Home » Books » The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin

The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin

Book review of  The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin by Harry Houdini

The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin, by Harry Houdini

The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin, by Harry Houdini

It’s no secret that Harry Houdini idolized Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin as a child … and later realized that his hero had feet of clay. Robert-Houdin had exaggerated some of his illusions and accomplishments, and Houdini wrote The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin to tear down the legend of his former hero.  As Houdini wrote:

THIS book is the natural result of the moulding, dominating influence which the spirit and writings of Robert-Houdin have exerted over my professional career. My interest in conjuring and magic and my enthusiasm for Robert-Houdin came into existence simultaneously. From the moment that I began to study the art, he became my guide and hero. I accepted his writings as my text-book and my gospel. What Blackstone is to the struggling lawyer, Hardee’s ‘€œTactics’ to the would-be officer, or Bismarck’s life and writings to the coming statesman, Robert-Houdin’s books were to me.

To my unsophisticated mind, his ‘Memoirs’ gave to the profession a dignity worth attaining at the cost of earnest, life-long effort. When it became necessary for me to take a stage-name, and a fellow-player, possessing a veneer of culture, told me that if I would add the letter ‘i’ to Houdin’s name, it would mean, in the French language, ‘like Houdin,’ I adopted the suggestion with enthusiasm. I asked nothing more of life than to become in my profession ‘like Robert-Houdin.’

Many people believe that Houdini was overly harsh in his assessment of his former idol, and that’s probably true. It’s also true that much of what he disliked in Robert-Houdin, was evidenced in his own career.  That’s likely true as well.

Table of contents for  The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin

  1. Significant events in the life of Robert-Houdin
  2. The Orange-Tree trick
  3. The Writing and Drawing Figure
  4. The Pastry Cook of the Palais Royal
  5. The Obedient Cards — the Cabalistic Clock — the Trapeze Automaton
  6. The Inexhaustible Bottle
  7. Second Sight
  8. The Suspension Trick
  9. The Disappearing Handkerchief
  10. Robert-Houdin’s Ignorance of Magic as Betrayed by His Own Pen
  11. The Narrowness of Robert-Houdin’s Memoirs
%d bloggers like this: