Magic! Houdini’s Needles and Thread

February 25, 2010

How much do you know about magic? It’s time to see through the illusion! The Magic! exhibit opens tomorrow, Feb. 26, 2010 at HMNS. Throughout the run of the exhibit, check back here for exclusive videos and descriptions of the unique items on display from curator Scott Cervine.

Although Houdini performed large scale illusions, such as making an adult elephant vanish in the Hippodrome Theater in New York, his masterful showmanship also allowed him to make a signature performance from a handful of needles and several yards of thread.

Houdini Needles and Thread
On display in Magic! starting Feb. 26

Houdini would swallow the needles, then the thread. His mouth would be inspected by a doctor to be shown free of guile, and then he would apparently regurgitate the thread, which suddenly appeared between his lips. In pulling the thread from his mouth, the needles were now seen to be threaded at intervals on the thread.

Although not original with Houdini, prior performers had done the feat with a few dozen needles and a few feet of thread. Houdini used enough needles and thread to fill the stage and created as great an impression with these simple, inexpensive items as did with larger props from his workshop in which he invested thousands of dollars.

Authored By Scott Cervine

Scott Cervine, guest curator for Magic: The Science of Wonder, was one of the youngest people ever accepted by the prestigious Magic Castle in Hollywood – at age 15. By the time he was 21, Scott was accepted as a full-fledged member of the Academy of Magical Arts. He is the only magician to ever be named “Magic Entertainer of the Year” two years in a row. Scott has appeared on several new shows, blending his unique style of comedy and magic to dazzle audiences. He has performed in over a dozen countries and made several TV and movie appearances.

3 responses to “Magic! Houdini’s Needles and Thread”

  1. Sam says:

    I am not just responding to this post in particular, but to almost every post on this blog. HMNS is a scholarly institution, and I believe it should use scholarly resources and articles and works in its blog. Instead, what I mostly see the majority of the time is links to wikipedia articles. Wikipedia is a wonderful source for information and basic facts, but a scholarly institution should use scholarly resources that have been published. I have seen many other museum blogs, and they often refer to a scholarly article or even just link to some information found it its website and database.

  2. Steven says:

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for reading! Several of our bloggers (Dirk, Daniel, Bob, Claire, and Dan in particular) do link to studies and scholarly resources in almost every one of their posts to help those who wish to do additional reading; as I’m sure you’re aware, the full text of these is often unavailable to non-subscribers, which make it difficult to share on a blog geared at everyone, not just scientists.

    We link to Wikipedia because it gives a basic knowledge of or definition for some of the technical things we talk about in our blogs. Alternatively, there are often more general posts that focus on our exhibitions, bugs, science experiments and other cool things on display here that are broader and written to get readers interested in basic science and the opportunities we offer in our museum – so the links are to help explain the basics rather than the specifics.

    However, for anyone that is interested in gaining more detailed information about a subject we encourage you to write in to our blog ( so we can pass your question on to our curators for consideration for a future post.

  3. Ericafogal says:

    What BRAND of needles did Houdnini use? Not technically important but of academic interest.

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