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28 February 2017

[Guest post] Houdini in Vancouver part 4

The following is a guest post from an author who wishes to be known as The Magic Demon.

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February 28th, 1923 (Wednesday)

Houdini to Perform in Vancouver

Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.



Finally! H (for Houdini) - Day, at long last.

Houdini is to appear tonight at the Orpheum Theatre headlining in his first vaudeville appearance ever in Vancouver, British Columbia. It will be followed by a matinee and evening show on each of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Excitement must have been tangible in the city.

But it is too early for newspaper reviews to appear just yet.

Instead, a playfully combative article giving an exciting final burst of advance publicity appears in the lower front page of The Vancouver Sun on this date entitled, "Houdini Defies Police; Ditto Their Hangman."

What makes this article, the fourth, unique is that is is an unsigned editorial personally addressing Houdini in the first person.

It begins,
"Alright, Houdini!"

It goes on to restate the conditions of its "challenge" to have Houdini escape from a straitjacket upside down while hanging outside their office the next day at noon.

I'm not sure how accurate that headline was. His defiance of the police simply would take the form of having them truss him up. As to their "hangman," well, that was a bit of literary hyperbole to be sure. It might not have been strictly accurate but it definitely made you want to read on!

But they were not done. The Sun knew how to "up the ante."

They wrote:
"Just to make it snappy, Mr. Houdini, The Sun expects no less than ten thousand to be outside The Sun office to watch your antics."

In this way, The Sun itself would soon become part of the news it was reporting; it would become part of the Houdini legend.

Then an unexpectedly humorous boast:
"This newspaper has . . .  for its own and your benefit . . . put a couple of new storeys on its building."

I take this as a sly wink to its readers paying close attention. In effect, it's a reminder to them that, hey, this is all good fun! Don't take any of this too seriously! We don't!

It concludes with an exhortation to Houdini to provide a prize for the best snapshot spectators might take of the outdoor event (as he had done elsewhere) "successful or otherwise."

Were they now suggesting his stunt might not be successful? An element of doubt certainly was dropped into the "mix" for the first time. Which was very clever. What better way to entice spectators to come out and see for themselves?

The tone is playfully combative as I said. It was as if they were daring him not to show up - to an event to which he had already agreed (and indeed probably originated). A master stroke of publicity. Having enthusiastically proclaimed his greatness, at this last minute the newspaper was now hinting at his possible fallibility and the fact that - good heavens - he might even renege, the "challenge" they had offered being so great.

What a laugh seen from today's perspective. Houdini and The Sun could not have been better allies.

The Sun concludes:
"You said you would be here at noon Thursday. Well, you keep your end of the bargain and never fear that The Sun won't be there with everything it has promised."

It was positioned almost like a gunslingers shoot out! Who could possibly resist attending it?

A paid Orpheum Theatre advertisement similar to the first also appears in this issue.


TOMORROW: "Houdini in for Tough Time; Detectives Ricci And Sinclair Bind Him."


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Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.  With thanks to the Vancouver Public Library and The Vancouver Sun.

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Thank you to
The Magic Demon for guest posting at Canada's Magic!

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