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Topic: Houdini Historical Center exposes Metamorphosis illusion
Message: Posted by: David Todd (Jun 18, 2003 11:00AM)
Received this via e-mail and am passing it along here in case anyone had not heard about this. If you contact them, please be respectful but firm in your opposition to this planned exhibit.


The Houdini Historical Center in Appleton, WI. is redesigning their exhibit. One of the new features they are planning is an exposure of Houdini's Metamorphosis illusion. They will have an interactive part of the exhibit and allow people to "perform" this illusion. (exposing the workings of the box) This is most distressing to magicians as it should be to the general public. Once a secret is learned, all the wonder is taken from the people viewing the illusion. Please call the Houdini Museum,
920-735-9370 x 106 and speak to the museum director Terry Bergan
or e-mail to terry@foxvalleyhistory.org
and voice your displeasure with this decision. Better yet, if you can, mail them a letter. The address is:

Houdini Historical Center
330 E College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911

Message: Posted by: James Peters (Jun 18, 2003 11:25AM)
Hasn't the Masked Magician has already exposed this one on tv??

To be honest, even if you know exactly how it's done, a slick performance will still impress an audience. I still watch people do it, and love it!

Message: Posted by: x-treem (Jun 18, 2003 01:04PM)
Dai, I know Terry personally as well as the updates to the Center, this has never been brought up so it is more than likely Bull but I will look into it.
Message: Posted by: Ty Argo (Jun 18, 2003 01:18PM)
First, Val. revealed a very much less used method, (which is, in part, good) plus people can't get up close and personal and see the true workings when something is on TV.

This is a terrible thing for an institute of magic to be doing. Houdini would be horrified!

If they need to reveal a secret of Houdini's to the public and have them interact with it, they need to choose an effect not featured in magician's acts. Have they forgotten that tipping the laymen is the biggest no-no in all of magic?

I agree with you James that a good performance is still impressive, but nobody is going to hire you if they see that your feature trick is something that has been revealed.

Laymen don't have the same appreciation of magic that we do, to get the enjoyment out of it, even after they find out the secret. We are accustomed to thinking that way, because we typically know how most effects are done and therefore learn to appreciate the performance. Laymen don't. Read my signature. Didn't mean to come off bad.

This is also being discussed at: http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=33923&forum=36&3
Message: Posted by: James Peters (Jun 18, 2003 01:36PM)
I guess it's easy to forget sometimes that non-magicians view these things very differently!

Thanks for reminding me! :)

Message: Posted by: The Donster (Jun 18, 2003 02:58PM)
I also heard this about the Sid Radner Collection, it is being Shipped out to Vegas. Also, Rondini is Upset by This. Don,
Message: Posted by: David Todd (Jun 18, 2003 06:31PM)
On 2003-06-18 14:04, x-treem wrote:
Dai, I know Terry personally as well as the updates to the Center, this has never been brought up so it is more than likely Bull but I will look into it.

Thanks, Shawn. Please let us know what the scoop is. I e-mailed Terry, but have not heard back anything yet.
If it's a rumor I will act just as quickly to squash it .
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Jun 18, 2003 06:31PM)
Ron! UGH, Don, don't bring his name up around me.

The OHS has the collection for the next 10 years, some is going but enough is staying to make for a great new display according to Terry.

Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jun 19, 2003 06:25AM)
Occums Razor: The simplest solution, usually is.
Message: Posted by: David Todd (Jun 19, 2003 11:58AM)
(not sure if you are referring to the inner workings of the Metamophosis illusion, or to the origin of the story about the Houdini Historical Center's plans for this exhibit)


Occam's (or Ockham's) Razor is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar; William of Occam. Ockham was the village in the English county of Surrey where he was born.

The principle states that "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." Sometimes it is quoted in one of its original Latin forms to give it an air of authenticity.

"Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate"
"Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora"
"Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem"

This principle goes back at least as far as Aristotle who wrote "Nature operates in the shortest way possible." Aristotle went too far in believing that experiment and observation were unnecessary. The principle of simplicity works as a heuristic rule-of-thumb but some people quote it as if it is an axiom of physics. It is not. It can work well in philosophy or particle physics but less often so in cosmology or psychology, where things usually turn out to be more complicated than you ever expected. 

