Mandrake the Magician

Houdini Museum – Quinlan’s Inside Magic Review

Dorothy Dietrich

We had the great fortune of visiting Scranton, Pennsylvania this summer. We
were in the neighborhood, sort of. We were actually just four hours to the
south, in the Gettysburg Battlefield and Hershey's Chocolate World.

 

But we
convinced all in our caravan of the urgent need to make a short side-trip to
Scranton to see Dorothy Dietrich and John Bravo a/k/a Dick Brooks. They are not
just amazing magicians, but they are also proprietors of the greatest museum about the
greatest magician ever.

We have long expressed our undying appreciation for Ms. Dietrich and admired all she
has accomplished.

Ms. Dietrich's work in the formerly male-dominated fields of Escapes and
Dangerous Illusions opened the doors for so many magicians.

As far as we know,
she is the first female magician to perform the dangerous Bullet Catching Trick
(twice!) and the first to escape from a straight jacket whilst suspended from burning rope 18-stories above a crowd.

Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brooks have provided a start for so many magicians
either directly through their Magic Townhouse in New York, or by support and the
essential referrals to bookers and agents.

Their Magic Townhouse set in the
high-rent district of Manhattan provided a place for magicians to perform,
learn, and network. While the effort may not have been financially profitable,
it benefited the world of magic greatly.

The concept worked because Ms. Dietrich
and Mr. Brooks cared enough to expend the time and energy to make it work.

The Houdini
Museum
on Main Street in Scranton's downtown area successfully shares their
admiration with curious tourists and hardened magicians.

The couple work at the
museum every day (seven-days-a-week) all of July and August. Their presentation
combines a lecture on Houdini as showman, magician, escape artist, debunker of
psychics, husband, and son.

The Houdini Museum is in no need of a glowing review from an obscure magic
website like Inside Magic. It has been featured on The Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel,
and even used in a speech
by Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards
. The new BBC show on famous
actors of the past, Dead
Famous
, features the museum in upcoming episodes.

The format of your tour through the museum may vary depending on when you
arrive.

Mr. Brooks welcomes visitors by explaining the exhibition and shows run
continuously and "we keep going until there is no one left."

This means that
from noon until the evening, seven days a week, the couple do the following:

  • Mr.
    Brooks gives a lecture on the history of Houdini as a phenomenon in American and
    World theater history;
  • Ms. Dietrich performs an incredibly intricate and
    well-rehearsed 45-minute show featuring audience participation, great sleight of
    hand, wonderful dove and animal work, a levitation, and an incredibly endearing
    "you do as I do" routine with an audience member;
  • Mr. Brooks provides a pitch
    for several items available in the gift shop and gives one of the best Svengali
    Pitches we've seen;
  • Mr. Brooks then takes the attendees into an exhibit area to
    lecture on Houdini's rise to international fame and his tragic death; and
    finally,
  • Ms. Dietrich takes the audience into the museum's very impressive
    exhibit of Houdini's own equipment and personal effects.

The process starts again immediately.

We fell in love with magic through the story of Harry Houdini and his
self-described "ordeals." He provided a great role model for a young man or
woman.

His belief in clean-living, exercise, chastity, integrity, ingenuity, and
practice, became the yardstick by which we measured our growth and maturity.

Watching Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brooks's very enthusiastic presentations
invited us to again fall in love with the Houdini of our childhood. It was clear
they enjoyed sharing the story of Houdini as much as the assembled audience
enjoyed learning.

For some, this was their first real exposure to the true
Houdini — in contrast to the "Died Performing Chinese Water Torture Cell Escape
ala Tony Curtis" version. (See, New York Times write-up
on the historical errors in Houdini).

The capacity crowd was enchanted by the story and its tellers. Even after
making the full-circle through the shows and exhibits, many stayed on to join
the tour again.

That's a great sign.

We wondered how Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brooks could so successfully feign their
constant excitement in Houdini's story for the benefit of the never-ending
stream of visitors.

Our premise was way off.

There is nothing fake in their enthusiasm. They really do enjoy sharing the
story of Houdini with visitors — their enjoyment seems genuine because it is
genuine. On reflection, it seems impossible they could do three to four full
shows and tours each day for two months straight if they were faking it.

