1917 Pantages – Jan 22-26 Shipping Crew to Box Up Hardeen! Building still stands today!

This week in History Theo Hardeen brother of Harry Houdini appeared at Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles California. During the week he was challenged by a Shipping Crew to escape from a Box they built on the stage. He also escaped from a Crazy Crib.

In doing this research I discovered (without knowing it wasn’t something every Houdini historian wasn’t already aware of) that the original Pantages building still stands in Los Angeles. John Cox with Wild About Harry was startled when he saw my post of the Google picture of Pantages! It’s always fun when you discover something you didn’t even know you were looking for. To see some original pictures of Pantages and a recent picture go here. Hopefully John will get downtown and take some better pictures.

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ca 1916 Night view of the Pantages Theatre at 534 N. Broadway.
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Los Angeles Herald 20 January 1917 – Hardeen returns to Pantages

HARDEEN RETURNS Hardeen is coming back to Pantages. The handcuff expert, whose appearance here a year ago created a furore of comment on his sensational performance, will be the headline attraction on next week’s bill, once again giving the Los Angeles public an opportunity to speculate on his famous milk can trick and packing case mystery. Hardeen issues an open challenge to any police department to shackle him With their strongest irons and to anyone to construct a box ho cannot get out of.

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Los Angeles Herald 20 January 1917

Hardeen’s first show was on Monday January 22, 1917

Los Angeles Herald Add January 22, 1917

Hardeen’s 2nd night at Pantages was on Tuesday January 23 1917

Los Angeles Herald Add January 23, 1917

Los Angeles Herald Printed this challenge on Tuesday January 23 1917

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Los Angeles Herald January 23, 1917

Hardeen Is Challenged! (Letter) PEASE BROTHERS Los Angeles January) 23d, 1917. Hardeen, Pantages Theater, City. . , , Dear Sir:—During your last visit to Los Angeles, you were successful in escaping from n packing case which was constructed previous to the lest, and while we know that the packing case was wade in a legitimate manner, quite a number of people thought that it was prepared in some way for you to make your escape. Therefore, me hereby challenge you to allow our men to bring the lumber and tools to the Pantages and build a box on the stage in full view of the audience, then re-nail and rope the box under the same conditions as before. You must then make your escape without damaging the box in any manner. If these conditions are agreeable, kindly let me know when you will be prepared to make the test and me will have our men on hand to take their part. Very truly yours, PEASE BROS. FURNITURE COMPANY. Per J. W. Sanger.

He has accepted! 

Hardeen the Handcuff King will try to get out of heavy packing case built by our champion shipping crew on the stage

Wednesday Night Pantages Theatre

Will he escape?

Pease Bros.Furniture Co. 640 So Hill St.

640 So Hill Street Los Angeles

Los Angeles Herald Printed this on Wednesday January 24 1917

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Having accepted the challenge from Pease Bros, to allow their shipping crew to nail him into a packing case of their own construction, Hardeen, the escape expert, will make the test tonight at Pantages. The crew of furniture packers declare that tho case they will build would bold anyone, Hardeen appears confident that a comparatively short time will see him out of the box. The conditions of the challenge read as follows: “We hereby challenge you to allow our men to bring the lumber and tools to Pantages theater and build n box on tbe stage in full view of the audience, then renail and rope tho box under the same conditions as before. You must make your escape without damaging the box In any manner.” Tonight the Pease Bros, packers will come up on the stage, carrying lumber and tools, and build a box that they claim will surelj’ Imprison Hardeen successfully. They will shackle him, spike the cover onto tho box and bind the box with heavy ropes. Then It Hardeen emerges free, leaving the box undamaged, he will win and the Pease challengers confess themselves beaten.

Hardeen’s 3rd night at Pantages was on Wednesday January 24 1917

Add from Wednesday January 24 1917
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Add from Thursday January 25 1917

On his final night he escaped from a “Crazy Crib”

Add from Friday January 26 1917

Hardeen moved on to Pantages in San Diego on Saturday January 27th.

Picture of Pantages found at the Water and Power Associates web site. Picture of Pease Bros. Furniture Building from Google Maps.

January 18 1917 Hardeen returns to LA Pantages Next Week

On January 18, 1917 the Los Angeles Herald reported that the “Handcuff King” Hardeen will return to Pantages Theatre. Read the article below.

I have uncovered some other newspaper articles about Hardeen’s week at Pantages in LA that I will be sharing soon.

