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Jon's Story


 

                               


JON'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOUDINI FAMILY

 

As a young boy growing up in the sixties, I had many heros, some fictional like Captain James Kirk and Napoleon Solo,
and some real like Neal Armstrong and Nikola Tesla. However, by the seventies, my thoughts focused more toward people
who called themselves "magicians".

Back in High school, I was in drama class. I lived to perform, and know as much as I could find out about magic and theatre.
If you ask anyone who knows me even slightly, you will learn I am an avid reader on most every subject, and it is not
uncommon for me to carry 2-3 books when traveling, all of which I will read at the same time. One for the hotel night
stand, one for restaurants, and until Melissa recently said no, one for driving!

A chance article introduced me to a magic historian living near by. His name is Robert Lund, and our friendship stoked
the fire inside me to find people and places associated with this art form.

Thus we come to 1975, and my introduction to a women named Ruthanne Beatrice Kavanaugh. She was in her fifties
when we met, and though there was a forty year difference in our ages, it was an instant friendship that grew deep,
and then one day, she asked me to call her "Aunt Ruthie". This endearing name and my memories of our time together
will always remain in my heart even though her life has come to an end. (See the "Tribute" page).

Ruthie's claim to fame is she was the niece to Harry Houdini. The daughter of Houdini's wife Beatrice's (Bess) favorite
sister, Marie Hinson. Aunt Bess and Uncle Harry showered their nieces with love and affection, often times allowing them
to spend "family time" together as Bess and Harry never had children of their own.

After Houdini died in 1926, Bess purchased a smaller home on Payson Avenue in New York, it was shared with her sister's
family, and all of her personal items from a quarter of a century with Houdini. When Bess died, her stuff was left to Marie,
and when Marie died, Ruthie divided it up between the three remaining children. Many times I was in awe of stuff that I
would see, that I did not even know existed. In fact it was on my first visit that I saw the French Letter Handcuff. She kept it
in a cabinet behind a photo of Houdini.

Over the next three decades we would have many wonderful conversations on subjects from Houdini, to religion, to her
hating F.D.R., and private family stories. Many times I would perform for groups Ruthie volunteered me for, usually with
my finding this out a day before!

In 2007, Ruthie moved to be with her daughter in Colorado, and lived with her for about a year, then because of illness
moved to a nursing center. This week, on September 14, 2011, my friend and "Aunt Ruthie" of almost 30 years passed away.
Ruthie was the last member of the family to know Bess and Harry Houdini.


RuthHinson.jpeg

Photo of Jon and Ruth Hinson taken
in Newark, Delaware, holding a replica
of Houdini's Mirror Handcuff made by
Ian McColl. Ruthie owned both originals
until 1975, when she had to sell them
to pay for her mother's hospital bills.


 

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