dunnger Estate Auction and it's all stuff from Joseph  Dunninger's life and career. What shocked me was, I have a friend who purchased 'The Dunninger Collection' recently.  He purchased the Maxine Dunninger Collection and I'm not at liberty to give his name. I've seen the collection and there is some amazing stuff in that collection, and thats all I can say.

BUT, having said that, there are some equally crazy cool items in the Josephine Dunninger Auction. I've seen numerous photos of Dunninger backstage at the 1953 Houdini Movie with Tony Curtis. I think 7 or 8 of those got auctioned off. There are also some window cards that are incredible.

The auction will continue till 9pm tonight. Go check it out!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dunninger & Houdini Together Again

Note: I was holding this for next week, but word got out on one of the boards, so I'm letting everyone know about it that doesn't already know.

Maxine Dunninger is the daughter of Joseph Dunninger the famous mentalist. She lives not too awfully far from me in Virginia. She has an page with a few Houdini and Dunninger items for sale. I have purchased a number of items from Maxine in the past.

One of my favorites she has for sale now is this 'leg iron' that belonged to Houdini. I'm honestly not sure if that is really a leg iron, but it's still quite unusual and cool.  I also like a very unusual photo of Houdini in a straitjacket.

Then, for magic fans, there are quite a few Dunninger related items, including photos, programs, posters, flyers and more. And speaking of more, there are two paintings that were done by Joe Dunninger himself. In fact, I think she has a copy of the book she wrote on her Dad's artwork as well. Check it out!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Harry Kellar's Spirit Cabinet Pt1

Harry Kellar, the Dean of Magicians was well known for his Spirit Cabinet trick. In fact, Kellar worked for a time for the Davenport Brothers, the creators of the very first Spirit Cabinet illusion. When Kellar went off with William Fay to perform on their own, they kept the effect in their show. When they traveled throughout Mexico, rather than carry that bulky and heavy piece of equipment with them, they left the Cabinet behind at each location and had a new one built for each new town they played. So there should be Kellar Spirit Cabinet's all over Mexico!

Houdini coaxed Kellar into coming out of retirement for one more Farewell Show at the New York Hippodrome in 1917.  Kellar gave his Spirit Cabinet to Houdini at the conclusion of that event. This Spirit Cabinet was a 'new' cabinet and not the one he toured with years before. The Kellar Book by Mike Caveney and Bill Miesel says so on page 498. Later, in the New Conjurer's Magazine Vol 1, in 1945, Hardeen ran an ad selling off a number of the Houdini/Hardeen equipment, at the top of the list was the Kellar Spirit Cabinet. The ad even says it had been used by Frederick Eugene Powell and also by Hardeen.

Patrick Culliton mentions this ad in his Nov 1993 Genii article called "Where The Magic Went". He states that no one knows what has happened to The Vanishing Donkey and the Black and White Illusion that were also listed in that advertisement. However, there is no mention of the Kellar Spirit Cabinets whereabouts.

I have found a record of the Hardeen/Kellar Spirit Cabinet, I'm calling it that to differentiate between it and others. It was sold to Dr. Carl S.Frischkorn of Norfolk, Virginia, known as Karland the magician. This appeared in the April 1945 edition of the New Conjurers Magazine. I also found out that Dr. Frischkorn was a member of SAM Assembly #32 in Lynchburg. Norfolk and Lynchburg are NOT close to each other by any stretch. There is also an IBM Ring in Norfolk that at one time was named after Dr. Frischkorn, but apparently they have since renamed it. OK, big question, where is THAT cabinet today??? I'm still hunting and perhaps it resides somewhere between Norfolk and Lynchburg, or perhaps it was sold to a collector? Don't know yet, but I'm searching.

Kellar's 'Original' Spirit Cabinet that he used in the U.S.  would have been sold to Howard Thurston in the big sale. And Thurston only kept a couple of the Kellar pieces in his show, one was the Floating Lady and the other was The Spirit Cabinet.

Here is an interesting twist to the story. In the Sept 1923 issue of The Sphinx on page 195 a magician by the name of Walter Ross, professionally known as Nazami the Mentalist claims to have had in his possession the ORIGINAL Kellar Spirit Cabinet. According to the little blurb it says the cabinet weighed over 600 lbs and Ross intended to start a tour of Vaudeville with the prop. Hmm, did Thurston sell the cabinet or is this another 'original'?

