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Theodore Hardeen (March 4, 1876 – June 12, 1945), known simply as Hardeen, was a magician and escape artist, best known as Harry Houdini's brother. So dedicated was he to his older brother that Hardeen usually introduced himself as the "brother of Houdini."[1] He was the founder of the Magician's Guild.


Early life

Hardeen was born as Ferencz Dezso Weisz or Weisz Ferenc Dezső in Budapest, Hungary, and went by the name of Theodore Weiss when the family was living in Appleton, Wisconsin. He was known as "Deshi" and later "Dash" by his parents.

It was Hardeen who first conceived of escaping from a straitjacket in full view of the audience — a concept fully used by Houdini and generations of performers since.[2]

In 1893, Hardeen performed with Houdini at Coney Island as "The Brothers Houdini". While there, Harry met and married Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner. Bess soon replaced Dash in the act, which made him jealous.

Magic work

Will Goldston, popular English stage magician and editor of the Magician Annual, wrote that:

Hardeen learnt his business from Houdini, and he learnt it well, as no man could have failed to do with such a master. But the natural ability was always there. Even if Houdini had not existed to point the way, it is quite likely that Hardeen would have become an escape artiste. I have seen him perform several times, and have marvelled at his achievements. The huge chains in the cartoon are hardly an exaggeration of those from which he breaks loose. The handcuffs but a simple thing compared with those with which he is used to toy. Hardeen, like his more famous brother Harry Houdini is a great favourite in the magical world. He is a man of considerable culture and one of the best raconteurs I have ever met. Like Houdini, he is willing to expend both time and money freely to further the cause of magic. Both the amateurs and the professionals of our number regard him as a friend. And the general public regard him as a brilliant artiste and a thrilling entertainer.

After his brother's death in 1926 Hardeen played the vaudeville circuit, doing many of Houdini's routines. From 1938 to 1941, Hardeen was featured in Olsen and Johnson's Broadway revue, Hellzapoppin, and during World War II he performed for the troops (as his brother had done during World War I).

Planning on writing a book about his brother, in 1945 Hardeen went to New York's Doctor's Hospital for a simple operation, but died instead. He was 69 years old.[3][4][5]


Richard Valentine Pitchford (1895-1973) took over the Magicians' Guild after Hardeen's death.[6] Sidney Hollis Radner received the Houdini collection from Hardeen.[7]


  1. ^ From a conversation with the late Robert Lund, founder of the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan, the largest magic museum in the world. The museum contains some half-million pieces of memorabilia, as well as an archive of thousands of little-known conjurors. Items on display at the museum include Houdini's "Milk Can" escape equipment.
  2. ^ Hardeen, Life and History of Hardeen (no date). A promotional pamphlet sold at performances wherein Hardeen explains how he came to do the straitjacket escape in front of an audience. Hardeen does not take credit for the idea, he merely states the facts.
  3. ^ Kalush, William; Sloman, Larry; Sloman, Larry Ratso. The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero, Simon and Schuster, 2006.
  4. ^ "Hardeen Dead, 69. Houdini's Brother. Illusionist, Escape Artist, a Founder of Magician's Guild. Gave Last Show May 29.". New York Times. June 13, 1945. "Theodore Hardeen, a brother of the late Harry Houdini, illusionist and a prominent magician in his own right, died yesterday in the Doctors Hospital. His age was 69."  
  5. ^ "Houdini's Brother Dies with Escape Secrets". Chicago Tribune. June 13, 1945. "When Houdini died in 1926, he bequeathed his tricks to his brother with the provision that Hardeen should not disclose them. The brothers were sons of ..."  
  6. ^ "Richard V. Pitchford Dies. Magician Known as Cardini.". New York Times. November 13, 1973, Tuesday. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Richard V. Pitchford, who as Cardini was a prominent sleight-of-hand artist and was president of the Magicians Guild in 1945, died today in Kingston Hospital. He was 79 years old and lived in Gardiner."  
  7. ^ "In Sadness, Prime Houdini Artifact Collector Puts Items on Auction Block". New York Times. October 29, 2004. Retrieved 2007-02-14. "... Mr. Radner, aka Rendar the Magician, owns one of the world's biggest and most valuable collections of Harry Houdini artifacts, including the Chinese Water Torture Cell, one of Houdini's signature props from 1912 until his death in 1926. Most of the items were given to Mr. Radner in the 1940's by Houdini's brother, another escape artist who went by the stage name Hardeen. Hardeen considered Mr. Radner, then a student at Yale with a reputation for jumping from diving boards in handcuffs, as his protégé."  

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