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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Houdini was a spy? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Daegs
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2 things:

1- The "trick that fooled houdini" used a double backer, and more specifically a double backer that matched houdini's deck. At that time, splitting your own gaffs was practically un-heard of, and that is why houdini was fooled, but may seem simple in current times.

2- Who exactly did houdini spy on, and how did he have time to do so in between his shows? it seems like his travel and whereabouts would be well known, so how exactly could he be sneaking around spying on people?
pepka
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Good point Daeg. In Ben's recent Vernon biograpy, he also mentions that Houdini was a little taken back by Vernon asking him to SIGN the card. In those days, if you wanted to prove it was the same card, you tore a corner, (and then switched it.)

Now, onto the book. George Daily tells me that he got to read the proofs this summer and says it's unbelieveable. He also contributed some photos and lithos for it. George knows his Houdini and there is a lot of information in there HE didn't know. I'm not a big Houdini fan, but I'll definately be picking it up.
Top Hat
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Yeah, I'd heard he used a double decker as well. What a cheat. If Houdini couldn't tell that a double decker was in use, he must have been dumb.
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spacemonkey
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Quote:
On 2006-11-01 07:53, Top Hat wrote:
Yeah, I'd heard he used a double decker as well. What a cheat. If Houdini couldn't tell that a double decker was in use, he must have been dumb.


Dude, you need to start thinking about these things (or stop acting dumb to be funny). This all happened around 70 years ago, not yesterday. Double backers weren't common back then. Sure, they existed, but no-one really used them.

Bye.
JoeHohman
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These threads about Houdini and whether or not he was a truly skilled magician are interesting; but let's remember that DECADES after his death, he is one of a very small group of magicians that are household names.

Houdini.
David Copperfield.
David Blaine.
Lance Burton.
Siegfried & Roy.
Criss Angel.

That's about it.

Twenty years ago, you might have been able to add Mark Wilson and Doug Henning to that list, but I am afraid that their personas are beginning to fade from public memory.

I think that there are a surprising number of magicians that resent the fame of David Blaine. I realize that there are many, many, many unknown guys out there with better chops and more engaging, entertaining personalities. But let's give these famous guys their due -- whatever it is they did, they did it well enough to be remembered and become (in Houdini's case, anyway) "immortal."

Yes, the "best" guys are not always the most well-known. But there is a reason the well-known guys are well known -- let's at least respect that much.

Oh, and two more things. From everything you can read about him, Vernon was not exactly the nicest guy either. Cranky, mean, rude, and insisting that his way was best -- imagine Gregory House as a magician. And secondly, if these guys had so much animosity towards each other, why did Vernon have the Houdinis as godparents to his kids?

Just my two cents.
Top Hat
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Quote:
On 2006-11-01 10:14, spacemonkey wrote:
Dude, you need to start thinking about these things...


What do you mean, start?

It doesn't take much thought to propose the existance of something like a double-backer, no matter whether they were widely used at the time or not. That is my point. That is, perhaps, why CCS was correct in saying that Houdini was perhaps not the sharpest tool in the box with regards to card magic.
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JoeHohman
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Top Hat,

Existence.
Jonathan Townsend
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Dude, existenz
he left the game with a lame but well timed excuse.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Top Hat
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Quote:
On 2006-11-01 10:14, spacemonkey wrote:
Dude, you need to start thinking about these things...


What do you mean, start?

It doesn't take much thought to propose the existence of something like a double-backer, no matter whether they were widely used at the time or not. That is my point. That is, perhaps, why CCS was correct in saying that Houdini was perhaps not the sharpest tool in the box with regards to card magic.
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Top Hat
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BTW, Joe - maybe they are heroes to you, but ask the average man in the street in the UK, and he won't have heard of David Copperfield, Lance Burton, Siegfried & Roy, or Criss Angel. He probably will have heard of David Blaine, but that's because Blaine came over here to spend a few nights in a glass box and get pelted with eggs. To suggest that Blaine is on an equal footing with Houdini for world-wide fame is ridiculous. Who the bloodyhell is Criss Angel? He's just an in-vogue street magician (of debatable quality) in the States, that's all. He's not a household name over here, and won't ever be. He's not going to be famous in the sense that Houdini is. Houdini is the most famous magician's name extant.
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JoeHohman
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It is true -- I was speaking of American households. I am an American.

