Basic Magic School
Lesson #7 Houdini's Life & Magic
One of the factors that made Houdini such a household word and that kept his name so famous for 75 years after his death is the fact that he happened to appear at the right time. That he was an extraordinary man with unique skills and knowledge were also very important. But Houdini’s life paralleled the life of vaudeville, and he was able to show off his skills and knowledge to a great number of people. If he’d been born just ten years earlier or later, he wouldn’t have become the same, very famous, Houdini.
In Houdini’s early days he was beginning to work himself into the great performer that he eventually became, and vaudeville was, at the same time, beginning to grow and become an everyday fact of life. If Houdini had stayed in the United States in 1900, he would probably have still become a big name, but not the highly paid headliner that he was. Houdini went to Europe as an unknown, but made himself into an international name because the Europeans were more enthusiastic about him than his fellow Americans. When he returned to America, even the first time, he was able to demand much higher salaries than if he had stayed and struggled in vaudeville.
TAKING A CHANCE
In 1899, under the able direction of Martin Beck, Houdini began to play the bigger houses of show business, for better audiences, and for more money than he had ever made. But the driving force that made Houdini work harder than anyone else also made him resent the fact that someone else was guiding his career. Arguments between the two men happened more often, and Beck had to treat Houdini with kid gloves to keep from really making him angry. What Houdini didn’t see was that his strong personality as well as his speech and manners from the East Side of New York couldn’t, and didn’t, get him in to see the people who controlled the better theatres. Hardeen, Houdini’s brother, always credited Beck as being the person who really created the Houdini show business personality and act.
So, as they finished the 1899 tour, Houdini decided that he would leave Martin Beck and deal with bookers and theatre managers himself. The only problem was that Martin Beck controlled a lot of American show business, and Houdini would have to leave America to do it on his own. England looked to be the best bet, since they already spoke English and also had a great number of theatres and music halls.
In May, 1900, Houdini and Bess sailed for England on the SS Kensington. He arrived with very little money in his pockets, and also without any bookings. An international agent, Richard Pitrot, had assured Houdini that there would be contracts, not only for England but for Paris and Berlin as well. But when Houdini arrived in London he found that he not only didn’t have any contracts, but that he was a stranger as well. His only hope was a written introduction from one of the passengers aboard the ship. The man liked the magic Houdini had performed during the various entertainments on the ship, and he wrote a note to C. Dundas Slater, the manager of the Alhambra Theatre.
The Alhambra was only one of about five hundred theatres in and around London, but Slater was always willing to look at something different for his customers. Slater booked a special performance for Houdini on a Wednesday afternoon, and invited other theatre managers and some newspaper reporters to see what this brash American could do. At Houdini’s request there were also some men from Scotland Yard.
Houdini and Bess presented their basic vaudeville routine of a few card tricks, the substitution trunk, and the best of his escapes from handcuffs and chains. The only thing different was that he didn’t do his escapes inside a cloth cabinet but behind a three-fold screen, and he did them as fast as possible.
Well, they hadn’t seen anything like it. Houdini was immediately booked for the first two weeks of July at the Alhambra, but was held over for an additional six weeks, and then set out on a tour of the provinces, the smaller cities around England. His performances were great successes, but when he tried to challenge the various police departments into letting him escape from their jails, he met with great resistance. Most of the officers in charge didn’t want their jails ridiculed if Houdini made good on his boast. Not being able to publicly escape from many British jails, he then recreated a jail escape on the stages of the theatres. He was handcuffed, put into a barrel which was chained and padlocked, and it was then rolled into a small cubicle decorated as a jail cell. A cloth was draped around the cell, and after a minute, it was rolled out again and unlocked. When the lid was removed, there was Bess, who had been onstage just a few moments before, and Houdini walked on from the wings.
