Imposter of Hardeen Houdini

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 is Donald Ferguson.

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. Judment is entered in favor of plaintiffs on all defendants' counterclaims.

4. Defendants are permanently enjoined from:
(a) Using any trademerk containing the word "HOUDINI" in any form, whether alone or in combination with other words or a logo (including, but not limited to the following: "HOUDINI'S", "HOUDINI'S MAGIC", "HOUDINI'S MAGIC SHOP", OR "HOUDINI'S TRUNK OF MAGIC" in connection with the sale or offering for sale (including, but not limited to, in advertisements, brochures, signage,web sites, or domain names) of goods or services related to the field of magic (including, but not limited to, in connection with the sale of magic tricks);
(b) Representing, claiming, or implying that there is any relationship (whether by blood, marriage or otherwise), affliation or association between Defendants and the famous magician Harry Houdini in connection with the sale or offering for sale (including, but not limited to, in connection with the sale of magic tricks);
(c) Claiming that Defendants' business is the "authentic" Houdini's Magic Shop; or
(d) Otherwise directly or indirectly trading Plaintiff' goodwill and reputation in connection with the sale of magic tricks.

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 fictictious 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:

The Miami Herald

Published: Sunday, October 30, 1994

LIZ DOUP Herald Staff Writer

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.
We're tied up in a story told by one Hardeen Harry Houdini, who's dropping your name and shedding handcuffs at magic gigs all over South Florida.

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 seance -- the 68th since your death -- in New York City.

Their question: Can you escape from the dead? Here's 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.

Meanwhile, they wiggle out of handcuffs on the Jungle Queen and escape from chained chests on SeaEscape. In January, they'll make magic at Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Discovery and Science.

And every month, two dozen prepubescent kids who paid $5 to enroll in Houdini's Trunk of Magic Club meet at a near-vacant Coral Springs mall, where Hardeen teaches tricks and Cyrene sells magic merchandise at roughly $ 1 0 a pop. Things like Harry the Haunted Hank, a paisley handkerchief that appears to rise on its own.

At every gig, Hardeen mentions family ties -- though he knew neither Houdini nor Hardeen himself. Harry Houdini -- bom Ehrich Weiss -- died in 1926 at age 52. His brother, Theo, a magician, too, who changed his name to Theo Hardeen, died in 1945 at age 69.

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 pizazz, 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, ftom jail breaks to milk can escapes.

Over the years, I've heard about dozens of magicians using Houdini's name,it says Randi, 66, who lives in Sunrise. "Brother of Houdini, Son of Houdini, Stepbrother of Houdini, Cousin of Houdini.... But I've never heard of anyone claiming to be a real relative."

Spotlight back on Hardeen, who insists his connection is real, not an illusion.

Alas, his encounters with Dad over the years were rare -- and brief. Magic was not discussed. A sickly child with a kidney condition, Hardeen says he learned his craft from a hospital bed.

I wasn't encouraged in magic," he says. "I was told it was OK as a hobby, but don't try to make a living at it."

For years, he managed rock bands. Then he landed in Las Vegas in the late '80s, working for "Melinda -- First Lady of Magic." Only after honing his skills did he publicize the Houdini connection. You can't say you're a Houdini and just do card tricks," he says. In '91, he met and married Cyrene, a self-schooled magician working in Las Vegas. Abracadabra! -- The act was born.

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, pull 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 Libres. "He really disappears.")

Now, having wiggled loose of a straitjacket in less than 30 seconds, it's time for the pice de resistance. Houdini's Metamorphosis. Handcuffs on, Cyrene disappears into a canvas bag that Hardeen locks in a trunk. Music swells. He steps up onto the locked trunk, shrouds himself in a gold lame curtain. He counts: "One. Two. Three." The curtain comes down and -- ta-daa! -- an uncuffed Cyrene replaces Hardeen. She flips open the trunk and -- ta-daa! -- inside the bag, a handcuffed Hardeen. In the lounge, 50 people applaud ... listlessly. Houdini," Hardeen says later, "is a hard act to follow." Just who is this man trying to follow Houdini's act?

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.

If I'm in a library and I see a book about Houdini, I look at the index to see if my grandfather's mentioned," he says. "That's about it."

As for Hardeen of South Florida's claim: "Totally bogus," he says. "I think I'd know if my parents got divorced."

By George's account, his parents married in the late '3 Os. And they stayed married. By Hardeen's account: His father divorced, married his mother, then remarried his first wife. Quips George Hardeen: "I'm starting to understand how Bill Clinton feels."

