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Biography & Autobiography Entertainment & Performing Arts


The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini

by (author) Bruce MacNab

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Oct 2012
Entertainment & Performing Arts, Rich & Famous, Historical
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2012
    List Price

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Winner, Best Atlantic Published Book Award
Shortlisted, Canadian Regional Design Award

met-a-mor-pho-sis: a complete change of form, structure, or substance, as transformation by magic or witchcraft.

In May of 1896, a young magician from New York City joined the cast of the Marco Magic Company and embarked on a summer-long tour of eastern Canada, including New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It was during this excursion that Handcuff Harry AKA Harry Houdini first showcased the talent that transformed him from a small-time conjurer, who performed for pennies in dime museums, into the world's most celebrated escape artist. When he wasn't performing on stage, Houdini was barnstorming through the streets of every town and city he visited, astounding onlookers in police stations, hardware stores and hospitals by freeing himself from the clutches of every restraining device strapped or wrapped around him.

In this absorbing book, enriched by rare, period photographs, Bruce MacNab recounts a fascinating but shockingly untold chapter in the career of the man whose name is still synonymous with the word magic.

About the author

Bruce MacNab grew up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and attended the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology. Since then, he has worked as an author, carpenter, craftsman, tutor, and teacher. He has long been fascinated with the story of Harry Houdini. His articles have appeared in The Beaver, The Chronicle Herald, History Today, and other magazines and newspapers. Bruce MacNab now lives in New Ross, Nova Scotia, a region steeped in the mythology of Oak Island and Prince Henry Sinclair. The Metamorphosis is his first book.

Bruce MacNab's profile page


  • Winner, Canadian Regional Design Awards
  • Winner, APMA Best Atlantic-Published Book Award

Editorial Reviews

"It's a fascinating read."

<i>Vancouver Sun</i>

"[A] magical history tour of the highest order ... Nova Scotia writer Bruce MacNab, according to experts cited all over, has simply nailed the untold apprenticeship of Harry Houdini as the magician performed throughout Maritime communities more than a century ago. ... you cannot escape the fact that this is an absolutely exceptional book."

<i>Chronicle Herald</i>

"Bruce MacNab's absolutely fascinating reconstruction of Harry Houdini's summer-long 1896 tour of Eastern Canada was Atlantic Canada's 'sleeper' book of the past year. ... It's a fabulous book to read and savour, with an engaging narrative, detailed research and striking visuals, including rare news clippings, vintage posters, illustrative maps and newly unearthed photographs. ... In his first book, the author has produced a gem that won the 2012 APMA Best Atlantic Published Book Award. ... It has great appeal to those with a passion for Victorian Canadian life, travelling circuses, magic tricks, fortune tellers and freak shows. Fans of the master magician as well as curious people of all ages will also marvel at Houdini's sleights of hand and the secrets of his illusions. ... Shedding new light on Houdini's career is quite an accomplishment, but it's the author's polished writing style and the richness of the illustration that makes The Metamorphosis a very entertaining summer read."

<i>Chronicle Herald</i>

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