Houdini’s Black Box


Harry Houdini is the most noted Magician of all time and Houdini’s Black Box is the ultimate close-up tribute to him. Houdini’s Black Box comes with a special card changing device and three great presentations representing three distinct periods in Houdini’s career: 1) The Metamorphosis Trunk that he performed with his wife Bess at the beginning of his career; 2) the handcuff escapes he became world-renowned for; 3) the debunking of psychic mediums which dominated the end of his career and continued after Houdini’s untimely death.

Included with Houdini’s Black Box:

      • The Black Box device which is CNC machined out of aluminum block and anodized with a matte black finish. Each side of the device has embedded magnets for attaching the skins and the two sides are fastened using socket head screws. A Houdini Monogram is etched into one side of the device. The inside of the device is sequentially hand numbered with the number of the device in the production run.
      • Houdini’s Metamorphosis Trunk Presentation Pack
      • Houdini’s Handcuff Escape Presentation Pack
      • Houdini’s Spirit Slate Presentation Pack
      • Parts/Spares Pack (alternative gimmick insert, hex key wrench, extra screws, extra magnets, Listo pen refills)
      • Full Color Instructions Booklet.

Houdini’s Black Box is something to be played with and performed. It is not made just to be a magic collectible that looks good in your collection but is never used. It is a lot of fun to perform and practice with.

Fantastic performance video of all three Houdini Black Box presentations by Jenzo Harmonics.

Price: $249.95

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You can purchase Houdini’s Black Box on ebay


The Device

The Houdini Black Box device is an enhanced version of the Black Hole magic trick invented by Shigeru Sugawara and released by Tenyo in 1980.

The enhancements are:

      • Three new, very creative Houdini presentations.
      • The use of magnetic skins to change the look of the device in regards to the specific presentation.
      • The ability to open the device to change the gimmick and to remove stuck cards if necessary.
      • The use of additional props that makes the effect even more convincing.

The aspect of Shigeru Sugawara’s design that really made the Black Hole special and Tenyo-like was the fact that both ends of the card are seen coming out the sides of the device. With the addition of the chain in the Houdini Metamorphosis Trunk presentation or the leather rope in the Houdini Black Box presentation, the effect is taken to an even more convincing level. The fact that the Houdini card is chained into the Metamorphosis Trunk makes it even more special when the card is removed and it is no longer Harry, but Bess.

The Houdini Black Box device is CNC machined out of aluminum block and anodized with a matte black finish. Each side of the device has 4 embedded magnets for attaching the skins. The inside of each device is sequentially hand numbered denoting the number of the device in the production run. Six black socket head screws are used to fasten the two sides of the device together. A Houdini monogram is etched into one side of the device. The monogram was inspired by stationery used by Houdini’s wife Bess.

The Presentations

Houdini’s Black Box comes with three presentations to use with the Black Box device.

      • Houdini’s Metamorphosis Truck
      • Houdini’s Handcuff Escape
      • Houdini’s Spirit Slate

Special cards are provided for each of the presentations as well as props and elements to use during the presentations. Each presentation has added nuances like a chain or a leather rope that enhance the performance but they can also be performed without those elements if a simpler presentation is preferred. Cards are provided for both the enhanced and simplified presentations.

For each presentation a self standing poster is provided to set the mood and use as a reference during the patter. The posters are genuine poster designs used by Houdini back in the day.

For each presentation a skin is provided to decorate the device in relation to the presentation. The skins quickly and easily attach (and detach) to the device using magnetic force.

There is a nice representation of genuine Houdini history in Houdini’s Black Box. The posters are authentic. The Metamorphosis Trunk skin is a picture of an actual Houdini Metamorphosis Trunk. The secret message is the actual message that Houdini passed to Bess before his death and it is written on the back of a replica of an actual Houdini business card.  Other historical pictures are used but modified to fit the presentation.


You show the Black Box device with the “H” monogram to the audience and tell them that this is a special device that Harry Houdini always carried with him. It has magical powers but the powers are still not fully understood.

