Showing posts with label Washington DC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington DC. Show all posts

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Houdini Testifies Before Congress Day 1

In 1926, Harry Houdini stepped way beyond his role of magician, escape artist, showman, and actor. He does something which was rare for an entertainer. He testified before Congress. This was the ultimate act of attacking the fake spiritualists. Oddly, the bill before Congress was an anti-fortune telling bill.

Fortune Telling? I thought Houdini was after fake spirit mediums?! The spiritualists were not happy to be lumped in with so-called 'gypsy fortune tellers', even though many of them ran in the same circles. Here is an interesting thing I found from an issue of Stanyon's Magic. In the early 20th Century, the spirit mediums began to refer to themselves by a new name, 'psychist'. This word means someone who believes in psychic phenomenon. Of course, in the later part of the 20th century, we would refer to these folks as psychics and even psychic mediums. They could apparently read your mind and tell you the future.

The bill before Congress was House Resolution8989 and it was sponsored by Sol Bloom of NY. It
Congressman Sol Bloom
would prohibit all forms of fortune telling within the D.C. limits. Several other states and localities had similar laws that they were using successfully, so here was an attempt by Congress to implement the same thing. Sol Bloom has an interesting history. He had a background in entertainment. Not only that, he was the man responsible for creating the Midway at the Chicago's World Fair! And among the many entertainers at this event... Yes, Houdini. An article that appeared in the Oct 16th, 1942 edition of The Washington Post mentions that Sol Bloom had an interest in magic. In fact, the title of the article is Master Magician of Capital Hill.

So, if you're going to propose a bill about stopping spiritualists in D.C., and you know you can't do that because the spiritualists claim it's a religion, and they have protection under the Constitution. Then you take a slightly less direct route and go after Fortune Telling and write the bill in such a way that you can snag the fake spirit mediums along the way. And if you're going to do that, who better to call for advice and knowledge, than the number one Spirit Debunker in the country, Harry Houdini! And, it seems clear that the two must have known each other. On the rare chance they didn't meet at the Chicago World's Fair, then they surely met while Bloom was representing Gentleman Jim Corbett. Houdini was in the line-up with Corbett during the 1917 Benefit Shows to raise money for the war effort.

The first day of the meetings was Feb 26th, 1926. The proceedings started at 10:30am . According to the Congressional Record, when the proceedings begun, the bill was read before the committee.

Here is how the bill reads:
"Any person pretending to tell fortunes for reward or compensation where lost or stolen goods may be found; any person who, by game or device, sleight of hand, pretending, fortune telling, or by any trick or other means, by the use of cards or other implements or instruments, fraudulently obtains from another person money or property or reward, property of any description; any person pretending to remove spells, or to sell charms for protection, or to unite the separated, shall be considered a disorderly person. Any person violating the provisions of this law shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $250 or by imprisonment not to exceed six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment."

Then Congressman Bloom addresses the committee. He is asked numerous questions, and there seems to be much debate on the proper placement of commas and such. Then they begin to grill him on content. There is a humorous exchange between Congressman Reid and Congressman Bloom.
Reid: What is telling a fortune?
Bloom: Well, telling a fortune is to make people believe what the future is, to give you a picture that you are going to marry a blond.
Reid: How do you know you won't?
Bloom: I want to tell you something, I am serious about this thing, and I don't want any kidding or joking from you.
Reid: That is the sad part of it.

After much bantering and bickering, Houdini, who may have arrived late, is welcomed before the committee. He answers a few questions in regards to his qualifications. Then he makes his opening statement. He begins with, "This is positively no attack upon religion. Please understand that, emphatically. I am not attacking a religion. I respect every genuine believer in spiritualism or any other religion, as long as it does not conflict with the laws of the country or laws of humanity. 
  But this thing they call "spiritualism" wherein a medium intercommunicated with the dead, is a fraud from start to finish. There are only two kinds of mediums, those who are mental degenerates and who out to be under observation, and those who are deliberate cheats and frauds. I would not believe a medium under oath; perjury means nothing to them."

And so it began. Houdini was not holding anything back. After his opening statement, the committee asks him questions. Congressman Rathbone asks Houdini if he has read the bill. Houdini replies he has read it eight or nine times. Then it is pointed out to Houdini that the bill never mentions spiritualism. They even direct a question to Houdini, "Is there anything in this bill that deals with spiritualism?". Houdini says, "Yes."

Clearly the committee is confused, and asks Houdini, "will you be good enough to point it out to me where the bill deals with spiritualism?"  Houdini follows with saying that under the guise of being a medium, they will tell fortunes. He makes the claim that 'mediums are clairvoyants'. And in D.C. the govt. gives licenses to clairvoyants for $25. He further goes on to say that there should be no distinction between fortune tellers and mediums as, in his mind, they are one in the same.

Then Houdini continues with describing some of the ways mediums operate, including wrapping themselves under the cloak of religion. They quote from the Bible, claiming it says various things about spiritualism. Houdini points out that he can refute any interpretation they make in regards to Biblical matters. Then Mr. Rathbone asks Houdini, if he is actually attacking spiritualism, because let's face it, it sure sounds like it.

Reading the actual transcripts of the events of Feb 26th, 1926 is fascinating. On one hand Houdini is claiming the bill says a great deal of things, that others claim it does not. For example, not once does it mention mediums or spiritualism. Yet to Houdini's mind, the very fact the bill says, "any person who, by game or device, sleight of hand, pretending, fortune telling, or by any trick or other means....shall be considered a disorderly person" and thus breaking the law and therefor covers mediums. He even declares as much. But when questioned about the difference between fraudulent vs. genuine spiritualist ministers, Congressman Bloom, the bills sponsor,  says the bill is only to weed out those who are bogus.

More than once it is suggested that the bill be redrafted to include some of the language that Houdini and Bloom are claiming is there, but isn't. Others on the committee are frustrated that this bill makes them all look ridiculous. Congressman Bloom points out that a similar bill was held constitutional by the State of New York. And Congressman Gilbert follows with, "Constitutional, but ridiculous."

As the session is nearing the end, Congressman Hammer speaks up and says to Houdini, "I didn't understand what your occupation is."  And I don't think he was alone in that. Some members had no clue who Houdini, one of the biggest names in show business was. Houdini follows with a classic line, "I am a syndicate writer; I am an author, and I am a mystifier, which means I am an illusionist.......I call it mystification, But I do tricks that nobody can explain." There is some conjecture about Houdini claiming real powers, which he flatly denies. He points out that others say he has these powers, but he has never made such claims.

Then Congressman Hammer makes a really astute observation, "These people claim they have divine power. Don't you think it is very difficult to do anything along the line of stopping them? I am talking to you. You have a religion; and I ask you whether, under our form of government, if we ought not to go very slow before we enact legislation along this line? I want some sort of bill; this bill or the New York law or something. I am in favor of amending and making stronger the law to prevent these things you have exposed, in doing which you have performed a great service, although you are rather severe in your strictures of those who disagree with you." This is all addressed at Houdini. Several of the members did think the idea of the bill worthwhile, but they knew that they were dangerously close to prohibiting religious liberties, and any such bill would be tossed quickly on those grounds.