At this point Houdini began to utilize some of the ideas he’d been thinking about for years. One of them became a standard for both escape artists and magicians even until today, and that was escaping from a packing box made by local carpenters. The box would be made, exhibited in the lobby before the performance, and then brought onstage at the appropriate time. Houdini would get inside, the lid would be nailed on, and the box roped or chained as a further difficulty. Houdini, however, would always walk out from his cloth cabinet a minute or two later, and the box would still be nailed shut and tightly roped. Even though the trick where Houdini and Bess changed places inside a locked trunk was a good trick, the packing box was even better. It used an item made out of everyday wood and not a trunk carried by the magician, it was made by people who wanted to challenge Houdini, and it also gave the local company that made the box some publicity. Houdini’s challenges to the public started bringing more serious challengers and bigger publicity. Many times the challenge was so difficult that Houdini might hold up the show from fifteen minutes to an hour and a half, but the audiences waited for him. And when he finally did appear, free of all restraints, he was wildly cheered and treated as a hero. The press loved him and was very quick to point out that one man was challenging the best of England, and winning.
Houdini was considerably more sure of himself now, and he began writing Martin Beck about being released from the remainder of his contract. He calculated how much he owed Beck on his foreign contracts so far, and offered even more to be released. The escape king was again successful because after more negotiations about the final price, Houdini paid five hundred dollars to escape his contract, and immediately started forgetting about Martin Beck, the man who opened the bigger and better doors for him.
After playing through western England and up into Scotland, Houdini then launched a one-man campaign on the continent of Europe. He played the biggest theatres and circuses in France and Germany, as well as many of the other cities. Along the way he also began eliminating many of the competing performers who were also escaping from handcuffs and chains.
One of these, Kleppini, was working the Circus Sidoli in Dortmund. Although Houdini was working in Holland at the same time, he heard that Kleppini was announcing that he had defeated Houdini in a handcuff competition. Catching a train to Dortmund, Houdini disguised himself (the first of many, many times) and attended the Circus Sidoli. When Kleppini again made his announcement, Houdini leaped into the ring, tore off his false mustache, and called Kleppini a liar. He also offered five thousand marks if Kleppini successfully escaped from a pair of Houdini’s handcuffs, and he also offered to escape from Kleppini’s feature trick, the “Chinese Pillory.”
The cuffs Houdini was offering were a pair of French letter cuffs, the lock being a five-dial combination lock with letters that had to aligned in a certain order for the cuffs to open. Houdini demonstrated them for Kleppini’s manager, and then went out to put them on Kleppini. After thirty minutes in his cabinet, Kleppini was bypassed and the rest of the show was presented. He was still in trouble when the show ended, and, finally, at one o’clock in the morning he emerged and admitted defeat. Houdini then turned the dials to spell F-R-A-U-D to open the cuffs, not the word C-L-E-F-S (the French word for “key”) that he had shown Kleppini’s manager. While walking from backstage to the circus ring, Houdini had changed the combination.
Houdini not only successfully eliminated most of his competition, but also realized that there was big business in the field of escapes; that is, more business than he could handle by himself. So he sent a telegram to Hardeen, his brother back in New York, and had him come to Europe and bring all the escape equipment he could find. They played in competition to each other, many times in the same city, and had great fun when they got together out of the sight of the public and compared notes about their shows and challenges.
Houdini kept jumping back and forth from England to the continent, seemingly to give a new meaning of his new nickname, “The Elusive American.” He’d play a few months in the provinces of England, and then go to France or Germany, his two best countries for audiences. Before working in Germany for the first time, however, he had to be examined by the police. Every performer had to sit down and write a complete explanation of what they did when they were on the stage, and the police would then delete the parts of the act that they didn’t like. Germany was a very authoritarian country as opposed to most of the rest of Europe, and the police had almost as much power as the police of Russia.
Finally, he appeared before the police board in the new police headquarters in Berlin. He was stripped naked, his arms tightly clamped behind him, finger locks applied, and five different types of elbow irons and handcuffs. With his mouth bandaged and working under a blanket, he escaped in six minutes while watched by 300 policemen. For this work he received an ambiguous statement, but he was free to work in Germany.
The following year, while again working in Germany, a newspaper wrote an article that accused Houdini of trying to bribe a policeman, and of paying off a police employee for putting on a phony escape. Houdini immediately hired a German lawyer and sued both the newspaper and the policeman.
