Houdini's right hand man, Franz Kukol

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby houdini's ghost » 11/30/09 09:26 PM

Franz Kukol was born in Austria on the same day Theo Hardeen was born in Hungary, Mar 4, 1876.
Kukol worked on Houdini's full-evening show in 1926 (sans the Kaiser Wilhelm mustache) as "Frank Williamson."
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 12/01/09 06:08 PM

That's interesting. I read in a Houdini biography, possibly The Untold Story by Christopher that Kukol was called to service by Austria to fight in WWI. After that, he doesn't appear again. He's probably standing in the background in a photgraph from Houdini's last full evening show.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/01/09 09:35 PM

On August 25, 1914, "Frank" Kukol applied for naturalized citizenship. He renounced all foreign governments and signed an oath of allegiance to the United States. His application was rejected: "not enough information." In it, he documented that his wife Anna and their two children, Marie and Harry were living in Austria.
The Conjuring Record for Sept. 1914 carried the following:(Special Despatch to the Record)
OBEYS CALL TO WAR;
HOUDINI LOSES ASSISTANT
New York, September 3.Mr. Franz Kukol, one of Harry Houdini's chief assistants, was called by his country, Germany, to the front. He left at once to fight for the cause of the Fatherland. Kukol assisted Houdini in his escape from the water cell and other experiments.
There is some evidence that Kukol continued to work with Houdini, in the U.S. at least until America entered the War.
On Sept 12, 1918, both Harry Houdini and Frank Kukol registered for the draft at the same New York office.
Then Franz AKA Frank Kukol disappears.
I was told that the $500 bequest that Houdini left to Franz Kukol was sent to a New York address. Perhaps someone could help me on this.
If Franz was in New York when Houdini died, he would have to have been a pallbearer. Unless, perhaps, he was afraid of being picked up.
Franz wasn't a pallbearer, but, Frank Williamson was.
I thoroughly believe that Frank Williamson was Franz Kukol.
After the funeral, Frank Williamson disappears from history--so far.
I think Houdini made Franz disappear. That rejected application for naturalized citizenship along with the signed loyalty oath kind of made Franz a man without a country.
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Postby JohnCox » 12/02/09 08:47 PM

Wow. Very interesting information. Thank you, houdini's ghost.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/03/09 12:42 AM

I've got a couple more things:
Houdini played the Maryland Theatre Twice in 1916. I don't know whether the clipping this quote is from is from the Feb engagement or the April return engagement. Nor do I know what paper it is from (might be the Baltimore Sun). The article says, in part: "Three of Mr. Houdini's assistants are Englishmen. The fourth is a German. 'I do not have to read the newspapers to learn about the war,' he said. 'Every once in a while I have to rescue the German from the Englishmen. They actually get to the coats-off stage in some of their arguments. It's all very funny to me, but they are not joking about it.'"
Great Britain declared war August 4, 1914.
Franz Kukol applied for citizenship August 25, 1914 but was denied.
In September 1916, Houdini announced Franz had been called back to service in Austria and had left immediately.
In 1916, Houdini joked about the conflicts between his German and British assistants.
The U.S. declared war April 6, 1917.
In 1918, Houdini and Franz (Frank) Kukol registered for the draft on the same day at the same office.
I have a loose quote (n.d., no source) wherein Houdini tells an interviewer: "One of my assistants, an Austrian, was with me for 16 years. I had to let him go after our country declared war on Germany." I'm trying to find the source now, but, it's an accurate quote.
Then there is Kellock. Even Silverman relied on Kellock in some matters. On page 282, Kellock writes: "His relations with his assistants were stormy and deeply affectionate. One, Franz Kukol, was with him for twenty years and named his child for Houdini. James Collins and James Vickery served him for eighteen years. All three adored Houdini. They carried him to his grave."
No, James Collins, James Vickery, and Frank Williamson carried him to his grave.
Houdini's greatest metamorphosis may have been changing Franz Kukol into Frank Williamson.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/03/09 08:04 PM