The final person who was brought up to testify was a Mrs. Jane B. Coates, she was head of the American Order of the White Cross Society, and an ordained Spiritualist Minister. She had a clever angle. She pointed out that the bill made no reference to mediums who give spiritual advice, and that the bill should include language protecting the rights of spiritualists to give interviews to members of their congregations or to those who come to them in trouble and sorrow and needing advice. Then she further said their method of pay should be protected as well. Basically, she was wanting them to flip this bill on it's head and do the exact opposite that Houdini and Bloom wanted.

Rev. Jane Coates

Mrs. Coates got into a discussion with Congressman Bloom on fake mediums vs. real and she said she could trust no one that wasn't a mystic to be able to identify those who are fake. Congressman McLeod asks, "Is Mr. Houdini a mystic?". Mrs. Coates replies, "I think Mr. Houdini is one of the greatest mystics the world possesses today." And Congressman Bloom says, "But he says he is not." And Mrs. Coates follows with, "Mr. Houdini denies everyone's statement that is not on his side of the case."

Despite Houdini trying to butt-in and get his two cents back in the game, the session was closed due to the time. Houdini would have a couple months to reevaluate and prepare for his next meeting, which would take place on May 18th, 1926.

There was additional banter between Houdini and the Congressmen and Mrs. Coates. The newspapers of the day covered a few things that must have been struck from the Congressional Record. I have not included them here, but may post on one particular incident from the Feb 26th proceedings, on another date.

If you thought this session was wild, wait till you hear what happened in May!!!! Part 2 to follow shortly....

Originally published May 18, 2018

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Houdini Washington D.C. Hotels

The Willard in 1905 When Houdini Would Have Stayed There

I was curious as to where Houdini stayed when he was in Washington D.C. and I discovered rather quickly that one of the places was the Willard Hotel. The Willard is a DC landmark and has had many famous guests over it's very long life. Interestingly there is a plaque on the side of the building listing some of it's famous guests, Houdini's name is missing from the list. Yet I have no clue who a number of the people listed are. But on the Willards website they do list Houdini as a guest, as do a number of other sites related to the Willard.

The Willard is located at 1401-1409 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington DC.. This is across the street from one of Houdini's early theaters, Chase's Polite Vaudeville Theatre, which was located at 1424 Pennsylvania Ave NW. It was in the old Grand Opera House and was demolished long ago.

Houdini and Bess also stayed at The Hotel Washington on 15th St. That hotel recently became the 'W' Hotel. It is a few doors down from Keith's Vaudeville Theatre (15th and G St), where Houdini often performed and where he did one of his upside down straight jacket escapes in Washington D.C. On Jan 12th 1922, Houdini hung upside down in a straightjacket in front of Keith's. This is an iconic photo in the history of Houdini as it often shows the Treasury building across the street and some photos even catch a glimpse of the Washington Monument in the distance.

The old Munsey Building where in April 1916 Houdini did his first upside down straight jacket escape is not far from this, also on Pennsylvania Ave. and that location today is a Marriott Hotel, but Houdini did not stay there as it wasn't around at the time.

There were likely more hotels that the Houdinis stayed in as he performed in DC a lot during his career. But much has changed in DC, the majority of the theaters that existed at the turn of the century are gone. Keith's was demolished in the 1980s. The Gayety Theatre on 9th St. where Houdini performed in 1912 is also long gone. Even the Old DC Jail where Houdini did his famous escape from the cell belonging to Garfield's Assassin is also long gone. And that brings us back to the Willard because Houdini was performing at Chase's in 1906 when he did the jail escape so he likely was staying at The New Willard.

(This originally appeared in Nov 2010 on my blog. Some of the information was incorrect, so I have updated it and republished it nearly 10 years later, with accurate info!)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Magic Detective Podcast Ep 7-Houdini & Congress 1926

Seeing as we are on the eve of a big congressional election, I thought I'd share a podcast about the time Houdini testified before Congress on behalf of an Anti-Fortune Telling Bill. It was quite a wild affair, with Houdini bringing in some of his top notch investigators like Remegius Weiss and Rose Mackenburg. It's clear from the transcripts that some of the congressmen were not taking this seriously. Still others were dead serious about the testimony.

My guess is that Houdini must have had a hand in crafting the bill, which was another reason he was brought in. There are a number of surprises that come up over the several days of testimony. Much of this episode comes directly from the Congressional Record. And it also comes from several articles that appeared right here, in TheMagicDetective blog!

A side note, earlier this year (2018) I actually was involved in a video documentary about Houdini's time before Congress. The video was made for a French Language TV Show, so despite my excitement, it will all get dubbed over. I don't think it's aired yet, but when it does, I'll let you know. I'm curious how some of the magic turned out as the humidity that day was wreaking havoc on some of my sleights and flourishes, including a coin roll (the coin kept sticking to my fingers)

This episode runs almost 40 minutes and will be the last FULL Houdini Episode for a while. At least, that is the plan at the moment. Because it's my podcast, I could easily go back on that, lol. But I'm hoping to make the next podcast about Harry Kellar. For now, please enjoy Episode 7!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Episode 2 of The Magic Detective Podcast is UP!

I'm really having a fun time with these podcasts. I just uploaded episode 2, and episode 3 is finished and will go this weekend. Episode 4 however is one that I'm REALLY excited about. This one has the first feature that was written specifically for the podcast and will also be a blog article. That is what I had hoped to do all along, use both mediums to complement each other.

In Episode 2, I share some Washington D.C. connections to Magic History. The 15 item list can be seen here. During the HOUDINI RADIO Segment, I share the story of where Houdini got the dog that he gave to The Great Lafayette. Of course, that dog, whom he called Beauty, would be Lafayette's companion for the rest of his life. If you'd like to read more about Lafayette & his dog Beauty, follow this link.

I'll be experimenting with the Interview feature next week, so hopefully by the time I get to episode 5 or 6, I'll be ready to conduct some awesome interviews. And WOW, do I ever have a list of people!!!! You probably know some of them, and you might even BE one of them, lol. And I expect to have quite a few people that maybe you've not heard of but have so much to share!

Personally, I have gathered a great deal of information that I have never used for the blog. Now, I'll finally get a chance to use it for the podcast. I have a couple of interviews I did with people who have since passed on, so those might be fun to include. In addition, I've got some wild ideas that I just can't reveal, yet.

There is one thing I'm very careful NOT to do, and that is reveal secrets. I'm very old school in that regard, so I won't be tipping any big secrets. I know there will be non-magicians listening to the podcast and I don't want to give away the farm, so to speak. I've done a pretty decent job of keeping secrets out of the blog all these years, with the exception of two incidents which are among the 700+ blog articles, so I guess they're safe.

