Houdini has always had a special association with Halloween. The master magician died on October 31st and each year a tribute in the form of a seance has been conducted that day. This year the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA is celebrating the successful completion of a secret project to restore Houdini's gravesite bust. Invite members of the secret group called the "Houdini Commandos" to share how they got a replica of the bust, why the operation had to be covert, and why the whole thing took more than 20 years. The original statuary bust was installed after Houdini's death in 1926 but was destroyed by vandals in 1975. Officials at the museum say Houdini, in his lifetime, had paid for the fixing of dozens of magicians graves that were in disrepair and this was only fitting payback.
Contact Penny Wilkes at (570) 342-5555
Other suggestions include: Ask about their annual Houdini Seance, upcoming appreances on The Travevl Channels, "Mysteries At The Museum,"and on History Channel's "Decoded" with Brad Meltzer. On TV Houdini Museum director and performer Dorothy Dietrich can saw a host in half, escape from a Strait Jacket, make doves, a duck, a rabbit and a poodle appear. She also reads palms and does handwriting analysis. She can also bring rare Houdini artifacts, etc. She is attractive, bright and speaks well.
Houdini Commandos returned to his grave to do more work on October 17, 2011 NEW YORK, N.Y., Contact Penny Wilkes, Houdini Museum, 570 342-5555
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 3, 2011
Inside Story of How Houdini's Missing Bust Was Recently Secretly Restored to His Grave Site in New York City
NeW YORK, N.Y., The Houdini Museum, a 501(c)3 nonprofit museum in Scranton, PA, had a secret project to restore Houdini’s grave site bust for over 20 years. It reached full intensity in the past year. The original statuary bust was installed after Houdini’s death in 1926. It was destroyed by vandals in 1975. It has been gone for 36 years. Several composition, or plastic, busts were placed there briefly but lasted a short time or were used one day each year – October 31, for a ceremony done by The Society of Americans – that unfortunately brought more grief to the cemetery because of the many costumed individuals that arrived to celebrate Halloween instead of paying respect to Harry Houdini. Because of this the cemetery now closes 3 days for Halloween, the date of Houdini’s death.
Many consultants were contacted in conjunction with this plan. Nothing was to get in teir way. Peter Blacksberg, the president of Riverside Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Saddlebrook, New Jersey, was contacted for advice. He recomended getting a letter from the closest living relatives going back to Houdini’s death, and to have insurance in case anyone was hurt doing the repairs. This was done. A high profile New York lawyer, Gary Pillersdorf, was contacted for advice and to bail us out in case we got arrested. All their ducks were in a row. There had been some contention between the Society of American Magicians and the cemetery as to ownership of the grave. They decided not to contact either, to avoid any new problems with this project. They did try to contact the cemetery in the past but to no avail.
In the 1970′s The Society of American Magicians made a lightweight cast of an original bust now owned by the Museum of the City of New York. Houdini’s wife donated the original to that museum. The lightweight copy was on loan in the last 1970's to magicians Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz, who owned New York City’s Magic Towne House, and had it on display to the pubic. The magicians currently run the nonprofit Houdini Museum in Scranton PA. The Society of American Magicians took back the replica in 1979 and it was soon broken again. For the sake of posterity, the two magicians made a mold of the bust and put that in storage.
In the past year Dorothy Dietrich, Dick Brookz and Steve Moore , a retired escape artist, locksmith, and craftsman, made five trial composition busts and finally three statuary cement busts. The best one was destined to be installed at Houdini’s grave site. Another will be unveiled this year at the annual historic Houdini Seance on Halloween at The Houdini Museum. This event is free and open to the public by reservation.
A secret group called the “Houdini Commandos” was then formed. They were Dorothy Dietrich; Dick Brookz; Steve Moore, retired escape artist; along with Dean Allen, contractor; Tracy Bullaro, helper; Cathy Moore, helper; and Ron Chicken, videographer. The stealth plan was to get in and out unnoticed in one day.
Everything was ready. Diamond bits, drills, a powerful vacuum system, a generator (no electricity at the grave), special cements and epoxies, a way to safely transport the bust, etc. On several of the planned days flooding rains ensued and dates were changed. Everyone had to be available on the same day, which was almost impossible. Finally the day came. On September 27, 2011 everyone arrived by caravan at 10 a.m. and the work began. Each person had their assignments. Part way into the project a cemetery caretaker and watchman inquired what we were doing. Dorothy explained and tried to distract him with various papers, etc., as they continued working. The caretaker said they would have to stop until he called his boss. A long, almost non-ending phone conversation followed, and the issue of insurance came up. The Houdini Museum's insurance agent faxed a letter and they were given the go ahead. Because of the lost time and other problems, such as a powerful construction cement drying too rapidly, having to drill it out and rushing to a local hardware store last minute for more, they did not finish until 7 p.m. The watchman had now become our supporter and allowed the cemetery to stay open an extra 3 hours.
