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REWARD for HOUDINI STRAIGHT JACKET-STOLEN
HOUDINI MUSEUM in LAS VEGAS
at the VENETIAN HOTEL
If you have any information about this item please contact
Geno Munari at (702) 798-4789
HOUDINI AND DEMONIC MNENOMICS
Dr. Morris N. Young
A number coincidence enshrouds the century old home of the Master Mystifier.
Recently my curiosity had been revived as to why the newly constructed house which Houdini was to own had been untenanted for the eight years until he came along to purchase 278 West 113th Street. There have been increasing inquiries as to my knowledge of the lapse of time between the final construction and the date of acquisition by Houdini.
Understandably, the house is being pointed out to tourists as one of Harlem's landmark attractions. Documentaries are giving glimpses of "278" in Houdini biographicals. An image of "278" is to be one of the features in an exhibit scheduled to be toured this year, sponsored by the California Science Center, titled "Magic: the Science of Illusion."
Oddly, what was to be the permanent home for Houdini had been unoccupied since the date that construction was completed, April 30, 1896. According to public records, ownership was conveyed to Erich Weiss (Houdini) on August 11, 1904- "278" was located in what was a German populated area of Harlem, New York City. Houdini became its first tenant.
In his own manner, Houdini had already sent off a letter to the editor of "SPHINX" a magazine read widely by magicians, to tell of the eventful purchase, dated August 4, 1904. He wrote in no uncertain tones that it was the finest home any magician had the good fortune to own. In a more modest vein, he let it be known that he would be leaving for Europe, where he was booked for two seasons. The new "278" address was given for reference.
During the rest of his life, "278" would be his "home quarters". Members of his family would be included. He would have a reception room, private office, library, workshop-laboratory and storage areas. Other than the obvious, there were no reasons given in the letter to the "SPHINX" for Houdini's enthusiastic and precipitous acquisition of "278".
Probing issues of this nature became important by students of the Houdini psyche, especially after his untimely death on October 31, 1926. Mrs. Houdini sold "278" to neighbors John and Filipine Bonano on March 23, 1927. During passing years, Mrs. Bonano claimed that Houdini's spirit had made itself known to her many times in friendly ways. These appearances were credited by listeners as only anecdotal.
Hopefully patient that Houdini might return from a spirit world, Mrs. Houdini agreed to participate in a séance held in Hollywood on Halloween, ten years after her husband's death. Failing to reach him, she announced grimly to the world that she would make no further attempts at what she considered to be impossible. However, there were many others who would not concede to her conclusion.
After Mrs. Houdini's death, "278" became attractive as the place where another séance should be held to attract Houdini's "spirit". Long John Nebel, a well known radio network personality, agreed to devote an entire program to be broadcast, of a séance. Permission to use "278" for a remote pick-up was given by one of the Bonano family. All elements of a classic style séance were, conducted by a veteran medium. The psychic was apologetically unsuccessful in contacting the former owner of "278". Stirring the imagination during the proceedings, a small mouse scampered across the floor of the reception room in a westerly direction and disappeared in the woodwork base of the wall.
What Houdini would have thought about having a séance enacted at "278" can be a matter for lively conjecture. Back in his teens, he had attended his first séance out of curiosity. Already well versed in magic, mentalism and escapes from rope ties, he saw through the fraudulent methods used to deceive the audience. Purely business was his reaction.
Later on, in 1898, Houdini and his wife were desperately needing funds in the Midwest. Séances were offered by Houdini as an added attraction for a traveling medicine show. Next, on their own they worked as a psychic and a clairvoyant for a brief period. Mrs. Houdini recalled that her husband was disturbed by the gullibility of the mourning type of clientele which they had to deal with and a feeling of duplicity. Two coincidences that occurred helped influence his decision to denounce a career of that vintage.
Working as a psychic team, Mrs. Houdini had provided accurately the location of the long lost relative of a member of the audience who had been questioned by Houdini. By chance, Mrs. Houdini had recalled the location of a person similarly named and his address in New York City. At another time, Houdini had been able to foretell to a mother that when she reached home, she would find that her son would have been seriously injured. Coincidentally, Houdini, while acting as a psychic had looked out of a window from the room in which he was working, seeing a boy playing dangerously. An impromptu worded prediction was inspired.
Unavoidably, the sordid avenues of psychic research became a major realm for Houdini's indignation. Immediately following the Long John Nebel séance which Mrs. Young and I attended, we found ourselves reluctant to leave "278". We listened to Walter Gibson, a good friend of Houdini, who was also there. Walter kept us spellbound with his descriptions of what had transpired in the house and about the visitors with occult based leanings.
More recently a neighbor of ours who was in his 90's, provided a related anecdote about Houdini in 1924. Twenty years had then passed since Houdini's letter to the editor of "SPHINX" concerning "278". Now, as an international celebrity, Houdini could still not depend entirely on anyone else, even when it came to exploitation of his new book. A friend of ours, Latrobe Carroll, who was an editor of "LIBERTY" magazine, recalled answering the phone one day to hear a voice saying in distinct measured tone, "This is Houdini", Houdini told Latrobe about his new book, "A Magician Among the Spirits". Invited to come to Houdini's home to discuss it, Latrobe accepted.
Meeting at "278" offered an environment for relaxed conversation. Latrobe's style of questioning was that of a naive journalist. This was parried with skillful guidance by the host. Latrobe heard about Houdini's experiences as an escapologist who challenged the world. Interspersed were sketches of early involvement with affairs of mediums, séances, mentalists and magicians. These were all subject to influences of illusion to justify conclusions. Concurrent coincidences were also to be reckoned with as supporting evidence of truly psychic insight.
Opportunely for me, Hollywood became the place where the First National Mnemonics Convention was held in 1968 within the area of Mrs. Houdini's final séance. I was the keynote speaker. In those days, mnemonics, the devices of artificial memory, were sheltered by magic as a subspecialty of mentalism. They could be used to perform psychic stunts. Students of magic could read Harry Kellar's "Aids to Arithmetic Calculations" (1903) to learn about phono-numeric applications as magic techniques. Kellar was admired by the world of Houdini as America's leading magic illusionist.
A letter written by Houdini to a magic magazine in 1898 explains a coded method for conveying messages between performer and assistant without the knowledge of the audience. Houdini soon left mentalism for escapology to reach fame in his own right. His name became almost synonymous with handcuffs, However, he would have been welcomed at the 1968 convention to tell about the book he was planning in 1905 to deal with the subject of code and cypher. Never completed, parts only exist as published in a magic magazine of his own creation.
So motivated by Houdini's often expressed interest in mentalism, codes, cypher and coincidence, I became impelled to submit "278" to its phonetic numeral mnemonic implications. Suddenly, "278" resounded in my ears as "han(d)cuff" or alternatively, uncuff. In the system, numerals are given the sound of consonants. 2 equals N; 7 equals hard C or K; 8 equals F or PH, Trying out the system on "113" (the street number), I equals T or D or TH; 3 equals M. In making up words, vowels have no mnemonic value and may be used liberally. W, H and Y are "neuters". Accordingly, "278 W. 113" becomes "Uncuff We Tie Them", the address of the house. Certainly, Houdini had a profound regard for all aspects of manipulation of memory. An unresolved question remains as to whether he was aware of the mnemonic significance of "278" when he purchased the home. As a perennial skeptic, Houdini has bequeathed us with this coincidence: A standard artificial memory system absolutely spells out "Uncuff We Tie Them" as the meaning of a "278", home of "The Handcuff King", Also to be contended with is the notion held by some that the house possessed a power of its own to wait for Houdini!
About the Author:
WHO FOOLED HOUDINI?
From a Dai Vernon advertising piece
HE FOOLED HOUDINI
It was Houdini's boast that a man had only to do a trick for him three times and he knew the trick. Some years ago, in Chicago, a keen swift-fingered card manipulator baffled him again and again. Mutual friends seated at the table said: "Don't quibble, Harry, you're fooled this time". Houdini finally made the admission and added, "Vernon is certainly the best man I have ever seen with cards."
Popular stage magic that deals in boxes and barrels, disappearing bird cages and the sawing of women in half holds no interest for Mr. Vernon. Such performers Mr. Vernon recognizes as important in the field of magic. Their popularity, however, he believes, is declining. Modern science with its radios, airplanes, cosmic rays and countless other wonders is outdoing even the most fantastic dreams of the old school of magic.
There are no pistol shots, no cabalistic Words, no orchestral crescendos when Mr. Vernon does a trick. What he does is compounded of simple, familiar ingredients. The hands and the voice are the only means utilized-and with these simple instruments he puts on a never ending show. There is nothing prepared beforehand, nothing that cannot be thoroughly examined by a spectator. Despite a certain uncanny quickness about him, his manner is easy and disarming. It induces confidence and promotes illusion. In a perfectly natural way he convinces any audience they are seeing miracles.
Mr. Vernon's work is the product of two factors: skill in manipulation and the psychology of misdirection. Everything is done close at hand and in full view, whereas in "apparatus" magic none of the preliminary preparations are seen-only the final effect. During Mr. Vernon's performance the mind is involved at every stage, being led on step by step to ingeniously defeat its own logic.
Mr. Vernon has two distinct and different programs for discriminating audiences, depending upon their requirements. He is unexcelled as an intimate entertainer for the small gathering in home or club and for a large audience presents his stage act, "A Magical Masquerade" which has been featured at Radio City Music Hall and the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center.
a.k.a. Donald Ferguson
Here is some very important news to all that follow Houdini. In the court case in the United States Federal Court, against Hardeen Houdini, whose real name isDonald Ferguson.
Here is an excerpt of the Nov. 10th ruling:
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (#56) is granted as follows:
1. Judgment is entered in favor of Plaintiffs on their claims for (a) federal unfair competition under 15 U.S.C.§ 1125 (a); (b) common law trademark infringement; (c) deceptive trade practices under N.R.S. § 598.0903 et seq; and (d) false advertising under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c).
