Monday, May 14, 2007

A poem about Houdini

(Via CentreDaily)

I was surprised to find this, but also delighted. I'm rather fond of poetry, and seeing it combined with my new favourite hobby- magic- is even more wonderful.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

More Houdini like Escapes - straitjacket, milk can- flattery to the master

Just when I thought it was safe to turn around without running into another inventive Houdini fan, I stumble across two rather fascinating cases. One successful, the other not quite so much.

(Via Yorkshire Today)

One stunt that Harry Houdini failed to pull off apparently was escaping from a milk can filled with Tetley's bitter (a type of ale)- he was overcome by CO2 fumes, and his assistants had to drag him out before he completed the stunt. However, 37 year old Paul Cheesbrough from Todmorden, England claims to have trumped Houdini with his own escape from a Milk can filled with cold water. Much like Houdini, the milk churn was padlocked from the outside, and his hands and feet were bound on the inside. But wait a tick, despite the fact that this article runs under the headline "Great Escape Act Outdoes Houdini", I do believe I've missed something here- didn't Houdini routinely escape from a padlocked Milk can filled with water? Now, Cheesbrough is undoubtedly a larger man than Houdini (who was quite small), which could make things more difficult. But in this case, the temperature of the water doesn't even matter because he was wearing a wet suit. The point, in this case, (despite the headline) is that Houdini was challenged by Joshua Tetley and Son in the Empire Theatre in Brigate, Leeds. Cheesbrough was challenged to do his stunt by the Leeds Magical Association, for their 10th annual day of Magic. The stunt itself was a difficult one, as the displacement of the water inside the can eliminated his air supply. He did, however, manage to escape within 90 seconds, which is impressive. Not many people can match the master, even if they're not outdoing him.

Which leads me to my next tidbit- this guy. (Via Cincinnati Enquirer)

Illusionist Phil Dalton, while doing a show for an elementary school in Cincinnati, didn't have such good luck. He tried Houdini's famous straitjacket stunt- he was suspended 90ft in the air, with his legs shackled, but with one major exception. The ropes had been soaked in Diesel fuel and set on fire.

Despite the fact that he had gone to great lengths to test the burning time of the ropes beforehand, a slight pick up in wind sped up the incineration as he was attempting to escape. He still managed to escape within 2 minutes and 44 seconds, but not before one of the three ropes had burned all of the way through, and a second most of the way through, leaving him dangling precariously on a single rope. Dalton, who does a variety of other types of stunts such as sawing himself in half or pulling snakes out of hats, doesn't intend to do this particular stunt again any time soon.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

He's going to hang around his favourite bar....on a rope 50ft in the air

(Via PR Web)

Magician/Ventriloquist Spencer Horsman will be stringing himself up 50 Feet in the air over Illusions Magic Bar & Lounge in South Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood. He'll be wrapped in not one, but TWO straitjackets, and attempt to free himself while hanging upside down.

The stunt will take place May 11th (one time only!) and presumably will be done without a net (the PR doesn't really mention one). Horsman will be fighting to beat the clock and free himself before he suffers from the amount of blood rushing to his head, which could cause lack of perception, or loss of consciousness.

Now, I'm going to do a little research on the subject of straitjackets here, as I'm fairly new to the subject, and so I can understand just how crazy this stunt is:

  • These sorts of escape stunts were popularized by Harry Houdini, who could dislocate both of his shoulders in order to escape from a straitjacket.
  • Possible Issues: in addition to blood running to one's head, wearing a straitjacket for long periods of time can cause blood to pool in the elbows or numbness in the hands. Muscles can become stiff and extremely painful.
  • Criss Angel did a similar stunt in 2003, suspended 100ft above the Miller Brewing Co. (but in only one straitjacket)
And of course, we might as well take a cue from the master:

The description to this video gives an interesting clue: " While requiring more strength to undo the buckles, this actually made it easier to get his arms over his head, the key to the escape." So what does this mean for a guy wearing TWO straitjackets? Would it work the same way?