I didn't say they were my heroes -- I said they were the only well-known magicians (here in the states).

But are you telling me that people in the U.K. are unaware of David Copperfield? That is surprising.
chris mcbrien
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All said and done, and all arguments aside (Criss Angel is definetely NOT a household name around my house! YUCK!) it looks like a great read.
Does the book have detailed accounts and documentation of his undercover work? Would'nt it have been easy to find out his real name (Eric Weiss) because his mother was always in the picture? Just a few mail interceptions between him and his mom would make that one easy...
When is the book coming out precisely?
Best to All,
Chris
Skip Way
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The book is out. I picked up a copy at Barnes & Nobles yesterday. Found it in the Biography section. Sadly, the quality of the pages is deplorable. I was disappointed in the overall physical appearance of the book. Still...I had a difficult time setting it down last night. It's an easy and entertaining read...but, then, I'm a major history buff.

As I understand it, the notations and supportive footnotes are being listed on an independent website to keep the overall size and cost of the book down.

If you don't have the $30.00 for the book, check the NEW ARRIVALS section of your local library.

Skip
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Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2006-11-01 17:10, Top Hat wrote:
Quote:
On 2006-11-01 10:14, spacemonkey wrote:
Dude, you need to start thinking about these things...


What do you mean, start?

It doesn't take much thought to propose the existence of something like a double-backer, no matter whether they were widely used at the time or not. That is my point. That is, perhaps, why CCS was correct in saying that Houdini was perhaps not the sharpest tool in the box with regards to card magic.


Well, obviously, you are no razor when it comes to sharpness. In your first post about the double backer, you referred to it as a double decker.

Since you haven't read the book, and I have, I suggest you lay off the critique until you know what you are talking about.
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hugmagic
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Mike Caveney will be publishing the footnotes and references in a separate volumes in the future.

Richard
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Beth
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I have ordered up my copy of The Secret Life of Houdini. I do hope they keep a good line between conjecture and fact, however. Regardless, I think it will be a good read.

The Review done by Micheal Claxton in Magic Magazine this month states" As Kalush and Sloman admit, spy records are sketchy, and the use of amatuers to gather intelligence was common and seldom documented. So it may be impossible fully to prove the claims that Houdini was a spy. While I would have liked to have seen a bit more qualifications of the theory- which is eventually presented in the text as fact- I will concede that such activities seem appropriate for Houdini's unique skills, his talents for observation, and his intense patriotism."

Can't wait to read it. Smile
Peace Beth
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Bill Palmer
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I've read the book. It's probably the best-documented publication about Houdini so far. It tells about him, his peccadilloes, his foibles and his accomplishments.

The idea that Houdini would be recruited to spy is not far-fetched at all. During WW II, there was a very prominent singing group in France called Les Compagnons de la Chanson, who worked out their arrangments in such a way that they could send their reports over the airwaves without the Nazis being any the wiser.

A person like Houdini, who could travel anywhere without it seeming unusual, was invaluable to the intelligence gathering organizations they worked for. Houdini consorted with the military, the police and the nobility. Just as most of the people who have responded to this thread are skeptical of the notion that he could have been a spy, so were the people he associated with.

Consider this: the foreword of the book was written by John McLaughlin, who was a deputy director of the CIA and acting director from 2000-2004.
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hugmagic
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The talk Bill Kalush gave at Collector's last April certainly lends credience to this theory. There are a lot of coincidences. Look at what John Mulholland did that no one knew about.

Richard
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Bill Palmer
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Dunninger also made his contributions to the art of camouflage.
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Destiny
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The truth is often stranger than fiction...

If Burlesque Queen and Marilyn Manson girlfriend Dita Von Teese were exposed in the future as a spy we would be incredulous yet Mata Hari was an original Burlesque Queen.

French Drag Queen Chevalier D'Eon spied for the French in Russia and England in the 1700's, even becoming a lady in waiting to Empress Elizabeth.

And of course we all know Criss Angel is working for the Vulcans...
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