Monday, January 11, 2016

Whose Box is it? Houdini's or Blackstone's?

I really like John Cox's site, Wild About Houdini. I never fail to find something that piques my interest. John really deserves a huge amount of credit for all he has done over the years. I would have posted these comments on his site, but needed some room to go into detail.

The most recent entry is about a Houdini treasure unearthed in Santa Monica - Houdini's Steel Overboard Box. No doubt this box came from Dunninger and found it's way to the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls. Dunninger obtained the box from the Houdini estate, but was it really Houdini's to begin with?

Dunninger ran an ad in The Linking Ring magazine (1930) selling the box among other magic treasures for $175.00. By 1931 he was trying to unload it for $150. Reportedly the box was worth $400 (see below).

The box still wasn't sold by 1938 and Joe was practically giving it away along with some other Houdini illusions like Harry's Trunk of all Nations and Lattice Cabinet. It looks like most, if not all, of these props ended up in Niagara Falls. "The first $1000.00 takes it all!"

So what role does Harry Blackstone play in this tale? It was reported in the Jinx (#68, Nov. 25, 1939, page 468) that Blackstone (HB) built the iron box and Houdini wanted it. HB refused to sell it, it "vanishes" from HB's warehouse, and finally ends up with Dunninger. Read the full story below as it appeared in the Jinx.

This same story is relayed by Harry Blackstone, Jr. on a Houdini documentary, but I always thought he was speaking about a WOODEN box. We may never know the truth, but I would bet the iron box John Cox found in Santa Monica originally belonged to...


  1. Fantastic Chuck! Yeah, I always thought they were talking about a wooden box as well. This is great. I will add it as a link to my story.

  2. In some general magic book there are photos of Blackstone doing the overboard box. A believe there are 2 pics, one is him standing on top of the box as it's being raised from the water. In my mind, I see the iron box! But maybe my mind is playing tricks. Any idea what book this is in? I'm been looking without luck.

    1. Found it. It's in Christopher's Illustrated History of Magic. But it's a wooden box.