Houdini's diaries?

Discuss general aspects of Genii.
Roger M.
Posts: 1123
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm

Houdini's diaries?

Postby Roger M. » December 24th, 2011, 4:08 pm

Just reading an older Genii and noted a reference to Harry's diaries.

A question if I may.
Who holds them in their library, and why no move to publish them?

User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 23145
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Richard Kaufman » December 24th, 2011, 4:47 pm

The name of the person who owns most of them (a few--very few--are in the hands of magic collectors) has never been made public. He is a descendant of someone who was close to Houdini and is extremely wealthy. He does not need the money, nor does he seem to care that their contents are of interest to many people.

One of the few allowed access to them was Ken Silverman while researching his biography on Houdini. As I recall, he was given something like 2 hours to look through them and take notes. So he flipped through them very quickly (there are MANY volumes), talking into a cassette recorder as rapidly as he could. In this way, amazingly, Ken managed to extract most of the best information.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

Roger M.
Posts: 1123
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Roger M. » December 24th, 2011, 5:23 pm

What an amazing story.

Perhaps the owner doesn't really understand what he's in possession of.......at least in the sense of how a typical magic historian would look at the same set of "books".

I would imagine he (the owner) fully understands who Houdini was, and that the diaries have great monetary value........but perhaps, not being of "the craft", he doesn't appreciate the overall importance of the contents, devoid of the actual cash value of the paper and ink?

Ken would obviously know who this person is, and perhaps even observed his general attitude towards the diaries........has Ken ever commented publicly on his foray into this chaps library?

Roger M.
Posts: 1123
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Roger M. » January 2nd, 2016, 4:47 pm

https://www.elklakelodge.com

Wonder if they have a library in-house?

Jack Shalom
Posts: 292
Joined: February 7th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Brooklyn NY

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Jack Shalom » January 2nd, 2016, 5:52 pm

Roger M. wrote:https://www.elklakelodge.com

Wonder if they have a library in-house?

I clicked on "Book, Now" but no pdf appeared...

Roger M.
Posts: 1123
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Roger M. » January 2nd, 2016, 6:02 pm

lol !

I wonder if they keep all of the diaries up there, or only a few?

Perhaps late at night, when the guests gather in the lobby for their night-cap, the lights are dimmed and the guests are sworn to secrecy - and a safe behind the bookcase is opened...

Owners of the lodge and surrounding 12,000 acres surname is Ernst.

1) Houdini's attorney at his death was Bernard M. L. Ernst, he's the executor of Houdini's estate.
2) B.M.L. Ernst son was Richard C. Ernst.
3) Richard C. Ernst married Susan Bloomingdale, granddaughter of the stores founder.
4) R.C. and Susan Ernst had a son, John L. Ernst, and also two daughters, Eleanor and Cornelia.
5) John L. Ernst owns Elk Lake Lodge, and (with his sisters) the Houdini diaries.

a) Original owner had to have access directly to the diaries upon Houdini's death.
b) Current owner is male, and extremely wealthy.
c) Diaries have never been out in "public", so would have had to remain in a single family from Houdini's death until 2016.

It would seem that this is not a case of somebody not caring about the diaries, indeed quite the opposite as even the wealthiest of folks are prone to selling things (for large amounts of money) that they no longer have any interest in.
In this case, it would seem there has to be much more involved ... perhaps a father committing his son to a covenant, who in turn commits his son to the same covenant:

"These books never leave the family".

Of course I'm positing, but positing after research. A "yes" or "no" would be handy, obviously there are more than a few people who know for sure.
I simply cannot find any other avenue of ownership these diaries could have taken, and there are more than a few deep references (not online) stating that the Ernst family holds the diaries.

The obscure references to current ownership combined with the direct family lineage and the known facts related to the current diary owners lead me here.

Now ... back to Erdnase.

paperbackarch
Posts: 3
Joined: January 25th, 2016, 12:02 pm
Favorite Magician: Robert Lenz

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby paperbackarch » January 25th, 2016, 12:08 pm

This is fascinating!!! Does anyone know if there are any fictionalised versions of his diary??? I imagine there must be a lot of speculation around a lot of aspects of his life.

Jonathan Townsend
Posts: 7464
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Westchester, NY
Contact:

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 25th, 2016, 12:18 pm

paperbackarch wrote:This is fascinating!!! Does anyone know if there are any fictionalised versions of his diary??? I imagine there must be a lot of speculation around a lot of aspects of his life.


As story -> myth... yeah I guess so. Look at Lovecraft crossovers.

As history ... the magic community has not done too well with that so far - Robert-Houdin, Germaine, Hofzinser ... stories of annoying elderly exes and rumor mongering.

In context - it seems Issac Newton's diaries are also not yet published.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Roger M.
Posts: 1123
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Roger M. » December 2nd, 2016, 10:22 pm

Almost a year later and nothing even close to resembling a confirmation that Ernst is indeed the keeper of the Houdini diaries?

No responses in the negative either I guess, which may be telling ... but it is a bit surprising is that there were essentially no comments at all at my associating Ernst's name with the Houdini diaries.

