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October 5 2019
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Not the old ball and chain: Harry Houdini performs a magic trick in New York Harbor.

On the top floor of the History Museum at the Castle in Harry Houdini’s hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, there are seven large cardboard boxes locked away in a back room. Each is filled with documents and diary entries, letters, and articles and note cards about the legendary escape artist, who died in 1926. In my book, I call them “the Silverman Boxes.” They are the work of the great biographer Ken Silverman.

Silverman attempted an audacious magic trick of his own: He tried to write a true book about Harry Houdini. I’d argue no one had ever dared attempt that before. There had been many, many books written about Houdini by the mid-1990s, when Silverman took his shot. But all previous biographers were, in the end, commanded by Houdini.

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