Magicians and writers who've met the latest Hardeen during his Vegas years say he's a personable, pleasant man, who -- ahem -- hasn't proved his claim to the famous name. What he does know is the fodder of dozens of previous books. His memorabilia of locks, papers and autographs is the stuff of collectors. (As for the Houdini trunk: Hardeen says he bought it from a collector he won't name for a price he won't disclose.)
I can't say if he is or isn't related, if says Sidney Radner, 74, of Holyoke, Mass., one of the country's biggest Houdini collectors, "because I don't know."


Radner, who nourished a lifetime interest in magic, met the original Hardeen in the '3 Os and became his protege. Hardeen passed to him some of the family equipment, and over time Radner collected more. Today Radner's collection of milk cans, handcuffs and locks fills the Houdini Historical Center in Appleton, Wis., where Houdini spent his early years, and the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. In spite of collective arched eyebrows, Hardeen insists his story is true. Alas, he can't produce a birth certificate because it's in a safety deposit box in a Connecticut bank, and only he has a key, he says. For privacy reasons, he declines to arrange an interview with his mother, who lives in Connecticut.

Hardeen also says he has a degree in business administration from the weekend college at Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y., though the school could not make any record magically appear. "I didn't go to the graduation ceremony," Hardeen explains.)

Those who book the duo -- from SeaEscape to Jungle Queen to the Museum of Discovery and Science -- say his press kit and historic familiarity with Houdini appear convincing.

And at the magic club meetings, where kids introduce themselves as Abra K. Dabra and Michael the Magnificent before making scarves dance and quarters vanish, the magic appears more important than the name.
Asked about Harry Houdini, dead long before his parents were bom, 10-year-old Frankie Imparato of Coral Springs, pauses. "All I know is, he's the greatest magician who ever lived, I guess. But I like David Copperfield."
Loretta Imparato, Frankie's mother, says she's more concerned with child-rearing than magical pedigrees. "This is good for the kids, " she says. "They're doing something fun. They're not on the streets." Short of using a magic wand, proving kinship to the Houdini-Hardeen clan is tricky business.

Houdini was an enormous publicist," says Pulitzer-Prize winning biographer Kenneth Silverman, now working on a Houdini biography. "He gave about 12 different versions on everything that happened to him."
Depending on who's writing what -- and enough has been published on Houdini to fill several Metamorphosis trunks -- Houdini was bom in Budapest, Hungary. Or Appleton, Wis. He trained as a locksmith. Or he hung around a prison.
His death, from peritonitis brought on by a ruptured appendix, has more exotic versions. How about: He died while suspended upside down in a water-filled tank. Or. he died performing on a river bottom, locked in a casket. "I've done research all my life and have never worked harder, " adds Silverman, whose The Life and Times of Cotton Mather won a Pulitzer for biography in 1985. "The information is scattered, and the few nieces and nephews who remain won't talk with anyone."

One exception is Marie Hinson Blood, a 76-year-old retiree in Pinehurst, N.C. Her connection is Houdini's wife, Bess. Her mother was Bess' sister.
To keep the name alive" she speaks to clubs and organizations about her childhood memories and family stories of Uncle Harry. A precocious kid, she danced the shimmy on the vaudeville stage while her uncle took a break. Then, shortly before her seventh birthday, Houdini died.
Over the years people scattered and Bess' side of the family lost contact with the Houdini-Hardeen branch. Then Blood connected with Hardeen through a Houdini seance in Las Vegas about three years ago. And she believes him.


"I'm taking what he says at face value," Blood says. "I can't prove it."
So, Harry, that brings us back to you. You're our best hope in clearing up a story with more loose ends than Harry the Haunted Hank.

Just give us the word at this New York seance, and we'll get out of your afterlife.

In life, Harry Houdini wowed his audience. Ever since he died, fans have demanded an encore. Halloween marks the 68th "Official Houdini Seance, " which will bring together magic experts and Houdini historians in New York City. Their hope: that Houdini will make one final escape by returning from the dead, as he vowed to do.

The seance takes place on Halloween because it's the anniversary of Houdini's death. "Houdini never turned down anyone else's escape challenge, and he certainly wouldn't give up on a challenge he set for himself," says Sidney Radner, seance director and noted collector of Houdini memorabilia.

Psychic Paula Roberts, who has appeared on Unsolved Mysteries and A Current Affair, will conduct the seance.