PLEASE DO ME A FAVOR, if you like the podcast, please leave me a review, or comment, or a LIKE, depending upon where you listen to it. 5 star reviews are appreciated. Trust me, I'll be working hard to earn them! And if you're listening via iTunes, please subscribe to the podcast! Or go to,

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Houdini Testifies Before Congress Continued

(Library of Congress Photo)
Before I can get to the next day(s) of testimony, I should mention that Houdini was doing double duty in Congress. He first met with the House Committee, which I covered in my previous article. Then later in the day he met with the Senate Committee.  The unfortunate thing is that though there is a complete record of the House Hearings, but so far I've not been able to track down the Senate hearings so all I have is newspaper accounts. So you know, I'm leaving out some of the more popular stories of these proceedings that have been told before, like Houdini putting Bess on the stand and verifying that he is 'a good boy.'

During the first day of Senate Hearings on the Anti-Fortune Telling Bill, the big revelation was the members of Congress and their wives often visited and consulted with the mediums and fortune tellers. It was brought up that even the White House was known to consult these folks. Here was information I'm sure the D.C. class didn't want to get out, but it did. I wonder if that's why the second day of hearings wasn't until the end of May, because they were hoping people would forget.

On May 18th, 1926 the Congressional Hearings for HR8989 the Anti-Fortune Bill resumed. The hearings began by hearing testimony from Remegius Weiss of Philadelphia. Weiss, no relation to Houdini's family, was an investigator into mediums and spirit phenomenon. He was another of the many investigators working for/or with Houdini. Weiss shared how he had exposed the famed Henry Slade, and even got Slade to sign a confession. The name of Conan Doyle also came up during the testimony and the Congressman were under the belief that Conan Doyle was a great authority on Spiritualism.

Moments later, Houdini addresses the Congressman in regards to Doyle. Mr. McLeod again reiterates that Conan Doyle was an authority on Spiritualism. Houdini jumps in and says, "Conan Doyle is not an outstanding authority." McLeod responds, "He is accepted as one of the best." And Houdini follows, "No, he is not accepted as one of the best. He is one of the greatest dupes, outside of Sir Oliver Lodge. Conan Doyle stated I posses mediumistic powers, which I deny."

McLeod says, "How can you prove it?" Houdini replied, "I admit that I do not have mediumistic powers. They claim in a London psychic college I dematerialize my body, and that I ooze through and come out again and put myself together." Mr. McLeod follows with, "How do you do it?" Houdini says something which is quite remarkable, "I do it like anybody else would do it. There is nothing secret about it. We are all humans. Nobody is supernormal. We are all born alike."

Then Congressman Bloom, one of the resolutions authors, says, "Have you ever heard of another city in the United States that has a similar law to the one in the District of Columbia in regards to fortune telling?" Houdini then explains that no city gives such a cheap license to fortune tellers and in fact, most cities actually have laws prohibiting it. Of those cities that do offer a license, they have fees like, $1500 per year, $1000 per year, $5 per day, $500 per quarter and $150 per month. Whereas the District of Columbia charges a mere $25 per year.

Next to testify would be Rose Mackenberg. She would again open up that source of embarrassment for quite a few Congressmen which was first revealed in February. Rose had visited two of the key mediums in the audience, Madam Marcia and Rev Jane Coates, prior to the days proceedings. She visited them separately, but a key bit of information was shared by both mediums. That devastating bit of information was that Congressman often visit mediums in town. Not only that, they included the White House among their group of spiritualism devotees. And then, she mentions that Senator Fletcher's wife is a medium herself.

This revelation also includes the clue to a question I have had for a while. That question is, "how did all these mediums and fortune tellers know about the hearings in order to show up?" Well, along with the fact that many Congressmen attend seances or get readings, Rev Jane Coates also mentions that she has been lobbying Congressman and had interviewed 22 of them and 16 were 'entirely favorable towards spiritualism'. Obviously, with members of Congress being so friendly with the spiritualist community, it's easy to see who told the mediums about the hearings, the Congressmen!

Reading Rose Mackenberg's testimony is certainly fascinating, but I'd like to share with you now, testimony from 'the other side'. No, not from the spirits, lol, but rather from one of the spiritualists. On May 20th, 1926, Reverend H.P. Strack, secretary of the Nationals Spiritualists Association of America, gives his testimony. What he tries to do is shred the statements made by previous speakers.
He began with Remegius Weiss's testimony about Dr. Henry Slade. Reverand Strack says, "In the testimony given by the man from Philadelphia (Weiss), he refers to a seance conducted by the medium named Slade. If the committee will remember, in this man's testimony he stated the medium would take his foot and kick a book, and the book would remain floating in the air. That is concrete evidence of mediumship, the law of levitation forcing a book to remain in the air that has been kicked by a medium." Now, let's look at what Weiss really said. "A book extended over the edge of the table, Dr. Slade slyly gave the book a kick with his left foot from under the table. The book turned over like a flap door. There is nothing remarkable in this trick. Still up to this time, spiritists say 'Dr. Slade floated a book in the air.'"  So, Weiss actually showed that Slade's attempt to 'float a book' was actually done by secretly kicking the book. And that it merely flipped over. It did not float in the air. And despite this, the spiritists claim the book floated, NOT Weiss, who again, exposed it. So Reverend Strack was misleading in this part of his testimony.

Strack also mentions a curious exchange that took place during the Senate Hearings. The speaker had
mentioned that Houdini claimed that all of these mediums were fakes and frauds and asked if he would include the Davenport Brothers in that statement. Houdini apparently replied, "The reason I have not included the Davenport brothers was because they are personal friends of mine, and I am a student of Dana Davenport."  I haven't been able to check this against the actual record, but it's fairly obvious that Houdini simply didn't want to include his friends in all this nonsense. The Davenports never claimed to be real mediums, but they also never claimed that they weren't. Houdini said the Davenports shared their secret rope tie with him. At this point though, they were no longer performing.

I'm not sure who Dana Davenport is though, as it wasn't the name of either of the brothers. Perhaps it's a misspelling or the stenographer didn't take down the name properly. The brothers were William Henry and Ira Erastus. The photo to the right is of Houdini and Ira Erastus Davenport. The other brother had died back in 1877 when Houdini was just a child.

A curious moment happens when President Abraham Lincoln's name is brought up. Lincoln seems to be a favorite 'spirit' among mediums as he has a habit of showing up in many so-called seances. The spiritualists communities often point to Lincoln himself being a devote spiritualist. Houdini at one point decided to squelch this statement by bringing for into evidence a letter, written by Lincoln's son, denying that his father was ever a believer in spiritualism. Mary Todd Lincoln was the one so desperate as to seek out these folks, but not Abraham Lincoln.