Perhaps a quote from Shakespeare would be more appropriate than Occam's razor: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."


Yes. Most of the time.

Now, having agreed on the general usefulness of the good Rev. Occam's theory of knowledge, I still think we ought to be concerned with a museum exposing magical [i]principles[/i] to the general public.

I am fully aware that the modern versions of Metamorphosis have faster, more advanced mechanics to accomplish the effect but I think the point here, is that we don't want the public being reminded of the fact that such things as "gimmicked boxes" exist in the first place, certainly not in connection with escape-type effects. The packing crate or trunk is just a packing crate or a trunk, right? (at least that is what we want to present it as)

So, it is injurious to the presentation of such effects to make the public aware of the existence of such things, even if the workings in a modern SubTrunk are somewhat improved over what Harry and Bess used in their day.

Obviously, a spectator who thinks back on the event later and applies "Occam's Razor" logic to any illusion will come up with something like: "there must have been a gaffe in the box that allowed the performers to exchange places" but do we really want the Houdini Museum (or any exposer) helping them along by openly exposing magic [i]principles?[/i]

Of course, I'm still waiting to hear back whether or not this whole thing is just a rumor or if the Houdini Museum is actually going to go ahead with this exhibit.

Message: Posted by: x-treem (Jun 19, 2003 04:54PM)
Dai, my question on this subject was avoided but Terry did tell me that they have been bombarded by angery emails and phone calls. So I'll keep you all updated.

Message: Posted by: Ty Argo (Jun 19, 2003 05:55PM)
I'm glad so many people are taking an active stand in this fight, but if you do call or send a letter, PLEASE BE COURTEOUS. Any rude or angry letters will detract from the rest of our attempts to stop this action (if it is really going to happen).

What makes me wonder is that Shawn, you said you talked to Terry but she avoided the subject. If this was a BS claim, then why wouldn't she have simply said that. I find it curious that she didn't give you an answer. It seems if there was nothing going on, she would tell you so.
Ponder, ponder......???
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Jun 19, 2003 05:58PM)
Thought the same thing BUT don't want to admit it publicly........oh, I guess I just did :lol: MY BAD.

Emailed not talked though, easy to skirt the issue. Been to busy to get on the phone and ask.
Message: Posted by: The Donster (Jun 19, 2003 09:08PM)
As for the Metamorphosis, I heard that they were going to be allowing people to get inside and show them the secret. Also in the Magic Café, I guess some Magicians are suing because of the masked Magician, their not going after him but I believe Fox. Don,

Just heard that Sid Radner is going to be moving everything out. Now remember, this is hear-say and anything can change at any time. From what I'm hearing a lot of people are upset. I guess we are all going to have to wait a few months in order to find out what actually is going to happen. Don,
Message: Posted by: AJP807 (Jun 25, 2003 05:29PM)
I just received a SAM on line email from
Zany Blaney:

WAM arranged for both Mark Wilson and David Copperfield to speak to Ms. Terry Bergen, Executive Director of the Houdini Museum. It was Ms. Bergen's idea to use the SUB-TRUNK as a "hand's on" plaything in the Houdini Museum, allowing visitors to see if they can crawl through that "silly little trap door"

Mark talked to her over an hour and she would not budge. Today David did the same thing and again she would not budge. The way I see it, Ms. Bergen apparently believes that SHE has the right of free speach in this matter but not the magicians.

We are still working on speaking with the Executive Directors of several of the Appleton civic groups who sponsor the museum.

Never say die.

Here is a letter from WAM supporter Andre Kole, who got David Copperfield to talk with Ms. Bergen. We thank Andre for this and we thank David Copperfield and Mark Wilson for their efforts in this on going matter.

Also thanks to Bev Bergeron and David Charvet on their thoughts regarding substituting other "non-exposure" type items in the "hands-on area" IN PLACE OF the Sub-Trunk. And I think any future letters to Appleton would be best considered by the Executive Directors of those Appleton business grouops... listed in the current issue of the NZ Magic Ezine in a letter by Bob Bohm.

And now...heeeeeeeere's ANDRE!


