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Feature article in New York City’s popular online guide. View article…
Barry Mitchell from ABC News interviews Penn Jillette as he visits the Houdini Museum in NYC. View video…
FEATURETTE: Barry Mitchell interview Roger Dreyer, curator of the Houdini Museum.
Around Your Community article highlighting the Houdini Museum of New York and Fantasma Magic. Read more…
Houdini Museum of New York’s curator, Roger Dreyer, was featured on Fox and Friends Weekend edition, on Sunday, November 25th, 2012. Read more…
New York gets first museum on famed magician Harry Houdini
Display shows the magic trunks, posters and restraints of one of the world’s greatest escape artists
By Jacob E. Osterhout / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Tuesday, October 23, 2012, 6:00 AM
A magical trunk played a big role in Harry Houdini’s act.
Leave it to legendary magician Harry Houdini to make a museum suddenly appear in a midtown magic shop 86 years after his death.
The Houdini Museum of New York opens Tuesday in the Fantasma Magic Shop across from Penn Station, boasting more than 200 items, including the magician’s metamorphosis trunk.
Also on display are Houdini’s performance table, a massive selection of handcuffs and promotional posters and even the bust from his Machpelah Cemetery gravestone in Queens.
Curator Roger Dreyer, head of Fantasma Toys Inc., spent two decades and millions of dollars amassing the second-largest Houdini collection in the world, behind only magician David Copperfield’s. But Dreyer had nowhere to display his prized items.
After much of his collection was used in a 2010 exhibit at the Jewish Museum on Fifth Ave., Dreyer decided to turn the front of his magic store into New York’s first Houdini museum.
“Magic builds self-confidence, improves hand-eye coordination and public speaking, and creates social interaction,” says Dreyer, 50, while walking through the one-room space. “I saw how beautiful magic was and wanted to open a museum that would allow me to share my passion with the world’s greatest vaudeville entertainer of all time.”
Dreyer enlisted the help of architect and designer David Rockwell, one of the producers of an upcoming musical about Houdini that’s set to open next year and star Hugh Jackman. Rockwell picked a lush red wallpaper and glittering floor design that gives the museum a truly otherworldly feel.
“Magic has always been a fascination of mine,” says Rockwell. “I’ve always been interested in the turn-of-the-20th-century visual imagery.”
Born Ehrich Weisz in Budapest, Houdini moved to America in 1878 as a 4-year-old. His magic career began in the early 1890s when he would perform at Coney Island.
Soon he was pulling off his legendary escape acts in front of thousands across America and Europe. Upon his death from a ruptured appendix in 1926, Houdini was one of the best-known performers in the world.
Dreyer, a Long Island native, believes that everyone, even those who don’t care for magic, can relate to Houdini’s story.
“Here was a man who was a 5-foot-4 immigrant with an accent, but he was incredibly successful,” says Dreyer. “He would say, ‘My brain was the key that set me free.’ So we want this museum to teach kids that if you put your mind toward something, if you study and think hard, you too can be successful at whatever you want to do.”
Especially if what you want to do is escape from a Chinese water torture cell while being handcuffed and suspended upside down by a giant green monster, as one poster on the wall at the Houdini museum shows.
“It is a totally captivating exhibit,” says escape artist Thomas Solomon, looking over the display. “It does a good job of painting a picture of how amazing Houdini was at his craft. In my mind, I am matching the tools that he used to the tools that I use, and that is fascinating.”
But when the doors to the museum open, Dreyer doesn’t expect future escape artists to be his most frequent visitors. Instead, he’s counting on New York’s Finest.
“A lot of our visitors will be New York City police officers,” says Dreyer. “It makes sense; they work with handcuffs all the time.”
YOU SHOULD KNOW
The Houdini Museum of New York at the Fantasma Magic Store (421 Seventh Ave., Third Floor). Admission is free; (212) 244-3633. Open 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
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JUST SEE IT!: THE GREAT ESCAPE
Roger Dreyer has collected so much Houdini memorabilia since he started performing magic at age 11 that it threatened to overtake his Upper East Side apartment. The solution? Share it with the world.
At 50, he’s just opened the Houdini Museum of New York above his Fantasma Magic shop, unveiling a wide array of memorabilia and free escapist fun. The 2,000-square foot collection boasts more than 200 artifacts, including handcuffs, the gimmicks Houdini used to escape them, lithograph posters and — the featured item — a bust that was once stolen from Houdini’s grave at Queens’ Machpelah Cemetery.
“Houdini’s motto was, ‘My brain was the key that set me free,’ ’’ Dreyer says. “We want to show kids if they set their mind on something, they can accomplish anything.”
During a visit this week to the new museum, Dick Cavett, who recently found out his first office at ABC was once Houdini’s, said of the escape artist: “To my mind, he’s a part of New York.”
421 Seventh Ave., at 33rd Street; 212-924-8345.
— Tim Donnelly
Houdini Museum Comes to NYC
Steven October 25, 2012
A brand new museum dedicated to the magical craft of Harry Houdini has opened in New York City, just in time for Halloween (which also happens to be the famed escape artist’s birthday).
The Houdini Museum opened on Tuesday in the historic Fantasma Magic Shop across from Penn Station. Inside, visitors will find more than 200 items pertaining to Houdini’s life and career as an illusionist, including a wide selection of his handcuffs, his performance table, and the infamous “metamorphosis trunk” from which he escaped countless times.
All of these items were curated over the course of twenty years by Roger Dreyer, head of Fantasma Toys. With a collection worth several millions of dollars, Dreyer decided to showcase his collection of Houdini artifacts in an effort to spread his passion for magic and love of Houdini to the rest of the world:
‘Magic builds self-confidence, improves hand-eye coordination and public speaking, and creates social interaction,’ says Dreyer, 50, while walking through the one-room space. ‘I saw how beautiful magic was and wanted to open a museum that would allow me to share my passion with the world’s greatest vaudeville entertainer of all time.’
As you can see from the photo above, the one-room Houdini Museum was designed with magic in mind. Architect and designer David Rockwell (who also happens to be producing a musical about Houdini’s life starring Hugh Jackman) swathed the space in deep reds and sparkling blacks, which for some reason combine to create an overall mood of mystical whimsy.
Interested in visiting? The Houdini Museum of New York at the Fantasma Magic Store is located at 421 Seventh Ave. Admission is free, and doors are open from 11 am until 6 pm. If you still need more info, feel free to call the museum at (212) 244-3633.