Some of the additional highlights from the proceedings include Houdini giving a demonstration of spirit voices speaking through a trumpet, which was well received by the congressman. A bit later, one congressman mentions a stunt that Houdini did where he was blindfolded and drove around town, and he would stop the vehicle and retrieve a missing object. At first this seemed to me like a blindfold drive, but now I think it's probably more akin to a mere blindfold stunt or at the most some sort of hellstromism (muscle reading).

At a later point in the proceedings Houdini gives a demonstration of Slate Writing, which he prefaces that 'anyone can do'. In other words, it's not supernatural. He shows two school slates, and the numbers 1-2-3-4 are written on the respective sides of the slates to show that they contain no other writing. Then the numbers are cleaned off and the two slates tied together with a handkerchief and placed a piece of chalk between them. Next, Houdini produces a dictionary that was purchased that morning and asks a member of Congress to drop a card within the pages of the book, so marking a page. He comically asks the Spirits to tell him the number of the page, the first word in the book and some sentence that he would not know. Sure enough, when he unties the slates, writing is seen, the page number is correct, the words are correct, and there is a sentence which is actually a message for someone in the room.

The mediums all say that Houdini simply demonstrated what they knew, that he himself was actually a spirit medium. Houdini denied the accusation. He said he was bound by his art not to reveal magic tricks, but he had no problem exposing spirit tricks. And then shared how he knew in advance the various words and numbers and how he eavesdropped on an earlier conversation and used that as his secret sentence on the slates. At the finale, he exposed the full secret of the slates. (By the way, the photo above has a blemish on it. Houdini is not holding a cigar in his mouth, despite the way it looks.)

Oh, but there was one more thing. Madame Marcia, whom Houdini called Madame Marchia, and it was recorded that way in several publications. Madame Marcia made a prediction that Houdini would soon die. She wasn't the only medium to predict that, or wish that. And in this instance, that prediction would ultimately come true.

In the end, despite 4 days of testimony from Houdini, his investigators, Madame Marcia, Reverend Coates and others, there would be no Anti-fortune telling bill. The bill rode too closely to the line of infringing upon religious liberties.  Reading through the transcripts from the House Hearings, I think Houdini missed his calling as a lawyer!

The Government Printing Office published a booklet entitled, FORTUNE TELLING Hearings Before the Subcommittee On Judiciary On The Committee Of The District of Columbia House of Representatives 69th Congress First Session H.R. 8989. The last word that appears in the official transcript from the House of Representatives published by the Government Printing Office........the final word.........HOUDINI.

In case you missed it, please go back and read part 1 of this story

Sunday, May 7, 2017

HOUDINI Takes DC 2017

The ObscuraDay Event called Houdini Takes DC was a huge hit yesterday! They sold out, and I think they might have even over sold, which was fine by me! The event took place at the Tivoli Magic Shop in Washington DC. It's a a beautiful shop, though not really a magic shop. Check out the link if you'd like to learn more about them. They had a nice room for us and to start was Magic Historian and Collector Ken Trombly. Let me say, Ken has an INCREDIBLE collection. The fact he is willing to bring these priceless posters to events is beyond generous. Ken had 4 major posters and some smaller broadsides, as well as a folder filled with postcards and photographs.

Ken gave an overview of Houdini's life by showing the various items he had that
Ken Trombly
related to those periods. The audience sat riveted during his talk. He really delivered a great deal of information, and being able to see the actual posters and other memorabilia was the icing on the cake. I stood in the back trying to keep my big mouth shut and not interrupt. He spoke for a little over 30 minutes and showed some items that would have stunned a seasoned magic collector let alone a room full of history enthusiasts and lay people.

There was a break, for cherry pie ( a favorite of Bess Houdini and they served it at the previous Houdini event here as well).

Then they introduced me. I was supposed to do a show but ended up spending my time doing a mixture of magic and telling stories, some related to Houdini, some related to escapes, some related to associates of Houdini's. For example, I shared the story of Harry Cooke, a mentor of Houdini's and an individual who was present during the Lincoln assassination. I shared a story of a woman who found herself caught up in a haunted house and a seance. And I shared a ton of stories about Houdini. I tried to stay within the area that Ken had set during his talk but elaborated on various stories. I have found when talking about Houdini, I can go on forever, but I had to stay within the 30+ minute format....(I might have gone a little over).

Carnegie about to escape from Handcuffs.
The first piece of magic I presented was a newly discovered Houdini card trick. I say, newly discovered because I was unaware of it, lol. I found it in one of the Walter Gibson books and the trick comes from Houdini's notes. It's a strange sort of transposition trick with a card and it played really well. I followed this with my version of Cards Across, just to fill out the 'Houdini King of Cards' portion of my talk.

Next I moved into his early escapes, handcuff escapes specifically. And I went on to present two escapes, one from a pair of police issue regulation Smith and Wesson cuffs. The other from a pair of ungimmicked Hamburg 8 cuffs.

I wanted to give people a feeling for Houdini beyond just the regular stories, so I threw in the story of Harry Cooke, and how they were associated. I always thought their connection was because they were both escape artists. But I know believe that their connection was, #1 because of Cooke's Anti-spiritualist crusade years before Houdini was born, and #2, Cooke's connection to Abe Lincoln, who was Houdini's boyhood idol.

I shared the story about Cooke being summoned to Washington to demonstrate his ability to free himself from ropes. And here, I took the opportunity to present a rope escape.  I chose to use a technique found in Houdini's book, Magical Rope Ties & Escapes. The technique allows for an almost instantaneous escape from the bonds. In truth, Cooke had been tied up with 100 ft of rope and still escapes in seconds. I had 100 ft of rope on hand, but was saving it for later but ran out of time.

The closing routine was a Spirit Slate routine with a story. A true story? Sort of. Aspects of the story are true, but I do take liberties, it is a show after-all. The story is an emotional one, and I use it to help people understand the deep connection that people have when they see mediums....and also WHY Houdini was so angered by the whole thing because he knew the mediums were fake and playing off the emotions of the grieving.

At the end, I answered a few questions, spoke with numerous people after the program and packed up. All in all, I'd say the day was a HUGE success. I'd like to thank Julie Siegel for her great work AGAIN, and all her fellow Obscura staff. Thank you for inviting me to be part of your event! Also, I'd like to thank Tivoli Magic Shop and 826DC for letting us use their incredible space.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Talking Magic History at TEDx in DC

I had the great honor of being invited to speak at a TEDx event in Washington. It was such an enjoyable event. I was asked to speak about magic history and possibly present some magic as well. Not an easy task with a time limit of 8 minutes. All the speakers at the event had 8 minutes to talk. If I had talked ONLY magic history, my speech would have been a bit more in depth. But as it was, I only spoke for 5+ and used the rest of the time for my magic routine. So what they got was a brief overview of magic history.

A TED talk is very different than a lecture. It has to fit within a structure and really move quickly and get to the point fast. Thankfully, the team at TEDxFoggy Bottom were super helpful with guiding my speech in the right direction. As time went on and I rehearsed the speech, I sadly had to cut several  whole paragraphs from the talk. The actual talk is more like 12 minutes, without the magic trick. But I still was able to present a wonderful talk on magic and then follow it up with an unusual piece of wonderment.

If you're wondering the effect I presented, I borrowed a bill and caused it to travel via a Victorian Teleportation Device into a Lightbulb. Actually, the same time the bill traveled to the bulb, the lighting element from the bulb traveled to my Teleportation Device, that's the effect I was going for. Kind of like a mini Metamorphosis trick done with different objects. (and Metamorphosis just so happened to be the theme of the day).

The event sold out so that means they sold 1500 tickets. And what a truly WONDERFUL audience they were! But as wonderful as the audience was, the backstage staff and crew were even more incredible. If only every theatre crew was as attentive and helpful as this bunch. Heck, I'd love to take them with me when we play theatres, they were simply beyond professional!

Eventually, my speech will be posted online, but it might be a couple weeks yet. So if you'd like to get a preview you can check out the incredible graphic that was done LIVE while I spoke by artist Trent Wakenight. Amazingly, he captured all the elements from my talk in the graphic below!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

DC Jail Escape Follow-up.

The 10th Precinct Building

Back in 2014 I wrote an article about Houdini's 1906 jail escape in Washington DC from the 10th precinct. When I first wrote the article I thought  that the jail had been torn down. Later I discovered that in fact, that jail actually was still there and still operational. I finished the article by saying, "Maybe someday I'll head over there and check out to see if Houdini's cell is still there."

As it turned out, last year I received an email from a friend of mine who lives near there. He told me he was planning on going over and check the place out. But then I didn't hear from him. I figured maybe he never made it over. But alas, I ran into him at The Yankee Gathering in November 2016. The mans name is Charles Greene, and he is an excellent magician, speaker and magic historian/collector, and also owner of this site

It turns out that Charles DID visit the 10th Precinct Station and went inside inquiring about a 'Houdini's jail cell'. The cell, was originally in the basement and Charles was told that they'd been removed a long while ago. Still he pressed on and asked to see for himself. Sure enough, there was nothing remaining. The building was still standing but the cell where Houdini did his escape was gone. And thanks to Charles, at least now we know!

Now please don't mistake this for Houdini's other, and more famous jail escape in DC from the Old DC Jail. That would be where Houdini escaped from the cell that once held the assassin to president Garfield. That escape would take place only 5 days later, on Jan 6th, 1906. Below are two views of the prison that may be new to many people. They come from the Library of Congress/Harris&Ewing Collection.

This Old D.C. Jail  was torn down in the early 80s. However, as an interesting side now, the stones used in the building were from the same quarry that supplies stones for the Smithsonian Castle. So some of the jail stones were taken to the Smithsonian to use in repairs of the Castle.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

HOUDINI In Washington D.C. 1906

The Sunday Star, Washington D.C. Sept 16, 1906
I have spent a lot of time following Houdini's footsteps while he was in the Nation's Capital, mainly
because I live in this area and can occasionally go down and check out sites for myself. Houdini was in town in January 1906 and had a very successful run. It looks as though demand for Houdini was pretty high because he was back in September for two weeks.

This time performing at Chase's Polite Vaudeville Theatre. Search as I have, I've been unable to turn up a photo of Chase's theatre. However, to the right is a program from Chases. The building has long been torn down. However, it was a very popular location during Houdini's time and he was in town doing his Straitjacket, Handcuff and challenge escapes.

Houdini began his run on Sunday September 16, 1906 featuring a standard stuff from his repitiore, but let's face it, his standard material was quite exciting. In one escape demonstration he was handcuffed with a half dozen pair of wrist and leg irons. During another sequence he was tied to a chair with several yards of rope by members of the audience. The final demonstration was his first challenge of the week. This is what the Evening Star Newspaper reported, "Possibly the most pleasing of his demonstrations was the simple manner in which he opened a pair of antique handcuffs from Greece, furnished by Andrew Alexaids, a local Greek interpreter, and an old-time pair of slave handcuffs. He freed himself from these manacles in full view of the audience, the slave-era handcuffs yielding when simply tapped on the floor."

September 17, 1906 the newspaper ad for Chase's says "Houdini-The World's Handcuff King and Prison Breaker, IN NEW AND SENSATIONAL ESCAPE FEATS AT EVERY PERFORMANCE. Police and Public Challenged to Test His Never Defeated Power." Also at the bottom of the ad it says that Houdini has been re-engaged for next week, so he'll be staying over an extra week.

September 18, 1906 the newspaper ad reads "Houdini Challenged! TONIGHT HE WILL ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE FROM A MURDEROUS MANIAC'S STRAIT-JACKET ...... CAN   HE  DO  IT?

September 19, 1906 the newspaper ad reads "Houdini's Greatest. Tonight he will attempt the most difficult handcuffs ever used to challenge him. Will he free himself???

September 20, 1906 the newspaper ad reads "HOUDINI IN A BAG! Challenged by Killian & Co., paper box manufacturers, Houdini will tonight try to escape from a big paper bag. Can he?" So far the week has been fairly normal material for Houdini. The Paper Bag Escape is something he would repeat in other cities.

September 21, 1906 the newspaper ad reads "HOUDINI BOXED UP Tonight he will attempt to escape from a packing case made by the packers of S. Kann, Sons & Co., Will he succeed?"

September 22, 1906 Houdini offers a twist on an earlier escape. Here is what the newspaper ad read, "HOUDINI IN A BAG No.2 Tonight he will try to get out of a paper bag tied at both ends. Will he do it? Come and See!"

September 23, 1906 marks the beginning of the second week. An interesting thing takes place. Because Houdini has been drawing so many people to his shows, the theatre has decided to open up the wings on the stage and ad chairs there! These seats come at a premium. In addition the newspaper ad for Sunday Sept 23, changes it's look at lists all of the weeks challenges.

There are articles in two different papers featuring Houdini in addition to the newspaper ads. One of the articles mentions that there will be a challenge escape at every performance in addition to Houdini's usual program of handcuff releases.

September 24, 1906 the newspaper ad reads, "HOUDINI's ORDEAL. Tonight he will attempt to escape from a maniac murderer's strait-jacket in full view of the audience. A thrilling event. Can he get out?" The following day another paper ads this report about the Sept 24 performance, "Last night he submitted to the demands of an insistent challenger who presented a manacle different from the regulation pattern required in the act. It took some minutes longer than the usual for Houdini's performance, but when he emerged from his cabinet, both hands were free."

September 25, 1906 the newspaper ad reads, "HOUDINI IN A CASE. Tonight he will attempt to escape from the Saks & Co., packing case, which will be constructed on the stage in full view of the audience."

