The Magic of Theodore Hardeen
Featured in this week’s History of Magic is Theodore Hardeen, born Ferencz Dezso Weisz in Budapest, Hungary on February 29th, 1876. He was the younger brother of one of the most famous magicians of all time, Harry Houdini, but Hardeen would outlive him by nearly 20 years. The brothers first performed in their teens together as a partnership, culminating their magic act with their illusion “Metamorphosis” or what has become known today as the Substitution Trunk illusion. They originally billed themselves as the Houdini Brother’s. Brother Harry seemed to be the dominant performer while his brother Dash (taken from his middle Hungarian name) seemed happier to stay out of the limelight on stage. They performed in dime museums, beer halls and Coney Island. Soon Harry was to meet and marry Beatrice (Bess) Rahner who became Harry’s partner. Hardeen then had to begin his own solo career. As Houdini began to gain interest and fame as an escapologist, he and Bess travelled to Europe where he was billed as the “Handcuff King”, and his fame gathered huge momentum. They got so many bookings and were held over for extended runs they could not cope with all their many engagements. So Harry cabled his brother Dash to join them in Europe saying, “Come over quickly the apples are ripe for the picking”. Hardeen took the next ship. It was Hardeen who actually developed the straight jacket escape in view of the audience rather than behind a screen as Harry did in the beginning. Hardeen was also the founder of the Magicians Guild.