Antique store find – Early 1900’s auto-biographical pitch book by Theo Hardeen brother of Houdini.
While looking at the “Smalls” in the glass cabinets my wife noticed a Houdini “Big Little Book of Magic” book. I was starring at the book contemplating the price and suddenly this Hardeen booklet came into focus. There is very little information about Houdini’s brother Theo Hardeen in print. I am always fascinated when I learn something new about his life and career as an escape artist.
It was written by Theo Hardeen. He sold these at his shows so chances are whoever originally bought this saw Hardeen perform. I’m not sure how many Hardeen printed up and how long he continued to sell these. By it’s condition it looks like a very old copy.
The contents of the booklet are 32 pages in total. He wrote a short biography mentioning how he got his start with Harry as “The Brothers Houdini”.
He tells an account of his handcuff escape jump into the Ohio River from the 18th street bridge in Louisville Kentucky.
The story of how he came to performing the Straitjacket escape in “full view” of the audience is described in detail. How during the first performance he made the escape from behind a curtain with very little response from the audience. They seemed confused about what they had just witnessed and did not believe he could have escaped the straitjacket without help. To prove he could escape he performed on another night in full view. The audience gave him a standing ovation. Here was the birth of one if the most famous escapes of all time.
An interesting story of one of his jail escapes in Auburn NY. There is some good detail here about how he was examined and the types of handcuffs they used to restrain him. Apparently the thumbcuffs gave him more trouble than the jail lock.
Tricks and secrets are also devulged in this little book. He described some Handcuff Escape Secrets that look to be from Houdini’s writings published in Conjurors Monthly. He also included several Magic tricks.
If you would like to read the book you can now buy it in downloadable format at Conjuroringarts.org