September 26, 1906 the newspaper ad reads, "HOUDINI JACKETED Tonight he will attempt to escape from a Blackwell's Island insane asylum homicidal lunatic's strait-jacket, with leg bag and ropes upon him."

On September 27th there is an unusual change in the ads that appear in the Washington Time and The Evening Star papers. One of them prints an ad that reads, "HOUDINI IN ROPES Tonight he will make a sensational effort to escape from rope imprisonment in a chair." But the other paper has an ad that lists a whole bunch of challenges. That ad reads, "HOUDINI, The Mysteriarch of Manacles and Prisons. TWELVE CHALLENGE ESCAPE ATTEMPTS. Every Matinee and Every Evening Night. Houdini will make different Thrilling Tests of His Powers. Lunatic's Crib Escape. The Door Transfixion. The Ladder-of-death Suspension. The Witches' Pillory Confinement. The Invincible Paper Bag Release. The Iron Crate Incarceration. The Mammoth Football. The Greater Packing Case Tests. The Padlocked Leather Bag Escape. The Thrilling Hindoo Needle Feats, &c. &c. &c." There is one more article from the 27th, but I'm saving it for the end.

On September 28th he had a clever challenge put forth that reads like this, "HOUDINI'S ZINC CASE
Tonight he will attempt to escape from the Knabe & Co. Piano Export Packing Case, Lined with Zinc and Screw-Fastened, etc."

September 29th, 1906 was his final night of the two week run. Here is what the ad says, "HOUDINI'S FAREWELL Tonight he will conclude his engagement with a grand display of his power of manacles and strait-jackets."

That concludes his two week run at Chase's Polite Vaudeville Theatre. However, I wanted to reprint the newspaper article that appeared on Sept 27th, 1906. It's a little too long to just retype, so I am putting it below so you can read the entire thing yourself.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Houdini's Week in D.C. Feb 1912

(Library of Congress)
Houdini opened for a week at the Gayety Theater in Washington D.C. Feb 12, 1912. He would play the Gayety until Saturday Feb 17th. The Gayety Theater was located on 513 9th St. NW Washington, D.C. The Gayety opened in 1907 on the street known for it's theaters and nightlife.

According to an ad in the Washington Times on Feb 12, "Houdini-the Handcuff King, Who will perform astounding feats with locks, straitjackets, and handcuffs at every performance. The Original HOUDINI." The ad also mentioned that Houdini would perform twice a day, a matinee in the afternoon and then again in the evening.

Through newspaper records I've been able to track Houdini's performances for the week. It would appear that his opening on Monday Feb 12, he presented a number of feats and then let the audience know of the first 'challenge' for the week. This would take place on Tuesday evening Feb 13th. I will print exactly what it says in the newspaper ad.

"HOUDINI-the Handcuff King Has just been challenged to escape from an airtight galvanized iron tank into which he will be locked by the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co., after they have filled it with beer. Tuesday Night"

So here is 'Challenge 1' and it's obvious that this one was orchestrated by Houdini. The 'airtight galvanized iron tank' is Houdini's Milk Can escape, but filled with beer rather than the usual water. And instead of hauling it out as his original invention, it's presented as a challenge from the Brewery.

On Feb 14th, Houdini is again challenged. Here is how reads the ad for the Gayety Theater promoting this escape.

"HOUDINI the Handcuff King, HOUDINI has been challenged by the Beacon Shoe Company. They will search him, rope him and nail him in a box they have built and out of which they wager he cannot escape."

Things get really interesting on Thursday Feb 15th. The Gayety takes out a larger ad, this time promoting ONLY Houdini. In addition, small articles on Houdini appear in two different newspapers. One of those articles is promoting his challenge for that evening. The other article is quite telling. The headline for this article reads "Houdini Does Magic For Newspaper Men". This time, rather than go to the newspapers office, he went to the National Press Club. He presented some card manipulations and tricks with cards and then finished with his famous Needle trick.  Houdini must have given this exhibition for the Press Club sometime in the afternoon. The National Press Club is only a couple blocks from where the Gayety Theater was located.

On Feb 15th, Houdini actually presented not one but two challenges. The afternoon challenge is by the Blacksmith Gussmans. The evening challenge is by the Seaman Gunners from the U.S. Navy Yard which again, is not too far from the theater. You can see that ad to the left.

On Friday Feb 16th, Houdini again gets a small article featuring his upcoming escape for that evening. In addition the two big papers in town both print ads similar to the one above featuring the details of that days challenges. In the afternoon, Houdini accepts the challenge made by a group of Sailmakers. They will tie his hands and feet behind his back with ropes soaked in rosin and tar, then place him in two of their specially made burlap bags. One to be fastened over head and the other tied at feet.

The evening challenge carries the headline "The Supreme Test of His Career-TONIGHT". The rest of the ad reads, " Insane asylum attendants will roll him in soaked wet sheets in mummy fashion, securely tie him down with broad bandages to a hospital bed, pour 20 buckets of water over him to shrink the knots, and he will attempt to release himself in FULL VIEW OF THE AUDIENCE".

Saturday Feb 17th is Houdini's final day at the Gayety in Washington D.C.. He gets yet another small article in the paper featuring his challenges. The article begins by saying that Houdini has been breaking all records at the Gayety this week. The two big papers again feature very large ads promoting the final challenges for the week. The matinee challenge will be from 'Spanish Inquisition Irons from war museums.'. And the final evening challenge of the week might sound familiar to some of you folks who know Houdini. The final challenge reads "Mechanic's Automobile Challenge - They will bind and lock Houdini in two inflated tires. They guarantee not to choke him in locking his head to the tires." This is a duplication of the Weed Tire Challenge that he first performed in 1908.

There you go, a week in the career of Harry Houdini Feb 12-17, 1912 Washington D.C.

Inside the Gayety Theatre - Library of Congress Photo

The information for this article was gathered from the Washington Times Newspaper and The Washington Herald Newspaper from 1912.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Houdini's First Straitjacket Escape in Washington D.C.

I was going through some old files today and came across an image I had set aside 'for the right time'. As I looked at the date on the image, April 19th, 1916 (98 years ago today) I figured THIS must be the time for this article...except, I apparently already wrote that article a year ago. So, this is a follow up to what I wrote then.

First, let's begin with this little blurb to my right, from the Washington Times, April 18th, 1916. It describes the escape that Houdini has planned for the following day and invites people out to cheer him on. For historical accuracy they mention that the escape will take place in front of the Munsey Building.

I remember the first time I found out about this detail. I had no idea where the Munsey Building was and it took a fair amount of time to figure it out. As fate would have it, even after I found out where it was, I still made some minor errors in my assumptions.

The Munsey Building was in the 1300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. The Munsey Building was where The Washington Times Newspaper had their offices. That would explain the extra special coverage Houdini was getting from their paper.