Ms. Dietrich points out in her lecture that Houdini believed we perform best
when we perform what we enjoy. Our innovation, excitement, and refinement come
from our desire engage in activities we consider enjoyable.

They must enjoy the work because the couple is clearly not in it for the
money. The revenue from the admission fees and gift shop sales returns to the
non-profit organization behind the museum. We cannot tell you how inspiring it
was to watch and learn from them.

Mr. Brooks's style fits perfectly with his responsibilities in the tour. He
works as emcee for Ms. Dietrich's stage show, pitchman for gift shop articles,
and a delightfully enthusiastic and irreverent lecturer.

John Bravo a/k/a Dick Brooks

His bowler fits neatly on his clean shaven head and his eyes seem to be
constantly searching for unbelievers in the audience. His rapport with the
audience on the day we watched belied his great experience in front of lay
audiences.

He worked what started as a very cold — some would say "dead" —
crowd into and enthusiastic, and hysterical audience.

Because we have very high principles, we refuse to steal lines from other
magicians — unless they are new, funny, and easily translated into our act. As
a consequence, we will steal 90 percent of Mr. Brooks's routine.

He comes across
as spontaneous but always in control. He seems to enjoy pushing the boundaries
of acceptable patter but perhaps only in perception. As we think back on the
lines and quips, none of his patter would be out of place at a church talent
show.

He perfectly affects a character you want to watch carefully for two reasons:
to be amazed and to protect your wallet.

Ms. Dietrich's presentation is congruent with Mr. Brooks but only in the
sense that a rose can be found at the end of a thorny stalk.

Ms. Dietrich's beauty is captivating. Her energy and poise brings a strange
sense of timelessness in a rapid-fire routine. We counted 17 effects performed
in the first 16 minutes. Yet Ms. Dietrich hardly seemed to be in a hurry.

She
has a self-assuredness you expect from a seasoned professional and the charisma
so many veterans spend their whole-life seeking.

Dorothy Dietrich

In person, her deep blue eyes and easy smile give off a movie-star aura you
may not perceive in the posters, photos, and television shows you've seen of
her.

While she may have the looks of a celebrity, her persona is anything but
impersonal or separate. She seems like your friend – perhaps a best friend – who
is excited about showing you something she finds interesting.

We had to remind
ourself constantly she performs the same routine and lectures three to four
times each day.

The trip to Scranton from Hershey, Pennsylvania was expressly to see Ms.
Dietrich and Mr. Brooks perform. We had exchanged emails in the past but didn't
tell them we hoped to see the show.

In a strange way, we were afraid after committing
the family to breaking up the vacation at the Chocolate Capital of the World to
take a four-hour side-trip, we might find the show was not all we had
expected.

We didn't want to feel obligated to say nice things about the museum to avoid
disappointing our hosts. We saw the full tour like any of the other thirty or so
participants.

It was only at the end we introduced ourself. By then we were so
entranced and delighted there was nothing Ms. Dietrich or Mr. Brooks could do to
influence our review.

We asked Ms. Dietrich to autograph our favorite photograph of her performing.

She is standing in the sights of rifle, ready to perform the Bullet Catch
live. Her face shows so much: an innocent — but not naive — confidence; a
sense of concern but not fear; focus and preparation for what could be the last
performance of her life.

We asked her what she was thinking at the moment the rifle was pointed at
her.

She paused, closed her eyes for a second, and with a cautious smile offered,
"I was thinking, 'what am I doing?'"

How ironic. We would never have guessed she had the slightest doubt about her
decision to perform our art's most dangerous trick at the height of her young
career.

Dorothy Focused

The stark black-and-white image of the young woman in the gun-sight of a
high-powered rifle stands in glaring contrast to the fully-alive and engaging
performer, lecturer, and hostess we met this weekend.

But we know the resolve
she demonstrated by twice performing the Bullet Catch under test conditions is a
part of the persona who delighted a full-house with great magic, wonderful wit,
and grace.

If you have a chance to visit the museum during the summer, you will be in
for a wonderful experience. You can also participate in séances and haunted
evenings during off-season months.

Do not miss the Houdini Museum.

Inside Magic Rating: Five-Out-of-Five Our Highest
Rating!