After many delays the trial began in Cologne in February of 1902, and ran for two days. Each of the two accused parties gave their versions of the events in question, and then another twenty-five witnesses took the stand to support the previous testimony. Finally, Houdini opened one of the locks in question in full view of the court, and then had himself locked in chains. Taking just the judge into one of the corners of the courtroom, Houdini let him see just how he effected his escape, and the verdict was in favor of Houdini. Both the policeman and the newspaper were ordered to pay damages to Houdini (very small ones, though), and the newspaper also had to print a retraction.
The resultant publicity filled German newspapers from border to border, and Houdini again brought in huge crowds to the theatres and worked for more money.
The problem wasn’t over, however, as the policeman appealed the verdict. The following July saw a second trial, but Houdini again opened a lock that the cop said he couldn’t open without help, and again won. This time, however, the fines on the policeman were enormous, and Houdini reaped more publicity. He had special posters made that showed him in front of a German judge, and text that described the result of the trial. With the feelings of the public secretly against the oppressive methods of the police, Houdini had no trouble of again being successful in gathering more newspaper publicity.
While working in Paris, a Russian theatrical agent saw Houdini work, and booked him to be in Moscow in 1903. Other events prolonged the bookings in Russia, but he couldn’t wait to finally leave the country.
Leaving Berlin on 2 May, Houdini took a train to Russia, but the trip had unforeseen complications. At the Russian border the guards took away his passport, his books, and all of the newspapers he had with him. They completely searched his baggage, and were going to keep the trunk that held his desk, typewriter, correspondence, and other materials. They said it would be inspected by a censor, but Houdini didn’t take the chance and had it shipped back to Berlin. He then had to pay exorbitant fees that were called custom duties, but they were levied against props that he’d been carrying for years, they certainly weren’t new merchandise.
When he arrived in Moscow he found that the police could also stop any performance they wanted, and they could also deport you and you had to be out of Russia within twenty-four hours. In addition, the performers had to buy large quantities of expensive tax stamps to put on their contracts and in order to collect their salaries.
In spite of all this, or possibly because of it, one of Houdini’s greatest challenges came to be. It wasn’t just with a lock or two, but with the penal system of Russia. He challenged the Russian secret service to lock him inside one of the metal vans that transported prisoners from place to place. Unknown to the police, Houdini had secretly looked into one of the vans when it had been parked to water its horses, and he was sure he could do the job.
When the police and Houdini met, they not only put him in handcuffs and leg irons, but also stripped him and gave him three complete physical searches before locking him in the van. He started to work, and twenty minutes later he opened the door, closed it, locked it again, and walked over to reclaim his clothes. The police not only searched him again, but also searched his assistant who had gone with Houdini to the jailyard.
Even though it was a daring action for a foreigner to take, because the secret police had absolute power over everyone, Houdini knew it was newsworthy. Except, he not only didn’t get any newspaper publicity, but the police also refused to give him a promised certificate about the escape. When he returned to Germany he again had posters printed, this time showing him defeating the Russian police force.
He continued to play in Russia for five months, but was constantly on watch for police spies and tricks that the police might pull in order to deport him. Being Jewish, he was also very aware of the anti-Semitism in the country. The Jews were attacked on the streets and in the press, and while he was there the pograms killed many more. Jews were not allowed into Moscow at all, reserving that rich but backward city for Russians only. After another long search at the border, Houdini and Bess with their assistant, Franz Kukol, were finally allowed to leave Russia.
Houdini spent another two years in Europe, constantly gathering newspaper publicity, creating large crowds wherever he played, and increasing his salary. When he started in England he was being paid $300 a week, and when he left for America it had jumped to $1,000. One week he even made $2,150, the highest he was to ever achieve, even though in his last years he was earning close to that amount as a continuing weekly salary.
“Pretty good,” he wrote in his diary, “for Dime Museum Houdini.”
Arriving in New York in September of 1905, Houdini immediately contacted all the agents and managers he knew and started another tour of vaudeville. He also began a series of sensational publicity stunts to advertise his appearances at the local theatres. In Washington, D.C., he escaped from the cell that had held Charles J. Guiteau, President Garfield’s assassin. Houdini not only escaped from that cell, but also mixed up the other prisoners into the wrong cells, and stole his clothes out of another locked cell, and walked into the warden’s office twenty-seven minutes after he’d been locked up.