Munsey Building in 1919. (Smithsonian Institution)
The photo above is pretty much what the Munsey Building looked like when Houdini did his escape. The smaller building to the left is the old Washington Post Newspaper building. And hidden by the trees on the right is where the National Theatre resides. The Munsey Building was torn down in the early 1980s, the Washington Post building was torn down long before that. In place of the Munsey building is a Marriot Hotel.

I will reprint the front page of the April 19th, 1916 Washington Times Newspaper for you, enjoy...

More than 15,000 Persons Cheer as "Handcuff King"
Frees Himself Hanging Head Down


More than 15,000 persons saw Harry Houdini hanged today in front of the Times Building. In just 2 minutes and 30 seconds from the time he was swung into mid-air, trussed up in a strait-jacket from which there is said to be no escape, Houdini wiggled himself free, waved his arm and was lowered to the ground.

As Houdini freed himself from the jacket, the crowd sent up a cheer which could be heard for blocks. As a moment later, Houdini waved his arm to the yelling, applauding throng, and while the cameras and motion picture machines clicked, the men who held the ropes let him down.
Persons who saw the great throng from windows of nearby buildings said it was the biggest crowd ever assembled in Washington at one place, except for the inauguration of a President. Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street from Thirteenth to Fourteenth Streets were literally jammed. Human beings were packed as tight and close as sardines in a can.
Had To Get Police Aid
There came near being no Houdini hanging. There were too many spectators. The "handcuff king" and Manager Robbins, of Keith's Theater found it necessary to call for police aid to get through the mob that assembled in front of the Munsey building. Robbins was left behind in the automobile, and Captain Peck conducted the star performer of the day to the platform that had been built for him by main strength.
"That's worse than getting out of a straitjacket" said Houdini, when he reached the platform, puffing and setting his clothes back in place, from (continued below)
(click image to enlarge)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Houdini On New Years Day - 1906

It was 108 years ago today, that Harry Houdini was in Washington D.C.. He visited D.C. many times during his career and enjoyed many successful performances. He was in town performing at Chase's Theatre.  On Jan 1, 1906, he went down to the 10th Precinct Police Station to attempt a jail cell escape. We actually have Houdini's own words to describe this event.

"I took a long chance there. They didn't give me a square deal. I went to them and as I always do in the cities I visit, offered them the chance to lock me in and keep me there if they could. But I made the condition I always insist on that I should see the cell in which they intended placing me and examine the locks to be used. The lieutenant of police at the precinct to which they too me agreed to this, but after the test started, I heard him whisper to one of his men to bring him the locks for another cell.

Naturally I objected to any change and he became most offensive in his manner. He told me his orders were to lock me up and keep me there, and intimated that if I was afraid I could pass the thing up and take the consequences. I remonstrated with him and told him to remember that I was not a criminal. That I had come to him of my own accord and deserved the courtesy due an equal. But he could not see it, and continued his brutal threatening attitude.

Then I lost my head and went ahead recklessly. I know now that I was foolish to do so, for my reputation is well established in every large city in the world, and I did not need the Washington test. Of course, I was endangering my reputation in submitting to a chance of locks, for if they had got me by any means whatever, my standing would have been badly damaged.

I got out in eighteen minutes, to the great surprise of the lieutenant. He had evidently been prepared to be anything that I couldn't do it. Why he would have staked his head on keeping me in. Not that that article is of any value."

Houdini went on to add, "Since my return to the United States I have broken out of stationhouses in New York, Brooklyn, Rochester, Buffalo, Detroit, and Baltimore, but it has remained for Washington to treat me like a common malefactor. The fact that my wife is present prevents me from telling you (a reporter) exactly what I do think of that lieutenant and his assistants. You can probably guess what I would say if she were not in the room."

This interview with Houdini appeared in The Washington Times Newspaper, on Sunday January 7th, 1906. It is interesting to note that this particular escape often gets forgotten because on January 6th, 1906, Houdini escaped from the Jail Cell of the assassin on President Garfield at the Old D.C. Jail.

Let's look at some additional details of this New Years Day escape at the 10th Precinct. The chief of
D.C. Police Chief Richard Sylvester (Library of Congress)
Police in Washington D.C. Major Richard Sylvester had his office there so he was probably  the one pulling the strings at this event. The lieutenant of the police precinct was Lieut. H. B. Elliot. The Lieutenant would later claim to have found a 'needle' in the jail cell that was not there prior to Houdini's escape, hinting that perhaps this had something to do with his escape.

A couple sources mention that Houdini was locked into an 'invisible bracelet' used by the Secret Service, but I do not know what type of restraint this was. In the book, Houdini, Tarzan and The Perfect Man by John Kasson, he mentions the invisible bracelet and also gives more detail of the Jail Cell. Houdini was locked in cell number 3. "Then the police shut the heavy barred door with a bar lock that is first set to lock three times. A lever throws another lock, and a Yale padlock completes the quintet of locks. A wire network around the padlock prevents a hand from being thrust from inside the cell."Yet despite all of these conditions and being treated like a common criminal, Houdini succeeded in escaping in 18 minutes, his 62nd Jail escape.

I originally wrote about this event on this blog in an article I did on Houdini's D.C. Challenges. At the time I thought that the 10th Precinct had been torn down. But I recently discovered that it is still very much in existence so I posted a photo. Perhaps one day, I'll see if they will allow me to take a photo of Jail Cell #3.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Kindness of Harry Blackstone Sr

While at the Magic History Conference in D.C. my friend Adele pointed out a jeweled pin she was wearing. I guess it's called a broach. It was quite stunning with it's many colorful stones and it was in the shape of a ballerina.

Well it turns out that Harry Blackstone Sr. gave this piece of jewelry to Adele on her 18th Birthday back in the 1940s. She wears it proudly today and it's so nice that she remembers the many adventures she had on the Blackstone show so many years ago. I frankly can't recall much of went on at my first job, let alone names and dates and places.

Adele Friel Rhindress is a remarkable person and a treasure in the world of magic history.

me, Trixie Bond and Adele

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It's Over. D.C. Symposium on Magic History

So many highlights to record I'm not sure where to start. Well, let's begin with the auction which was fun to watch, but I got there too late to register for it. There were several Houdini items and some props that had belonged to Tampa and Raymond posters. There was some really cool stuff. But the most amazing piece was brought from California to DC by Mike Caveney. It was a contract, written in Russian for Houdini's tour of Russia. It was amazingly signed with both Harry Houdini's signature and Erich Weiss's signature. It sold for $10,000 to Bill Kalush, but word is he purchased it for someone else who has a big ass warehouse in Las Vegas, at least that's the gossip going around. It was exciting to watch the bidding on that and kudos to Bill Kalush for picking it up regardless of the gossip. Honestly, I hope he bought it for his own collection.

The afternoon lectures were interesting. There was a fellow who was an American of Indian decent named Shreeyash Palshikar who spent some time in India learning about the magicians there and he shared his knowledge of Indian Magic History which I found fascinating. I really enjoyed his lecture.