Dorothy Dietrich

We had the great fortune of visiting Scranton, Pennsylvania this summer. We
were in the neighborhood, sort of. We were actually just four hours to the
south, in the Gettysburg Battlefield and Hershey's Chocolate World.

 

But we
convinced all in our caravan of the urgent need to make a short side-trip to
Scranton to see Dorothy Dietrich and John Bravo a/k/a Dick Brooks. They are not
just amazing magicians, but they are also proprietors of the greatest museum about the
greatest magician ever.

We have long expressed our undying appreciation for Ms. Dietrich and admired all she
has accomplished.

Ms. Dietrich's work in the formerly male-dominated fields of Escapes and
Dangerous Illusions opened the doors for so many magicians.

As far as we know,
she is the first female magician to perform the dangerous Bullet Catching Trick
(twice!) and the first to escape from a straight jacket whilst suspended from burning rope 18-stories above a crowd.

Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brooks have provided a start for so many magicians
either directly through their Magic Townhouse in New York, or by support and the
essential referrals to bookers and agents.

Their Magic Townhouse set in the
high-rent district of Manhattan provided a place for magicians to perform,
learn, and network. While the effort may not have been financially profitable,
it benefited the world of magic greatly.

The concept worked because Ms. Dietrich
and Mr. Brooks cared enough to expend the time and energy to make it work.

The Houdini
Museum
on Main Street in Scranton's downtown area successfully shares their
admiration with curious tourists and hardened magicians.

The couple work at the
museum every day (seven-days-a-week) all of July and August. Their presentation
combines a lecture on Houdini as showman, magician, escape artist, debunker of
psychics, husband, and son.

The Houdini Museum is in no need of a glowing review from an obscure magic
website like Inside Magic. It has been featured on The Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel,
and even used in a speech
by Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards
. The new BBC show on famous
actors of the past, Dead
Famous
, features the museum in upcoming episodes.

The format of your tour through the museum may vary depending on when you
arrive.

Mr. Brooks welcomes visitors by explaining the exhibition and shows run
continuously and "we keep going until there is no one left."

This means that
from noon until the evening, seven days a week, the couple do the following:

  • Mr.
    Brooks gives a lecture on the history of Houdini as a phenomenon in American and
    World theater history;
  • Ms. Dietrich performs an incredibly intricate and
    well-rehearsed 45-minute show featuring audience participation, great sleight of
    hand, wonderful dove and animal work, a levitation, and an incredibly endearing
    "you do as I do" routine with an audience member;
  • Mr. Brooks provides a pitch
    for several items available in the gift shop and gives one of the best Svengali
    Pitches we've seen;
  • Mr. Brooks then takes the attendees into an exhibit area to
    lecture on Houdini's rise to international fame and his tragic death; and
    finally,
  • Ms. Dietrich takes the audience into the museum's very impressive
    exhibit of Houdini's own equipment and personal effects.

The process starts again immediately.

We fell in love with magic through the story of Harry Houdini and his
self-described "ordeals." He provided a great role model for a young man or
woman.

His belief in clean-living, exercise, chastity, integrity, ingenuity, and
practice, became the yardstick by which we measured our growth and maturity.

Watching Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brooks's very enthusiastic presentations
invited us to again fall in love with the Houdini of our childhood. It was clear
they enjoyed sharing the story of Houdini as much as the assembled audience
enjoyed learning.

For some, this was their first real exposure to the true
Houdini — in contrast to the "Died Performing Chinese Water Torture Cell Escape
ala Tony Curtis" version. (See, New York Times write-up
on the historical errors in Houdini).

The capacity crowd was enchanted by the story and its tellers. Even after
making the full-circle through the shows and exhibits, many stayed on to join
the tour again.

That's a great sign.

We wondered how Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brooks could so successfully feign their
constant excitement in Houdini's story for the benefit of the never-ending
stream of visitors.

Our premise was way off.

There is nothing fake in their enthusiasm. They really do enjoy sharing the
story of Houdini with visitors — their enjoyment seems genuine because it is
genuine. On reflection, it seems impossible they could do three to four full
shows and tours each day for two months straight if they were faking it.