I can only suspect that either folks think I'm totally out to lunch with my candidate, or those folks in the know were a bit surprised to see Ernst's name, and responded with the silence that my comment has indeed resulted in.

Personally, I suspect it's the later.

Does anybody have any other stronger, or weaker candidates they want to share?

Leonard Hevia
Posts: 1195
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Dai Vernon, Frank Garcia, Slydini, Houdini,
Location: Gaithersburg, Md.

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Leonard Hevia » December 2nd, 2016, 10:31 pm

Nothing to add Roger but your theory that the descendants of Bernard Ernst have the diaries makes sense. Just read it now so it slipped below my radar for a year. Ernst certainly could have had access to HH's diaries after his death since they were close friends. He had access to the Houdini/Doyle correspondence.

User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 23145
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Richard Kaufman » December 2nd, 2016, 11:20 pm

Ernst does indeed own the diaries. Who knows why he guards them so selfishly. He's not going to tell any of us.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

Roger M.
Posts: 1123
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Roger M. » December 3rd, 2016, 12:58 am

Thanks for that Richard.

My personal theory, as noted in my post, is that the hiding away of the diaries has something to do with a family covenant.

Bernard Ernst was Houdini's friend as well as his lawyer. He may have felt that diaries are personal documents, and that they shouldn't be shared publicly.
It would be a matter of executing a family covenant over three generations, with each succeeding generation sworn to keep the diaries private, and (for the most part) hidden away.

The only other theory I could come up with was that the diaries might contain something that doesn't shine the brightest light on the Ernst name. I feel this is a weaker argument, and didn't put much more thought into it - but they are a high-society East coast family who likely feel inclined to protect their name, so it's not totally out of the question. This might also speak to why they limited Ken's visit to such a short period of time, and forbade any sort of mechanical copying of the books.

I've stayed away from "the guys just a jerk for not letting anybody in on the contents" kind of theory. Although entirely possible, people usually make their choices in life based on some underlying force, so I'd like to think Ernst has a legitimate (at least to him and the previous two generations of his family) reason for maintaining the (almost) complete black out on Houdini's diaries, something the family have unfailingly maintained since the day Houdini died.

I thought it an interesting story in 2011 when I read a brief reference to the diaries in Genii magazine, I find it equally as interesting a story today!

Richard Hatch
Posts: 1747
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Providence, Utah
Contact:

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Richard Hatch » December 3rd, 2016, 3:20 am

Pretty sure this is the same John Ernst who wrote a mainstream biography of Houdini for young readers back in 1975:
https://www.abebooks.com/Escape-King-St ... 7100676/bd

That would indicate a pretty strong personal interest in Houdini.

performer
Posts: 1456
Joined: August 7th, 2015, 10:35 pm

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby performer » December 3rd, 2016, 6:15 am

The way I see it is that if Mr Ernst owns the diaries they belong to HIM-nobody else. What he chooses to do with them is his business and no aspersions direct or implied should be cast on him if he decides to restrict them for whatever reason. It his HIS business not ours.

As for Houdini I once met John Mulholland years and years ago and he knew Houdini personally. He was quite rude about him as I recall. He snorted to me, "Houdini was mishandling the funds of the SAM and I was the only one who spoke out about it"

I knew Murray the escapologist who was very negative about Houdini. I asked him if he had ever seen him perform and he said "yes. I wasn't very impressed" However, some months later he contradicted himself when I asked how he got interested in magic. He said, "I saw Houdini perform when I was 10 years old" I responded, "I thought you didn't like Houdini?". He replied, "Well, anyone impresses you when you are 10 years old!"

Tom Gilbert
Posts: 562
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: NH
Contact:

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Tom Gilbert » December 3rd, 2016, 7:55 am

While the diaries would command a huge sum of money, Roger's research that the current owner is extremely wealthy explains a lot.

User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 23145
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Richard Kaufman » December 3rd, 2016, 10:02 am

Ken Silverman was given access to the diaries for two hours. He paged through them while holding a voice recorder and spoke sparse notes about anything he felt was important. So it's not as if the information in them has not been used.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

Leonard Hevia
Posts: 1195
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Dai Vernon, Frank Garcia, Slydini, Houdini,
Location: Gaithersburg, Md.

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Leonard Hevia » December 3rd, 2016, 10:42 am

Richard Kaufman wrote:Ken Silverman was given access to the diaries for two hours. He paged through them while holding a voice recorder and spoke sparse notes about anything he felt was important. So it's not as if the information in them has not been used.


My thoughts exactly. The Ernst family allowed Professor Silverman access, although brief, to the diaries. Roger has done a great job sniffing out this mystery. I also wondered about the identity of that wealthy family who owned those diaries.

Houdini had written some ugly things in his diaries but I doubt he criticized Ernst in those pages. Ernst watched HH's back like a good friend.

Roger M.
Posts: 1123
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm

Re: Houdini's diaries?

Postby Roger M. » December 3rd, 2016, 11:57 am

Further to what Richard Hatch noted above, Bernard Ernst himself also authored a book about Houdini in 1932. That book was titled Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship.


Return to “General”