December 1915 Houdini at the Orpheum and Hardeen at Pantages in Los Angeles. The brothers portrayed themselves as rivals for publicity but in this case the jig is up! In the article below the writer reveals that they are actually brothers working together.
In the advertisements below Pantages plays up Hardeen’s challenge escapes listing that a Brewery will lock him in a “Cask” of Beer, and “Chief Snively’s Punishment Suit challenge”. “Snively!” This has Dash’s sense of humor written all over it! Other escapes are mentioned “The Milk Can” and the “Oregon Boot”. The Orpheum lists Houdini as “The Genius of escape”.
Houdini and Hardeen, the escape wizards playing in Los Angeles this week, are brothers. Both look alike and are said to share the other’s trick secrets.
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 handcuffs”
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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 dismissed.
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.
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.
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.
Our friends at the Houdini Museum in Scranton PA have posted some interesting articles. The first was written by an agent that booked Houdini. The second article was written by Rabbi Bernard Drachman who spoke at Harry’s funeral. Click the link below to read them.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
“With its medicine-show self promotion and streetfighter taunts, Conjurers’ Monthly was bound to offend, and did“ – Kenneth Silverman
Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine ran for two volumes from September 1906 until August 1908. Houdini enlisted the help of his brothers Nat, Bill and Leo to help out, Hardeen served as “English representative”. Where most magic magazines focused on explanations of new tricks and illusions, Houdini concentrated on historical articles, drawing much of the information, photos, and playbills from his encyclopedia of magicians research. Houdini used the magazine to confront imitators and enemies. The series, “Unknown Facts concerning Robert-Houdin” and “Robert-Houdin’s Place in the History of Magic”, ran for twelve issues which later became a book, The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin. Houdini also wrote under the pseudonym “N. Osey”, as the European Correspondent (which he had previously been doing for The Mahatma).
This is a new series reviewing each of the 24 issues of Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine. Beginning with September 15, 1906 Vol. 1. No. 1.
Below is the pre-publication flyer advertising a yearly subscription for one dollar. The address for the subscription is The New York Magical Co. on 1621 Broadway, Brooklyn NY. There is also an advertisement for the New York Magical Co. in the September issue of Conjurers’. The add says the company was established in 1869. I cannot find any further information about this company. A quick Google map search shows that there is a dollar store at 1621 Broadway.
Pages 2 – 3 list advertisements for Martinka & Company, Harry Day Agency, Manhattan Detective Agency, The Stadium Cafe, Ernst and Basch and Mahatma the official organ of the Society of American Magicians.
Page 4 has an advertisement for Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine. There is a telephone number listed. This might be Houdini’s telephone number at his Brownstone on 278 West 113th Street in New York City. Telephone: 1514 MORNINGSIDE.
Houdini opens with his “Salutatory”, a welcome to his readers and a rather critical review of other magic magazines and publications of the day. It is so Houdini and I love it! This is his pen, not a ghost writer.
“There is no apology to make for the appearance of the Conjurers’ Magazine. We do not wish to supplant any other paper ; we have no axes to grind; nothing to sell; no one to extol; we do not seek any free advertisement; we do not labor under the impression that we shall have the best paper in the world.”
Although the prior paragraph states that he doesn’t wish to “supplant any other paper” meaning replace or supersede, he does not hold back with his opinion about the shortcomings of other magic magazines.
“The few magazines that are devoted to Magic and Magicians, especially two published in England, are in the hands of men who make use of their alleged papers to maintain their own business end, and are nothing more or less than “grafting” catalogues.”
This next statement warns if you break your word you’re dead to us.
“One sheet in particular no more de- serves the name of newspaper or maga- zine than would a photograph of an old wizened cow to be called a creation of Gibson. This party once gave us “his” word of honor not to do certain things, and then deliberately broke his promise, and when any one will purposely do this he is dead to us in all respects.”
He takes a small jab at The Sphinx which was the leading leading American magic journal and contender to become the official organ of the S.A.M. Houdini was very frustrated with the Sphinx at this time in his career. He felt that Dr. A.M. Wilson had intentionally jilted him. The Sphinx rarely mentioned his many Handcuff exploits and once printed his name as “Haudini”.
“In America we have the “Sphinx,” which has at certain times gone out of its way “a wee bit.”
The Mahatma Magazine is mentioned and only faulted at “being, somewhat tardy in appearance” which I believe could mean either the magazine was late to show up in the mail or behind the times graphically, but he then goes on to say “the Editor assures me that this defect will be remedied”. It’s also possible that the Mahatma owed him pay for writing as Herr N. Osey. Incidentally the Mahatma is a paying advertiser on Page 3 of Conjurers.
He gives some background on the name choice.
“The first authentic record of a magician’s newspaper or magazine in the English language (we’think) is the Conjurers’ Magazine, from which we have taken our name.”
And highlights an interesting fact about a publisher’s large circulation.
“Anderson, the Wizard of the North, had several newspapers. He carried a printing press, and on his tour around the world printed “The World of Magic” and “The Psychomantic Reporter.” Anderson claimed a bona fide circulation of 100,000 weekly for the latter paper, and 25,000 for the former.”
But then goes on to doubting Anderson was actually making any money!
“He must have given them away gratis.”
He makes a pitch for Conjurers’ future success.
“We trust that the Conjurers’ Magazine will make a strong bid for existence, and while it is in this world (and we hope it will be permanently) it will be as interesting as we can possibly make it, playing no favorites, and for ever and alwavs promoting the interests of Magic.”
And invites his readers to send in corrections.
“Should our judgment err, we kindly beg of you to send in corrections and credit will be given to all to whom it is due.”
He finishes with the magazine’s motto.
“Impartial, Fearless and Truthful.”
At the bottom of Page 5 is a Greek Proverb that basically says if you listen to rumors before checking the facts you are a fool!
Coming up next Part 2 of the review of the September 1906 issue No 1, Vol 1.
Unknown Facts Concerning Robert Houdin, Notes From Theo Hardeen, Notes from Herr N. Osey, Reading Rubbish, Our Mail Bag, 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. It is currently on sale for $9.99 on their site. Houdini The Career of Ehrich Weiss by Kenneth Silverman. Houdini the Untold Story by Milbourne Christopher.
Going through some of my collection I came upon a picture of Hardeen I don’t recall ever seeing before. This is the October 1927 edition of the Sphinx the official publication for S.A.M. (Society of American Magicians).
Hardeen was featured on the Front cover with a small article about Hardeen’s upcoming shows and a photo of him standing with Dr. A.M. Wilson the editor of The Sphinx. This was published 1 year after his brother Houdini had died on October 31st 1926.
Those in Houdini circles know that Houdini and Wilson had a rough start when Houdini joined S.A.M. Houdini felt that Wilson had “Snubbed” him by not including stories about his latest feats as the Handcuff King, so Houdini came up with his own magazine called “The Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine”. Years later the two men made amends and became close friends.
Hardeen went on to become the President of S.A.M. from 1929 – 1930.
While scanning these images I noticed something “magical”. Look at the page number below!
A picture I have not seen of Hardeen and Dr. A.M.Wilson standing under the Vaudeville marquee.
Coming up I will be starting a new series reviewing each issue of Houdini’s publication “Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine”.