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Curious Cbus

History of magic revealed in local dentist's private collection

 Poster of Houdini in a metal canister with three men pouring water into it. Text reads: Houdini's death-defying mystery.
Columbus Neighborhoods
A Harry Houdini poster from Dr. Timothy Moore's collection.

Dr. Timothy Moore, a Columbus dentist, may have one of the largest magic collections in the country. It includes posters and props that belonged to some of the most famous magicians in history, such as Harry Keller, Harry Houdini and Columbus native Howard Thurston.

After a tip was submitted to our Curious Cbus project, WOSU visited Dr. Moore to learn more.

Moore first discovered magic when he was 10 years old and quickly began learning tricks. As an adult, he started collecting magic memorabilia and amassed an impressive collection over the past 30 years.

As his collection grew, he became interested in antique and hard-to-find relics of magic history.

"I also like the idea of finding rare items that other collectors and other magic enthusiasts have not seen," he said. "It's just fun then to share with the magic community things that are going to actually blow them away."

One of the most prized possessions in Moore's collection is a poster from 1906 that advertises an illusion called "The Golden Butterfly" by Harry Keller. Keller was one of the most famous magicians in America at the time. His trick, which involved a woman disappearing on stage, was only performed for three months before it was retired.

Moore also has a pair of handcuffs that belonged to Harry Houdini, the world-renowned escape artist.

Another notable piece in Moore's collection is a so-called "challenge letter" addressed to Houdini from the Columbus Ohio Packing Company. The 1916 letter invited him to test his skills in a box that they manufactured.

Many pieces of Moore's magic collection are on display in his dental office. He said that he enjoys sharing his collection with his patients.

"I do dentistry every day. I do magic every day. And I feel like I'm the luckiest guy on the planet," he said.

Michael De Bonis develops and produces digital content including podcasts, videos, and news stories. He is also the editor of WOSU's award-winning Curious Cbus project. He moved to Columbus in 2012 to work as the producer of All Sides with Ann Fisher, the live news talk show on 89.7 NPR News.