Ms. Dietrich points out in her lecture that Houdini believed we perform best
when we perform what we enjoy. Our innovation, excitement, and refinement come
from our desire engage in activities we consider enjoyable.

They must enjoy the work because the couple is clearly not in it for the
money. The revenue from the admission fees and gift shop sales returns to the
non-profit organization behind the museum. We cannot tell you how inspiring it
was to watch and learn from them.

Mr. Brooks's style fits perfectly with his responsibilities in the tour. He
works as emcee for Ms. Dietrich's stage show, pitchman for gift shop articles,
and a delightfully enthusiastic and irreverent lecturer.

John Bravo a/k/a Dick Brooks

His bowler fits neatly on his clean shaven head and his eyes seem to be
constantly searching for unbelievers in the audience. His rapport with the
audience on the day we watched belied his great experience in front of lay
audiences.

He worked what started as a very cold — some would say "dead" —
crowd into and enthusiastic, and hysterical audience.

Because we have very high principles, we refuse to steal lines from other
magicians — unless they are new, funny, and easily translated into our act. As
a consequence, we will steal 90 percent of Mr. Brooks's routine.

He comes across
as spontaneous but always in control. He seems to enjoy pushing the boundaries
of acceptable patter but perhaps only in perception. As we think back on the
lines and quips, none of his patter would be out of place at a church talent
show.

He perfectly affects a character you want to watch carefully for two reasons:
to be amazed and to protect your wallet.

Ms. Dietrich's presentation is congruent with Mr. Brooks but only in the
sense that a rose can be found at the end of a thorny stalk.

Ms. Dietrich's beauty is captivating. Her energy and poise brings a strange
sense of timelessness in a rapid-fire routine. We counted 17 effects performed
in the first 16 minutes. Yet Ms. Dietrich hardly seemed to be in a hurry.

She
has a self-assuredness you expect from a seasoned professional and the charisma
so many veterans spend their whole-life seeking.

Dorothy Dietrich

In person, her deep blue eyes and easy smile give off a movie-star aura you
may not perceive in the posters, photos, and television shows you've seen of
her.

While she may have the looks of a celebrity, her persona is anything but
impersonal or separate. She seems like your friend – perhaps a best friend – who
is excited about showing you something she finds interesting.

We had to remind
ourself constantly she performs the same routine and lectures three to four
times each day.

The trip to Scranton from Hershey, Pennsylvania was expressly to see Ms.
Dietrich and Mr. Brooks perform. We had exchanged emails in the past but didn't
tell them we hoped to see the show.

In a strange way, we were afraid after committing
the family to breaking up the vacation at the Chocolate Capital of the World to
take a four-hour side-trip, we might find the show was not all we had
expected.

We didn't want to feel obligated to say nice things about the museum to avoid
disappointing our hosts. We saw the full tour like any of the other thirty or so
participants.

It was only at the end we introduced ourself. By then we were so
entranced and delighted there was nothing Ms. Dietrich or Mr. Brooks could do to
influence our review.

We asked Ms. Dietrich to autograph our favorite photograph of her performing.

She is standing in the sights of rifle, ready to perform the Bullet Catch
live. Her face shows so much: an innocent — but not naive — confidence; a
sense of concern but not fear; focus and preparation for what could be the last
performance of her life.

We asked her what she was thinking at the moment the rifle was pointed at
her.

She paused, closed her eyes for a second, and with a cautious smile offered,
"I was thinking, 'what am I doing?'"

How ironic. We would never have guessed she had the slightest doubt about her
decision to perform our art's most dangerous trick at the height of her young
career.

Dorothy Focused

The stark black-and-white image of the young woman in the gun-sight of a
high-powered rifle stands in glaring contrast to the fully-alive and engaging
performer, lecturer, and hostess we met this weekend.

But we know the resolve
she demonstrated by twice performing the Bullet Catch under test conditions is a
part of the persona who delighted a full-house with great magic, wonderful wit,
and grace.

If you have a chance to visit the museum during the summer, you will be in
for a wonderful experience. You can also participate in séances and haunted
evenings during off-season months.

Do not miss the Houdini Museum.

Inside Magic Rating: Five-Out-of-Five Our Highest
Rating!

Comments are closed.