Leonard Hevia,
Forgive me, I just babbled on.
Yes, he is standing by the Morritt "Hello Summer" illusion in the Big Show Photo in the Henning book; and he is holding Vickery's severed arm in the Paligenesia photo in the Kellock book.
That's Franz (Houdini always spelled it "Frantz") Kukol, without his mustache, combing his hair differently, and 14 years older than the last photos we've seen of him.
I mean, Frank Williamson.
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Postby JohnCox » 12/05/09 02:19 PM

This is really good stuff. Mind if I put some of this on my website?
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/05/09 04:07 PM

Hey there Zencat. Yes, let's get it out there, someone might have a bit more. David Saltman whose fact based fictional novel about "the Houdini Code"--not what you think it is, it's crytographic--is about to come out, told me he's seen a 1924 Houdini letter that states Kukol was currently working with him.
I made a typo in one of my posts. I said Houdini reported Franz had returned to Germany in Sept 1816--THAT WAS WRONG!--I meant to say 1914.
I'm about to post a couple of additional items about Franz Kukol and I have been fortunate enough to meet Jim Vickery's grand-daughter and her husband and I will have to start a thread about him.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 12/05/09 04:09 PM

You mind if I make an article on MagicPedia too (which anyone would be able to add to)?
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/05/09 05:56 PM

Joe, you are very welcome to put up anything I find.
Now, a couple of other things. Houdini always spells Franz Kukol's name "Frantz." Hardeen's birth name was Ferencz. When Hardeen got arrested at a Cunning performance, he gave his name as "Theodore Frank." In his will, Houdini leaves his equipment to his brother, Theodore Frantz Weiss. --Might have been a slip. Are these all the same name in different languages: Magyar, German, Austrian, and English?
Letter to Jim Bard Oct. 11, 1908
P.S. Frantz gets married October 29th!!!!!!! To an old girl of his. He intends to carry her with him. I presume you know he has a baby girl 7 years of age. He did the trick a short time before he joined you. HH
The girl Franz married was Anna (b. 15 Oct 1878) and the baby girl was Marie (b. 1 May 1901).
This is from an Unidentified clipping dated 13 Jun 1913. When the article says on the 2nd of this month, it is referring to March. UNLESS, the ceremony went over so big, HH and Frantz repeated it in June at the Newport Empire.
The ceremony actually took place at the Finsbury Park Empire, in London, March 2, 1913
PUBLIC PRESENTATION TO HIS CHIEF ASSISTANT.
A good assistant is one of the most valuable assets a magician can possess. He ensures the smooth running of the show on every occasion; he attends to all mere routine matters, and leaves the mind of his master free to grapple with the more difficult problems; he is a time saver, a money saver and a worry saver. Many magicians do not realise this, or at any rate do not acknowledge it. Some, however, are fully appreciative. An instance of this has just been brought to our notice. All who are well acquainted with Mr. Harry Houdini and his stage work know how ably he is served in the matter of assistants.
The chief of these is Franz Kukol. He completed ten years' service with Mr. Houdini on the 2nd of this month. Some masters would have allowed the occasion to pass without recognition or even comment. Not so Mr. Houdini. When he stepped on to the stage of the Newport Empire that night he asked for the indulgence of the audience for a few moments while he addressed a word or two to his Chief Assistant. Then, turning to Franz Kukol. he thanked him for his ten years of faithful service, and in recognition of it. presented him with a gold watch and albert. Kukol was taken entirely by surprise, and could only reply in faltering tones, "Thank you. sir. I've done my best, and shall always try to do so." But that little unstudied speech put the matter in a nutshell. On the one side of the stage was Mr. Houdini, a good master; on the other was Franz Kukol, a good servant.
Each understood and appreciated the other. And the audience understood and appreciated both. There were loud cheers from all parts of the house. The audience enjoyed the ensuing performance all the more because of that pleasant and very human prelude. And the business relationship between Mr. Houdini and Kukol was yet more firmly cemented.
So Franz started with Houdini March 2, 1903.
This item from Houdini's magazine is interesting.
April 15, 1908 Conjurers' Monthly magazine (Your Questions Answered Here)
Frantz Williamson, Elberfeld, Germany.
The packing case trick with the boards studded with sharp nails was introduced by Houdini while with the Corty-Althoff Circus in Dortmund. The idea was taken from the Spanish Inquisition torture instrument known in history as "The Maiden."
I don't think there was a real Frantz Williamson. I think it was a plant so Houdini could establish a claim on the effect.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/05/09 06:42 PM

