Jim Bard Houdini Bust

Jim Bard Houdini Bust

A new piece of Houdini memorabilia has been kind enough to grace the library with its presence. It is a reproduction of a bust that Houdini gave to Jim Bard in the early 1900s which is quite striking. Since only two busts of Houdini are known to have survived, the Houdini-Bard and one sold at the Sidney Radner auction, the reproductions are a welcome addition. Each bust is handcrafted using methods and materials faithful to those used a hundred years ago when the original was made. The bust is just over a foot tall and the detailing is impeccable. Only 100 were made, so we feel very fortunate to have obtained the copy we did. Mr. Bard obtained the bust directly from Houdini as a gift. Later on, a young Jim Baldauf befriended Mr. Bard, who was then in his eighties, and was given this rare artifact as a gift. Additionally, he also received some other memorabilia, including a stage coat designed, made, and worn by Bess Houdini. It is through Mr. Baldauf that these spectacular reproductions are being offered. The Secret Life of Houdini was one of the factors inspiring Mr. Baldauf to take on the task of reproducing these fascinating pieces due to the references to Jim Bard, and he has been kind enough to donate part of the proceeds from the sale of these to the Conjuring Arts Research Center. Those that are interested can find more details here: Viking Magic and Stevens Magic...
The Secret Life of Houdini

The Secret Life of Houdini

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero By William Kalush and Larry Sloman Handcuff King. Escape Artist. International Superstar. Since his death eighty years ago, Harry Houdini’s life has been chronicled in books, in film, and on television. Now, in this groundbreaking biography, renowned magic expert William Kalush and best-selling writer Larry Sloman team up to find the man behind the myth. Drawing from millions of pages of research, they describe in vivid detail the passions that drove Houdini to perform ever-more-dangerous feats, his secret life as a spy, and a pernicious plot to subvert his legacy. After years of struggling on the dime museum circuit, Harry Houdini got a break that put him on the front page of a Chicago newspaper. He never looked back. Soon Houdini was performing for royalty, commanding vast sums, and exploring the new power of Hollywood to expand on his legend. At a time when spy agencies frequently co-opted amateurs, Houdini went to London and developed a relationship with a man who would run MI-5. For the next several years, the world’s most famous magician traveled to Germany and Russia and routinely reported his findings. After World War I was successfully concluded, Houdini embarked on a battle of his own. He created a group of disguised field operatives to infiltrate the seamy world of fake spirit mediums. In doing so, Houdini triggered the wrath of fanatical Spiritualists, led by the esteemed British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Death threats became an everyday occurrence, but the group would pose an even greater danger to Houdini’s legacy. Rigorously researched, and as...

Footnotes for The Secret Life of Houdni

Below are the links to our preliminary version of the footnotes to The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero. Please keep in mind that these are preliminary and to get the fully refined notes with annotations you should order the boxed set.   The Oath (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 Starving for a Living (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 The Celebrated Clairvoyants (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 Quid Pro Quo (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 The King of Handcuffs (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 M (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 Police State (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 Taming the Bear (Draft v1.2) Updated 01/02/2007 The Challenge of the Mirror (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 Leap of Faith (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 Kill Thy Father (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 Death Visits the Stage (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 Above the Down Under (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 The Emperor of Sympathy-Enlisters (Draft v1.1) Updated 11/09/2006 Chinese Water Torture (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 Forgive (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 Fighting Our Way To The Grave (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 Death by Misadventure (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 Art Imitates Life (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 Saul Among the Prophets (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 Little Sister Will Do Exactly As Big Brother Says (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 Margery’s Box (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 My Own Secret Service (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 I…Am A Fake (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 An Eye For An Eye (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 There is no Death (Draft v1.1) Updated 01/02/2007 Epilogue (Draft v1.1) Updated...
Who was Harry Houdini?

Who was Harry Houdini?