A poster is presented describing the Houdini’s Metamorphosis act, which Harry and his wife Bess performed in vaudeville type shows at the beginning of their career. In the act, Harry was chained inside the trunk while Bess stood on top behind a curtain. After three short seconds, Bess was the one chained inside the trunk and Houdini was behind the curtain standing on top.

A vintage post card is presented showing both Harry and Bess Houdini in front of a trunk and curtain. Another of the same postcard that has been separated into two halves is presented and Harry is placed in the Black Box device which is decorated to look like their actual Metamorphosis Trunk. Harry is secured in the trunk with a chain that is threaded through both exposed sides of the card and locked with a lock shaped safety-pin. Bess is placed behind a curtain card and both cards are placed on top of the trunk. “One, Two, Three” and that quickly Harry and Bess have mysteriously switched places. Harry is behind the curtain and Bess is in the trunk.

Included with Houdini’s Metamorphosis Trunk:
(1) Authentic Houdini’s Metamorphosis poster with stand
(1) Magnetic Metamorphosis Trunk skin
(1) Double-sided postcard card
(1) Double-sided curtain card
(4) Halves of the postcard (2 Harry, 2 Bess) with holes to perform with the chain
(4) Halves of the postcard (2 Harry, 2 Bess) without holes to perform without the chain
(1) Length of chain
(1) Lock shaped safety-pin

You show the Black Box device with the “H” monogram to the audience and tell them that this is a special device that Harry Houdini always carried with him. It has magical powers but the powers are still not fully understood.

You present a poster showing Houdini as “The World’s Handcuff King.” You explain that Houdini became famous for his handcuff escapes and no handcuff could ever hold him.

You present a card showing a picture of Harry Houdini in Handcuffs. You place the card upside down into the Black Box device that is decorated with a curtain skin. You hook a leather rope to the card where it extends from the top of the  device. You hold the rope and the Black Box slowly moves back and forth. Suddenly a pair of handcuffs fall making a clank sound and when the card is pulled from the device, Houdini is no longer handcuffed.

Included with Houdini Handcuff Escape:
(1) Authentic Houdini Handcuff poster with stand
(2) Magnetic skins for the front and back of the device
(1) Card with Houdini hand-cuffed
(1) Card with Houdini without handcuffs
(1) Pair of mini working metal handcuffs
(1) Leather rope with hook

You show the Black Box device with the “H” monogram to the audience and tell them that this is a special device that Harry Houdini always carried with him. It has magical powers but the powers are still not fully understood.

A poster is presented depicting Houdini as a skeptic of psychic ability. You tell the audience that later in his career Houdini became obsessed with debunking psychic mediums and exposing them for the frauds they all were. Being a magician, it was easy for Houdini to recognized the “tricks” that the mediums would stage to fool their customers into believing that their love one had returned to communicate with them. Sometime before his death, Houdini presented a secret message to his wife Bess and told her that she should hold séances after his death and try to communicate with him. If spirits could return from the dead then surely Houdini could and the secret message would confirm that it was him that Bess was communicating with.

A vintage black and white picture is shown of a séance depicting a very sad Bess Houdini sitting at a table with a medium and others notable people. You place the Black Box device on the table and ask an audience member to center the photo on top of it. For some reason there is major resistance and the photo cannot be placed on top of the device until the device is turned face down. Was that resistance from the spirit world?

Next a card that looks like a blackboard slate is placed into the device. After a few psychic moments the card is removed and there is a message for Bess written on it. When the message on the slate is compared to Houdini’s secret message which was written on a card inside of a draw string envelope, the messages do not match. Why do they not match? Did Houdini forget the message? Is it a different spirit passing himself off as Houdini, behind the message? Then part of the message is erased and the letters remaining spell out the exact message that Houdini had arranged.

