Houdini’s Relationship with Judaism

Inside Magic Image of Harry HoudiniJoshua Spivak has a great article in today’s Jewish Daily Forward, “The True Story of Harry Houdini’s Tefillin.”

While researching a totally unrelated topic by reading through old newspapers, he came across an article about Harry Houdini’s death.  That led him to further research into the newspapers of the time and into an interesting – if occasionally contradictory – depiction of Houdini’s relationship with the Jewish community and his Jewish practices.

One article, collected the perspective of folks who claimed to be former Wisconsin neighbors and friends, claimed that: “They know him as a man devoutly religious, who, wherever his performance brought him, carried his phylacteries and mezuzahs, Jewish creedal symbols, with him…The mezuzahs, strips of parchment with scriptural passages encased in tin, considered effective in warding off evil, he is said to have nailed to the door of the hotel room wherever he lodged for the night, on the true orthodox Jewish fashion. And the phylacteries, little leathern boxes with scriptural parchment recognized as charms, he bound to his forehead and left arm each morning during his prayers, his friends declare.”

Joshua Spivak is a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in N.Y., and blogs at http://recallelections.blogspot.com/

Breaking: Fox Greenlights 10-Episodes of  Houdini & Doyle

Inside Magic Image of Houdini and DoyleAccording to Deadline.com, Fox Television has ordered ten episodes of “supernatural crime” series Houdini and Doyle based on the real-life friendship between Harry Houdini Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The two characters “join forces to investigate crimes with a supernatural slant.”

Houdini is the debunker and Doyle believes in spooks.

Some are describing it as an X-Files-esque take on two great historical figures.

We will keep you apprised as we learn more.

 

Escape Artist Andrew Basso Profiled

Inside Magic Image of Andrew BassoThe Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a great profile piece on Italian escapologist Andrew Basso today.  Mr. Basso is receiving raves for his twist on Houdini’s Water Torture Cell escape performed as his turn in The Illusionists nationwide tour.

How did he get into magic?  To impress mom.

“If you knew my mother, you would say she’s Morticia [Addams],” he said.  “She was very serious, no smiles. But when the circus came, she watched the magician’s act, and laughed out loud. I thought, Aha! He has the power to make my mother laugh. I want to be like him.”

He has worked escapes professionally since 2003 and has brought audiences to the edge of their seats and the limits of their composure town after town during The Illusionists’ tour.

Mr. Basso can hold his breath for about four minutes but aims to be out of the restraints and back to breathing air in two minutes.  He has had a couple of close-calls.

“It was this big opening, Sydney Opera House, and I was pumped — I just couldn’t get my adrenaline down,” he said.  “After 2 minutes and 30 seconds, it was taking longer than normal, and my guys knew that I was in trouble, so they got me out.”

He was also burned when performing an escape on live Italian TV.  He was locked in a wooden coffin rigged with explosives and severely burned over his face and hands.  “I haven’t done that trick again, but I would, but different,” he said. “I learned something from it.”

Be sure to check out his incredible website here.

Check out The Illusionists’ website to get updates on their tour schedule.

Houdini Museum Announces Hollywood Tour

Inside Magic Image of The Grim Game PosterInside Magic Favorites Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz  will be traveling west to lead tour of Hollywood Houdini Sites on what would have been the great magician’s 141st Birthday, March 24.

Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brookz recently uncovered Houdini’s long lost film The Grim Game are in Hollywood as special guests of Turner Classic Movies to introduce the world premiere of the film.

Those in the know consider The Grim Game the best of Houdini’s five feature films but it has not been seen by the public for more than 96 years.  Thanks to Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Brookz, the film will be featured as part of the finale of the TCM Film Festival, March 29.

After the Hollywood showing, it will be exhibited at The Directors Guild in New York City and then in Scranton, Pennsylvania – the home of the incredible Houdini Museum.  Turner Classic Movies intends to broadcast the film on their cable channel later in the year.

The Hollywood tour will begin on March 24 at 10 AM in front of the Hollywood Heritage Museum at 2100 Highland Ave. The museum was once part of the Famous Players-Lasky Studio where Houdini made The Grim Game.  Dorothy Dietrich will perform magic for those in attendance and then she and Mr. Brookz will join John Cox for a private Hollywood tour.  Mr. Cox is the host of the most important Houdini website in the universe, Wild About Harry.

The Houdini Museum has the largest and only continuing traveling exhibit on Houdini, “Houdini Road Show,” that has finally all come back from being on display at the Seminole Coconut Creek Casino in West Palm Beach.

Ms. Dietrich and Mr. Dick Brookz are also currently starring in Psychic Theater’s Haunted Seance!  The show is the longest running performance of its kind in history – more than 10 years at the Houdini Museum Theater.

Visit The Houdini Museum at http://www.houdini.org.

David Ben Advises Canadian Museum on Houdini Collection

Houdini Buried AliveMagician David Ben is in the news today as Montreal’s McCord Museum announced it has acquired a collection of 600 posters, 200 rare books and 200 documents documenting magic in the 19th to early 20th centuries.  The acquisition cost approximately $3,000,000.00 but sounds priceless.

Mr. Ben is  the Artistic Director of Magicana – an organization dedicated to the study of magic – and was a key adviser to the museum.

“It’s the second-largest collection of Houdini material held in a public institution,” Mr. Ben told reporters today.

The US Library of Congress houses the largest collection.

The materials will be made available for scholars and will be the subject of a 2017 exhibition at the museum.

The artifacts trace Houdini’s beginnings as a magician in eastern Canada, but also the rise of spiritualism – the belief that the dead can communicate with the living. It also “tracks the social history of advertising” through the use of lithography and its posters, Ben said.

The acquisition is the gift of the Emmanuelle Gattuso Foundation.  Ms. Gattuso is the wife Standard Broadcasting’s Allan Slaight.  Before becoming a major media mogul, Mr. Slaight was a professional magician and mind reader.

We will keep you advised on public opportunities to view the collection.  We cannot wait.

Read more in The Montreal Gazette.