Houdini Knot Tutorial

By Tom Interval

Harry HoudiniHarry Houdini (1874–1926) was a magician, but he became a legend for his uncanny ability to promote his exciting escapes from any contraption humankind could devise. He escaped from handcuffs, leg irons, straitjackets, packing crates, milk cans, and countless other devices. Not only was Houdini an expert at picking locks, but he also knew how to untie any knot, supposedly even with his toes.

I call the trick in the following tutorial the Houdini Knot because the performer can untie a super-tight knot in as little as one second. This particular video shows only the presentation, but if you’re one of my Patreon patrons or a Rokfin subscriber, you’ll have access to the full video with the explanation. In the mean time, please enjoy this free preview.

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Easy Card Prediction Tutorial

By Tom Interval

Let’s keep it real. If you could actually predict the future, you’d use your talents to play the lottery, not to guess which card someone will choose. But as prediction card tricks go, this one is among the easiest, and its effect on the audience is strong.

You have a volunteer randomly cut to a card and shuffle it back into the deck. Long before the trick began, you placed one large playing card in some hiding place (e.g., in your pocket, under the tablecloth, behind a picture frame, or wherever). You pull the card from its hiding place to reveal that it exactly matches the volunteer’s card!

You can watch the preview video below or access the full video on Rokfin or Patreon.

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The Four Burglars Tutorial

By Tom Interval

The Four Burglars

Some card tricks are old. And some are really old. The Four Burglars is really, really old. Its origin dates back to 1591 in A Notable Discovery of Coosnage and continues through such classic magic texts as Hoffmann’s Modern Magic and many others.

What makes The Four Burglars a special trick, besides the fact that it’s amazing to anyone who doesn’t know its secret, is that it’s themed with a built-in story line, which is particularly useful for beginning magicians. Over time, that story has been told many different ways for one sole purpose: to entertain.

When you perform any given magic trick, it helps to add a story or some other interesting and/or funny patter. In magic vernacular, patter is, simply, words that accompany tricks. And if those words make up a story, then the trick is that much more entertaining since most people like a good story.

During The Four Burglars presentation, the magician shows four jacks, referring to them as burglars. But they need a house to break into: the deck. The magician pushes each of the jacks into four different positions in the deck (rooms in the house to rob): the cellar, the living room, the bedroom, and the rooftop.

With a snap of the deck, all four jacks assemble on top!

You can watch the preview video below, directly on YouTube, or at Rokfin.

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Easy Card Find Tutorial

By Tom Interval

“Pick a card, any card.” As cliche as that phrase is, identifying a chose playing card can be both amazing and entertaining. For those who haven’t yet learned a simple pick-a-card trick, the following old video tutorial is a great place to begin. You have a volunteer shuffle and cut the deck as much as she wants. You spread the cards face down, have her remove one card from anywhere in the spread, return it, and have her cut the deck a few more times. Yet no matter what card she chose, you’re able to find it easily and quickly. You can watch the preview video below, directly on YouTube, or at Rokfin.

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Houdini’s Birth: 1986 Blurb Incorrectly Corrects Me

By Tom Interval

Harry HoudiniFor those who know anything about Harry Houdini, the stats of his birth are not controversial. The master showman and mystifier was born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, on March 24, 1874.

After he and his family moved to the United States, his name was Americanized to Ehrich Weiss. By the time he performed professionally in the 1890s, he called himself Harry Houdini and legally adopted that name in 1913.

While Houdini had many people believing he was born on April 6, 1874, in Appleton, Wisconsin, he, himself, wrote in a letter to his brother Theo that “April 6th…will be my adopted birthdate.” Even Bess, his wife, perpetuated the myth two years after Houdini’s death in the 1928 biography, Houdini: His Life Story, by Harold Kellock.

Regarding the Appleton claim, besides the fact Houdini might have preferred people thinking he was born in the United States, he used the location on legal documents, including passport applications and immigration papers. On those documents, he even had friends, such as Leo Rullmann, treasurer of the Society of American Magicians, attest to the lie.

So why do I restate these facts about Houdini’s birth?

Clipping from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 10, 1986

Clipping from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 10, 1986

For the first time, I came across a 33-year-old Pittsburgh Post-Gazette clipping mentioning me. It was a follow-up “correction” to a previous article in which I stated correctly Houdini was born in Budapest. According to the correction’s author (apparently John G. Craig Jr.), “Thomas Interval’s statement that Harry Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary, has been questioned. Appleton, Wis., also claims the honor.” (I like the counter-journalistic passive voice, “has been questioned.” Tell me, Mr. Craig, who questioned it? I have my suspicions.)

Even as a 19-year-old Houdini fanatic, I knew the accepted date and place of Houdini’s birth. That fact had been known since at least 1959, the year William Gresham stated it in his biography, Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls, and a decade later when Milbourne Christopher made the same substantiated claim in Houdini: The Untold Story. Had the Post-Gazette called and spoken with me for as little as one minute, I could have shared my sources to validate my claim.

Today, print, broadcast, and online media still sometimes regurgitate the wrong date and location of the escape artist’s birth (what Houdini buff could forget the Today in History April 6 AP video from only six years ago?). But, while it’s never a good idea to publish or share misinformation, it makes me smile to know that if Houdini was alive today, he would be endlessly amused to know just how many of the facts about his life and career still elude us.



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A Quick, Quirky, Corky Trick

By Tom Interval

When I was about 14 or 15, my father, Jerry Interval (1923–2006), taught me an amusing, if not amazing, little trick with two corks. I’m not 100 percent sure who taught it to him, but I suspect it was Pittsburgh magician Jack Gottlob (pronounced “got-lobe”), whom I met once in my father’s photography studio but haven’t seen or spoken to since. Memories fade, but I recall Jack being a super-nice guy. He gave or sold my father an old five-volume set of the Tarbell Course in Magic, and he spoke with me for a while about our fine craft. I put together a short video tutorial of the cork trick. If you like to learn easy tricks, it doesn’t get much easier than this. You can preview the tutorial below or directly on YouTube and watch the full video on my Patreon or new Rokfin page.


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Appearance on KFMB CBS News 8 with Jenny Milkowski

By Tom Interval

Yesterday morning, KFMB CBS8 invited me to appear on Morning Extra with Jenny Milkowski. A few days before, they heard about the five-week adult magic class I’m offering and thought it would be fun to have me perform a few tricks and teach Jenny one. I think everyone had fun. I know I did. The first video below shows the Morning Extra segment. In the second vid, Jenny does a great job performing the magic coloring book, which she learned in literally less than three minutes between segments! You can also watch her do the trick on her Facebook page, Jenny Milkowski TV (video by Tiffany Frowiss, CBS8 coordinating producer). Scroll down further for some behind-the-scenes photos.

Entertaining Jenny Milkowski on KFMB CBS8 Morning Extra

Jenny Milkowski wowing Tom with the coloring-book trick

Behind-the-scenes photos (by Tiffany Frowiss)



Behind-the-scenes photos (by Mike)

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