Vernon fools Houdini

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Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 3rd, 2019, 12:41 pm

Hi Folks,
In the last few weeks I've read a few versions of this story. Most recently something in a book about con games. Here's the version on magipedia:
Vernon then showed Houdini a trick, where he removed the top card of the deck and placed it in the middle, and then turned over the top card to again reveal the original card. Houdini watched Vernon do the trick seven times, each time insisting that Vernon "do it again". Finally Houdini's wife, and Vernon's friends said, "Face it Houdini, you're fooled." For years afterward, Vernon used the title "The Man Who Fooled Houdini" in his advertisements
Presuming such a thing happened; What was the date/place? Who was there? Did anyone directly involved ( Houdini or Vernon ) write a diary entry about the event? Or anyone else write about it at the time? Or when was the first published mention of the event?
Thanks in advance,
JonT

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jack Shalom » September 3rd, 2019, 1:10 pm

David Ben places the event on Feb 6, 1922 after a Chicago SAM convention where the two were introduced by Sam Margules. Bess was present. See Ben's bio, pgs 79-85. It's not clear to me from his endnotes what his source(s) are for this description. His wife Jeanne's memoir is referenced in this section as well as a letter to Karl Fulves. Ben also mentions that much of the material from the book is from Vernon's interview with Richard Buffum in 1965 which resulted in 19 reels of tape.

I would guess, then, that most of the accounts are from Vernon's point of view, but it would be great for Mr. Ben to elaborate on this.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Steve Bryant » September 3rd, 2019, 2:54 pm

Vernon describes the Houdini incident in his own words in The Vernon Touch, pp 187-189. He dates it to Chicago, 1919, though David Ben's research may be more accurate than Vernon's memory.

In both accounts, Ben's and Vernon's, the card is placed second from the top, not in the middle.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Marco Pusterla » September 3rd, 2019, 3:00 pm

Dai Vernon's performance of the trick that fooled Houdini: https://youtu.be/mZc132cf0ck
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jack Shalom » September 3rd, 2019, 8:05 pm

In both accounts, Ben's and Vernon's, the card is placed second from the top, not in the middle.


Is it possible he was using the Depth Illusion?

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Max Maven » September 3rd, 2019, 8:30 pm

No.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Philippe Billot » September 4th, 2019, 8:06 am

Jack Shalom wrote:
In both accounts, Ben's and Vernon's, the card is placed second from the top, not in the middle.


Is it possible he was using the Depth Illusion?


Impossible! The Tilt was created by my great grand father in 1875 (and he has jealously keep it for him, of course!).

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Michael Close » September 4th, 2019, 6:51 pm

Apparently, my routine, "The Trick that Fooled Houdini and his Whole [censored] Family," has some historical inaccuracies.

My apologies.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Tom Frame » September 4th, 2019, 7:25 pm

Philippe Billot wrote:
Jack Shalom wrote:
In both accounts, Ben's and Vernon's, the card is placed second from the top, not in the middle.


Is it possible he was using the Depth Illusion?


Impossible! The Tilt was created by my great grand father in 1875 (and he has jealously keep it for him, of course!).


I read that Houdini used a double-back card and a double turnover to accomplish the feat.
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 4th, 2019, 9:26 pm

Tom Frame wrote:I read that Houdini used a double-back card and a double turnover to accomplish the feat.
There are several descriptions in print with much overlap around the use of a gaff and the card being placed second from the top. Looking at the matter as potential history rather than lore - When was the first published report? Are there diary entries of that time by those present?

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Bill Mullins » September 5th, 2019, 12:23 am

Jonathan Townsend wrote: Looking at the matter as potential history rather than lore - When was the first published report? Are there diary entries of that time by those present?


The Sphinx May 1930
"I shall never forget, for some time at least, the time Roterberg fooled Houdini
with the pencil and loop trick in the coat lapel. "

From a Jan 16 1939 article in the Tampa Tribune, about artist Hy (Henry) Mayer:
"He is proud of his coin and card tricks, and boasts that he is the only man who
ever fooled Houdini."

Lowell MA Sun Nov 6, 1941 display ad"
"Extra Tonight
Mahan the Magician
with Lady Ruth
The Lady that Fooled Houdini."


Catskill NY Greene County Examiner-Recorder Jan 30 1947
"The American Legion Post, No. 1614 will sponsor an entertainment
in Cornell Hall on January 31 at 8:15 p. m. featuring Dale Vernon
in person, ace of magicians, the man who fooled Houdini and has
entertained the elite of the world."

From a Jul 8 1947 display ad in the Hazelton PA Plain Speaker:
"Mohamed Bey -- The man that fooled Houdini."

