News-Antique.com - Feb 29,2008 - Santa Fe, Feb. 29, 2008--It was the greatest trunk mystery the world had ever seen. That’s what the advertising handbill called it.
“The Houdini’s Original Introducers of Metamorphosis. Exchanging Places in 3 Seconds,” the poster said.
At the top Harry Houdini’s vignette could be seen with the words “Harry the King of Handcuffs” underneath. In the bottom right was a vignette of his assistant and wife Bess and the words “Beatrice Queen of Mystery.”
Metamorphosis was its name.
Onstage Houdini climbed into a sack that was placed inside a large wooden traveler’s trunk. Audience members tied Houdini’s hands behind his back as he crouched inside close to the row of air holes along the bottom.
The sack was shut and tied securely with ropes. Finally, the lid to the trunk was also closed along with the stage curtain.
“Now then, I shall clap my hands three times and at the third and last time I ask you to watch closely for the effect,” Bess said.
She quickly closed the curtain and vanished from sight. Instantly the curtain was reopened not by Bess but by Houdini himself.
Bess was now gone. Houdini turned toward the trunk. He reopened the lid and inside knelt Bess with her hands tied behind her back.
The switch was made. But how?
Just seeing a Houdini advertising poster in 1895 was often enough to coax people to buy a ticket to the show. These posters were the mainstay of promotion at the turn-of-the-century.
On Oct. 25, Swann Galleries, New York, featured the poster described in The Christian Fechner Collection of American & European Magic, Part III. The 28 by 20 ¾ inch poster sold for $60,000.
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