By the same token (and with much less fanfare), Andrew Green, a performing arts student at Preston College in Lancashire, United Kingdom, will be trying to recreate Houdini's water torture chamber stunt to raise money for St. Catherine Hospice, a palliative care facility. The stunt involves being suspended upside down in a straitjacket inside a tank of water.

I'm sure, somewhere, Houdini is finding imitation to be the greatest form of flattery.

In this case though, I would say that suspending yourself 50ft in the air is not only amazing, it's a good way to promote your bar.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Close French election? No problem! Get a psychic!

(Via CNN/Reuters)

I wonder what Harry Houdini would say about this... (no doubt he'd be laughing)

Apparently the looming election in France is so close, that several psychics and fortune tellers are throwing in their own opinions about what the outcome will be. Since around 40% of the electorate is undecided, the polls are of no help, so why not?

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Monday, April 16, 2007

A Magician Houdini would be very, very proud of

(Via The Spectrum)

A young magician from North Dakota is willing to give $100, 000 to any person at North Dakota State University who can prove they have psychic abilities. Dustin White, 18 years old, has been training as a magician, and wants to use his knowledge to prove that many psychics are merely frauds. He's including telepathy, telekenesis and talking to the dead; citing such suspicious television psychics as Sylvia Brown, or John Edward.

Now, some people might recall that Penn and Teller had a show called Bullshit- a program that put a skeptical spin on a number of topics, and one of the episodes they did tackled this issue. Of particular interest is the segment where they briefly mention how Crossing Over with John Edward works...and the legal ramifications involved in going into great detail about it, if you're lucky enough to have been at a taping.

In any case, this young magician is carrying on a tradition that does greater justice to Houdini's work, than digging up his body ever could.

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Yet another article about the Houdini Exhumation

(Via The Capital Times)

This time, the article is based on an interview with one of the authors of The Secret Life of Houdini, the book that started this whole thing, Larry Sloman. It gives a little bit of insight as to where he got his information- namely that the granddaughter of Mina 'Margery' Crandon supplied him with loads of correspondence between the Spiritualists and famed Magician Harry Houdini.

I do however think that it's a bit much for writer of this article to claim that Houdini's murder is a new idea. It's not. Houdini's conflict with the Spiritualists was widely known, and his death was peculiar enough to warrant suspicion. The idea he was poisoned, however, is indeed the product of the book.

I am now adding a Houdini label, since my number of posts on the subject is growing by the week.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007


Check out this 18 year old magician Chris Hodgson, who can already free himself from being rolled in cling-wrap, with a fractured elbow, in one minute and eleven seconds. Nice!

The article.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A New Twist on the Houdini story

Two of the places that renowned magician Harry Houdini called home- New York and Appleton- have both just broken the story that relatives of Houdini's widow adamantly oppose the exhumation and are now taking steps against it.

Descendants of Bess Houdini, John and Jeffrey Wood, have openly stated that they believe the exhumation is unnecessary and merely an attempt to boost book sales on the part of the authors.

"The Secret Life of Houdini" poses that Houdini was murdered by a group of psychics, The Spiritualists, due to his continuous debunking of their practices. After reading the book, Houdini's Great Nephew George Hardeen decided that the exhumation would be a good idea.

The paperwork for the exhumation is set either to be filed next week (according to WLNS) or today (according to the Albuquerque Tribune). I'll post a more in depth analysis later.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

A little more perspective

Here's a much better article about the Houdini exhumation from the Washington Post, that I found via Magic Unlimited. Ironically, it ends on much the same note I did.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Houdini's death will not escape speculation

Here's a weird one:

George Hardeen, famous magician Harry Houdini's Great Nephew, is bidding to have his body exhumed, to investigate whether or not Houdini may have been murdered.

Despite the fact that Houdini died of a ruptured appendix, there was no autopsy. Some people believe that his death was caused by a punch to the abdomen (someone challenged him to take blows to the stomach), while others yet again believe it may have been poisoning from a group of psychics he had attempted to debunk.

Personally, I'm not sure what they could gain from exhuming his body at this point. But wouldn't it be funny if the casket was empty?

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