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History Channel to do Houdini miniseries, probably won’t include the best story though

Harry Houdini Everybody knows Harry Houdini, even today, nearly a hundred years after his death, he’s still a household name. He was a very interesting man with a very interesting life, and if they put half as much effort into this as they did The Hatfields and McCoys or as they are currently putting into Vikings, this could be an amazing show.

Currently on board to play the famed escape artist is Adrien Brody. I’ll be honest, my only experience with Brody is Splice, Predators, and King Kong. Whether or not those are a good example of his acting ability, I don’t know, but I did like those three movies. Plus, if you compare the two, there is some resemblance.

It's mostly in the nose

It’s mostly in the nose

Though I will say that, where Houdini’s stare is intense, Brody’s stare is just kinda lazy. Hopefully he can bring it up to par to match the role.

What I really want to know, however, is whether or not they will tell the story of the time he was kidnapped in Egypt. What’s that? You never heard that story. Well, I’ll tell you about it.

You see, Houdini was visiting Egypt way back in the day. Initially, he had wanted to do it in private, just a little romantic trip with his wife, except he showed his face to the wrong people, and next thing you know, there were fans everywhere. This, combined with the fact that everything in Cairo looked just like the rest of the Western world, made Houdini hire a tour guide. Of course, being the naive tourist that he was, he didn’t get a licensed guide from the hotel, no, he found some street smart guy named Abdul Reis el Drogman. This Drogman character seemed to be a big shot on the streets, as people listened to what he said and did what he told them as he led the couple around the city. Eventually, they make their way to the pyramids and all the old world sites that Houdini longed to see.

The tour was great, right up until they run into a Bedouin named Ali Ziz. Houdini helps the break up the fight, and in doing so, impresses Drogman enough that he asks Houdini to help him settle the argument in the way only Egyptians can, with a boxing match on top of the Great Pyramid. This is all a scam however, and Houdini is kidnapped, tied up, and thrown into a pit. Being the master escape artist that he was, his bonds were shed easily. Now, he is left in the dark, at the bottom of a pit, trying to find his way out. Using the logic of “follow the draft to the surface” that we see in cartoons and movies all the time, he makes his way to a large flight of stairs, which he promptly falls down. At the base of these stairs he finds a vast ceremonial chamber.

This chamber is filled with a hoard of undead mummies, each one half man, half animal, as though the gods of old had risen to unlife. In the middle of the chamber, are two pharaohs, Khephren and Nitokris, who are making offerings to a five headed tentacle monster. Houdini promptly pulls another escape job, and get’s the hell out of there, telling no one of this tale until it was published in 1924. Looking back, Houdini realizes two things. Firstly, that tentacled beast was only just the forepaw of a grander evil, one that ancient Egyptians built the Sphinx to represent, and second, that his guide Drogman looked a lot like the Pharaoh Khephren.

What’s that? You don’t believe that ever happened? Well, you’re right, it didn’t. Probably not a word of it is true, but how this story came to print is a piece of history that could definitely be a great addition to History’s special.

It all starts with a troubled magazine named Weird Tales. J.C. Henneberger realized that he needed a way to bring in more readers, and thus, more money. His answer, was to give the famed escape artist his own “Ask Houdini” column. Houdini then wrote a few short stories that he supposedly wrote himself, Henneberger turned to none other than the master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft, to ghostwrite Houdini’s next story. Needing the money (it was a $100 advance, which was a lot in 1920’s money), Lovecraft agreed to write for Houdini. Lovecraft sat with the man, and listened to his tale of kidnappings abroad, and after a little research, called bullshit on the whole thing and asked Henneberger if he could take Houdini’s story and run with it. Henneberger allowed, and now we have “Under the Pyramids”. It was left attributed to Houdini until it was reprinted years later, where it was given credit to Lovecraft. Houdini liked Lovecraft’s work so much, that he would hire him again and again, right up until he died in 1926.

Another interesting note, is that Lovecraft wrote the story just prior to his marriage with Sonia Greene, and actually lost the manuscript in the train station as he was on his wait to New York to perform the ceremony. He wound up having to retype the whole store during his honeymoon.

Will the History Channel include the relationship with his literary partner, probably not, it would be nice if there was a way to Email them, or if there was an address you could write a letter to (A&E Television Networks, 235 East 45th Street, New York, New York 10017), or maybe even just a phone number you could call (212-210-1400) or fax (212-210-9016). I have been surprised in the past though, and there is just enough Ancient Aliens in this story to make it fit their current programming, so maybe it will happen…

If you want to read Houdini and Lovecraft’s tale, “Under the Pyrmids”, it’s available right here.