This project has cost The Houdini Museum (http://houdini.org) close to $10,000, but they felt it sorely needed to be done. Houdini, in his lifetime, had paid for the fixing of dozens of magicians graves that were in disrepair. This was only fitting payback. Kudos have come in to the Houdini Museum from historians and magicians from all over the world.
For more information and links to hi res pictures go to: http://houdini.org/houdinibust.html .We would like to thank Bart Sacco, President and Founder of the KINGDOM PRODUCTS who donated the Special Quality mix used in the making of the bust. http://concrete-texturing.com
- Photo caption: Houdini Commandos: Steve Moore, Dorothy Dietrich, Dick Brookz.
Photo caption: Houdini Commandos: Steve Moore, Dorothy Dietrich, Dick Brookz. NEWS SOURCE: Houdini Museum
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2011
The Houdini Museum is the only building in the world dedicated to the memory of the great magician Harry Houdini. The Houdini Museum has been awarded a matching grant of $30,000 from the Office of Economic Community Development of the City of Scranton for the facade of the building. In its 22 years in Scranton the Houdini Museum has been visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists. It is also known for the annual Houdini Seance which takes place on October 31, the anniversary of Houdini's death in1926.
In the lte 1970's a bust on loan from The Society of American Magicians., was on display at the Magic Towne House on Third Avenue, in New York City. This was a replica of the original which was commissioned by Harry Houdini in1916 . After having been damaged, stolen and vandalized several times at the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, NY., the Society deemed to remove the figure from the grave to be used only for their memorial visits each year . Before its return to the Society, in 1979, a mold was made for posterity, and put into storage, by the Magic Towne House. (owned by Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz ).
The temporary composition bust had been used from time to time, by the Society for their annual Broken Wand memorial ceremony on October 31each year. Because his death coincided with Halloween, the event became such a media circus and brought more destruction to the grave site. The cemetery now closes on for three days during Halloween. The ceremony date was changed to the date he died based on the Hebrew calendar.
Though parts of the mold rotted, it has been restored it at a cost of thousands of dollars. Five polyurethane and plaster casts were made, along with the help of craftsman and former escape artist Steve Moore, each time making improvements, then making new molds until it was right.
Three statuary cement busts were then made, much like the original bust that was destroyed. The best one was to be the one used at Houdini's grave. Another one will be unveiled at the Houdini Seance this year. This has all been kept secret for all these many years. Houdini's bust has now been replaced at the grave site the way Houdini and the family wanted it. The three magicians, Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz afrom The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA., have been sanctioned of the Houdini family to make repairs at the site. An email and a letter from Houdini family was signed and sent to the Houdini Museum to that effect. The Houdini Museum is under the close guidance of Houdini's family. They also have the approval of the management of the cemetery as well. This has all cost well over $10,000. The Houdini Museum put up the money.
In this economy, times are tough for the nonprofit museum, and funds are low, but this is a project that their board of directors felt was long overdue. They are hoping an Houdini benefactor turns up to cover some of the costs.
When asked why now? Dorothy Dietrich, often called the "The First Lady of Magic" said, "It is only fitting that the museum dedicated to preserve the memory of Harry Houdini take on this task . Houdini was known to take care of grave sites of many others while he was alive. It's only proper that someone return the gesture. Magicians and Houdini fans from all over the world visit us here at The Houdini Museum who say they are also going to visit Houdini's grave. It will feel so nice to visit the site and see it the way Houdini planned it."
Future plans- They are also putting together a committee of volunteers Houdini Commandos who will periodically take care of the grave site, cut the grass, etc. According to Ms. Dietrich, "We want to repair and replace Leopold and Gladys markers, long missing from the grave site. The gate will also need better security. The committee will seek additional donations to accomplish these goals.
The Houdini Museum...
The Houdini Museum has been visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists for the last 22 years it has been in Scranton, PA. It is the only building in the world entirely dedicated to Houdini. Recently, The Houdini Museum has been awarded a $30,000 matching grant from the OeCD of the City of Scranton for the facade of the museum. A fund raising drive is being put together to match this grant.
