Tales from my library: Houdini

9 Jan

Harry Houdini was my childhood hero. As a consequence, I have probably read more biographies of him than of any other person. Kenneth Silverman’s Houdini is excellent and, probably, the closest thing to a definitive biography, however I have two criticisms. First, it does not include references and, second, even though it gives an account of Bess Houdini’s life after Harry’s death it is silent about Arthur Ford and the “Houdini messages.”

Milbourne Christopher’s Houdini: The Untold Story is also quite good and does include an expose of Arthur Ford. It has the advantage of being written from the perspective of an accomplished professional magician.

But my unquestioned favorite has always been William Lindsay Gresham‘s Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls. The book is wonderfully written and coveys the excitement of Houdini’s career and performances. It includes a wonderful “opinionated bibliography” that I have always found a source of endless fascination. The book was written with the assistance of magician and escape artist James Randi.


Gresham also wrote a great noir novel, Nightmare Alley, about a fraudulent spiritualist and his battle with alcoholism. The book was made into a terrific movie. Here is the trailer:

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