Now I vaguely recall reading that Joseph Dunninger owned a Spirit Cabinet belonging to someone famous, but I want to say it was the Davenport Spirit Cabinet, though I could be wrong, it very well might be where the Kellar cabinet wound up.

But my big question is, does anyone know where Kellar's Spirit Cabinet resides today? Have any of the Mexican Spirit Cabinets ever showed up? I think I might know...stay tuned for part 2.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Magic Detective Show Ep 3

Finally! What a nightmare this has been. I tried to upload this episode last evening and the power went out. Then the power came back and during the second attempt to upload, I lost my internet connection. Needless to say, Episode 3 is finally online!

This show talks a little about the Final Houdini Tour and his last lecture at McGill University in Montreal. Watch close because you'll see the building where Houdini presented his lecture. It took me a while to find this building because today the building is a museum. But 86 years ago it was the Student Union Building.

I hope you enjoy Episode 3 and this weekend I'll post the more in-depth blog article about Houdini's Final Tour.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Magic of HELLER Pt 3, Second Sight

One of the features of Robert Heller's act was his presentation of Second Sight. He claimed to have invented the illusion, though that is not exactly correct. Robert-Houdin had been performing it long before Heller, in fact the first time Robert Heller had seen it was when Houdin came to London to perform. And Chevalier Pinnetti was performing Second Sight long before Robert-Houdin. So Heller's claim to have invented the effect was more bragging for promotional purposes than truth. The above poster shows Heller performing Second Sight with his assistant, the image is in the top center section of the poster.

Robert Heller did contribute to the act in a significant way however. His assistant Haidee Heller, sat upon a sofa while Heller held up hidden objects and Haidee correctly divined what they were. Most of the performers of the time who presented this type of act used a similar method. Newspapers often printed exposures claiming an elaborate code words were used. But it was when there was no dialog that audiences and magicians alike were dumbfounded. Even though, they did not speak a word, still Haidee Heller knew the answers to various questions or revealed hidden objects and so forth.

The method that Heller used in the 1800s was the piece of furniture that his assistant was sitting on!  The sofa was filled with wires and a battery which ran off the stage to a hidden assistant. A secret assistant in the audience, had a electric button underneath his seat and could tap the button using a type of code to signal the person on the couch. It was diabolical for the time and is yet another example of how magicians often used the latest advances in science to create their illusions.

The reason we even know about this Sofa is because of Henry Ridgely Evans the author of The Old And The New Magic. He wrote about visiting Francis Martinka at his home in NYC and while waiting on Mr. Martinka sat upon this odd piece of furniture. Martinka revealed to him it was Heller's Magic Sofa which he acquired after Heller's death.

I should note here that Heller had originally requested his props and paraphernalia be destroyed upon his death, but upon his deathbed he changed his mind and requested they be sent to Hartz the Magic Dealer to be sold. There is some debate though on what happened following his death. The props were apparently held by creditors in a warehouse. They obviously made it out of that warehouse somehow, whether they were sold off privately or sent to Hartz Magic Shop I don't know. Francis Martinka wound up with several of Heller's props, but this is the only one I know of specifically. I wish I knew what the others were.

Martinka later sold this sofa to a budding young mentalist by the name of Joseph Dunninger. I can't help but wonder where it is today. I will say this, if you know, contact me because I'd like to purchase this piece of furniture. It may still be in the possession of the Dunninger family or it may have been sold off. I don't know but I'd like to find out where it is and again, I'm interested in acquiring it. If nothing else, I'd love to have a color photo of this wonderful piece of magic history.

UPDATE: I just read in Houdini's book "The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin" that he believes Heller's sofa was copied after Robert-Houdin's. But I don't think the Houdin sofa is still around today and I'm not sure if Houdin left details as to the methods he used for his Second Sight routine. If it is true, then the Heller Sofa was built in England originally.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Great Dunninger

Today, marks the 119th birthday of the man who is arguably America's Greatest Mentalist, Joseph Dunninger. After having researched and written blogs about Robert Heller, William Fay, The Davenport Brothers, Anna Eva Fay, The Great Alexander and others involved in the world of mentalism and magic, I thought it might be time to do some research on the man who became synonymous with mental feats and mind reading.