Not an Illusion

Harry Houdini's Bag of Tricks on the Auction Block (Photos)

Eighty-eight years after the infamous illusionist's death, a Chicago auction house is selling a trove of Houdini props and memorabilia. If they don't mysteriously vanish first...

Big-ticket items like the Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery aren't the only amazing pieces of Houdiniana history being auctioned off on Saturday at Potter & Potter. Here is a personal two-in-one Christmas and New Years card from Harry Houdini and his wife, Bess. Starting bid: $200.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

A telegram notifies a fellow magician about Houdini's funeral and requests he bring "fifteen dollar floral spray." Starting bid: $50.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh starred as Harry and Bess Houdini in a 1953 film. Starting bid: $150.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

What couldn't Houdini do? A circa 1920 publicity shot from a movie thought to be Terror Island. Starting bid: $100.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

No pair of handcuffs could restrain Houdini. Many cuffs claiming to belong to the magician have been proven forgeries in the past, but this 1882 pair comes with documents tracing the chain of ownership after Houdini bequeathed them to his younger brother, Hardeen. Starting bid: $1,500.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

A photograph of Houdini being lowered into a water torture device.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

Houdini's "Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery" box was the stuff of rumors and legends for decades, until it emerged last summer. It was built in 1909 by the escape artist's longtime assistant Jim Collins. Its recent discovery was the impetus for this auction. Starting bid: $10,000.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

A late-night performance offers the chance to see "The greatest act of the kind in the world!"

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

The "Houdini Punishment Suit" is a bag-style straitjacket with leg and arm straps that Houdini somehow escaped from. Starting bid: $2,400.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

A photo of Houdini outside a bookshop in England in 1915. Starting bid: $200.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

An advertisement for a performance by "The Justly World Famous Self-Liberator Harry Houdini" included accolades from Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Starting bid: $150.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

A collection of newspaper clippings about Houdini, including speculation over his trickery and even his death. One claims, "Newspapers refuse to print evidence of his survival." Starting bid: $50.

Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

An 1898 poster calls a young Houdini the "King of Cards." Starting bid: $6,000.


Potter & Potter Auctions, Inc.

Houdini gives a menacing stare as he's wrapped in thick chains.

Houdini poses with a "spirit medium" who used this trumpet to project voices of the dead. Houdini was an passionate debunker of spiritualism. Starting bid: $150.

Wearing only a loincloth, Houdini is chained and shackled in this 1902 portrait. Starting bid: $600.