Houdini Now and Then – Caught on the Web

This article originally appeared in The Mandala Magazine (2:5), April 2012

Houdini Now and Then
Caught on the Web

It’s tough being a fan of the Great Houdini. Your non-magician friends quickly grow tired of hearing you say “Watch me escape from this” or “Tie me up! Tighter!” The patience of your significant other wears thin as you beckon “Look at this photo of the fourth milk can!” And your magician friends who are not fans of HH (a defect we fans describe with the phrase “just doesn’t get it”) are likely to respond with “You know, he wasn’t really much of a magician” or “You know, Vernon fooled him with a double” or “You know, he was sort of an arrogant bastard to… well… everyone.” Continue reading….

Last 5 posts by David Byron


  1. 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. 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.

  3. Aaron says

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

  4. 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).

  5. rmd says

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

  6. 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).

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. Allen says

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

  11. 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)

  12. says


    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,