2. Plaintiffs' claims are dismissed for (a) violation of right of privacy under N.R.S.§ 597.780 et seq.; and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.
3. Judgment is entered in favor of plaintiffs on all defendants' counterclaims.
4. Defendants are permanently enjoined from:
5. Plaintiffs have superior, prior and exclusive rights to the names and trademarks containing the word "HOUDINI" in connection with the sale of magic tricks, and Defendants have no rights to use the names or marks containing the word "HOUDINI" in connection with the field of magic.
One more thing that is interesting: Donald Ferguson has been using a social security number of a deceased person, (died in 1988.) There is a tax lien filed in Branson, Mo., against Hardeen H. Houdini. The SS# is 125-01-6255. Also, in applying for a fictitious business name in Missouri, Ferguson used the same number. The number belongs to the real Harry Hardeen, the real son of Theo Hardeen, who died in 1988. BTW, you can look up deceased persons on the internet. I hope we have a reader on internet who works for the Social Security Administration or the Department of Justice. I don't think it is legal to use a false social security number, do you? One more thing, Houdini's Trunk of Magic was expelled from the Magic Dealers Association.
An interesting article about Donald Ferguson a.k.a Hardeen Houdini that appeared in:
Psssssst, Harry ... Harry Houdini. We need your help. You -- Master of the Great Escape -- wiggled your way out of handcuffs, jails, trunks, straitjackets ... you name it. Please, help us get out of this.
Claims he's your grandnephew. Claims he's the grandson of your younger bro, Hardeen. Claims he's got your Metamorphosis trunk. You know, the same one in that'53 Tony Curtis flick, Houdini, that plays endlessly on late-night TV. Only one problem, Harry. There is no proof he is who he says.
One of the clan says he's for real. Another says, uh-uh, he's a fake. (Editor's Note: As of this writing Marie Blood does not believe a word of his claim. But that's just like a magic show, isn't it? We've little choice but to suspend belief, kick back and enjoy the spectacle.
We suspect you'll find all this amusing -- ironically fitting, in fact. After all, Houdini wasn't your real name, and by the time you died -- on Halloween in 1926 -- you'd confounded the public by spinning so many tales that even today your birth, life and death are still being rehashed and revised. As you know, Harry, timing is everything. Lucky for us, Monday is Halloween. That means a group of long-time Houdini historians, plus a requisite psychic, will hold their annual séance -- the 68th since your death -- in New York City.
Their question: Can you escape from the dead? Here is ours: Hardeen Harry Houdini -- trick or treat? Now you see them. Now you don't.
During the last three years, Hardeen and magician wife Cyrene, both 36, have moved from one entertainment hot spot to another. Las Vegas. Orlando. Even Branson, Mo., where last Halloween they escaped from a single straitjacket, hanging 85 feet above the ground. This summer, the duo settled in Broward because Las Vegas had too many magicians; other spots had too little interest. Still, the spiel is the same. They speak of starting a local Houdini museum just as they did in an Orlando-area paper last June. Ditto, Branson four months later.
Comes now the claimant Hardeen Harry Houdini, who asserts he is the offspring of a brief marriage in the late'50s between his mother, Gladys, and Harry Houdini Hardeen, son of Theo Hardeen. (He says he was named after his father. For show biz pizzazz, he made his last name his first.) Comes now supreme skeptic James Randi, "The Amazing Randi," world-known psychic debunker and master magician who duplicated Houdini's act, from jail breaks to milk can escapes.
Spotlight back on Hardeen, who insists his connection is real, not an illusion.
The Sea Escape is drifting down the Intracoastal. Dressed in magician's black, he, lean and lanky, and she, with a mane of dark hair, pulls a rabbit out of nowhere. It is well into their act, which got off to an ill-timed start. Hardeen looks nervous, but Cyrene appears composed. (Earlier, their opening music blared, but the stage remained black. No Hardeen and Cyrene. "Ohhhhhhh, good trick," says a man drinking Cuba Libre. "He really disappears.")
Nobody I know," says George Hardeen, who ticks off details -- from work history to military ID number -- from the life of Harry Houdini Hardeen (Theo's son) as proof of his namesake. George Hardeen, 42, a freelance writer in Tuba City, Ariz., claims no magic finesse, no room full of authentic trunks. He never knew his grandfather, Theo, who died before he was bom. Growing up, his father occasionally mentioned the family tie. But Houdini-mania never engulfed George or his two sisters.
EDITOR'S NOTE: RADNER AT THIS WRITING SAYS HE IS BOGUS.
EDITOR'S NOTE: AT THIS WRITING MARIE BLOOD COMPLETELY DOUBTS HIS STORY.
FAMILY BOND?: Hardeen Harry Houdini and wife Cyrene sit atop what they say is the Metamorphosis trunk that belonged to the escape artist, left.
IT'S MAGIC: Hardeen Harry Houdini, who claims relationship to the great master, and wife Cyrene want to start a local Houdini museum.