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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Magic Video Tutorials

By Tom Interval

I’m working on some semi-informal video tutorials by request. This one is 9 minutes and covers how to fan a deck of cards using a basic, very old method called the thumb fan:

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Nielsen Poster Auction Tomorrow Morning

By Tom Interval

The Nielsen Collection Part I catalog cover

The Nielsen Collection Part I catalog cover

Talk about a labor of love.

For the last quarter of a century, celebrated magician Norm Nielsen and his wife, Lupe, have amassed one of the most significant magic-poster collections in the world.

And not reproductions you can buy at a magic shop but original lithographs and other prints representing what magicians call the “golden age” of magic, from around the late 1800s to the 1930s.

With the advent of his own golden age and a genuine desire to have others own a piece of magic history, Norm decided to sell the collection, half of which will be auctioned off by Potter & Potter tomorrow morning at 10:00. The second half of The Nielsen Collection will be auctioned early next year.

The Nielsen collection exhibition room at Potter & Potter (Photo: Simone Marron)

The Nielsen collection exhibition room at Potter & Potter (Photo: Simone Marron)

Tomorrow’s offerings—324 listings—feature the posters of some of the world’s most renowned magicians, including Harry Houdini, Harry Kellar, Howard Thurston, Harry Blackstone, Leon Herrmann, and many others. The auction also will include posters of contemporary performers, such as Doug Henning, David Copperfield, James Randi, and Ricky Jay.

“Norm and I retain a loving attachment to the collection,” wrote Lupe in the introduction of the auction catalog, “so much so that in letting it go we feel we are selling pieces of our lives and souls.”

If you’re interested in bidding on any of the posters, you can do so in person (in Chicago), on the phone, or online. You might be required to fill out an absentee bidding form; for details, visit the Buying page of the Potter & Potter website.

Related Links:

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A Royal Pain

By Tom Interval

A young heckler

A young heckler

Paul Daniels, the brilliant UK magician who sadly died a few months ago, once got a call from a prominent woman asking him to perform for a children’s party. Although Paul normally didn’t perform for children, he made an exception.

There was a young boy in the audience making noise, blurting out what he thought was the secret to the classic Chinese linking rings trick, and basically disrupting the show at every turn. Paul had had enough.

He told the child to approach the performing area, grabbed him by the lapels, picked him straight up, and said, “Now look, son, one day you will be King of England, and then you can have my head chopped off. But in the mean time, you will sit down, you will shut up, and you will be good because this isn’t your party and you mustn’t spoil it.”

From the audience, the prominent woman gave Paul the double thumbs-up as she whispered, “Yes, yes, yes!” No one had spoken to the child like that before. Why? Because the boy was a young Prince William, a guest of the prominent woman—Princess Michael.

Today William celebrates his 34th birthday.

William, second in line to the British throne, is a helicopter pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) in the UK. As far as I know, magic is not one of his hobbies. But it’s no surprise he heckled Paul during the linking-rings routine. William’s father, Prince Charles, is an amateur magician and member of The Magic Circle in London. During his childhood, William must have seen Charles perform many magic tricks, including the linking rings.

To hear Paul tell this story in his own words, watch his video on YouTube. He also mentions it in his autobiography, Under No Illusion.


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In Memory of Dante the Magician

By Tom Interval

Dante (Harry August Jansen)

Dante (Harry August Jansen)

Harry August Jansen—the renowned magician known as Dante—died 61 years ago today.

Born in Denmark on October 3, 1883, Dante was one of the last of the great performers of the Golden Age of magic. Others before him included Alexander Herrmann (1844–1896), Harry Kellar (1849–1922), and Howard Thurston (1869–1936).

Dante emigrated to the United States when he was a child and went on to become one of the most famous magicians of his era, performing such illusions as Sawing A Woman In Half, Backstage, and Cords of Phantasia.

He died of a heart attack at his ranch in Northridge (Los Angeles), California, and is buried at the San Francisco Columbarium.

Further Reading:

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