“Harry Houdini didn’t die in the Water Torture Cell. He didn’t have a mother fixation. And he wasn’t just a great showman. Eventually all legends get cluttered by apocryphal stories, and the legend of the greatest professional master of deception is no exception. Much of what has become his story is fabrication. Ironically, the real story is better.” So begins THE SECRET LIFE OF HOUDINI, the result of William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s years-long journey to discover the man behind the magic. Exhaustively researched, and chock-full of new facts and details, THE SECRET LIFE OF HOUDINI gives readers an inside look at a complicated man who was much more than the world’s most famous escape artist. Born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest on March 24, 1874, he emigrated to the U.S. and grew up in the small Wisconsin town of Appleton. As a child, Houdini was fascinated with all types of locks and fasteners and hardware, practicing at home by opening the drawers, closets and pantries of his house at will, using a small buttonhook. He became notorious in Appleton as the boy who unlocked all the doors to the shops on College Avenue one night. Ehrich became enthralled with magic after seeing an English magician doing a decapitation effect. His childhood was scarred by extreme poverty after his father lost his job as Appleton’s first rabbi. Moving to Milwaukee, and then New York, Ehrich was charged by his frail, elderly father with the responsibility of caring for his mother and siblings in the event of his father’s demise. While working in a necktie factory, he teamed up with a...
Was Houdini a Superman?

Was Houdini a Superman?

“Ehrich Weiss was born into poverty and cast into the world with an inadequate education and a great burden. This flawed mortal struggled, schemed, and persevered, transforming himself into Harry Houdini, America’s first international sensation by creating the idea that he could beat any possible restraint. The idea was so powerful that he became mythic—a superman that would submit to no human authority.” –from THE SECRET LIFE OF HOUDINI He escaped from handcuffs, safes, and the notorious Black Maria, the Russian carette used to transport dangerous prisoners to Siberia. He jumped off bridges into rivers and bays, shackled. He was locked into a can filled with water (and later beer and milk) and freed himself. He devised an especially ingenious torture, The Chinese Water Torture Cell, where he was bound by the ankles and thrust head first into a small water-filled enclosure that was then locked. He escaped before a certain drowning death. He created the most ingenious outdoor publicity stunt ever, a harrowing upside down escape from a straitjacket while suspended hundreds of feet in the air. Houdini’s relentless publicity seeking and his innate understanding of what was believable combined to push his name into the language. As early as 1899 the word Houdini began to be used synonymously with escape. Newspapers referred to escaped criminals as Houdinis or as “doing a Houdini.” By 1917, the guardians of the language noticed that cartoonists, lexicographers, preachers, the Literary Digest, and even a U.S. congressman were using Houdini’s name as a comparison for other people’s activities in elusion. Houdini was the most popular entertainer of his age, and no one...
Was Houdini a Spy?

Was Houdini a Spy?

In the late 1800s, a young Harry Houdini, though stunningly creative and clever, couldn’t make enough money to succeed at magic. Hungry and crestfallen, he was ready to give up his dream, until he walked into a Chicago police station and met a detective who would change his life. Immediately after this fateful encounter, he was catapulted into stardom, leaving cheap beer halls and dime museums for the big time of vaudeville stages. In one year, he had gone from literally eating rabbits for survival to making the equivalent of $45,000 a week. But then he left it all behind to travel abroad. Why would someone who had finally made it big, risk everything and leave behind lucrative contracts to travel to England with no real prospects? Within days of arriving, however, Houdini met with a prominent Scotland Yard Inspector and once again, his career took off. Did Houdini have a secret agenda that would make sense of these seemingly suicidal career moves? This was just one of the questions that intrigued authors William Kalush and Larry Sloman. To find the answers they sought, they did an incredible amount of research. They read and reread all of the previous books on Houdini, and many from the magic field in general. They gathered a massive amount of source material—photocopied documents, Houdini’s personal scrapbooks (17,000 pages alone!), as well as his letters and correspondence. They electronically searched as many as 200 million newspaper articles, and millions of census and government records. Ultimately, they created a fully text-searchable database that now contains 700,000 pages of material on magic, with tens of thousands...

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