James Hamilton lectured on Alexander Herrmann and his smoking habits. He concluded by showing an item that Herrmann kept at his home which looked like an odd cigar box which could be showed empty and then a moment later would be filled with cigars. The top of the box had a cigar cutter in it and in the top section there was a place for matches and a striking surface. The prop belonged to John Daniel and was willed to James Hamilton. I talked with James about it the day before and mentioned that it looked to me to be a Martinka Drawer Box and he agreed it did and it was possible that it was made by them, but he wasn't 100% sure who manufactured it. What was certain was that it did belong to Alexander Herrmann.

The third speaker was Will Given who talked about The Davenport Brothers. Having just completed a bunch of research on the brothers a while back, I didn't expect there to be anything new in here to me. And in fact, when I first posted this blog I had forgotten about something he said that was NEW to me. I really enjoyed his talk!
 By the way, the night before (Friday) Bill Kalush mentioned finding a manuscript written by Houdini which had the 'real work' on the Davenport Rope Tie which has NEVER been revealed anywhere.

The evening had a big delay in the show because one of the acts had not showed up. I think it was just a miscommunication and the show was up and running around 9pm. Darwin Ortiz did a fine job and there were a few lay people sitting behind me that were going especially nuts over his performance!
OH, the M.C. was my old friend Bob Sheets. Bob is like the go-to guy for this kind of thing locally. I always enjoy watching Bob work. He was really funny tonight.

The middle act was the Shreeyash Palshikar  and he opened with a rendition of the Indian Cups and Balls which is different from the cups and balls that we all know. I was familiar with what he was going to do because I recently watched a DVD with Charlie Miller discussing the Indian version of the trick. His version was quite good.

Then Bob came out and did a bit and introduced Eric Henning. He is a local performer and he did two tricks with borrowed rings and also the Linking Rings. Next up was a special guest, Pernel Zorch. If you don't know this name it is Al Cohen, the former magic shop owner and super nice guy. He created a character back in the late 1970s that was a comic magician character. Al actually got me involved slightly as well. He said he was going to do the needle through balloon but couldn't because he didnt have any props. Then I held up a Needle to his surprise and someone else produced a balloon. Then Al went into his routine where the needle bent while trying to push it through a balloon. Funny Stuff! He spoke a little about his creation of the character and then a video was shown of Al doing the act at a convention and it was hysterical.

Bob Sheets came back with more of his zany magic and finally the Indian Magician Shreeyash   returned to the stage to do the East Indian Needle Trick, a Needle through arm and an interesting version of the Sands of Egypt, or in this case, Sands of India trick.

Oh I almost forgot that Johnny Fox was there and he also did a sword swallowing spot on the show plus a tribute to Nate Leipzig which you had to see to believe. 

With that, I said good bye to some friends, headed to the dealer room and packed my artwork and bolted. I was exhausted. Sadly, there were several people I didnt get to say goodbye too, but I'm sure I'll see them all again soon.

On a personal note, I had a fun lunch with Wayne Alan today where we mostly talked Houdini. I had dinner with my friend Adele and Trixie Bond and her husband Mark and it was a very fun time. I got to meet and talk with John Gaughan for a bit today and also met Gary Hunt who is a fellow researcher into the life of Wyman the Wizard! He showed me photos of Wyman's House in NJ. So cool to see. And there were other things that went on this weekend that I'm sure I'll remember in a few days but my brain is fried right now from lack of sleep.

OH crap, I just remembered something. I got to meet Arthur Moses today who is a big Houdini collector. I was going to buy some stuff from him but completely forgot. Arthur if you're reading this, I'll put in an order via the web!

Big thanks go out to Ken Trombly and Elliot Blatt who put together a great convention. And also, Ken Norris and Tom Olenick who did the audio visual stuff behind the scenes and kept the conference running seamlessly. Tom Ewing did a GREAT job as the auctioneer and for many of the events. Also a big thank you to my friend Adele for encouraging me to come to this. It was my first magic history conference and I had a wonderful time!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 2 DC Magic History Symposium

I can't report too much on Day 2 because I missed 2/3rds of the days events. I understand that the attendees enjoyed the Library of Congress though there were issues with the buses. I missed the afternoon lectures, so I'll have to catch up on some of that tomorrow.

I arrived at 8pm, just in time to see the first speaker, John MacLaughlin. He spoke about Magic, Espionage and the CIA. It was an incredible talk and I was frankly enthralled the entire time. So well put together and interesting throughout. He was a tough act to follow.

In the second spot was Bill Kalush, who frankly did an excellent job as well. When you come upon NEW Houdini material it's big news and he had some new Houdini stuff to share. A lost/forgotten manuscript that Houdini had written has been found. He also shared his thoughts and insights on the story of Houdini having to cut a whole in the ice to escape from a river. It was great and I hope I have some time tomorrow to meet and chat with Bill.

The final speaker was Dale Salwak who spoke about Magic and Magicians in North Korea. Also, fascinating and delivered with sincerity and passion. He is correct when he says that magic is a language that overcomes barriers and politics and can bring people together. I applaud his work and I also hope to get to meet him tomorrow.

I forgot to mention seeing my friend Joe Pecore at the event yesterday. Joe is a great guy, magic history lover and is Mr. Magicpedia, and a good friend as well. He's invited me to work on a project in the fall that is very exciting, so I'll share more about that in the future.

I had to say goodbye to my friend Scott Humston who was in the area visiting and came to the conference yesterday and today, but he is going to miss everything tomorrow because he and his family have to get back to Florida for shows on Monday. I can understand this because I missed most of today from shows. Safe travels.

I chatted a little with Wayne Alan both yesterday and today and Wayne is the fellow putting on the Houdini Festival in Danville at the end of June. We'll be talking about that more tomorrow so I'll have more information about that festival in the near future.

OH, I got to see my old friend Richard Kaufman who I haven't seen in years. Richard lives not all that far from me, but it seems like forever since I've seen him. It was good to see him again. Oh and speaking of folks I haven't seen in years, Charles Green is another local who I've not seen in a long time. It was nice to see Charles, though we didn't get to chat but for a moment.

I saw Al Cohen from a distance, I hope to see him again tomorrow.
I sold three paintings and had to bring two back as it looks like they are now reserved for another buyer. So not bad.  I hope to sell more tomorrow, but I'm not sure how it's going to go. This was a test run to see how they'd sell.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

OH WAIT! I almost forgot, yesterday I met Diego Domingo. I missed his talk today, but yesterday he showed me a grave photo of someone that really surprised me. And tonight he told me about another grave that he had found. Turns out Diego has also uncovered the life history of George White, the assistant to Howard Thurston, who later worked for a time for Dante. Diego had given this talk a couple years ago for another Magic History Conference and he was kind enough to share some of the details with me. WOW, it was incredible!