Dear Walter and other concerned magicians,
Walter, at your request I asked David Copperfield to discuss the Houdini Exposure issue with Terry Bergen, The Executive Director of the Houdini Museum. David had quite a lengthy discussion with her and her attitude was just a continuation of the same response that Mark Wilson received. She made it very clear that she was not going to be persuaded to change her mind by any pressure put on her by magicians who she feels have attacked her and threatened her. She feels, in a country where journalists have the freedom to say what they want, and have the First Amendment Right to free speech, she has a job to do and is going to do it her way. She fully intends to stand up for her rights and has no intention of giving in to the on going harassment she feels she has continued to receive from magicians.

I could go on and on but I have said enough to convey her determination to resist our point of view.

It was my understanding from David that at this point she does not have the funding to even do this project, so the present plans and goals may never even materialize.
David and I discussed what we felt is the best approach which is similar to the approach that Bev and David Charvet mentioned earlier. And that is for the magicians to share with her a plan where the magicians would work with her in helping her to achieve her goal in a positive "win-win"
situation that would eliminate the exposure and yet achieve greater results. Some of the escapes from jails, chains and other things Houdini did that do not affect us could be explained in a theatrical and interesting way, so she could still use the "exposure" theme yet still protect what we need to protect. I think this is the only approach that has the potential for a positive resolution for all concerned.

Let me give you an example. Last year I attended an atheists convention. As far as I know, I was the only Christian there, with about 600 of the leading atheists from around the world. I was considered a novelty at this convention and I was even introduced
at one of the major sessions. I went there with a positive attitude, knowing that God loves atheists too and I should do the same.
I made many new friends, and during the convention I shared with various ones my belief in God from a magicians's point of view. Very simply put: Jesus claimed to be God. Jesus performed miracles that only God can do. Considering the miracles He performed
either Jesus was God or else He was the greatest magician the world has ever known. Based on my experience as a magician I know it would have been impossible to do what he did 2000 years ago with what known magic existed at that time. Either Jesus was a magician or else he was God. Since it was impossible for Him to have been a magician, it left only one possibility. This viewpoint fascinated the leadership of the atheist convention so much that I've been asked to speak at their next convention.

So, if the above can happen between one Christian in an atmosphere with 600 atheists, surely something in an amazingly
similar situation can also take place regarding the Houdini exposure situation.

Andre Kole

Andre Kole's Staff
Andre Kole Productions
Message: Posted by: SANTINI (Jun 25, 2003 07:27PM)
Hi all,
Let me get this straight... to quote Andre Kole: "Some of the escapes from jails, chains and other things Houdini did that do not affect us could be explained in a theatrical and interesting way, so she could still use the "exposure" theme yet still protect what we need to protect". Wow! That sure says a great deal indeed. If one can read these words and what they mean in a direct way, one could clearly draw the conclusion that Mr. Cole seems to feel that any type of escapology "expose" is fine just so long as it does not in any way affect
"the magicians".

In other words, since the Metamorphosis is still being used by magicians and illusionists it should be protected but to heck with the methods of the escapologists! I love the way magicians look at escapology. When one of them does an escape, it is somehow more than a release and is an
"illusion". However, apparantly, we escapists don't rate unless we do things that can be considered "magicial" which obviously jail and chain escapes simply are not (at least in the eyes of Mr. Kole). Talk about lines of division being drawn...

Food for thought, Steve Santini
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Jun 25, 2003 08:42PM)
What boggles my mind even further, when I went to the museum in 1997 they had a pair of gravity Darbies there for people to play with along with a child's sized strait jacket.

The jacket is now gone and the bolts are missing from the Darbies. I thought progress was being made there.

There are so many variations of the sub-trunk, can't they go with a version that is in little use today say one from the 50's with a different method.... I know it is still exposure BUT......

I will not be sending my contribution for the museum's new display until this is resolved. Hopefully other contributors will back out as well.

P.S. Steve hit it on the head once again.

Message: Posted by: Stuart Burrell (Jun 26, 2003 08:28AM)
(Warning Rant starting now)

This should be causing alarm bells to ring but once again it seems as though Escapology is underated by our Magical cousins.

Every other form of magic seems to be allowed to exist, yet Escapology is shunned. Is it because of the fact that our art form requires a different skill base or is it the fact that the worst a magician can get is a paper cut?

If it goes wrong for an escapologist, it can be fatal.

Sometimes people forget that!