Miami News Oct 18 1947
"Magician Marty Klein has been added to the current popular show at Ralph
Senterfit's Club Granada. Klein once fooled the great Houdini with a series of
tricks."

Dixon IL Evening Telegraph Mar 15 1951
"Dai Vernon, slight-of-hand man, who they say fooled Houdini,
certainly fooled us all."

Paterson NJ News Jul 5 1966
"Scarne, with his usual modesty, boasts how he fooled Houdini with a mind-reading trick."

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Philippe Billot » September 5th, 2019, 2:40 am

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Tom Frame wrote:I read that Houdini used a double-back card and a double turnover to accomplish the feat.
There are several descriptions in print with much overlap around the use of a gaff and the card being placed second from the top. Looking at the matter as potential history rather than lore - When was the first published report? Are there diary entries of that time by those present?


Pierre Moreau (1849-1890) used the method placing the card second from the top but there is no gaff.

Have we a reference of a double back before Deland?

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Marco Pusterla » September 5th, 2019, 5:29 am

Philippe Billot wrote:Have we a reference of a double back before Deland?


Yes: Hofzinser is the first magician who apparently used double-backed cards (see Conjuring Credits), however these are much older. Reinhard Mueller has recently discovered a d/b card from early 1600s and has presented his research in the latest issue of Gibecière (Summer 2019) and in his talk at the recently-concluded European Magic History Conference in Vienna.
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 5th, 2019, 9:25 am

The claim that Vernon had access to double backed* cards appears sensible. Okay back to history of the Vernon fools Houdini story and corroborating evidence of that time.

*Notes for the distracted: The item in The Fischer/Sharpe book, Domination of Thought Second Method is not a transposition or ambitious card effect, but does use the prepared, double backed**, card. The routine openly uses two packs of cards. The use of a double turnover on top of the pack is not described in this routine. Nor is this strategy introduced in the item from a few pages earlier, Predetermination of Thought, which makes clever use of props as card indexes. Looking back from over a hundred years - in retrospect it seems curious that the two routines did not collide in Sharpe's writing to have the double faced card and the double backed cards turned over in one hand together. Perhaps Magic Christian has additional information on how Hofzinser explored the theme over time. Let's keep that a separate topic and maybe ask Doc about practical deck switching.

**This item has been asked about elsewhere as regards a the gaff and a card placed into a handkerchief. There's a second use of the gaff in Three Powers where three such cards are let fall and then... (honest, this is what Fischer described) three cards named are pulled from a card index, palmed, and then a bare handed packet switch done. The three named cards are displayed and placed on the table. If you're following along in the Dover version - that's on page 176. The performer proceeds to do a direct vanish of the pack by palming it followed by some manipulation and dropping the pack into a vest topic. Gotta read inside the parentheses on this book. :)
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Richard Kaufman » September 7th, 2019, 4:00 pm

Houdini knew DeLand and likely had his marketed items. Thus Houdini had access to double backed cards.
DeLand reinvented the double backed card. His Two Card Monte and Inverto are the first uses of the card since Hofzinser half a century earlier.
I have read or heard that Finley brought the double backed card to. Vernon’s attention. The Trick That Fooled Houdini seems to be the first use of a single double backed card in a deck. Everything else follows from that.


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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Leonard Hevia » September 9th, 2019, 12:14 am

Houdini was in Chicago during those dates to promote his film The Man From Beyond . There was no SAM convention--magic conventions were non existent in 1922. It was a banquet held by the Chicago Assembly of the SAM honoring Houdini at the Great Northern Hotel. There's a photo of that evening of Houdini, Bess, and Dr. A.M. Wilson seated at the long banquet table along with the other 60 magicians. You can see Vernon and Margules sitting at the far end of the table. Vernon was definitely there.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Denis Behr » September 9th, 2019, 2:33 am

Richard Kaufman wrote:His Two Card Monte and Inverto are the first uses of the card since Hofzinser half a century earlier.

For a fascinating 1623 source for double backers, see the Reinhard Müller discovery in the recent issue of Gibecière.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 9th, 2019, 9:22 pm

While you're looking in the Conjuring Arts materials - when was the first time Houdini mentioned the card trick? Or someone other than Vernon?
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Richard Kaufman » September 9th, 2019, 11:47 pm

I saw it, Denis. It could also just be a misprinted card.
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Denis Behr » September 10th, 2019, 2:31 am

Indeed, but considering the context and the other gaffed cards it was found with, I estimate the chances of it being "just a misprinted card" to be about 0.5%.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Diego » September 10th, 2019, 1:06 pm

My favorite sentence in David Ben's bio of Vernon, is after watching Vernon do the trick 3 times, wanting to see it again and not wanting to admit that he is still baffled by the method, Houdini calls his wife over saying, "Bess, this clever young man has a card trick you should see."