Later that winter he did the first of his bridge jumps; jumping from a bridge into a river or bay while handcuffed and usually with leg irons as well. The most publicized of his jumps was the one where he jumped into the Detroit River in the middle of winter, and the the river was a solid sheet of ice. He was, supposedly, lost when he came back to the surface and couldn’t find the hole he jumped through. After an extraordinary length of time, during which he used bubbles of trapped air under the ice to replace his exhausted air, he finally found the hole and emerged. EXCEPT, the jump took place in November when the river wasn’t iced over, and not in December, so the account must have been blown up by Houdini’s active imagination.
Through the years, however, Houdini successfully did the bridge jump in bays on both coasts and in most of the major rivers in between. It was a sure publicity stunt, especially when he ran into difficulty with the local police. When he thought that the police might try to stop him, he would sometimes advertise that the jump would be from a certain bridge. He actually showed up at the next bridge down the river after circulating a big word-of-mouth campaign to make sure the public was at the right bridge.
One of his ideas which he performed for many years was his Milk Can. He had an oversized can, looking like the milk cans used by farmers and dairies, big enough for him to get into. It was filled with water, and then Houdini, properly handcuffed, slid down into the water, and they locked the lid over him. After a couple of minutes inside the cloth cabinet, Houdini emerged, wet but triumphant. After five years of successfully working in Europe, Hardeen also returned to America, again at Houdini’s call. He was booked by the Klaw-Erlanger circuit, at Houdini’s request, and again they often played opposite each other. And the challenges continued.
Through the years Houdini escaped from giant envelopes, glass bottles, beer barrels, a huge football, and many mailbags provided by the local post office. Other restraints included automobile snow chains, rattan laundry hampers, and even a Witch’s Chair, that had been used to dunk witches during the early days of New England. Almost any challenge was accepted by Houdini, and even today very few people have any idea how he successfully accomplished most of these stunts.
THE BIG ADVENTURE
Besides being a daredevil at heart, Houdini couldn’t pass up an opportunity to gather additional newspaper publicity. In 1909, while playing again in Germany, he bought a Voisin biplane and learned how to fly. He then had it crated and carried it with him when he journeyed on to Australia. He not only knew that no one had flown a plane in Australia yet, but that there were a couple of other men who were planning to be the first aviator in Australia.
He established a base at Digger’s Rest, about twenty miles outside of Melbourne where he was playing. During a month of commuting between the theatre and the flying field he managed to make some flights, but all were minor disasters, mostly because of the winds. Then, on 18 March, 1910, he flew three times, the last time qualifying as meeting the requirements of the international flying association. Just to make sure he also flew on the 19th and the 20th, the last day’s flight of six miles done in seven minutes and thirty-seven seconds at a hundred feet, and battling winds all the way.
He also flew, in Sydney, during the next two months, usually barely averting disasters. In a joyous ceremony at the Sydney Town Hall the Australian Aerial League awarded Houdini a trophy as the first man to fly in Australia. His plane was crated and shipped to England to await more flights there, but it stayed in storage and he sold it in 1913.
HIS GREATEST SORROW
On the seventh of July, 1913, Houdini and Bess boarded the Kronprinzessin Cecilie, a ship of the great North German Lloyd shipping company. His mother, also named Cecilia like the ship, and part of his family came to the dock to see them off. Houdini was not only booked to give a command performance for the king of Sweden, but he also planned to visit Budapest, the city where he was born. He was also going to appear under his legal name as he had petitioned the courts and changed it from Erich Weiss to Harry Houdini.
In Copenhagen there were two telegrams waiting for Houdini, one each from two of his brothers, Leopold and Hardeen. Both of them carried the news that his mother had been paralyzed by a stroke and was in critical condition. Houdini immediately cancelled his shows and jumped onto a ship to take him home.
