Today I finish my review of Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine September 1906 Vol 1 No 1.
Page 22 we have “Jottings and Jumblings”. It appears to be a gossip column about magicians, mediums and other entertainers. Houdini talks about attending a Medium Expose’ at the New York Roof Garden on Wednesday, August 1st. Houdini was looking forward to witnessing this expose’ but was disappointed when the lecturer told the audience he was speaking on authority of the very inventor he was exposing.
Page 23 is more gossip about the whereabouts of magicians and talk of their misfortunes. Such as Prof. Andre and his wife are in America, they played a few months in Bermuda or Java, but did not collect much of the coin of the realm. The once famous Steens have separated, and Mr. Steen spent $3000 on Billing his new act in England but only took in £11.IO (about $57.50), but in time it increased to £200 ($1,000) on each show.
Page 24 concludes Jottings and Jumblings. Leon Hermann returned to America with brother and cousin. Houdini writes that the brother looks more like Alexander Herman than Leon. The brother is no “Disciple of Magic”, but the cousin will eventually become “Hermann the fourth”. He writes about a fraud medium and her husband that went by Mr and Mrs Jackson being incarcerated in 1901. Houdini tells that this was none other than the notorious medium named “Anna Odelia Diss De Bar”. She was sentenced to 7 years in prison in 1901 for fraud and what sounds like some other “filthy” crimes. Houdini included this in Conjurers’ because she had been released from the Aylesbury Prison on August 2nd 1906.
Houdini wrote a full chapter about Anna Odelia Diss De Bar in his book “A Magician Among The Spirits”. Below is excerpt from his book printed in The Daily Pantagraph on December 8, 1924.
Pages 25 – 26 we have Handcuff Secrets a monthly installment written by Houdini to expose the methods used by his many imitators.
Houdini states that these so called handcuff kings make fictitious statements and offer large sums of money to anyone who can produce police regulation handcuffs from any part of the universe from which the cannot release themselves. However those that will evade the critical tests by fraud and colossal lying would have something to say about Houdini exposing their methods. He tells the reader that if they were to appear at one of these shows with handcuffs of anything other than the standard regulation type you would be taken to the nearest exit! That confederates would be planted in the audience and supplied with handcuffs and other irons by the performer and his assistants. Houdini writes all of this and states it is fact based on his meeting many of these would be imitators around the world.
Houdini states that to his knowledge no reliable work has been written on this subject, but he has come across some “flimsey leaflets” here and there but attempts at revealing the secrets are so vague, vapid and unfinished that no one could grasp the writers meaning. He goes on to say that this book is purposely written for the benefit professionals, amateur magicians and those desirous in mystifying their friends with escapes and tricks with handcuffs and other:
Houdini explains that he will not delve into the very deep intricacies of some of the more modern feats of handcuffs and jail breaking , but he will explain a way in a simple fashion “how my performances have been imitated” to enable you to give your own handcuff escape performance. He points out that some secrets have already been sold in England. I’m sure he is referring to other Exposes’ such as Pollard’s in the Strand Magazine and many others that Houdini had encountered in his entire career thus far. He signs it “Harry Houdini The Original Handcuff King”.
Page 27 Tricks With Handcuffs. Houdini explains how to escape from regulation handcuffs. His first point is that you do not need “exceptionally rare talent” to become a handcuff king. You must practice using both hands to release the handcuffs “One hand releases or unlocks the other”. He states that he practiced using his left hand until he could use it almost as easily as his right hand. He gives tips on addressing your audience “In addressing your audience do not become bombastic”, and ” it is not the trick that is to be considered, but the style and manner in which it is presented”. He re-iterates that he will not say that these methods are exactly how he performs the handcuff escape act, but they have been used by his imitators.
“I do not deliberately say that the following
methods given are precisely the
same as 1 have used on opening the
Types of Handcuffs – Houdini talks about the varieties of handcuffs. Only 7 – 8 types used in England, but upwards of 175 types in America not to mention the numerous padlocks that would be added to the list of manacles. “One would need to become an expert of “picklocks” to get along outside the United Kingdom”. For this he suggests we focus only on the British Type handcuffs, and the easiest to escape would be the English Regulation.
Page 28 – Houdini says you must acquire a set of these Handcuffs (Below) and an extra set of Keys. They have Spring Locks and are manipulated by screwing in the Key to open them, but the close by snapping them shut.
The other Handcuff below is a “Plug 8”.
Above two pairs of Darbies from my own collection.
Houdini explains that to perform the Handcuff escape you must adopt a method suitable to you for concealing the Key. He also says that you may need to plant some cuffs with some Confederates in the audience beforehand because your audience may not show up with several pairs. How many people in 1906 had access to handcuffs! As each comes on stage Houdini suggests that you examine each pair to ensure they are regulation pattern. Allow your committee to lock them on you, enter your cabinet obtaining possession of duplicate keys and simply unlock each cuff and hide the keys. The Irish 8 is similar but has no Spring but has a Screw Plug. For this cuff Houdini advises using your mouth to hold the Key.
Page 29 Houdini explains other techniques to hide a Key, the False Finger is one and a key with a hook on the back of it.
“You can allow your wrists
to be handcuffed with the cuffs : your
sleeves are turned up; your hands are
now placed into a small bag and in in full
view of the audience you escape from
the handcuffs, and bring out the cuffs
from the bag opened.”
The “Split Key” which is a modified key used to open English Darbies is shown on Page 29 however Houdini does not explain its use. I believe he mentions this in one of the later Conjurers’ Monthly Magazines.
Pages 30 – 31 list advertisements.
Next up – The review of the October 15, 1906 issue Vol 1, No 2
Reference – The Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine reprinted by Kaufman and Greenberg the limited edition two Volume book set. PDF scanned format from The Conjuring Arts.