Los Angeles Herald January 18 1917

Hardeen. the handcuff king, who will again be a feature at Pantages next week, issues a challenge to the police department, the shipping departments of any Los Angeles business concern or any person that thinks they can produce manacles or can build a box that will hold him. He will allow himself to be nailed in, handcuffed and manacled, the box locked and tied with ropes, and will release himself in an Incredibly short length of time. The challenge is open to all and acceptances will be received at Pantages theater. Hardeen will be accompanied by a bill of excellent variety, among the acts being John T. Doyle and company, Joe Whitehead, Wood, Melville and Phillips, Howard and Ross and the Asaki Japs. 

ca 1916 Night view of the Pantages Theatre at 534 N. Broadway.
 ca 1917 – View showing the first Pantages Theatre, located at 534 S. Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles.
Current Google Map View today

1916 and 1917 pictures of Pantages found at the Water and Power Associates web site. Current picture from Google Maps.

Conjurers Monthly Magazine 1906 September Vol. 1 No. 1 – Part 4

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.

Anna Odelia Diss De Bar

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.

Houdini Spiritualism Exposed Diss Debar Pantagraph Dec 81924 -

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”.

Three pairs of English “Darbies”.
Single Locking Darbies
Adjustable Darbies

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. 

The Player, January 5th 1912 — HARDEEN Breaks Wrist on Dec 17, laid up

Hardeen wasn’t slipping a pair of handcuffs when he broke his wrist. The Player Newspaper reported that Hardeen broke his wrist on December 17, 1912 while cranking his car.

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I wonder if Hardeen used some Zam-Buk to sooth his pain!

From the Player Newspaper:

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Hardeen , the handcuff man , is in New York , laid up for repairs for a few weeks because of an accident which he suffered Dec . 17 . Hardeen was cranking his automobile when it kicked and broke his wrist . The injured member has been placed in a plaster cast , and it is expected will be strong and sound again in a few weeks.


The Grunge, a blog that claims “It’s just like reading books…but exciting!” might try reading books for research rather than copying incorrect information from the internet perpetuating historical myths and misnomers. Let’s look at some of this “Reading Rubbish”.

Their latest blog about Houdini’s life starts with a headlining picture which is not even Houdini!!! It’s a picture of an unknown escape artist hanging upside down in a straitjacket. I would love to know who this escape artists is so if you know please leave a comment.

Picture of an unknown escape artists
Rotated so you can see this is not Houdini

I’ve listed the mistakes the Grunge makes in italics and “” quotes below.

Houdini was “Born into complete poverty and obscurity”. NOT TRUE! The Weiss family fell into poverty after Houdini’s father Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weiss lost his position at the Appleton Synagogue. The family moved to Milwaukee, where they lived in poverty.

“Somewhere along the way, young Ehrich also acquired a few street grifting side hustles” and “at 6-years-old he could run the three cup scam well enough to fool passersby out of a few coins.”, NOT TRUE! Houdini worked shining shoes and as a messenger boy and earned an honest dollar or Nickel back then. On one account he bought a flower for a Nickel, sold it for a Dime, bought two more and sold them until he made up the $2.00 which his brother Theo had lost earlier that day. He didn’t need to “Grift” to make an honest dollar, he just needed his wits.

“He got himself incarcerated.” NOT TRUE! Harry was never arrested however on several occasions during his prison cell escapes the police would threaten to leave him locked up all night if he didn’t escape, however he always escaped. In Russia when Houdini attempted his escape from a prison transport cell they told him if he failed to escape, he would have to travel 21 days to Sackolin near Siberia where the only key that unlocked the door was kept. He got out!

The Grunge makes the common mistakes with the various versions of his name. They say he was called “Weisz” at age 15 and mixed things up with “Ehrich Weisz”. The truth is he was born Erik Weisz, that’s on his birth certificate, then they changed his name to Ehrich Weiss (German spelling) at age 4 in America and it remained Ehrich Weiss for the rest of his life!

“He’d also become (or perhaps always was) bow-legged. Some magicians speculate his unusual legs allowed Houdini to slip rope ties that would completely immobilize a regular body shape.” While Houdini was slightly bow legged, I am not familiar with this theory that it aided in his rope escapes. I’ll have to research this one but it sounds like a Houdini Myth to me.

The whopper! The Grunge claims Houdini’s accomplishment of being the first man to fly a powered aircraft in Australia was stripped from him. NOT TRUE! They write “He had a custom craft shipped there and in 1910, Houdini successfully got it off the ground for a grand total of three minutes. The news coverage of the day wasn’t exactly glowing, but the papers dutifully acknowledged his achievement and everyone got on with their lives. But Houdini’s achievement was stripped from him months later, when a rival aviator conclusively proved he’d achieved the deed months earlier than the magician. Houdini was despondent as his career as an aviation pioneer came to an abrupt end.” What happened was a man claimed to have flown a day before Houdini’s flight. The flight was witnessed by only one man, his sponsor, who years later admitted the flight was made up. Houdini is recognized as the first man to fly in Australia end of story.