He arrived too late to see his mother alive, but was able to sit with her before she was buried, against all Jewish laws which called for burial within a day of a death. After sitting up with her body, he placed inside the casket a pair of slippers he had bought for her in Germany, her last request when he had left her. She was buried in Machpelah cemetary in Queens, next to her husband and Houdini’s half-brother.
He stayed home for the next several weeks brooding over his loss and visiting her at the cemetary. Even as close as he had been to his mother during her lifetime, he became even more so after her death. He filled a number of scrapbooks, letters, and conversations with references to her, and collected poems about mother love and devotion. His desire to be with her once again was the catalyst that later lead to his denunciation of so many fake spiritualists. He wanted to believe that he might be able to once again communicate with her, but found that all the seances he attended were frauds. All the rest of his life he never lost hope that someone might be able to show him how to once again talk with his beloved mother.
Houdini’s early life, as a performer as well as when he was just learning magic, was focused on magic tricks. It wasn’t until he was about 19 or 20 that he really began to feature escape feats. Some of the following tricks he probably did himself, others were tricks that were done by other magicians at that same time, and a couple of them have been in books that Houdini wrote for the public.
A DIME BET
After breaking a matchstick into a V-shape, you put it on the neck of a bottle (soda, beer, or even a water bottle), and then place a dime on top of it. You now challenge anyone to drop the time into the bottle without touching the dime, the match, or the bottle.
A wooden match
An empty bottle
All you do is dip your finger into a glass of water, and then let a drop slide off your finger onto the break in the wooden match. The water will make the fibers of the wood expand, the match will straighten out, and the dime will fall into the bottle.
When you break the match, make sure you don’t break it all the way through. Break it just enough to form it into a V-shape.
You light a match, preferably a wooden kitchen match, hold it as you lace the fingers of your two hands together in front of the match, and when you let go of the match it floats in an eerie manner behind your hands.
Some wax or plastic adhesive
You actually have a dab of wax or plastic adhesive on the nail of your right ring finger.
- Light the match and hold it in the center between the tips of your two thumbs.
- Lace your fingers together in front of the match, but bring your right ring finger behind the other fingers. You now have to put your right middle finger in place of your right finger, but no one should notice.
- Gently press the adhesive on the nail of your ring finger against the lower end of the match. When it’s firmly in place, you can lift your thumbs out of the way and let the match “float” in the air. By slowly moving your ring finger back and forth you will add some more mystery to the illusion.
MARGINALLY GOOD TRICK
You remove five or six of the court cards from a deck of cards, and lay them on the table in a row. Turning your back you ask someone to remember one of the cards, turn it end for end, and then touch each of the other cards so you can’t tell which one was touched. When you turn around, however, you do tell them which card was selected.
A deck of cards
If you look closely at one of the court cards in a deck of cards, you’ll see that the margin at one end is slightly more narrow than the margin at the other end. All you have to do is make sure that all of the court cards in your deck have the narrow ends at the top or the bottom as you go through the pack. You then do this as your first card trick.
- Go through the pack and remove five, six, or even seven, of the court cards, and lay them in a row on the table. Although your audience doesn’t know it, all of the top margins of the cards (as you look at them) are of the same size.
- Turn your back to the cards, and ask someone to remember one of the cards, and then to turn it around. They then touch each of the other cards so you shouldn’t be able to tell them which one was touched.
- When you turn back around just take a quick glance along the top edges of the cards and name the one that has a margin of a different size.
To help throw your audience off the track, you can mention that playing cards were made double-ended (two heads rather than a full figure) in about 1860. Before that time the court figures were drawn as full bodies, and players had to turn cards around in their hand to see which ones they had.
You remove the Queen of Clubs from a deck of cards, and then spread the deck so someone can take out the Jack of Clubs. The Jack is then cut back into the deck, and you say that the Queen always knows where to find her son. Holding the Queen to your ear, you then pass on the information that she gives you, that is, that the Jack is presently between the Six of Hearts and the Four of Diamonds. When the deck is spread out face up, there is Jack, right where she said he would be.
A deck of cards
- Tell your audience that you’re going to do a trick involving two cards, the Queen and Jack of Clubs. As you say this, spread the deck out so only you can see the faces, and start looking for the two cards.
