Located in a nondescript Midtown building right by Penn Station is New York’s own Houdini Museum.
Dedicated to the escape artist Harry Houdini, the museum is housed in the Fantasma magic shop. Take the elevator up to the fourth floor, and soon you’ll suddenly be surrounded by hundreds of objects from Houdini’s history.
There are of course handcuffs and straitjackets, as well as impressive objects like his 1907 escape coffin from which he emerged in 66 minutes after it was secured with six inch nails (illustrations of the achievement line the wooden casket). Numerous framed photographs and posters line the wall, along with curiosities like an x-ray of the bullet in his hand. A cabinet displays some of the objects from Houdini’s career in debunking spiritualism which he saw as a misleading use of magic. In a corner is his last metamorphosis chest, and alongside is a plaster bust of the magician that once stood on his grave in Machpelah Cemetery in Queens.
The items are mainly from the private collection of Fantasma’s CEO Roger Dreyer. About two hundred objects are on display, with 1,500 in storage, so the exhibitions regularly change out to show different artifacts. The magic shop is actually right in the museum, so along with the fascinating display from the legacy of one of magic’s greatest figures you can try out tricks yourself and make some purchases to propel your own career in illusions.
Update as of June 2021: The museum is soon relocating to New Jersey.
Know Before You Go
Watch for the sign for a magic shop and take the elevator up to the fourth floor. Admission is a $10 suggested donation.