For reference I used the following sources: Wild About Harry, and these Books: Houdini The Career of Ehrich Weiss by Kenneth Silverman. Houdini the Untold Story by Milbourne Christopher.

Conjurers Monthly Magazine 1906 September Vol. 1 No. 1 – Part 3

On page 12 Houdini wrote under the pseudonym “Herr N. Osey”.

He writes from Germany. He explains that he has resigned from writing for the Mahatma. He talks of circus, magicians, freaks and clowns and how magicians referred as “Tachenspieler” in Germany. He exposes how the brothers Kulperti do their trick, but the most interesting thing is the Magician Max Berol Belmont Konarah’s illusion called the “Mene Tenkel”. An inked ball floats around on a chalkboard magically writing anything the audience calls out. Bob Loomis the author of Houdini’s Final Incredible Secret wrote of finding a connection to this trick performed by Konarah and the trick Houdini used in his home to fool Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1922. Loomis first found a connection in a newspaper clipping in an unknown collector’s scrapbook of Houdini’s performance in the Chicago Examiner in November 21, 1906. It mentions the “Menetekel, the Mystic Ball performed at the Haymarket”. Houdini made notes on the clipping and signed it. Loomis concluded Houdini was aware of this trick and did research to see if it could be the source of his idea for the trick he later used to fool Doyle in 1922. Later Loomis also found an article about the “Menetekel” spelled with a “n” “Menetenkel” mention by Herr N. Osey AKA Houdini in The Mahatma and again here in Conjurers Monthly proving Houdini was quite aware of this trick.

More than half of page 16 talks about the Death of a German Houdini Handcuff King imitator named Max Rossner who went by “The Great German Handcuff King”.

German Handcuff King

Houdini had met him in 1900 and dined at his home. Rossner lost all of his money in the end and died of a sickness in his room. Houdini paid his respects to the Rossner family.

On page 17 we have Reading Rubbish. Houdini wrote a review of The Old & The New Magic by Henry Ridgely Evans a Baltimore Maryland Journalist that wrote books on magic. Houdini criticized areas of Evans’ book claiming there were many mistakes Evans made about magic history. Houdini approved of the “nice description” of Houdini, but disapproved of the “Expose of the handcuff act” which was basically a copy of the expose printed in the Strand Magazine.

Houdini’s research on old magicians was mentioned throughout this book.
Henry Ridgely Evans who went on to write many books on magic.
Photo’s taken from the Handcuff Expose copied from The Strand Magazine. Appearing in the pictures is Pollard a Plumber and Houdini mimicker from Bradford England. Houdini said “I wish it were that simple, than I should not have to do so much worrying!”

On Page 18 Houdini wrote about an extraordinary scene during his performance at The Palace in Halifax. A young man among the committee Houdini asked to come to the stage interrupted the act to challenge Houdini to allow him to tie his hands with rope. Houdini entered his cabinet and released himself. The young man was not satisfied and asked to re-tie Houdini. An audience member yelled out “I know him, he is Pollard, the handcuff man from Bradford, and the man that wrote the Handcuff Expose in the Strand Magazine”. Houdini pledged £500 pounds ($2,500) to the poor of Halifax if he could handcuff Pollard and he could release himself. Pollard objected saying they were foreign cuffs and he could only get out of English regulation cuffs (Darbies). Houdini produced a pair of Darbies and offered £100 pounds ($500) if he could escape those cuffs.

However, the “Exposer” of the handcuff
trick, as published in the “Strand”
(which Evans reproduces) refused.
Amid the jeering of the audience, he
then left, and as Houdini had held the
stage over the hour, the audience was

On page 19 Houdini concluded with:

SPECIAL NOTE.—When Mr. Evans informed
me of his book having a reproduction
of the “Strand” Magazine, I
made special effort to let him have a
copy of the above newspaper, and asked
“him in justice to myself to publish same.
But it failed to appear.

page 20 is a section where letters are printed with an offer to file complaints against any one you wish. A letter from Harry Day Houdini’s British manager is printed here describing a new Act Houdini had written to Day about. Day goes on to describe how they showed up to ask to be booked but later stood him up to show them the act! The most interesting letter is from A. F. Hill of Boston:

Not all approved of Houdini’s crusade to expose fake spiritualist’s.