- When you find the Jack, remember the two cards on each side of it.
- Now look for the Queen of Clubs, drop it on the table, and close up the deck.
- Tell your audience that you need a guardian for the Jack, and ask a particular person to remove the Jack from the deck.
- Run the cards from hand to hand, with the faces toward your helper, and when they remove the Jack of Clubs, cut the deck at that point. The two cards you’re remembering are now on the top and bottom of the deck. Keep the deck in your hands.
- The Jack now has to take a trip, so cut the deck and have Jack returned to the top of the top part of the pack. Drop the bottom half on top of him, and then cut the deck two or three more times.
- Put the deck on the table and hold the Queen of Clubs to your ear. Listen for a couple of seconds, and then say that the Queen says that her son is hanging out with two friends, and you name the two cards you’ve memorized.
- Spread the deck face up on the table, and show that the Jack is between the two cards you named.
THREE CARD MONTE
(H. Syril Dusenberry)
A very popular con game involving three cards is as popular now as it was in the days of Houdini. Here is a way you can show the same effect without any of the skill usually necessary for this trick.
After removing the Ace of Spades from the deck, you divide the pack into three facedown piles. You put the Ace on one of the piles, slowly exchange the positions of the piles, and ask someone to point to the pile with the Ace. When you turn over the top card of that pile it isn’t the Ace, and it isn’t on either of the other two piles.
A deck of cards
You actually have two cards when you show the Ace of Spades, a second card being hidden behind the Ace.
- You can either run through the cards to find the Ace, remove it and the card above it at the same time, and then hold them as one card; or, you can cut the card that is above the Ace to the top of the deck, and then do a double lift, as explained in Chapter 4.
- In either case, holding the two cards as one in your right hand, use your left hand to divide the deck into three piles.
- Put the Ace on one of the piles, asking your audience to keep track of that pile.
- Slowly exchange the positions of the piles, and then ask which pile has the Ace on top.
- Turn over the top card of each pile to show that the Ace of Spades has vanished.
A pocket watch, a brooch, or solid bracelet is put into the center of a handkerchief, and then all four corners are threaded through a finger ring, bringing the ring down tight against the object in the center. While two people hold the four corners, you reach under the hank and remove the imprisoned object.
A pocket handkerchief
Any borrowed, solid object about 2″ in diameter
A borrowed finger ring
- Place the object, say a pocket watch, in the center of the handkerchief, and then borrow a finger ring. As you hold the object through the center of the cloth, have someone thread all four corners of the hank through the finger ring.
- Have two people hold the corners of the handkerchief, and tell them that you’ll release the object without having them let go of any of the corners.
- Move the finger ring up slightly to get some slack, and then work one side of the hank down through the ring.
- Keep pulling on the side until you have an opening large enough to pull the object out.
- Tell your audience that you’ve just taught them the great secret of how Houdini escaped from cloth jails.
Showing three cardboard disks, you show that each one has a different color on each side, a total of six different colors. The disks are put on a table and you turn your back. Someone now turns the disks over, one at a time, calling out “Turn” every time they do so. Any time they want, they can stop and cover one of the disks with their hand. When you turn back around you tell them which color is on top of the covered disk.
A sheet of white cardboard
Five felt markers: red, blue, yellow, orange, green
Six 3/4″ white labels
A pair of scissors
The principle behind doing this trick successfully falls into the realm of parity. A simple way of explaining parity is that it is the difference between two possibilities; a result is either one or the other.
You will always consider each of the colors of red, white, and blue (the colors of the American flag) as having a value of 1. The other three colors (yellow, orange, and green, the complementary colors of the first three) have a value of 0 (zero) for each one.
Cut out three 1½” disks from the white cardboard. Put one of the 3/4″ labels on each side of each disk. Color those labels so each disk is as follows:
red on one side, orange on the other
white on one side, yellow on the other
blue on one side, green on the other
Notice that the two colors on each disk are similar, but different enough that you can quickly tell them apart.
Put the disks in your pocket and you’re ready.
- Toss the three disks on the table and show that each one has two different colors, six colors in all.
- Just before you turn your back, look at the three colors showing, the ones on the tops of the three disks, and add them up.
