Thursday, May 4, 2017

Houdini and Jennie the Elephant (and Lucy, and Fanny)

In the Spring of 1922, Houdini was at the Times Square Theatre promoting his film, The Man From Beyond.

The Evening Telegram - New York newspaper from April 8, 1922 reported, "After the film Houdini appeared in person on the stage and went through his many mystifications. He makes a lady disappear. He gets out of a straight-jacket that is seemingly impregnable. He swallows four packages of needles and then he swallows the thread and presently produces that same thread from his smiling mouth with all the needles duly threaded.
“No wonder he has nerves of steel” commented the girl in the front row.
Finally, he makes an elephant disappear. Of his two elephants, only Lucy came on for her act. Fanny was captivated by the bright lights of Broadway and refused to enter the Times Square Theatre. Meanwhile, Lucy suffered from an attack of temperament and liberal rations of gum drops were necessary before she could be induced to do her act."

Lucy? Fanny? I never heard of these two pachyderms, only Jennie. Anybody else know if this was just a reporter's embellishment or a fact? 


  1. Jennie was the elephant HH used at the Hippodrome in 1918. It was said for this Time Sq. Theater performance Houdini used a smaller elephant. But I don't believe I've ever head the name of the Time Sq. elephant, let alone that there we two! Great find.

  2. Very interesting find Chuck!
    According to Notes on Houdini’s Vanishing Elephant by Patrick Culliton:
    Houdini performed at the Times Square Theatre in April, 1922, as part of a live stage show that he presented in conjunction with opening of his motion picture The Man From Beyond. Clinton Burgess reported in Sphinx [Vol 21 No. 3 May 15 1922]:
    “… The follows Houdini’s original startling and daring illusion, “The Disappearing Elephant.” This is the same illusion Houdini presented with such success at the New York Hippodrome and is startler of the first water. While the cabinet of enclosure used to house or temporarily imprison the elephant prior to its mysterious disappearance is roomy enough inside to accommodate a large elephant, is was only rarely that the large one in readiness for the effect would enter the theatre owing to its extreme timidity over the glare of the footlights. On this occasion it was necessary to use another but somewhat smaller elephant, loaned to Houdini through the courtesy of John Ringling. This elephant is named ‘Baby’, while the larger one is called ‘Fannie Ringling.’ “

    Joe M. Notaro

  3. Thanks, Joe. What a great bit of information! I did a quick search on Fannie and reportedly she was the first elephant bought by Ringling Bros. Circus along with Babylon (Babe) in 1888. She died Nov. 1908 in Baraboo quarters. Babe died in 1937.