Frank Saltman has just reminded me of a letter he has a copy of. The letter has to do with an accusation that the photo of Houdini and Teddy Roosevelt that Houdini was using in his publicity was a paste-up, that Houdini and the former president were never photographed together.
The letter, dated Sept. 4, 1924, is from Houdini to Mr. R.W.G. Vail of the Roosevelt Memorial Association at 28 E. 20 St., in New York City. In it, he refers to "my chief assistant and photographer ... Mr. Frank Kukol will call on you personally and give you further details...." Houdini explains that photo and others were taken by Kukol.
By the way, Houdini and his crew were catching the "last boat out of Germany" before hostilities erupted when those photos were taken.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 12/05/09 11:23 PM

Here it is if you would like to critique and update: http://geniimagazine.com/wiki/index.php/Franz_Kukol
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/06/09 01:05 AM

Joe,
Turns out, Franz doesn't disappear entirely. The letter Houdini wrote to R.W.G. Vail 9-4-1924 clearly states Franz will personally come to The Roosevelt Memorial Assoc. in N.Y.C. to swear he took the photos of T.R. and HH.
You must tell me what evidence there is that Kukol and Vickery helped invent the Milk Can. Houdini protegee Leonard Hicks says Montraville M. Wood invented the Milk Can. Billy Russell of Batavia, N.Y. said he made a Milk Can from a drawing Houdini made and Houdini signed the drawing and let Billy keep it. Both Wood and Russell have excellent credibilty and in Wood's case, at least, the documentation is there.
You must mention Harry Houdini Kukol born May 24, 1909 in Austria.
On his application for naturalization, Frank lists his occupation as organist (which he was). His WW1 draft registration has his occupation as "asst. mgr. Majestic Theatre."
As to Frank Williamson being Franz Kukol, this is Culliton talking, I don't say this lightly, you can take it to the bank. I wish I could visit Dorothy Young so I could ask her if she has any recollection of the assistant named Frank.
The photos don't lie. Frank Kukol worked the full-evening show as Frank Williamson. Then they both REALLY disappear. So far. I never thought we'd come this far.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 12/06/09 12:08 PM

I saw it mentioned in a couple of places that Kukol helped invent the Milk Can escape, including Whaley's "Who's Who in Magic".

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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/06/09 02:19 PM

You're right. According to Leonard Hicks, Wood came backstage one night and presented Houdini with a method for escaping from a kind of oversized milk can.
But, the Milk Can isn't just a prop, of course, it's an ACT.
Houdini, Kukol and Vickery were the actors. They were all masters of improvisation and of making it look spontaneous every performance.
The rain slickers, the fire axe, the giant stop watch, Houdini's muscles, testing the audience members' ability to hold their breath--that's the Milk Can.
Whaley and you are right, Joe.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/06/09 05:50 PM

From Variety Oct. 14, 1921 Mrs. Franz Kukol of Drelhacken, Bohemia (European continent). Is seeking the whereabouts of her husband, Franz Kukol, believed to be in America. For 14 Years Kukol was with Houdini.
Fouteen years (from March 2, 1903 to April 6, 1917).
I wonder if she found him.
She must have tried to contact Houdini.
Drelhacken, Bohemia--I hadn't seen that before.
In Houdini's 1908-9 diary, he has pasted a photo of Harry Houdini Kukol b. May 24, 1909
Did they abandon that kid. I'd think they'd try to get him to the states. Perhaps they couldn't because Kukol was an illegal.
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Postby JohnCox » 12/11/09 06:30 PM