For example, let’s say that you see the white, the green, and and the orange. That means that you have a mental total of 1: white = 1, green = 0, and orange = 0.
- Now turn your back and explain that you want someone to turn over disks, one at a time, and to say “Turn” every time they do so, and to stop whenever they wish.
- Every time you hear the word “Turn,” add 1 to your mental total.
- They will now cover one of the three disks, and you can turn around. As you turn around convert your total to either “odd” or “even”, depending on the number of the total.
- Now add the number for the two disks you see on the table, and make it either odd or even, zero being considered as an even value.
- The color hidden under the person’s hand must make the second total match your first total.
For example, if you’re remembering even when you turn around and the total showing is even, then the hidden color must be a zero. If you’re remembering, let’s say, odd when you turn around, and the total showing is even, then the hidden color has to be a 1 to make the second total odd.
In either case, you know what the hidden color is because it has to be the 0 or the 1 of the third disk, and you can tell what two colors are on that disk because you’re looking at the other two disks.
For example, if the hidden color has to be a 1, and you see the red and the green, then the color on top of the third disk has to be white (the 1 side of the yellow/white disk). If the total had to have a 0, then the yellow side would be on top.
- Name the hidden color and take another bow for doing inexplicable magic.
RED, WHITE, AND BLUE
On a table are three opaque bowls and nine small balls, three each that are red, white, and blue. One at a time you drop a ball into a bowl, with the red balls going into the first bowl, the white ones into the second one, and the blue balls being dropped into the third bowl. After a snap of your fingers, however, each bowl now contains one red, one white, and one blue ball.
Nine objects that can be plastic balls, paper wads, poker chips, or even Lego blocks, as long as three of them are red, three white, and three blue
Three opaque bowls, preferably a red, a white, and a blue one
The objects have to be small enough that you can easily conceal one in your hand, and then make a one-handed switch as you apparently drop another object into one of the bowls. Memorize the order that you pick up and drop the objects so they will come out correct at the end. Let’s say that you’re using colored rubber balls.
- Put the three bowls in a line, and then put all of the red balls in front of the first bowl, the white balls in front of the center one, and the blue ones in front of the last bowl.
- Follow this routine of picking up each ball and what you actually drop into each bowl:
Bowl #1 Pick up a red ball, but don’t drop it, keep it in your hand
2 Pick up a white ball, drop in the red
3 Pick up a blue, drop the white
1 Pick up a red, drop the blue
3 Pick up a blue, drop the red
2 Pick up a white, drop the blue
1 Pick up a red, drop in both balls
2 Drop in the last white
3 Drop in the last blue
This is a classic model of origami, the ancient Japanese craft of folding paper into objects and animals. This model, a crane that flaps its wings, had always been done with a square sheet of paper, just as written up in one of Houdini’s books, Paper Magic. One of the world’s greatest paper folders, Adolfo Cerceda from Argentina, then devised the following method of folding it from a dollar bill.
A fairly new dollar bill
- First you have to make a square out of the bill. So, fold the left end of the bill in toward you diagonally so the left edge swings up and meets the top edge. Crease this fold.
- Fold the new left end toward you, right at the edge of the end of the bill. Crease this fold, and then open out the first fold.
- Fold the right edge in toward you and under the left edge so the right edge of the bill lines up with the new vertical fold. The bill is now square.
- Fold the upper left corner away from you, crease the diagonal fold sharply, and open it back up. Repeat this process with the upper right corner.
- Fold the top edge toward you to make a horizontal crease across the center of the bill. Sharpen the crease and open it up. Repeat this with the left edge to make a vertical crease.
- Fold the bottom edge up to the right to meet the diagonal crease, but only crease the fold from “X” to “Y”. Open it back up.
- Fold the bottom edge up to the left to meet the other diagonal, and crease only the lower half of that fold. Open it back up.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7 for each of the other three sides of the model.
- Bend the left and right sides up, in, and toward each other as you now start to fold the model in half from left to right.
- Bend the top and bottom in toward each other as you now start to fold the model in half from left to right.
