InsideMagic Favorite The Houdini Museum in Scranton launches its newest venture with a big social media boom. Dick Brookz and the lovely Dorothy Dietrich not only run the Nation’s finest Houdini Museum, but have now announced brought to life their vision for a board game called Houdini Opoly. Mr. Brookz says he and museum co-operator Dorothy Dietrich came up with the idea about two years ago based on the museum’s popular tours. “We go through Houdini’s life in a circle from beginning to end. Well guess what, that’s how a board game works.”
Like the other “opoloy” sounding boardgame based on ancient New Jersey shore, the Houdini Opoly features game board property is a place significant to Houdini’s life ranging from his birthplace in Budapest, Hungary to his burial place in New York City. There are even two northeastern Pennsylvania in the game: One is Welsh Brothers Circus where he found his most steady work in the 19th century. The other, the Houdini museum in Scranton. Yay!
Where can one get ‘Houdini Opoly’ you ask? Well, Mr. Brookz and Ms. Dietrich launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of the board game. While the goal for game players is to accumulate as many Houdini properties as possible using game pieces, dice and deeds, Mr. Brookz says he and Ms. Dietrich are striving for something much more. “The goal of the game is to get Houdini in people’s houses around the world. The goal of the game is to create a collectible.”
The magic couple think Houdini would have loved the game. “I think he’d be all for it because he loved publicity,” said Mr. Brookz who added that the Kickstarter goal is to reach at least $8,000 to produce upwards of 1,000 editions of ‘Houdini Opoly’. Click here to learn more about the campaign.
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Curators have assembled restraints, love letters, scripts, press kits and handwritten descriptions of magic tricks for the very special exhibit.
Eric Colleary, Cline curator of Theater and Performing Arts, said Houdini stood out because of how he identified himself.
“Houdini was different than many others during his time for a number of reasons,” Colleary said. “He considered himself an illusionist, rather than a magician.”
The exhibit will include pieces related to Houdini’s debunking of spiritualism with a special presentation by Austin-based theater company The Hidden Room titled, Houdini Speaks to the Living. Based on correspondence, essays, diaries and photographs from the Ransom Center, the performance will pit Houdini against Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the issue of spiritualism.
And there is even more. The center will screen The Grim Game and a hold a cooking class based on the great performer’s favorite foods.
Magicians and chefs will learn to make chicken paprikash with fennel potatoes; Hungarian goulash with spatzel; and custard bread pudding with cherry sauce. We knew we liked Houdini but now we realize we would have loved to eat dinner with him. In fact, when we were younger, we were part of two person telepathy team known as Goulash and Spatzel. We were trying to break into the niche market of Hungarian food lovers who enjoyed poorly rehearsed mentalism routines. Surprisingly, it was not a success, but we ate well; so that was good.
From our perspective, it is heart-warming (in a good way, not like an organ transplant way) that Houdini continues to inspire and intrigue the general public.
“I’m very interested in illusionists’ performances and their ability to captivate and confuse audiences with acts that seem beyond the realm of possibility,” communication studies junior Alyssa Hollander said. “I even subscribed to a magic subreddit because I wanted to learn how to do card tricks.”
“Programs like these are not only fun and engaging, but they also help us to understand different facets of Houdini’s life and career that we may not have realized before,” Colleary said.
Check out the Ransom Center’s website for all of the details.
At the very same institution where Houdini was fatally punched in the gut, McGill University in Montreal, psychologists and neuroscientists are trying to learn more about their respective fields by studying how magicians fool people.
We read about the investigations into psychology and magic in a recent issue of The Atlantic.
Jay Olson is one of the researchers working on what a recent issue of the journal of The Frontiers of Psychology call “neuromagic.” In an article “The Psychology of Magic, the Magic of Psychology,” Mr. Olson reported on a fascinating study where subjects were shown the same trick over and over until they figured it out. We now have scientific data to support the maxim that a magician should never perform the same effect twice.
Mr. Olson studied the psychology of forcing. To his credit, Mr. Olson refused to disclose the secret of the forcing technique he used. He was able to successfully force a card on a subject 98 percent of the time – and 91 percent of the time, the subject felt the choice was entirely free. The study authors wrote, that magic “can provide new methods to study the feeling of free will.”
Perhaps more importantly, some curious magicians might hope, the study can teach an effective forcing technique that works 98 percent of the time and leaves nine out of ten participants ready to swear the choice was entirely free.
Again, Mr. Olson refused to disclose his secret method.
We urge you to visit the study’s website to learn more about the work done and the areas of investigation. It really is a fascinating read. Like painters are masters of perceptual illusions, the study notes, “magicians are the cognitive artists.”
Check out additional articles in the field here.
Time and Life magazines paid homage to our noble profession’s gathering in Indianapolis this weekend by looking back at the 1947 Society of American Magicians held in Chicago in 1947.
If you follow the link to the Google books page of that original Life Magazine article you can see wonderful images of some of the greats performing for the Life cameras. It could be that Dr. Harlan Tarbell did perform the Balancing an Egg on a Fan While Blindfolded trick as part of his nightclub act. Maybe magicians did do Multiplying Golf Balls in a strip club and drew all eyes from the dancers gyrating on stage to their strained and stretched fingers. But is also just as likely that the convention attendees were doing what magicians do best at convention time – getting good press.
Time and Life’s website gives a link to the SAM 2016 registration page, a 2014 blurb on the ill-fated efforts to exhume Houdini’s remains to test for poisoning and a 1994 essay by Penn Jillette explaining why Vegas was the most logical place for magic to reside. He has some snarky things to say about Siegfried & Roy and Melinda but that was the old, “bad-boys of magic” Penn.
From the post-war era, to the 1970s with Doug Henning’s The Magic Show raking in $60,000.00 each week on Broadway ($307,175.32 in today’s dollars), to David Copperfield’s globe-trotting success, and later David Blaine taking it to the streets with camera in tow, Magic has endured.
In that 1974 Time article reporting on that decade’s fascination in magic and magicians, James Randi said the upsurge in interest is “a sign that our society is still healthy. When people stop being enthralled by a magician who can make a lady vanish, it will mean that the world has lost its most precious possession: its sense of wonder.”
Like the Dude, Magic endures.
We love Houdini and all things Houdini. So, when we saw the new trailer for Fox Television’s new series Houdini & Doyle, we got giddy – or giddier. We understand Fox purchased ten episodes so far and plans to launch this spring. The trailer looks great even with the obligatory and historically inaccurate axe to the Water Torture Cell scene that has been with us since Tony Curtis.
You can check out the trailer here.
Fox has launched a webpage to promote the series with some great interviews, pretty pictures and a pithy exposition of the series.
Ironically, “Supernatural Slant” was the name of our dance routine that catapulted us to national prominence in 1979-1980. Some no doubt recall our participation in the syndicated television contest series, “Dance Your Booty.” It was through that show that we learned the important lessons of show business:
You can visit the Fox website or for the definitive, straight dope, check out the number one source for all things Houdini, John Cox’ incredible website, Wild About Harry here.