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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/11/09 09:31 PM

There is some wonderful footage of Franz Kukol in the 1907 bridge jump on the Kino Houdini the Movie Star 3 dvd set Special Features.
On the same dvd, "Frank" has a nice little cameo in "Haldane of the Secret Service."
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Postby JohnCox » 12/11/09 09:37 PM

Kukol is in Haldane???
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/14/09 10:01 PM

Frank is in Haldane and he is prominent in the Hotel Shelton pool photos.
You know, years ago I was going to write about Collins and Kukol and call the chapter "the Mechanic and the Man in the Crowd."
Franz is in the crowd of committeemen at the Mirror Cuff challenge, for example, wearing a frock coat. While Collins and Vickery are in rolled up shirtsleeves at an Overboard Packing Box Escape, Franz is in a coat, tie and boater hat with a press card in it. The man in the crowd.
Then, Franz has to disappear because he's illegal. He shaves off the mustache, changes his hair style and blends in with the crowd.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/17/09 12:12 AM

I have just posted photos which I believe to be Frank carrying Houdini's coffin, and assisting at the Hotel Shelton Test in a post entitled "funeral" on handcuffs.org.
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Postby JohnCox » 12/17/09 02:44 PM

On your site? Couldn't find them. Do you have a link?
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 12/17/09 03:48 PM

Here you go.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/261154/

John...Do me a favor and send me a link for the Life magazine photos with Tony Curtis.

Thanks,

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Postby Pete McCabe » 12/17/09 04:09 PM

You can search through Google's archive of Life magazine photos here or by adding source:life to the end of any google search string.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 12/17/09 04:54 PM

Thanks. I tried it, but it only comes up with 5 photos. The one I saw had about 100 or more photos from the movie.
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Postby JohnCox » 12/18/09 04:51 PM

Kevin Connolly wrote:Here you go.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/261154/

John...Do me a favor and send me a link for the Life magazine photos with Tony Curtis.

Thanks,

Kevin


Oh dear. My link, which used to bring up the whole batch, now only brings up a handful. Looks like maybe they removed them.

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q ... rch+Images
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/18/09 04:58 PM

Aw, heck! That was a great batch of photos, and, thinking I had the rest of my life to check them out, I only glanced at them.
Zencat! You spotted Franz/Frank in Haldane yet?
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Postby JohnCox » 12/20/09 12:24 PM

No, I haven't popped in the movie yet. I'll do that today.
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Postby Lee Almond » 12/20/09 06:50 PM

Please forgive me for asking this question.I think the great Houdini was embalmed. Again, forgive me for asking this question. Does the Jewish faith not belive in embalming?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/20/09 07:30 PM

I think you could find that out pretty easily by using Google.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/20/09 07:30 PM

Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
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Postby Lee Almond » 12/20/09 07:56 PM

Thank you Richard for the link.
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Postby Kevin Connolly » 12/20/09 07:57 PM

I think Houdini was enbalmed. I'm pretty sure he had his mother embalmed too.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/20/09 08:03 PM

Houdini was embalmed as his mother had been. I can't tell you where I learned that and I can't take the time to find the source, but, I was first quite shocked that Houdini's mother's body had stayed in the house for--whatever it was--two weeks without being embalmed. But, I have actually recently read that Houdini wished to be embalmed as his mother had been.
This to me raises the issue again of whether Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weiss was orthodox or reform. Only one of his sons had married by the time the Rabbi died and that son, Herman, married in the Episcopal Church. He didn't live to see three more sons marry Christians and for his wife and at least one of his sons to be embalmed. And that son to sport a graven image on his grave.
I guess Rabbi Weiss would have loved his family no matter what they did.
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Postby Greg Edmonds » 12/23/09 11:36 PM

Pat,

I haven't visited the Genii forum in several weeks, and was immediately drawn to your mention of Kukol's name herein. I hesitate to write anything, and feel foolish doing so, but I read, SOMEWHERE in the relatively recent past, material about Franz and his predicament when WWI broke out. I simply have no idea where I read it, but it was in one of my older resources, as that's where I was looking for facts related to dates and places for the Marie Blood Houdini biography I'm working (very slowly, due to health issues) on.