- Push inward so the four upper corners move toward each other; keep pushing until they meet. Flatten the model and then turn it with the long points pointing down.
- Fold the corner on your side all the way up. Repeat on the other side.
- Turn the model a quarter-turn to one side and flatten it out.
- Fold the front and back points all the way up.
- Pull the left and right points halfway out to each side.
- Fold about a quarter-inch of the left point down to one side to form the head.
- Curl the front and back points to make wings.
- Hold the bird by the breast in one hand, and pull straight out on the tail with the other hand. If you’ve curved the wings nicely, it will flap in a most realistic manner.
Houdini’s Magic School
No one has taught more people magic than Houdini’s Magic Shop. We have taught the young, the old and from all walks of life. Our retail-entertainment business of magic realized very early on that we had to be able to teach out customers the magic we sell or they would not walk out of our stores happy customers. We have literally taught over ONE MILLION people how to perform and execute magic tricks. We think we got it down. So let us teach you all that we know so you can go out in the works and perform a few magic tricks for your friends, family or business associates.
“All tricks should be presented in as direct and simple a manner as possible. The average person desires and enjoys being entertained by magic. Complicate the process and your tricks become problems. . .the entertainment gets lost.”
To get the most out of a trick, simplify the method as well as the effect; it should be as easy as possible for you to perform it, and it has to be easy for your audience to follow. The rule of thumb is that if you’ve come up with three methods for making a trick work (an electric motor, a clockwork mechanism, or a thread), you use the simplest, a thread. There won’t be any batteries to replace or go dead when you least expect them to, you don’t have to wind anything or take a chance on someone hearing the mechanics, and you can control both the speed and tension.
It doesn’t apply just to the mechanics of magic, either, as the principle is just as easily applied to manipulations. If you do a card trick that has three sleights or secret moves in it, try to figure out how to eliminate one of the moves. Then, if you still like the trick, see if you can eliminate one more move to make it even more perfect. Remember, the more sleights you have in a trick, the more times there are for someone in your audience to catch you. They may only catch you in one of the three sleights that you have to do, but they only need one in order to destroy the mystery of the effect. Keep your movements as natural as possible and your sleights to a minimum.
Now many beginners interpret this to mean that all of their magic should be done with mechanical means. Not at all, it’s almost just the opposite. Your two hands, when properly trained and in perfect synchronization with your mind, can duplicate any mechanical means of doing a magic trick. Señor Mardo said, repeatedly, that his hands could duplicate any trick deck on the market, and he was right. What you have to do is strive to reach that same level of skill and knowledge.
- Many lectures and hours of content!
- Testing Training Included.
- Learn magic tricks, presentation and performance basics from a professional trainer from your own desk.
- Information packed practical training starting from basics to advanced testing techniques.
- Best suitable for beginners to advanced level users and who learn faster when demonstrated.
- Course content designed by professionals who teach thousands each year.
- Practical assignments.
- Practical learning experience with live project work and examples are available.
- Lectures 8
- Quizzes 0
- Duration 1 hour
- Skill level All level
- Language English
- Students 274
- Assessments Yes
Basic Magic Class Cirriculum
Houdini’s School of Magic Vol. 1 teaches the reader the basic secrets of performing magic tricks. Houdini’s School of Magic is designed to assist both the layperson and the novice magician to delight and amaze an audience. After reading this book, the beginner will be able to instantly perform card tricks, ESPMental magic effects, coin tricks, paper money tricks, math tricks and many more effects with ordinary household items. The effects taught in this textbook have been specially chosen based on quality and cleverness. The student will also learn how to prepare, present and practice, the basic rules of magic, timing and how to develop a personality. This first of a two volume set is an anthology of magic tricks from the oldest tricks through history to the illusions shown on television today. Read about magic during the Renaissance, the Golden Age of Magic and magic as presented to the American public via the Vaudeville Circuits. Learn about Harry Houdini’s life and his career; his achievements, his adventures, his sorrows, and his many challenges. Both volumes were edited by noted magician and author, Leo Behnke. with additional material provided by Geno Munari, professional magician and proprietor of the Houdini’s Magic Shops.
test lesson to see if it will work