Harry Houdini

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Harry Houdini

Important Manuscript Letter - 1920

[HARRY HOUDINI] (1874-1926, born Ehrich Weiss) was a Hungarian-American magician and escapologist, stunt performer, actor and film producer, as well as a skeptic and investigator of spiritualists. Harry Houdini forever changed the world of magic and escapes, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest escapologists in history.

Fabulous Manuscript Letter
dictated by Houdini, in his secretary’s hand, 3 pp recto and verso, 8vo (conjoining leaves), Atlantic City, NJ, November 18, 1920, on embossed Players Club stationery; with original envelope embossed “Houdini (On Tour)” hand-addressed by his wife, Bess Houdini; leaf creased and toned, mounting remnant to p4; envelope soiled.

This is among the more remarkable of Houdini’s correspondence in that he breaks the cardinal rule of all magiciansrevealing the secret of a card trick! Houdini manuscript material describing tricks or illusions is exceedingly rare. Houdini writes to Roger Barrett, the young son of his attorney and famed collector Oliver Barrett. In full:

“Does Roger know this trick / Take pack of cards turn up top card count up to thirteen viz the top card is a 9 add 4 more— / Keep on making packs counting to 13-(King is a pack in itself). / You will generally have a few cards left, but should it come out to an even count of 13 the result will be the same. / Ask someone to remove all but 3 packs—Collect these & add any residue in making the packs—shall we call this the main pack. / Ask someone to turn up the top card of two of the remaining 3 packs-and add 10 to their addition—(always 10 irrespective of the turn up) say a 5 and a queen—that is 17 & 10 is 27. Count 27 cards off the main pack and the card on the top of the remaining uncovered pack is the same as the number left in your hand.”

Oliver Barrett (mentioned in Houdini’s 1924 book Magician Among the Spirits as having accompanied Houdini to a seance), was Houdini’s long-time personal friend, attorney and fellow autograph collector. The famed Players Club is one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, designated a National Historic Landmark. It was founded in 1888 by the actor Edwin Booth with the intention of being a place for actors to mingle with those in other fields, “men of theatre, fine arts and letters, journalism, and commerce.” Its famous members have included Ernest Hemingway, James Thurber, Mark Twain, Humphrey Bogart, President Grover Cleveland, Walter Cronkite, Henry James, Sydney Poitier, Cole Porter, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, among many others.


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