Houdini Now and Then – Caught on the Web

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David Byron

David Byron is a software developer working for the military-industrial complex. At Popehat, he writes about art, language, theater (mostly magic), technology, lyrics, and aleatory ephemera. Serious or satirical poetry spontaneously overflows from him while he's recollecting in tranquility. @dcbyron

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22 Responses

  1. David says:

    I wrote this article for a trade magazine read only by magicians. Since interest in Houdini continues to swell in the media (with multiple major projects coming to fruition later this year), and since his 140th birthday is less than a fortnight away, I thought I'd recycle the article for a broader audience. Enjoy!

  2. RyanE says:

    Thought I was reading an AoM (Art of Manliness) post…


    Enjoyed the article. Thanks!

  3. How does the Paul Michael Glaser film hold up to the actual bio?

  4. Aaron says:

    Thanks for drawing my attention to Mandala Magazine, which I've never heard of despite reading Magic, MUM, and Linking Ring. Great article, and now my tabs have exploded with all these links to check out.

  5. Aaron says:

    Also, the "Leading Ladies" link is broken. It brings me to a page that says "No posts with label Leading ladies."

  6. SIV says:

    Thanks, David.

    If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Appleton, WI I would strongly advise not wasting your time going to the Outagamie County Historical Society Museum. They may have a large collection of Houdini artifacts and memorabilia but almost nothing is on display. The exhibit mostly consists of blow-ups of what looks like the illustrations of a children's history magazine article explaining who Houdini was. The rest of the exhibits are no better (the Senator Joe McCarthy stuff is even worse).

  7. rmd says:

    I bought but haven't started reading "Final Seance" about Houdini and Conan Doyle. Any comments about it?

  8. VinceClortho says:

    Well, isn't that just a big punch in the gut.

  9. francis says:

    Thanks for this, David. I did my first research on Houdini for a report in elementary school and always love learning more. Such a strong and clever man, but also so weak in so many ways, he's just a fascinating individual.

    I don't know if this was an actual Houdini statement or just Penn Jillette's paraphrase, but the declaration "I defy the prisons of the world to hold me" is a pretty powerful sentiment, particularly when you can back it up, and particularly at that period in history. (Probably helps to hear it in a booming stage voice, as well).

  10. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Loved the essay, David. Especially loved the tip of the hat to the Castle, which is one of my favorite spots on earth. I've been there frequently through the good graces of my favorite undergrad prof, who, lamentably, died too young last year. He was well known by the staff, having been a member for years, and I think on the board at one time. When my wife and I went to the Castle on our last trip to L.A., I had a lump in my throat all evening thinking about how much I associated him with the place.

  11. David says:

    Thanks, Aaron. I've fixed the link.

    @rmd I haven't read it yet.

    @Vince Ha!

    @francis I don't know whether his voice counts as "booming". But you can judge that for yourself right here: Houdini's Voice (and you can read about that 1914 recording — a hybrid of two, actually) by following this link: Houdini Speaks.

  12. JTM says:

    Thanks for sharing that, David. Very cool.

  13. EPWJ says:

    What a great article, one of the best I've ever read on the internet in all the years……

    Congratulations on fine work!

  14. One of Houdini's most admirable achievements was using his professional knowledge to debunk fraudulent spiritualists.
    Magican James Randi proudly invokes Houdini's example in debunking more current frauds.

  15. Allen says:

    Hooke and Tesla, they saw things differently, perhaps Houdini should be added. Somehow it feels right.

  16. Kratoklastes says:

    Guess who else rose from relative poverty to international prominence – after an early life filled with hardships, travails and reverses – as a result of an intransigent refusal to abandon the idea that one day he could be great?


    (How does a homeless rent-boy become Chancellor of his country less than ten years later? Now THAT is some freaky shit… and no, I haven't changed the topic to Obama)

  17. thanks for sharing David

  18. David (not Beige, I guess) says:

    The Appleton paper posted photos from its collection today:


  19. David,

    Thanks for the very kind words. They were so nice, I thought you were talking about someone else.

    I would be interested in getting a copy of the magazine you published your article in. If you could let me know, I would appreciate it.

    Thanks again,