Dorothy Dietrich Biography...
Dorothy Dietrich has been called "one of the most noted magicians of the late 20th century" by Columbia encyclopedia, Columbia University Press. Dorothy Dietrich is one of the world's best known magicians and has been called "The First Lady of Magic. She has appeared in many television specials, and is the first and only woman to do the bullet catch in the mouth, "the stunt that scared Houdini." She is the first and only woman to perform a straitjacket escape from a parachute ride while suspended hundreds of feet in the air from a burning rope, as shown on a HBO special that she stared in. She has also been called "The first woman to saw a man in half!" When not traveling, Dietrich performs at The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA, where she is also a director. It has the largest permanent display to the general public anywhere, of artifacts, historical displays and information on Houdini. There is also a traveling Houdini exhibit (http://HoudiniDisplays.com. She has been featured on numerous television shows and channels world wide including the BBC, CBC, CBS, NBC, ABC, Travel Channel, Biography Channel, History Channel, TV Land, etc. She is considered a leading collector and expert on Houdini. She is to be featured Oct 18, 2011 on The Travel Channel's Mysteries At The Museum and in November on the History Channels Brad Meltzer's DeCODeD! Ms Dietrich, who is now one of the directors and creators of the famous Houdini Museum in Scranton has also often been called The Female Houdini.
Ms Dietrich currently presides each year at the original Houdini Seances, which were done for 20 years in New York City at The Magic Towne House, and are now done under the direction of The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA. This internationally famous Halloween Houdini Seance event occurs each year on October 31 at 1:26 PM, the exact time Houdini died. It often takes place at The Houdini Museum, (http://Houdini.org) 1433 Main Avenue, in Scranton, PA.
Ms Dietrich and the Houdini Legacy...
October 31, Halloween, marks the anniversary of the death of magic's most famous icon, Harry Houdini. each year after the legendary magicians death a tribute in the form of a seance has been conducted on this day. The first ten seances were done by Houdini's wife Bess as a tribute and test. In his effort to challenge the crooked mystics and psychics of his day, Houdini the greatest escape artist of all time, said if he could not escape from the beyond and return in a seance no one else could. Houdini's wife then passed on the legacy and tradition to Houdini biographer, friend and writer Walter B. Gibson. Walter B. Gibson was the creator of "The Shadow" one of the most famous mystery series of all time that started out as a novel, a radio show, a television show and then a movie starring Alec Baldwin. The shows catch phrase, "The Shadow knows!" has been repeated thousands of times by comedians and others through the years. Walter B. Gibson helped Houdini in some of his literary projects, and after Houdini died wrote several early biographies and magic secret books culled from Houdini's private notes that Bess and her lawyer let Gibson use. Before Mr. Gibson died he passed on the tradition to well known magic celebrity, Dorothy Dietrich (http://DorothyDietrich.com). The Houdini Seances were moved to The Houdini Museum, in Scranton, Pa. for the last 22 years. The Houdini Seances are attended on a regular basis by the closest living relatives of Houdini. This October admission is free by reservation at 12:30 PM with Houdini films to follow the Houdini Seance at 1:26 PM.A seperate Magic lecture will be givin by magic inventor and creator Devin Knight at 7 PM.$10 for advance registrations and $12 at the door. http://www.houdini.org/houdiniseance.html
Steve Moore Biography...
Steve Moore is a retired escape artist and locksmith as well. Houdini's original Water Torture cell, was destroyed in a fire. Steve's exact replica of it is on display at Scranton's Houdini Museum.
Dick Brookz Biography...
He as performed and been held over at such important venues as The Americana in Puerto Rico, #1 Fifth Ave in New York City, and New York's Rainbow Grill. His presentation of Haunted! Mysteries of THE Beyond is now in its 7th year at the Houdini Museum Theater. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Museum. He will be featured this November on the History Channel's Brad Meltzer's Decoded.
Contact Penny Wilkes
Houdini Museum, Tour & Magic Show 1433 N. Main Ave. Scranton, PA 18508 (570) 342-5555 (570) 383-1821
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We are a 501 C-3 nonprofit museum. Donations are tax deductable.
We need funding for the Houdini Bust project and the repair of our building with the OeCD's matching fund of $30,000. You can send contributions with paypal at http://paypal.com to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Contributions can be mailed to Houdini Museum, 1433 N. Main Ave, Scranton, PA. 18508