David Ben then notes: "Like most magicians wives, Bess Houdini had little interest, in watching a card trick...."

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby EdwinCorrie » September 10th, 2019, 5:12 pm

Denis Behr wrote:
Richard Kaufman wrote:His Two Card Monte and Inverto are the first uses of the card since Hofzinser half a century earlier.

For a fascinating 1623 source for double backers, see the Reinhard Müller discovery in the recent issue of Gibecière.


Any chance you could mention what the source is? The article is called "The Ausburg All-Backs". Should that be Augsburg? Either way, it sounds German, and I don't know of any German magic books quite that old. Or maybe it's not a magic book...

I might have to renew my subscription to Gibecière or Ask Alexander.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 10th, 2019, 6:33 pm

Looking in Greater Magic (apropos as our host is working on that book again);

There's an ambitious card credited to Vernon, Finley and Horowitz. It would be nice to get some more background about what each of them were exploring. That item (second in the section) has several phases including the card being placed second from the top, a card steal and replacement, a pass and ... the card seeming to wind up at any desired position in the pack as the performer deals out the pack till "stop". No mention of annoyed wives or wives tales there. Odd to see so much sleight of hand and only one double backed card used when one could as well use the Inverto pack ( or two combined ;) ;) . The first item in that section is something like Deland's Inverto effect. A few pages before there's a Paul Curry item using a full pack of double faced cards and one double backed cards - which comes close to parallel to the Hofzinser item.

Richard, if you're reorganizing the book there's also some room for improvement in adding the Hofzinser items which were known via Sharpe/Fischer and Deland's items.

Any earlier mentions of the card going second from the top or Houdini's thoughts on the trick?
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Denis Behr » September 11th, 2019, 2:39 am

EdwinCorrie wrote:
Denis Behr wrote:For a fascinating 1623 source for double backers, see the Reinhard Müller discovery in the recent issue of Gibecière.


Any chance you could mention what the source is? The article is called "The Ausburg All-Backs". Should that be Augsburg? Either way, it sounds German, and I don't know of any German magic books quite that old. Or maybe it's not a magic book...

It is Augsburg and misspelled on the website. Basically a court file from 1623 was unearthed that contains the actual confiscated cards. While gambling was suspected, the cards seem to belong to a transformation packet trick. There are diagonally divided cards (both with two different faces, and half back half face on one side) and a double backer with a dot on one side (most likely to indicate the orientation in which the divided cards have to be fanned). Those are not misprints. They are trick cards. For more details see the magazine. Especially this issue has a lot of great content.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Marco Pusterla » September 11th, 2019, 3:05 am

EdwinCorrie wrote:Any chance you could mention what the source is? The article is called "The Ausburg All-Backs". Should that be Augsburg? Either way, it sounds German, and I don't know of any German magic books quite that old. Or maybe it's not a magic book...


It's not for me to describe Reinhard Mueller's article, but in essence, he has found in the Augsburg Stadtarchiv four playing cards that were in the possession of a mendicant arrested in 1623 and accused of gambling, with these cards. Mr. Mueller reports on the tribunal case and the documents are translated in Gibecière. The cards were obviously not for gambling: one is a normal card, two are "divided" cards (for the trick of the transformation cards, well known since the 1500's and described in Sa Rid - and earlier) and one is a double back, with a mark on one side. Mr. Mueller then offers his theory on the use of these cards (which were probably part of a larger set) suggesting they may have been used to provide a variant of the classic routine by allowing the performer to show "all backs" in it.

Mr. Mueller presented his findings at the recent European Magic History Conference in Vienna, with a demonstration of how the effect may have looked like, but his article in Gibecière is worth tracking down and studying, especially for the context of these cards and their story.
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Edwin Corrie » September 11th, 2019, 11:20 am

Thank you Denis and Marco, that's very interesting.

I had to stop getting Gibecière a while back (money and space problems), but maybe I can renew my subscription to Ask Alexander and read the whole article.

But weren't playing card backs a more recent invention? I thought they used to be plain white (until the early 1800s, according to https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/08/the-lost-origins-of-playing-card-symbols/537786/), and if so then the double backers would really be double blanks. Rid's "Art of Jugling" describes changing kings to aces to "all blank" cards, "white on both sides".

Sorry to have missed the history conference in Vienna - I saw it advertised and would have loved to come as it sounds like there were some great lectures.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Zig Zagger » September 11th, 2019, 5:12 pm

Edwin Corrie wrote:Sorry to have missed the history conference in Vienna - I saw it advertised and would have loved to come as it sounds like there were some great lectures.

As it was my first EMHC, I cannot really compare, but I also thought it was a great conference and well worth the time and the effort!

You can find two personal reports and some photos from Vienna here:

https://emhc2019.com/2019/08/29/reviews ... e-meeting/
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 11th, 2019, 6:22 pm

https://www.wopc.co.uk/uk/index2
https://www.wopc.co.uk/woodblock/replica Sample cards from England appear blank backed at that time.
https://www.historicgames.com/gifs/RPcards.html
If our scholars have found packs with a back design from that era, all the better. Perhaps something like the Tarot de Paris pack? https://www.collectarot.com/TAROT-DE-PA ... hr-tdp.htm
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 11th, 2019, 10:48 pm

Leonard Hevia wrote: There's a photo of that evening of Houdini, Bess, ...
The June 2006 issue of Genii Magazine has an article featuring photos from that event courtesy of David Ben and his book.
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Denis Behr » September 12th, 2019, 7:17 am

The cards are reproduced in Gibecière. The back design has a pattern and is not blank.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 12th, 2019, 10:15 am

Bill Mullins wrote:
Jonathan Townsend wrote: Looking at the matter as potential history rather than lore - When was the first published report? Are there diary entries of that time by those present?


The Sphinx May 1930
"I shall never forget, for some time at least, the time Roterberg fooled Houdini
with the pencil and loop trick in the coat lapel. "
...
Thanks, Bill. Did you find anything written during Houdini's lifetime about meeting Vernon or the card trick?
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Bill Mullins » September 12th, 2019, 2:00 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote: Did you find anything written during Houdini's lifetime about meeting Vernon or the card trick? PS to the CA folks, will figure out a twelve+ char password and then subscribe. -J


Not, not in conjuring literature or in lay sources (newspapers, etc.) The earliest I see it is in 1938, in newspaper articles.

"The Man who Fooled Houdini" is such a great tagline, I'm surprised he didn't start using it earlier (or if he did, that it wasn't more widely quoted).

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Richard Kaufman » September 12th, 2019, 6:16 pm

David Ben will know the date from Vernon's letters.
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Leonard Hevia » September 13th, 2019, 11:02 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:David Ben will know the date from Vernon's letters.


The date of that SAM evening banquet where Vernon fooled Houdini? It was February 6, 1922.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Bill Mullins » September 14th, 2019, 3:23 am

It seems odd to me that if this happened as reported at a SAM banquet, full of other magicians, that no one mentioned it at all for decades. Consider, if Vernon was doing this trick for Houdini in a room full of magicians multiple times, you know he would have drawn a crowd. Think about your own experiences in magic -- standing in a hotel lobby at a convention, as soon as you start doing a trick, others stand around and watch. If you are doing a trick for the most famous man in magic, and fooling him as well, you know that people will see it. Why didn't they talk about it or write about it?

Maybe what happened is not what Vernon started talking about in later years. Convenient, then, that Houdini wasn't around to dispute it. Do you think the tale was exaggerated?
Maybe it happened at a different time and place, in a private meeting of some sort.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Richard Kaufman » September 14th, 2019, 12:05 pm

Not true, Bill.
Knowing Vernon, he would not have been standing out in the opening doing his latest invention. He turned his back on most people back then. So he may have done it for Houdini in a hallway when no one else, or only a few friends, were around.
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Joe Lyons » September 14th, 2019, 2:43 pm

The 2006 Genii article mentions a group of magicians that had gathered to watch Vernon perform.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Marco Pusterla » September 14th, 2019, 4:36 pm

Another thing that has not been mentioned, is Vernon's skill with a deck of cards and the double lift. In his early years, I'm sure his DL would have been undetected, less alone suspected. Houdini - or any magician of the "old school" would not have stood a chance to his handling, particularly as the DL was not a well-known sleight back then...
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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Max Maven » September 14th, 2019, 8:00 pm

As to why the Professor did not use “The Man Who Fooled Houdini” as a PR tag line earlier, it’s worth noting that he did not really like the phrase, as he had relatively little respect for Houdini. It was at the urging of others that he adopted the billing, and he understood its commercial appeal, but he found it irritating. That made it all the worse when Bruce Cervon used the phrase as the title for his biography of Vernon.

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Re: Vernon fools Houdini

Postby Richard Kaufman » September 14th, 2019, 8:06 pm

Bruce just respected the old man so much.
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