13 Isabella St. today

Page 20 he mentions Chung Lee Soo is “Still catching bullets and a big salary”. Soo AKA William Robinson died of the bullet catch in 1918.

Page 22 the last article is written by Joe Hayman (originally spelled “Hyman”) the younger brother of Jacob Hyman Houdini’s first partner in “The Brothers Houdini” act. It is said that Joe played in the Brothers Houdini act after Joe and prior to Hardeen. Joe spent most of his career in England doing comedy acts.

Joe Hayman

Next up – Part 4 of the review of the September 1906 issue No 1, Vol 1. Handcuff Secrets

Reference – The Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine reprinted by Kaufman and Greenberg the limited edition two Volume book set. PDF scanned format from The Conjuring Arts.  The Glorious Deception Chung Lee Soo by Jim Steinmeyer. The Old and New Magic by Henry Ridgley Evans. Wild About Harry, Blog by John Cox.

Houdini, Martin Beck sign contract Dec 16 1899!

Originally posted April 12 2016

In my latest quest to find local Houdini History I came across a story of a handcuff escape Harry made in Cincinnati in 1899. He was in town promoting his show at the Columbia Theatre. Martin Beck Houdini’s manager also paid a visit to Cincinnati and closed a contract with Houdini. And what’s also interesting is that Magician Leon Herrmann brother of the more famous Alexander Herrmann was in town too!

Here is the timeline and information I could find:

On Saturday 12/08/1899 Houdini walked into the Cincinnati Police Headquarters at the City Hall Building on Central Ave. Police Inspector Luke Drout, Chief of Detectives Ralph Crawford and a Dozen others placed two pairs of handcuffs on his wrists, a pair of Legcuffs on his ankles, and another pair of cuffs connecting them from his hands to his legs bringing him to a stooping position. To prove he had no keys hidden in his mouth he allowed them to cover his mouth with a piece of plaster. Behind a screen of chairs, Harry escaped in three minutes returning the cuffs interlocked.

City Hall

Houdini in a picture from a Mahatma advertisement . He would have been fettered in a similar manner by the Cincinnati Police.

Cincinnati Enquirer: Sunday 12/09/1899

Unknown newspaper article

Cincinnait Post Handcuffs 09 Dec 1899

Cincinnati Enquirer June 2, 1899 – Luke Drout (pictured below) was appointed acting inspector earlier that year.

The following week Houdini would Perform at the Columbia Theatre. Below are some images of it’s exterior and interior. According to Cinema Treasures it was “Located on the corner of 5th Street East and Walnut Street. Originally opened in November 1892 as the Fountain Square Theatre, it was designed by an architect Mr. McLaughlin. It closed in 1899. It was redesigned by architect James M. Wood and reopened as the Columbia Theatre which operated until 1909. It was taken over by B.F. Keith and he employed the recently formed (1907) architectural firm Rapp & Rapp to design or maybe redesign the theatre. It was the firms third theatre project and opened in 1910 as the B.F. Keith Theatre and it operated until 1921”

The Columbia (Pictures found at Cinema Treasures)

Late in the evening on Saturday 12/16/1899 Martin Beck and his Wife arrived in Cincinnati. Before retiring Beck closed a contract with Houdini for 3 years.

Sunday 12/17/1899 Beck and his Wife attended the Columbia in Box seats.

Cincinnati Enquirer 12/18/1899

Sunday 12/17/1899 Leon Herrmann brother of the more famous Alexander Herrmann who died in 1896 arrived to perform at the Grand.

Cincinnati Enquirer 12/18/1899

The Grand (Picture found at Cincinnati Views)

I think the signing of the 3 year contract is interesting. I cannot find anything in the History books describing Houdini and Beck finalizing or updating his contract in Cincinnati. Also it is exciting to find that the building where Houdini made his escape is still standing. I plan to pay a visit to City Hall and take their tour. I hope to figure out if the “Bertillon” room still exists. More to come!

The Houdini Museum Short Takes Video

Watch this video about the Houdini Museum in Scranton PA. It features Magician Dick Brookz talking about the history of the Museum and how he became interested in Houdini and collecting Houdini artifacts. Also the video features Dorothy Dietrich a well known escape artist. Dorothy talks about one of my favorite Houdini topics his Handcuff Escape Act and his many imitators. In the video you will see a replica of the famous Mirror Cuffs as well. Click the link below and I strongly suggest you visit their wonderful museum.

Houdini Museum VIA Short Takes

Visit http://houdini.org/ for details about The Houdini Museum.