I have had people in my local magic club get injured because they have tried to do my escapes but with the wrong equpiment. When I found out I asked around and it seems a magician had given them his take on what I did.

Escapology is an extreme art form, letting people 'play and figure out' things is fine but what then? They'll go home and a few might just be silly enough to try it again, then what?

Cut arms, blood clots or worse. Then escapology gets a bad reputation.

We are destroyed because someone does somthing silly, all because a bunch of magicians don't want people to see how a sub trunk works.

No thank you!

(Rant over)
Message: Posted by: The Donster (Jun 26, 2003 08:50AM)
I heard this through someone, could she possibly be hit with Litigation and possibly sued? Also how is the Museum going to Look if Sid Radner takes part or all of His Collection out and moves it to Vegas. Don,
Message: Posted by: SANTINI (Jun 26, 2003 09:34AM)
No one can be sued for revealing how an ancient illusion is done. Especially when what may be "exposed" is an old method of doing it which is not at all the same way in which many leading folks in magic do it today. For anyone to sue to prevent exposure, they would have to prove intellectual copyright had been violated. And to do that, they would have to prove they were the originator of the original idea. Somehow I do not think the original creator of this illusion is going to rise from the grave, dust themselves off and with rotting fingers turn the yellow pages of the phone book to find a lawyer skilled in intellectual property law.

If "the magicians" are all in a knot over an early seldom used method being exposed, perhaps they should have started screaming long before this. Like when we were told how the darn thing worked in countless Houdini television documentaries and even movies portraying his life. Or even when many of his great escapes, including some which could be presented as "illusions" were published for all to see by esteemed magic author Walter B. Gibson.

I find it amazing that many of these same magicians were not complaining when the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada was in operation. True, that museum did not reveal how the Metamorphosis worked but it did reveal how a number of other "illusions" were accomplished by leading magicians such as Thurston, Kellar, and others. Why was no one complaining or making phone calls over this? Let's face it folks, there may just be more than a simple old time illusion being exposed here and none of us knows the whole story. There may even be some forms of magician "politics" involved.

Personally, I know from experience that to operate a museum today, one needs to present part education and part entertainment. This means that a number of your exhibits have to be "hands on" and interactive if you hope to attract visitors and compete against other more stimulating forms of entertainment. Gone are the days of being content with looking at stuff behind a glass walled case. People want more and they expect more. Seems to me that Terry, the curator of the Houdini exhibit, had the right idea and I for one would support her and her ideas in any way I can, were I to actually be asked for assistance.

Regards, Steve Santini
Message: Posted by: The Donster (Jun 26, 2003 11:28AM)
Message: Posted by: SANTINI (Jun 26, 2003 12:03PM)
This link means nothing. All it deals with is the "masked magician" and a lawsuit concerning his "exposes" on television. And, while the masked magician reveals illusions and methods that are currently in use, (and this is clearly bad for the art), this court case discussed in the thread in no way deals with the points I raised in my previous posts.

For magic to evolve and expand, we as magicians need to explore new ways of doing things to create new effects. The "old" Metamorphosis illusion/escape has been
"exposed" a million times over in both modern media and print. Now if the current method were to be revealed, I personally would think that this was a breach of the core of the art form we all love so dearly.

I will put to you this fact; when Houdini began to get media attention for his handcuff escapes, a number of "pretenders" began to "expose" his methods in the press and in privately printed publications. In most cases, all these "exposures" consisted of was stating that the escapist used duplicate keys. What did Harry do when these articles started to appear? He did not sue. Rather, he changed his methodology and presentation in an effort to convince the public that this was not the same method he used, i.e. naked multiple shackle escapes. If he was searched and nude, how or where did he hide his keys?

The mystery remained intact and Harry triumphed over his detractors. Likewise, when an "exposer" purported to reveal how Houdini got out of a coffin whose lid was screwed down, Harry once again came out the winner by developing a different method that clearly showed he was not using the short cut off screws the pretender was claiming he employed. Over and over throughout the course of his amazing career Harry continued to evolve and meet these situations head on. Why did he do this? Because he had the imagination and skills to adapt and overcome.

For the art to continue to evolve, other magicians and escapists must also learn and develop these same skills.

