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Jono Blythe's Hocus Focus | Theo Hardeen

Welcome to this week's edition of Hocus Focus, where we delve into the fascinating world of magic and the magicians who have left an indelible mark on the art form. This week we shine the spotlight on Theo Hardeen, the lesser-known brother of the legendary Harry Houdini.

Black & white photo of magician and escape artist, Theodore Hardeen
Theo Hardeen

Born Ferenc Dezső Weisz on March 4, 1876, in Hungary, Theo Hardeen was a magician and escape artist who became famous for his daring stunts and performances. He worked closely with his brother, Harry Houdini, in the early years of his career, and together they were known as the "Brothers Houdini".

Theo Hardeen (known as 'Dash' for his dashing appearance) is credited with conceiving the idea of escaping from a straitjacket in full view of the audience, rather than behind a curtain, as was the practice at the time. He was a pioneer in his field and was known for his daring escapes and death-defying stunts.

In addition to his work as a magician, Hardeen was also the founder of The Magician's Guild of Ameica, an organisation that was dedicated to advancing the art of magic and promoting the interests of magicians. He was also a skeptical investigator of mediums and had a deep interest in exposing their fraudulent practices, much like his brother.

Hardeen's talents as a performer were not limited to magic and escape artistry. He also dabbled in acting and appeared in a film called "Medium Well Done", playing a detective investigating a medium, much like his brother had done in real life.

Despite his successes, Hardeen remained humble and dedicated to his craft. Upon his brother's death, Harry had bequeathed his magic apparatus to his brother with the request that it be destroyed. Despite some of the equipment being damaged in a burglary, Hardeen respected his brother's wishes.

Hardeen was a devoted husband to Elsie Fozzard, whom he married, and a doting father to his three children: Theodore Jr., Gladys, and Harry Houdini Hardeen. He served as President of the Society of American Magicians and played on Broadway as part of Olsen and Johnson's popular revue show "Hellzapoppin'".

He also performed for the troops during the second world war, which would be something of a swan song for him.

On June 12, 1945, Hardeen passed away in Doctor's Hospital after an operation for his ulcers. His legacy continues to live on, and his contributions to the world of magic and escape artistry continue to inspire new generations of magicians.

In the Hollywood film "Houdini" (1998), Hardeen was played by Mark Ruffalo, and his story was brought to life for a whole new audience. As we celebrate the life and achievements of Theo Hardeen, we are reminded of the importance of preserving the history of magic and the magicians who have contributed so much to this beloved art form.

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