Welcome to Bob King's Houdini Tribute

Magic Circle, London

The Magic Circle's Houdini Exhibit - London, England
These exclusive photos and report were provided to
HoudiniTribute.com by Mr. Mick Hanzlik.
He is a locksmith in England. He is assisted by
Mr. David Berglas in maintaining the exhibit.

The Magic Circle's Houdini Exhibit - London, England

Close up of above

Mick and David at opening of the Centre
David finishing off the exhibit
Mick and Ian Brown from Coe-Tech Lighting
Chinese Water Torture Cell - Model
Detail of the Fiber Optics
The Feet
The Feet in position
Feet Movement
Mick's Houdini Presentation
Portion of Mick's Houdini Collection
Magic Circle's building - London

Mr. Mick Hanzlik's story of the Houdini Exhibit

It all started a few years ago, when I was invited to give my Houdini presentation at a Magic Circle Regional Day, in my home town of Northampton, in the centre of England.

I was approached by David Berglas, (who was then the Magic Circle President), and he asked me if I would like to become involved in the creation of a permanent Houdini exhibit at the new Magic Circle headquarters in Central London, The Centre for the Magic Arts.

I of course said "Yes" and we met to discuss the possibilities.

David had previously been approached by a design student, Andrew White, for some suggestions for a University design project with a Magical theme. David suggested he build a half scale model of Houdini's famous Water Torture Cell. Eventually the project was completed, Andrew got his good grades, and David purchased the model for future use in the Houdini exhibit.

The model had been kept in a London warehouse for about six years, until David and myself carefully unwrapped it. It was in two packages. One contained the model of the Torture Cell, a fiberglass Houdini and an aquarium water pump for the rising bubbles. The other, very heavy package, contained the inner glass tank, which slid in front of the Houdini model, to give the impression of him being submerged.

After we assembled it in the warehouse, we remarked on how good a model it was. All the metalwork looked authentic, and the fiberglass Houdini was very lifelike. We decided that it would be nice to animate the feet on top of the Cell, and if possible, illuminate the inside with colour changing lights.

The whole thing was re-packaged and transported to my workshop in Northampton. My first task was to design and build some device to animate the feet. This took three weeks! I had about 4 prototypes, made with plastic and wood from a model supplies shop, until I was happy with the operation. I then built the final unit from good quality brass, with an industrial electric motor and specially made offset cam, to give the feet their erratic movement. The whole device was fitted into the top of the Cell, and operated with a 12 volt power supply.

Next the internal lighting. This was designed and built by a local company, Coe-Tech, who normally design and build theatrical lighting. In fact they supplied all the special effect lighting for the last Batman movie. A new design of fiber optic cable was fed into 4 holes at top and bottom of the Torture Cell. The 8 ends of cable all terminated into the front of a custom built projector with colour changing wheel (green and blue). This projector was built into a plinth on which the whole model stood. A timer device was installed which not only started the lighting sequence, but also controlled the pump which supplied the bubbles, through clear plastic tubes, and of course, the moving feet.

The whole thing was assembled, the glass tank filled with water and the power switched on. It all worked first time!

During our planning, I mentioned to David that I had a copy of the recording of Houdini's voice taken from a wax cylinder. A friend designed and built a digital recording device so that we could play back the recording any time we wanted to. David purchased this device, and to make it seem authentic in the exhibit, he also purchased a replica Edison Phonograph.

We were ready to take everything to the Magic Circle and set up the display. I made some display panels using old handcuffs and keys, and together with a few posters and photographs, we had quite a full cabinet.

Apart from the Water Torture Cell, the cabinet contained an original strait-jacket, used by Tony Curtis in the famous "Houdini" movie. This had been in the Magic Circle's collection for many years, and was now ready for display.

David and myself arranged the exhibits, alongside an unusual painting of Houdini hanging from the jib of a crane, painted by a local artist.

The whole exhibit is now in place, and getting some very good responses from all who experience it. Recently, all the display cabinets in the building were auctioned for sponsorship, and the Houdini exhibit is now sponsored by Jim Marshall, head of the Marshall Amplification Company, whose name can be seen on the equipment of many rock stars around the world.

This exhibit, the brainchild of David Berglas is now complete, and without his financial assistance and guidance, would never have been possible.

I am honoured and proud to have been a part of it.

Copyright 1998-2016 by Robert R. King