Regards, Steve Santini
Message: Posted by: Stuart Burrell (Jun 26, 2003 02:27PM)
I've cooled off now.

I agree with Mr Santini about the art needing to evolve and develope.

My only issue was that by showing how some of the minor or old fashioned escapology tricks are done, there is a danger that people may attempt to copy outside the museum with equipment that could fail or be unsuitable for what they want to do.

I remember reading that someone used a set of gravity release handcuffs in a swimming pool and was half drowned before anyone realised there was a problem. Just because a method of escape works in one environment does not mean it can be transfered to another.

There are hundreds of magic tricks that are already exposed that can be examined without the need to expose others.
Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jun 27, 2003 12:27PM)
Well gentlemen, the lawsuit against Fox for exposing has been thrown out of court.

X-Treem, I was going to ask you if you wanted to head over to the museum next holiday coming up but until this is fixed I am banning my museum visits!
Message: Posted by: RandyStewart (Jul 18, 2003 09:36AM)
On 2003-06-18 14:04, x-treem wrote:
Dai, I know Terry personally as well as the updates to the center, this has never been brought up so it is more than likely bull but I will look into it.

I think I'm just as fascinated with this "Terry". What is this person's background in magic? This "public hands-on" idea is way off base. Of course it will attract many—all wonderful things do. If this were to occur, it would ruin it for all modern versions of the effect. Heck, many don't even know that Houdini and Betty featured the "Metamorphosis" in their show. It was the cuffs/escapes he's appreciated for.

Keep us posted.
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Jul 18, 2003 05:35PM)
Betty? I did not know she was called that, to most it is Bess.
Message: Posted by: RandyStewart (Jul 18, 2003 05:45PM)

Thanks for the correction. Her name was indeed Beatrice "Bess" Raymond.

This is just grand! All I need now is the ghost of Bess to haunt me over that one.

My embarrassed apologies to all.
Message: Posted by: Scott Ocheltree (Aug 5, 2003 01:34PM)
I have to agree with Santini on this point. Magic is not a big secret society. The substitution trunk is not a secret. A standard presentation of the classic effect does not contain any deep mysterious puzzle for a lay audience.

If a lay person watching Metamorphosis chooses to ponder over possible methods, the first one to come to mind will be a gimmicked box. What are the alternatives? The person outside the box is unlocking multiple locks in seconds without using their hands? The person inside the box is dematerializing? Come on folks, the lay mind does not work any differently than your own. I don't care how good you think you are, your audience believes you are fooling them somehow, not that you have supernatural powers.

Lay people know the box is gimmicked. Everytime an illusionist rolls a box on stage, any box, the lay audience [b]knows[/b] it is gimmicked. They might not know [b]how[/b] it's gimmicked. It might not even be gimmicked but in their minds they [b]know[/b] it is!

This museum exhibit is not exposure. This is good for magic. The more people learn about magic, the more they are interested in it.

Exposure does not hurt magic. If it did, no professional worker would ever perform the linking rings, because [b]everyone knows how they work[/b]! This is not The Terrible Masked Magician's fault. There are tons of cheap sets of rings that have been included in children's magic kits for decades. There are numerous books in public libraries that show how it works. If you were so unfortunate that you didn't get one of these magic sets as a child, and everytime you go the library all those books are checked out, you can buy a set of rings with the "Big Secret" [url=http://www.magical-tricks.com/chineselinkingrings.htm]HERE[/url] for $10.49. If you can't afford that, I'll tip the secret for you right here using the special code that only Café members with more than 100 posts are allowed to know:
One of the rings is g******** in a special way. This ring is called the k** r***. It has a small b**** or o****** in it that allows the magic to perform the miracle.

Whining about this kind of stuff actually does the opposite of what you guys are hoping to achieve. Want to know how to make sure people will read a book? Ban it. Same principle applies here. But why even worry about?
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Aug 26, 2003 04:49PM)
Update on this. I talked to Terry. As we get geared up for Houdini Days they are also gearing up for the protesters.

Bits of news for those who are planning to go there and be rude or protest, etc.[list=1]
[*]Terry will not be there she will be out of the country.

[*]Friday before everything starts there is going to be a conflict resolution meeting to resolve the problem, so it will have been taken care of before the convention and protests even start.[/list]Shawn