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Even though the famed magician died almost one hundred years ago, there is one place where the great Harry Houdini still lives. No, it is not within the bustling streets of New York, or even in the shadow of the Magic Castle in Los Angeles. The world famous Houdini still lives in a small theater on Main Avenue in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Or so say the owners of the Houdini Museum Dorothy Dietrich and Bravo the Great (aka Dick Brookz, according to their website).
With a pale blue front, a marquee sign that proclaims ‘Houdini Lives in Scranton’ and some faded paintings of the famous magician himself, this museum is obviously a true labor of love. Before relocating to Scranton in the late 1980s, Dorothy and Bravo ran the Magic Townhouse in New York City, where some of their Houdini memorabilia was first on display. Rising costs in the city and Houdini’s performance connection to Scranton made the city an easy choice when they were ready to relocate. Now they’re able to offer tours and a magic show year round in The Electric City.
This may be the most popular attraction you’ve never heard of, so before heading to Scranton, I’d call and make a reservation. Although I’m not sure how many people constitutes a ‘full tour’, our group was easily made up of about thirty. (There’s also a small discount if you call and pay in advance.) Our tour also encompassed a wide range of ages. There were kids as young as four all the way up to adults. This tour is family friendly in same way that kid’s movies are. Some jokes make everyone laugh and some jokes go over the kid’s heads and only land with the adults. Regardless, all the kids present on our tour seemed to have a good time. If you are bringing kids (or adults with short attention spans), be forewarned that when the website says the doors open at 1:00 pm and the tour finishes at 4:00 pm, they mean it.
No doubt you’re wondering how this museum with three rooms can fill three plus hours. Two world famous magicians couldn’t run a magic museum without showing off their craft, could they? Between the movie, the exhibit room on Houdini’s life, the exhibit room filled with Houdini memorabilia, and a full on magic show by Dorothy and Bravo, it is amazing that it only takes about three hours!
Obviously this museum is a must-see for anyone interested in magic. They have a huge collection of original Houdini memorabilia, so much so that it can be a little overwhelming. There are shelves and cases stuffed full, plus very little free wall space – all of which is somehow connected to the great magician. Their gift shop is also a nook full of magic tricks, books on magic, and basically anything else magic related that you can buy. As noted above, the museum tour also includes a magic show by Dorothy and Bravo, which is likely worth the price of admission on its own. While not as famous of some of her male counterparts in the community, Dorothy is the only woman to have successfully completed a bullet catch and was part of the inspiration for Isla Fisher’s character in Hollywood’s magic move, Now You See Me.
Before you visit, you should also know that this museum, while busy, is not a money making machine. Some of the faded photos and dusty cabinets betray the fact that all work is done in-house and to the best of their ability. Dorothy and Bravo’s magic also feels more over-the-top Vaudville than the current slick style of magic made famous by the Davids – Copperfield and Blaine. In some ways, they are their own form of magic history performing right in front of your eyes. If you can’t go in with a patient and compassionate eye, then I don’t want you to go at all. These two work too hard for an audience of skeptics.
This museum is also for anyone who enjoys the offbeat or the unique. Supposedly this is the only museum solely dedicated to Houdini, but, even if that wasn’t the case, this museum would stand out from the rest. With its packed room, three hour tour schedule, and world-famous tour guides, you will never find another place like this one. Dorothy and Bravo use their showmanship skills and crowd pleasing expertise to turn this tour into a true experience. The passion, energy, and effort put into this museum radiates from every inch of this Houdini-packed space. Come step into their world for a few hours and experience the magic that goes on behind the marquee in downtown Scranton.