A mysterious death is the perfect source material for a juicy story. More so when it is the death of a famous person like Harry Houdini. The official report is that Houdini, aged 52, died of peritonitis at 1:26 p.m. on October 31, 1926, in Room 401 at Detroit’s Grace Hospital. The peritonitis was believed to be caused by an early incident involving a McGill University student. But what if there was something more sinister going on behind the scenes than the history books recall? It’s up to the fabulous Minky Woodcock to find out.
Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini was originally intended to be a television series, explains creator, Cynthia Von Buhler. Hard Case Crime, an imprint of Titan Comics, asked Von Buhler to shape it into a comic book series featuring a gorgeous collection of variant covers by artists such as David Mack, Robert McGinnis, and more. Several of the series covers also feature actress and burlesque artist, Pearls Daily, who also happens to play Minky Woodcock in Von Buhler’s immersive play, which Von Buhler put together following the completion of the series.
Though she is not new to immersive theatrical works, the multi-talented Von Buhler notes that this was her most ambitious work as a playwright yet. “The play was the hardest because I had to write nine scripts, one for each character. The audience follows one of nine tracks and experience the last month of Houdini’s life through the lens of that character. All nine tracks need to flow in and out of one another. Attendees can come back to the show nine times and get a different experience each time.”
And to come full circle, Von Buhler is once again working on bringing Minky Woodcock to television. “All of these iterations of the story will certainly help improve upon my first version of the TV script.”
Minky Woodcock is a young woman who works at her father’s private investigation business. Framed by correspondence between Minky and her idol, Agatha Christie, the story follows Minky taking on a case in her father’s absence at the request of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself to investigate the goings on of illusionist Harry Houdini. Historically, the two men were an unlikely pair, brought together by spiritualism. And, as we discover in Minky Woodcock’s story, torn apart by the same when Houdini had dealings with a fraudulent medium and began to publicly condemn spiritualism as a whole. At the time, spiritualism had a widespread following, and, in her story, Von Buhler speculates that Houdini’s eventual death had less to do with an unfortunate incident and more to do with a deliberate series of acts intended to silence his dissent.
Minky’s tenacity gets her deeply involved in the life of both Houdini and his wife. Von Buhler smoothly absorbs Minky into this moment in history, raising as many questions as she does answers about Houdini’s death, while painting a glamorous image of the world and Minky herself. Von Buhler’s skills as a storyteller and artist are captivating. Though the comic, by its nature, is not as immersive as a play would be, Von Buhler’s creativity wraps the reader up in the story, making it impossible not to keep turning the page to discover not only the next step in the mystery, but how Minky handles each and every one of those steps.
As for the subject of the story, Von Buhler is not a newcomer to investigating unsolved murders. Her own grandfather, a bootlegger and speakeasy owner, was murdered in 1935. Von Buhler’s intensive research has connected his murder to Dutch Shultz, the famed mobster. And her grandfather and Houdini’s deaths won’t be the last investigations for either Von Buhler or Minky. “I’m also researching the conspiracies surrounding Nicola Tesla to see if any seem plausible enough to constitute a Minky Woodcock investigation,” says Von Buhler. Her former Speakeasy Dollhouse Play, Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic, is also set to become a comic series starring Minky. “The new title is They Die Fast on Broadway. For that story I’m starting with an immersive play and turning it into a book.”
“In They Die Fast on Broadway,” Von Buhler explains, “Minky has been hired by Florenz Ziegfeld to spy on the famous flapper, Ziegfeld girl, and silent film star, Olive Thomas. When she dies while Minky is spying on her in Paris the case becomes much more complicated.”
From comics, stage, and film, to sculptures, music, and so much more, Von Buhler’s passion for her varied art forms is seductive and compelling, all elements that shine in each page of Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini. Discover more about Minky and her creator at these other sites: