On The Square

The Handcuff King

By Bidsquare

Mar 24,2016 | 10:25 EDT

Harry Houdinis grand illusions and daring, spectacular escape acts made him one of the most famous magicians of all time.

Through the years, Houdini gained fame after repeatedly escaping from police handcuffs and jails. Harry was even given certificates from various wardens for escaping from their prisons. After making his name in America, Harry toured Europe, where he expanded his repertoire by escaping from straitjackets and coffins. Eventually, Harry was able to accomplish his dream of having a full show dedicated to his magic.

Harry Houdini, born Erich Weisz on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary

A previously unknown manuscript by horror and sci-fi master H.P. Lovecraft, for a work that was commissioned by magician Harry Houdini, has been discovered and is coming up for auction on April 9.

The 1926 work, “The Cancer of Superstition,” is well known among fans and scholars of both Lovecraft and Houdini, but was until now thought to exist only in outline.

Discovered by a private collector among the records of a now-defunct magic shop, the 31 typewritten pages offer the fullest picture yet of a book-length project that the writer was forced to quit after Houdini’s sudden death.  

In his investigative account of superstition in ancient and modern culture, Lovecraft explores werewolves and other monsters, worship of the dead, cannibalism, and other “barbarian” practices. He concludes, frighteningly, “most of us are heathens in the innermost recesses of our hearts.”

The Cancer of Superstition, circa 1926 is set to open at $13,000 with a pre-auction estimate between $25,000 – 40,000.

Other highlights of the sale include personal scrapbooks owned and kept by Houdini – filled with his own notations – as well as rare photos and posters of him, plus handcuffs, keys, autographs, lockpicks, and original film footage of the master magician.

Of major importance is an archive of early correspondence to Houdini from the vaudeville impresario who helped transform the magician from a little-known dime museum performer into a wildly popular “Handcuff King.” The trove of letters – most of which has never been seen before – was source material for two major Houdini biographies detailing his rise to stardom. 

Archive of Correspondence To Houdini From His First Manager, Martin Beck, Estimate $25,000 - 45,000

View the full catalog of the Houdiniana & The Davenport Magic Collection auction from Potter & Potter Auctions. The sale takes place April 9, 2016.


Read more about Harry Houdini:


The Great Harry Houdini