Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Houdini's Grim Game - A Review from the Past

John Cox writes a very informative and well-done blog called WILD ABOUT HARRY. I check his blog often because there is always of something of interest there. The other day he had an entry on Houdini's Grim Game movie. Coincidentally, I came across an enthusiastic review of this movie from the August 27, 1919 edition of the New York Tribune.

I can't recall reading such a detailed account of the movie's plot and thought some of you my find it intriguing.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Houdini's Vansihing Elephant CYLINDER

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!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Malini the Magician, the San Fran Police and Lemons

I came across this great Malini article and illustration in the May 18, 1912 issue of  the San Francisco Call, Volume 111, Number 170. The stories about Malini are legendary and this story illustrates why that is. I heard a similar story about Alexander Hermann making coins appear in eggs. It doesn't really matter where the money appears - the public resist the lure of lucre in groceries.

Detectives Start on New Chase! Seek for Money Inside Lemons
New Methods of Amassing Wealth Shown Before the Police Commissioners

San Francisco's detective force has been taught two new and easy ways of getting money, one by taking it out of other people's hands, and the other by buying lemons for five cents at a fruit stand and then extracting the $10 bills growing inside the fruit.

These new methods of high finance were demonstrated before the detectives, the board of police commissioners, Judge Shortall, Chief of Police White and others by Malini, the magician, yesterday afternoon in the hall of Justice.

Malini proved that it was all very simple, showing Detectives Pat Cronan and Fred Biermann that a plain clothes man could gather up plenty of easy money without disturbance or discovery. For example, he rolled up a $10 bill and placed it in Cronan's hand.

Cronan closed his hand on the money firmly, to show that it couldn't he taken away. "That's a cinch," said Malini, and Cronan unclasped his hands to find a crumpled piece of newspaper instead of the bill. "All you have to do is to buy a lemon for a nickle, and here you are." continued the Instructor in applied finance, pulling a lemon out of Cronan's pocket, cutting it open, and showing the bill which Cronan had previously closed his hand on.

The rest of the demonstration was shown to an empty house. The detectives had all left in a hurry and were out at the fruit stands in Kearny street buying lemons.