Houdini, Martin Beck, and Herrmann in Cincinnati!


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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:3426669964_ec56abaf60.jpg

Houdini in a picture from a Mahatma advertisement . He would have been fettered in a similar manner by the Cincinnati Police.Houdini-as-Handcuffed-and-Manacled-San-Francisco-Police

Cincinnati Enquirer: Sunday 12/09/1899Cincinnati Police Handcuff Escape Dec 9 1899Unknown newspaper articleCincinnait Post Handcuffs 09 Dec 1899

Cincinnati Enquirer June 2, 1899 – Luke Drout (pictured below) was appointed acting inspector earlier that year.Cincinnait Police Handcuff Escape Supt Drout Dec 9 1899

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 12/18/1899Dec 18 1899 Houdini Notes Signed deal with Beck

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 12/18/1899Dec 18 Leon Herrmann Arrives

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!




1913 Book Handcuff Tricks


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2016-03-20 11.15.21My latest escape artist find. ‘Handcuff Tricks’ written by Hereward Carrington published in 1913 by A.M. Wilson M. D. 32 pages exposing many escape artist secrets.

What is interesting about this book is that the author Hereward Carrington would later rival Harry Houdini during the Margery “The Medium” tests conducted by the Scientific American in 1924. Carrington sat on a committee alongside Harry Houdini, Malcolm Bird, William McDougall, Walter Franklin Prince and Daniel Frost Comstock. In the end Carrington was the only one on the committee that believed Margery’s Medium powers were real. Houdini strongly disagreed and was convinced she was a fraud.

“Eventually only Carrington inclined to the belief that her powers were genuine, although subsequent evidence of possible fraud again led him to express doubts about her writing that he maintained a “perfectly open mind” about such phenomena pending the arrival of better evidence one way or the other”

The book includes very similar Handcuff Escape methods to that of Harry Houdini’s Handcuff Secrets published in Conjurers’ Monthly and again in 1910 in book form as Handcuff Secrets.


Carrington goes so far as to thank Harry Houdini for “giving him tips”.  I doubt Houdini actually helped him personally. Most likely Carrington copied directly from Houdini’s original writings and was cashing in on him.

Hereward giving Houdini credit:

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In the book he exposes methods of escaping Handcuffs, Straitjackets, Milk Cans, Mail Bags, Packing Cases, Ropes and others. Carrington was not known as an escape artist so I can only conclude he wrote this to expose these methods for monetary gain. I wonder what Houdini thought about it?

Pictured below is Carrington in Darby handcufs.

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Read more about Carrington on Wikipedia HERE, and on Genii magazine – magicpedia HERE.


Life AND History of HARDEEN


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Antique store find – Early 1900’s auto-biographical pitch book by Theo Hardeen brother of Houdini.

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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

1902 Post Card signed by Houdini up for auction

imagelisted on ebay is a German post card from 1902. I don’t recall ever seeing this post card before. The seller describes it as an estate item with writing on it from Houdini talking about the death of his friend Magician C.C. Dunbar. I can make out these words: “His death was quite a shock to me”, “I am very very sorry indeed”, “Regret exceedingly to read of the death of good Dr. Walterman”, “Friend H.”,”Hello How are Ye? Regards to Mrs and yourself Houdini”.

The post mark is March 21, 1902. I do believe Houdini was still abroad at this time.

The auction is currently at $709.00. If this is genuine this would be a remarkable piece for the Houdini collector.

Link to the auction listing:


1/8/16 – Update the postcard sold for $4,520.00.

1940 Playbill featuring Hardeen in “Hellzapoppin”


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Antique Mall find – I picked up a 1940 edition of The Playbill featuring a story on a comedy variety show “Hellzapoppin” staring Vaudeville stars Olsen & Johnson and others. Theo Hardeen has a part and surprisingly Jim Collins Houdini’s right hand man appears on the program too!

Some history from Wikipedia:

After opening at the Shubert Theatre in Boston on September 10, 1938, Hellzapoppin opened on Broadway at the original 46th Street Theatre on September 22, 1938, transferred to the Winter Garden Theatre on November 26, 1938, and finally moved to the Majestic Theatre on November 25, 1941. It closed on December 17, 1941, after a total of 1,404 performances.[citation needed]

Olsen and Johnson led a large cast of entertainers: the comedy team of Barto and Mann (Dewey Barto and George Mann); Charles Whithers; celebrity impersonators, the Radio Rogues; Hal Sherman; Walter Nilsson; singing group The Charioteers; identical-twin dancers Bettymae and Beverly Crane; stage magician Theo Hardeen (better known as Harry Houdini’s younger brother); the Hawaiian music of Ray Kinney and the Aloha Maids; Bergh and Moore; J. C. Olsen; Reed, Dean and Reed (Bonnie Reed, Syd Dean, and Mel Reed); Roberta and Ray; The Starlings; Dorothy Thomas; Shirley Wayne; Cyrel Roodney and June Winters; Billy Adams; and Whitey’s Steppers (also known as Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers). Olsen and Johnson were succeeded by Jay C. Flippen and Happy Felton in June 1940.

