Tag Archives: Houdini

Houdini!!!

31 Oct

A story on the BBC this morning reminded me that this is the 90th anniversary of the death of Harry Houdini. Pop culture fame is fleeting. Young people do not know the stars of my youth (who could blame them), and, of course, the names of the great stars of the vaudeville stage have long passed from popular memory.

Yet, we all know the name of Houdini. The man who did not believe in spirits has obtained a kind of immortality.

There are a number of good biographies of Houdini. I recommend Houdini!!!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss  by Kenneth Silverman and Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls by  William Lindsay Gresham.

Pioneers of memory improvement

10 Sep

A central purpose of this blog is to help you use the science to improve your memory. Thus, it straddles the space between research and self help.

There have been a number of people who have contributed to both memory scholarship and the self help literature on memory.

51F401wd6CL._SY300_

My model here is the work of the couple Chesley and Morris Young.

Chesley Virginia Barnes served as a cryptographer in World War II, She met Morris while they were both stationed in Naples. He was serving as an army physician.

As a boy growing up in Lawrence, Massachusetts Morris Nathan Young saw Harry Houdini escape from a strait jacket while suspended upside from the tallest building in town. Young got to shake Houdini’s hand and developed a life long interest in magic.

By age 17 Young was himself performing as a magician and his act impressed Houdini.

Young studied at MIT as an undergraduate and earned a master’s degree in chemistry from Harvard. He later attended medical school. He chose his specialty, opthalmology, because of his interest in how the eye could be fooled by misdirection and sleight of hand. His friendship with and admiration of Houdini led Morris to become interest in body control in general and memory improvement in particular.

Both of the Youngs wrote popular memory improvement books. Morris Young also published an extensive scholarly bibliography on memory. They amassed one of the largest collections of books and pamphlets on memory, which was eventually donated to the University of San Marino. Their writings blended insights from the practical experience of memory improvement techniques and from the scientific literature on memory. This blog tries to follow their example.

Sources:

Martin, D. (2002) Morris N. Young, eye doctor and collector, dies at 93. [New York Times, November 24, ]

Tanne, J. H. (2002). Morris Nathan Young. BMJ, 25, [December 14, 2002, p. 1424]

 

Was Moe Howard related to Harry Houdini?

9 Sep

Several years ago, I had heard that the wife of Moe Howard of the Three Stooges was a cousin of Harry Houdini. I searched the Internet and looked through my collection of Houdini biographies but could find no mention of this supposed connection. Indeed, several Internet sites dismissed this as an urban legend.

However, I was listening to this interview with Moe Howard from 1972 and Moe says quite directly that his wife was Houdini’s cousin. I searched the Internet again and found this explanation.

%d bloggers like this: