A Scarce Photo of Houdini on the 91st Anniversary of His Death

By Tom Interval

There’s no enviable day to die, but if you’re a magician, and you have to cash in your chips, anyway, it might as well be on Halloween. That’s exactly what Harry Houdini did 91 years ago today: October 31, 1926, 1:26 p.m., age 52.

Of course, it wasn’t intentional. And of all the things that could have killed a daredevil like him—drowning, suffocation, strangulation, plummeting—it was peritonitis that ultimately did him in. I suspect that today at least some Houdini and history bloggers will expound on the myths, realities, and ironies of the pioneering showman’s demise, so I won’t offer you more of that.

Instead, here’s a scarce photo of the man, upside down as he often was (hence the danger of plummeting). It was published in The New York Times on August 29, 1920, with the caption, “HARRY HOUDINI, HANDCUFF KING, Freeing Himself from a Straight-jacket While Suspended in the Air at the Police Field Day Games at the Gravesend Race Track.”

To read the full article about this photo, please visit my Houdini blog: Houdini’s Suspended Straitjacket Escape at Police Field Day Games. In the mean time, Happy Halloween and Houdini Remembrance Day!



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Houdini Jack-o’-Lantern 2017

By Tom Interval

Last year I skipped my annual ritual of carving a Harry Houdini jack-o’-lantern, but I made one this year! Here’s one picture. To see a few more, see my Houdini blog. Hope you have a happy and safe Halloween!

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My Split-Second Appearance on a 1990 Busch Gardens Commercial

By Tom Interval

Tom Interval on a 1990 Busch Gardens TV commercialEven in 1988, $50 didn’t seem like a lot of money to be in a television commercial. But who was I to complain? I was doing what I loved for a living at a super-cool theme park to which I had unlimited access. Besides, the gig was a non-speaking part, so I didn’t even have to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

Busch Gardens Williamsburg (as in Williamsburg, Virginia) ended up using only about one second of  my performance in the commercial. So that’s $50 per second. Hmm. Eight hours in a typical workday, which equals 480 minutes, which equals 28,800 seconds, which, at $50 per second, equals $1,440,000 per day. I could scrape by on that.

Hey, a man can dream, can’t he?

As it turned out, not only did I not end up with millions of dollars, I didn’t even get a copy of the tape, despite my repeated requests to Busch over the years.

Fast-forward to 2017, a year that exists in the age of YouTube, the online video storehouse featuring everything from cat juggling to tutorials on quantum mechanics. Fortunately, it didn’t take a physics lesson to finally find the Busch commercial I’m in.

An anonymous guy in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who calls himself Betamax King, recorded the commercial back in 1990, two years after it was filmed. He has more than one YouTube channel jam-packed with old video and audio clips he’s collected over the years.

Here’s the 30-second commercial with my appearance in all of its one-second glory. Do you think it’s worth 50 bucks?

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Happy 83rd Birthday to Harry Blackstone Jr.

By Tom Interval

1934 was an eventful year:

  • Harry Blackstone Jr., Pittsburgh, 1981

    Harry Blackstone Jr., Pittsburgh, 1981

    The first Flash Gordon comic strip was published.

  • Nepal and Bihar experienced one of the worst earthquakes ever to hit those areas.
  • Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd., now known as Fujifilm, was established.
  • The famous “surgeon’s photograph” of the Loch Ness Monster was first published (and dismissed as a hoax some 60 years later).
  • The first Three Stooges short, Woman Haters, was released.
  • Bonnie and Clyde were killed by a posse of four Texas officers.
  • The Dionne quintuplets—the first quintuplets to survive infancy—were born.
  • Donald Duck debuted in the short film, The Wise Little Hen.
  • Adolf Hitler became the Führer of Nazi Germany.

That was the era in which Harry Blackstone Jr., “America’s foremost magician,” was born, on this day 83 years ago.