Included with Houdini’s Spirit Slate:
(1) Authentic Houdini “Do Spirits Return” poster with stand
(1) Magnetic séance picture/skin
(3) Blank slate cards
(3) Trace over slate cards
(3) Message slate cards
(1) Small draw string envelope
(1) Secret message/business card
(1) Miniature eraser
(1) White Listo pen
(2) White Listo refills

About The Houdini’s Black Box Project

The Houdini’s Black Box Project has been in development for close to two years.

A few years ago I developed many add-ons to use with Tenyo’s Black Hole including the simplified versions of Houdini’s Metamorphosis Trunk and Houdini Handcuff Escape but many magician’s could not use them because they did not have Tenyo’s Black Hole. The Black Hole was so hard to find even if you were willing to pay a small fortune to get one. I had a broken Black Hole so I knew how it worked and I first made a version in plastic that worked well but did not look that great. I then created a CAD file for the device and brought it to a local machine shop to see how much it would cost to make the device using a CNC router machine. I thought that they would simply take the computer file and make the device, but it was not as simple as that. There was a lot of testing and set-up that took time and money but I stayed with the project and eventually had 50 devices made that cost many thousands of dollars.

My next goal was to have a hand lettering artist paint the monogram on the device in gold paint. I thought this would be a simple task as well but I went to three different artists and none could do it well. I never met with a fourth artist who showed some great hand lettering work on his website because his estimate was $120 per device. The search for hand lettering artists ate up a lot of time. Finally my friend Simon in the UK did a test with a laser machine and we learned that with a low powered laser, the image could be etched into just the surface of the device. Since the power was low, it only removed the flat black anodized layer and did not cut the aluminum. I did not want laser etching that cut into the aluminum because it is a modern process and Houdini’s Black Box is something that Houdini supposedly carried around with him back in the early 1900’s. I found a place locally to etch the monogram into the device and I do them 10 at a time.

Besides spending a lot of time getting the hardware right, I spent a good amount of time working on the routines until they were just right as well. The routines are solid and each is different even though they use the same method.

I looked long and hard for the right photography to use with the three presentations and then I had to perform some really difficult photo retouching with some of the images. The modified photo’s for the Houdini Handcuff Escape took days of work until it looked right.

I also looked long and hard for the right materials to use with the three presentations. I bought four different chains, three different handcuffs, two different leather ropes and many different magnets before I found the perfect ones.

I tried many different printing processes and papers to get the right feel and look to the cards, skins and posters. In the end I decided that I would print, trim and finish all the cards in-house so I could control the quality of the printing. I have printed many pages of tests to get the right color that is rich and accurate. Four different high quality papers are used to make the 24 provided cards, 4 skins and 3 posters. I use a new X-Acto blade for each Black Box set so that the cuts are as clean as can be.

Since I make much of this by hand, each Houdini Black Box is made to order. I would estimate that it would be about 2 weeks from order to shipping for each item.

Houdini’s Black Box is not a limited edition in the traditional sense. I do not want to create a situation that someone is buying this because if they don’t act quickly, they will miss out on getting it. I want each person to have and take their time to evaluate Houdini’s Black Box before purchasing it. This is not an inexpensive trick, but the value and the amount of magic that you get for your money is far greater than what you get from others currently making premium micro magic items. I am totally sure that this is a great item and will sell well based on it’s own merits. Since I make all the cards by hand there is only so many that I can and I am willing to make so it is limited in that sense. I had 50 devices made in the first run and I am not sure if I will make more. I can’t imagine more than 200 of these being made but like I said, I want everyone that wants one to get one without having to pay exorbitant secondary market prices.

Houdini’s Black Box is something to be played with and performed. It is not made to be a magic collectible that looks good in your collection but is never used. It is a lot of fun to play and practice with.

Since I enjoy using Houdini’s Black Box it will always be evolving and improving. There are already two more unique presentations that will be available with magnetic skins that will be sold separately. Also I will have available for sale replacement cards and parts. I plan on making a performance pack which would include a full set of cards to use so you can keep a set of mint cards.