Harry Houdini, master magician, escape artist, and Dom/sub spank material for the ages (see photo below), came to Portland in November of 1924. As part of his national lecture tour, Houdini was billing the engagement as an Anti-Medium Tour, which he defined in interviews as “an effort to stop people from going crazy.” Houdini was pretty convinced that the seance wave that was sweeping America was all bullshit, and he wanted to get on the stage and prove it. Houdini was categorically convinced that one could NOT talk to the dead, as so many mediums at the time advertised. So convinced in fact that he offered $5,000 to any medium who could actually summon the dead – a “spook” in the parlance of the time – at one of his performances. Oh – and Houdini was going to do 30 minutes of magical performances too! Pretty good show for a buck ten (War Tax Included in price).
So how was the production?
Well.. it wasn’t very well attended. Maybe it was due to Election Night (the promoters promised that the returns would be read at Houdini’s performance, but thousands of Portlanders and their families took to the streets to read or hear the results instead). A few hundred folks came to the Public Auditorium to see the magician’s show, which the reporter still considered “a goodly crowd.” But maybe Portland people have always been into the woo-woo shit, and didn’t want to pay good money to hear Houdini diss their beliefs. None the less, it would seem that those that did manage to attend had a good time. “The audience was frankly delighted and was friendly to Houdini, bursting into frequent and prolonged applause.”
Houdini The Historian dropped a little “tales from the past” as well! “By photographs thrown on a screen, Houdini traced charlatans and trickery back to the witch of Endor, and he gave it a fine black eye.” Ppt-ing like a fucking boss…
Alas… none of the seance masters were able to get Houdini’s $5,000. Nary a spook was summoned, and Mr. Houdini left the performance with that check still in his pocket. And perhaps a little disgruntled about the lack of Portlanders in his audience (but this is all conjecture).
If this sort of thing interests you, you’ll be able to hear much more about Houdini’s exploits on our upcoming Halloween Special podcast. Look for that right around the holiday, Dear Ass Kickers.
*Oh – and just for historical accuracy and shit – the top photo is NOT a picture of Houdini on the banks of the Willamette. Let’s remember folks, he visited in NOVEMBER – brrr!*