I’ve written about Harry on this blog a few times before, so I don’t have a lot to say today accept, simply, happy birthday, Harry. You were one of the great entertainers of my era and truly a kind soul. Thank you for the magic you’ve added to your audiences’ lives over the years and for the inspiration you’ve sparked in the hearts of many aspiring magicians.

Here’s to your memory, Harry.

Interval Magic

Of Worthy Note:  Also born on this day were Bill Bixby, star of the 1970s prime-time television show, The Magician; feminist Gloria Steinem; Major League baseball player Roberto Clemente; and astronomer Carl Sagan.





#harryblackstonejr #magicians #birthdays

Posted in Anthony Blake, Birthdays, Famous Magicians, Harry Blackstone Jr., Magicians, Portrayals, television, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Memory of Houdini on the 90th Anniversary of His Death

By Tom Interval

It’s been 90 years since Harry Houdini (1874–1926) died on Halloween, yet his name lives on—a testament to the genius behind his showmanship, originality, technical abilities, and knack for attaining publicity. Unhappy anniversary, Harry.

In Memory of Harry Houdini

Posted in Anniversaries, Famous Magicians, Halloween, Harry Houdini, Harry Houdini, Holidays, magicians | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dynamite Houdini Punch-Out

By Tom Interval

Dynamite article on Harry HoudiniIn my relatively small magic collection, I recently dug up this 1980 Dynamite article about Harry Houdini (1874-1926). What’s scary about this piece, besides the picture of Scott Baio on the cover, is that more than 36 years have passed since its publication. (Let me immerse myself in age denial about that one for a moment.)

The article—mostly about Houdini’s crusade against fraudulent Spiritualists— is just okay. But the Houdini punch-out? Dynamite! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) I didn’t actually punch it out because I wanted to leave the magazine intact, but I was compelled to scan it and animate it for your and my entertainment pleasure.

It’s an illustration of Houdini in his pre-1920s scandalous canary-yellow swim trunks escaping a heavy set of chains, just as he did in real life. Well, not “just” as he did, and his trunks weren’t really yellow, but you get the idea. Pretty cool: All you do is punch out the lot, weave the artwork into the jail-cell bars, use the tabs to move the artwork up and down, and voilà! Houdini sheds the shackles!

But don’t take my word for it:



Here’s what the original punch-out looks like:houdini_illustration


So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, Houdini once again escapes, this time as recently as 1980, long before this magician was born. *wink*

# # #

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The Four Burglars: In Memory of Paul Daniels

By Tom Interval

The Four BurglarsPaul Daniels (1938-2016), the famous U.K. magician, performed and taught his own version of The Four Burglars, a classic plot in card magic dating back to 1591.

For years I’ve taught a version to some of my magic students and only recently saw that some of Paul’s handling was similar to my own. He added a psychological subtlety and four-jack display I hadn’t seen before.

I thought it would be fun to perform Paul’s version in honor and in memory of one of the greatest magicians of all time: The Four Burglars, In Memory of Paul Daniels (see embedded video below).

On his YouTube channel, Paul posted four videos showing three different versions of The Four Burglars. I didn’t know Paul personally, but I think I can safely assume the trick was one of his favorites to teach.

So why would a world-renowned magician post videos of simple card tricks, such as The Four Burglars? He was trying to emphasize what’s really important in magic: the performance. The Four Burglars is a card trick with a story, and people like stories.

As Paul has said many times, magic is so much more fun to watch when it’s funny or at least interesting. I constantly drive home this point to each of my magic students. The Four Burglars isn’t particularly funny (albeit it could be depending on the presentation), but it has a story line that makes it interesting. Tricks with stories draw in the audience and keep its attention.

Here are Paul’s videos of the trick. You can watch my two-minute presentation of his “Version 3” in the embedded video below.

R.I.P., Paul, and best wishes to Debbie and the rest of your family and friends.


To see more cool magic-related videos, please visit the Interval Magic YouTube Channel.

Copyright 2016 Tom Interval

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