Cover of The Playbill:2015-11-26 09.08.48

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There is a mention of a Straightjacket in scene 8. I suspect Hardeen had something to do with this scene.

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Notice scene 2 has Jim Collins Houdini’s right hand man listed.  Jim worked with Hardeen after Houdini died.2015-11-26 10.04.04

Hardeen is listed in scene 2 “Now you see it” and 7 “Now Comes The Time”:2015-11-26 09.47.02

From the Cast section:2015-11-26 09.11.49

The next two are from Conjurors Magazine – Memorial Edition 1945:2015-11-26 09.13.59

Also from Conjurors Magazine. I would assume this is from Hellzapoppin. Olsen and Johnson appear in this picture along with Jim Collins.2015-11-26 09.18.01




A review of The Witch Of Limestreet (Audio Version) by David Jaher


The Witch of Limestreet by David Jaher narrated by Simon Vance recounts Mediums, Spirits, Science and Houdini in the 1920’s.

This book will be very important to Houdini historians, but even more it’s a very comprehensive book written about the 1920’s Spiritualism movement, the Scientific American tests, and Harry Houdini’s fight to catch the fakers. It is a historical account of the pursuit to scientifically prove or disprove a medium could commune with the dead.

Until now the most accurately researched book that included the Margery account would probably be ‘The Secret Life of Houdini’ by Kalush and Sloman. Jaher takes us to another level letting us attend each of the Seances. Mina “Margery” Crandon is the Leading Lady and Walter her dead Brother is the leading Man (or ghost) in this story. Walter speaks during Seances, produces ectoplasm, rings the bell box while Margery is in a trance.

This book is so well researched and beautifully written you will find yourself forgetting that it is nonfiction as it reads like a fictional novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The hardback book glows in the dark as if it is possessed by the spirits.

Simon Vance did a wonderful job narrating the Audio Book and his voice and elocutuon will transport you back to the 1920’s. I am looking forward to reading the printed version (starting now).

Look for the book at your local book store, library or purchase the audio or printed book online at most sellers.


October 31 1926 1:26 PM – Houdini Dies


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By Harvey Hanford – Updated 10/31/2016

Houdini Died at Grace Hospital on October 31st (Halloween) 1926 at 1:26 PM. Dr. Kennedy listed the Cause of death as “Diffuse Peritonitis” According to Kenneth Silverman’s Book “Houdini The Career of Ehrich Weiss” Hardeen recalled Houdini’s last words either on Saturday or Sunday “I can’t fight any more”.


Below is a picture of the stunt coffin liner that had been lost in a Detroit warehouse. It is believed that his corpse was shipped home in it and that he was possibly buried in it but there is still some question on that account.

His funeral was held on November 4th at the Elks Club House on West Forty-Third Street near Times Square. Upwards of 2000 people turned out crowding into the ballroom, more stood on the streets hoping to get a glimpse of the casket as it went by.


July 14, 1936 – Bess Houdini’s plans for final Seance


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Newspaper clipping from my collection. Bess Houdini talks about her plans for the final Houdini Séance. She was staying at the Hotel Winthrop in Tacoma.

“A Séance to end all Seances”

“When Houdini died he left with me a given word and proof for the world, should a message be received”

“My final seance in the fall will be something that has never been attempted before” “There will be a coast to coast radio hook-up” “A psychic circle will be formed”

July 7 1936 Mrs. Houdini Is Visitor Picture

July 7 1936 Mrs. Houdini Is Visitor Article


Visiting original site where Houdini escaped a Straitjacket in 1925


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I was recently on a road trip. One of my destinations was in Indianapolis. I was aware that Houdini had performed a Straitjacket escape there so I decided to try and find the building. To my amazement The ‘News Building’ on 30 West Washington Street in downtown Indianapolis is still there and is in beautiful condition. The newspaper reported 12,000 turned out that day to see Houdini perform his stunt to promote his engagement at Keith’s Vaudeville that week. Looking at the original photos it is difficult to confirm that there was actually that many people at the event, however while standing on the street it definitely seemed possible to fit that many shoulder to shoulder. I could also imagine hundreds if not thousands looking down from the adjacent buildings.

10/15 Update: I have just learned that the B.F. Keith’s Theatre Building is also still standing on 115 North Pennsylvania Street. It is no longer a theatre but the building is still there.

Here is the original Newspaper article:


Photos I took on 10/13/15:





Original photos taken of Houdini:




Video on YouTube:
Link to Houdini in Indianapolis