I just wanted to chime in and say that wherever I saw it, the facts regarding Kukol's transformation into Williamson agree with you. I have thousands of pages related to Houdini, most in books, of course, but also many photocopied original documents, and come to think of it, a few original documents as well, and notes I took when talking with Marie very regularly over a span of about 17 years.. It may have been in one of the latter pages that I came upon this information.

Please note that I've had very little sleep in the last few nights, so I hope you can make some sense of what I'm attempting to convey.

Though we know he observed certain occasions in temple regularly, my understanding, too, is that Houdini did go against orthodoxy, and have both himself and his mother embalmed. I think, and I'm just guessing, that this occurred out of necessity because he was desperate to see his mother's countenance again and knew the time it would take for him to return home with the famous slippers he'd purchased for her.

Greg
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Postby JohnCox » 12/24/09 12:56 PM

Greg Edmonds wrote:...the Marie Blood Houdini biography I'm working (very slowly, due to health issues) on.

Excited to hear about this, Greg. Please keep me posted. I'll be happy to help you promote the book on my site.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/24/09 04:34 PM

Thanks to Kevin Connolly I can tell you that Houdini was embalmed at the Hamilton Funeral Home in Detroit.
Referring back to whether Jim Vickery aided Houdini in the development of the Milk Can, that is true in that Houdini developed that effect over years of performance, but, during the season of 1907-08, in the U.S. where Houdini introduced the Milk Can, he appears to have been assisted by Franz Kukol and Frederick George Vickery, Jim's older brother. Jim Vickery joined the act in the fall of 1908 in England.
I expected a flood of messages or posts saying, "I don't see Kukol in Haldane!" or asking me, "is Kukol the guy i the next to the last scene.
I would just post a frame enlargement which shows Kukol, but, I'm attempting a double-blind here.
Has anyone out there--besides me--spotted Franz/Frank in Haldane?
Hey there, Greg,
Keep working at the book. That's all I can say. I hope you do turn up something more on the envanishment of Franz Kukol. I also hope that when you find it, it isn't something I wrote. We all know what I know on the subject because it's in this post and the one on handcuffs.org.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 12/24/09 05:36 PM

I just stumbled across a reference to Frank Williamson in an old Swann's Auction Catalog (Public Auction Sale 1875, October 26, 2000):

70 (HOUDINI, HARRY.) Typed Affadavit Signed and Notarized, by Frank Williamson, testifying that he had attended every Houdini performance in Chicago's Princess Theater since 08 March 1926 and that Houdini did not call Dr. Burgess fradulent, and offering instead a paraphrase of what he heard Houdini say. One page, 4to; with Williamson's Signature and address in holograph
and the notarized portion Signed and with the embossed stamp of the notary.
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/24/09 06:23 PM

Kalush mentioned that affadavit to me, saying that maybe he could track down the buyer through Swannn's.
I'd like to compare Frank Kukol's signature with Frank Williamson's.
The George Vickery who was exposing the handcuff act with "Herr Franz Kukol, the celebrsated illusionist" in 1905 was very likely Frederick George Vickery. He is also, probably, the artist who signed the artwork for Hardeen's Monarch of Manacles poster "F. Vickery."
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Postby houdini's ghost » 12/24/09 06:39 PM

And Williamson's address!
I wonder who has that affadavit?
That person would certainly be an honored guest on this post.
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