I love magic history. You can get lost in research and find little nuggets of information. Recently I found this intriguing article on Houdini and his vanishing elephant. It was from the New York Tribune, January 6, 1918. The reporter wrote something that caught my eye. He wrote "Houdini has constructed a gigantic cylinder shaped container of such dimensions that the largest elephant obtainable can enter with ease. It walks through this tube and vanishes." A tube? I always thought the elephant went into a large BOX.
Here is the text of the article in its entirety.
Houdini Has New Elephant Trick
To-morrow at the Hippodrome one may see a full sized, real, live elephant disappear in full view of the audience on a brilliantly lighted stage, before one's very eyes. This vanishing elephant illusion is an experiment conceived and perfected by Houdini, world renowned expert in extracation, whom Charles Dillingham has selected as a feature extraordinary of "Cheer Up! The engagement of Houdini is keeping with Mr. Dillingham's policy of introducing important new features in his big Hippodrome spectacles after the holidays.
The disappearing elephant feat is is one which Houdini began experimenting upon during his visit to India four years ago, for it has long been the dream of the Indian fakirs to realize the reputation given to Chaucer hundreds of years ago, when he wrote that he had seen "an elephant crumble to the earth in piecemeal and then reassemble itself and walk away." Houdini's illusion, which can no doubt be classified as the "biggest" ever attempted on any stage, while it does not crumble the huge beast weighing over 6,000 pounds, it does actually vanish the elephant on the stage in full glare of the light, without the use of traps, as the tank of water under the Hippodrome apron prevents any such camouflage. Houdini has constructed a gigantic cylinder shaped container of such dimensions that the largest elephant obtainable can enter with ease. It walks through this tube and vanishes.
A second new experiment which Mr. Dillingham will introduce next Monday will be in the final scene of "Cheer Up!" in the aquatic spectacle where Houdini will present his Submersible Mystery. In this daring exhibition he is manacled and leg-tied and imprisoned in a heavily weighted iron bound box, which is lowered into the tank of water. While submerged Houdini accomplishes his escape and comes to the surface unfettered. Now, to prove that he is actually inside the box when it is thrown overboard and that he really takes a risk and dares death in the problem of escaping he will invite members of the audience to nail up the box at every performance. He has further obligated himself to the management to forfeit the sum of $1,000 to anyone who can prove he is assisted to escape or that it is possible to breathe, or that he obtains air when he is once submerged. The submerged box being filled with holes, is completely filled with water, the audience seeing it all the time, no curtain to obscure the sinking or hide it from view.
Where did this reporter get this information? He said "tomorrow," so this was written before he saw Houdini perform. Is this how Houdini described the trick to him? We will never know. All I know is that "Cheer Up!" must have been an unforgettable show - the vanishing elephant and the Submersible Mystery.
I imagined what Houdini's elephant "cylinder" might look like stage might look and created this photo.
I would love to hear from any of you that have heard this story of the elephant vanishing in a gigantic cylinder. Cheers!