Page 1. " he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini "

Harry Houdini
Public DomainHarry Houdini - Credit: Famous Players - Lasky Corporation
 Harry Houdini was born Erik Weisz on 24 March 1874, in Budapest, Hungary.  His family moved to the United States in 1878, living first in Wisconsin and then New York. Erik made his public début as a 9-year-old trapeze artist. He later became a professional magician, and adopted the name Harry Houdini.  His early speciality was card tricks, but he won fame with his increasingly daring escape acts.  In 1893, he met fellow performer Bess Rahner, whom he married. For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess worked as his stage assistant. 

From 1899 Houdini began to attract considerable fame, first in America and then in Europe.  He would free himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in plain sight. In 1908, he introduced an escape from a locked, water-filled milk can to his act. He invited the public to devise contraptions to hold him - on one famous occasion he escaped from a set of handcuffs with a Brahma lock, that had apparently been crafted over a period of five years and was meant to be 'unpickable.' In 1912, he introduced the Chinese Water Torture Cell to his act, which saw him suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet overflowing with water. The act required him to hold his breath for more than three minutes. He also performed non-escape illusions, including the vanishing of a full-grown elephant from stage. Houdini made his last stage appearance in Detroit in October 1926, while suffering from acute appendicitis.  He died a week later, from complications of a ruptured appendix.  He was 52.  More than 2000 people attended his funeral in New York.

 

Page 1. " at WonderCon or Angouleme "

WonderCon logo
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumWonderCon logo - Credit: ComicCon International San Diego Logo
 WonderCon is an annual comic book, science fiction and motion picture convention. It was created by John Barrett, a founder of the retail chain Comics and Comix.  The show's original name was the Wonderful World of Comics Convention.  The convention started life at the Oakland Convention Centre, in 1987.  In 2003, it moved to San Francisco's Moscone Centre. 

In 2001, Wondercon became part of Comic-Con International. The main attraction of WonderCon is the opportunity to buy back issues of comic books and action figures, and, more recently, specialty DVDs. There is also an "Artists Alley" featuring mainly comic book artists selling artwork, signing books, and doing sketches. As a result of the resurgence of superhero movies in recent years, the convention also boasts high-profile celebrity attendees. 

Page 14. " famous Golem, Rabbi Loew's miraculous automaton "

In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being made from inanimate matter. The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material in Psalms. In the Talmud, Adam was initially created as a golem when his dust was "kneaded into a shapeless husk".

Rabbi Loew and Golem
Public DomainRabbi Loew and Golem - Credit: Mikoláš Aleš

The most famous golem narrative involves Rabbi Loew ben Bezalel, Chief Rabbi of Prague in the late 16th century. Legend has it that the Rabbi created a golem to defend the Prague ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks.  The Jews in Prague were to be expelled or killed under the rule of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor.  The Rabbi constructed the Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought it to life. The golem however became increasingly violent, killing many people. The Emperor begged Rabbi Loew to destroy the Golem, promising to stop the persecution of the Jews. To deactivate the Golem, the rabbi rubbed out the first letter of the word "emet" (truth or reality) on the creature's forehead, leaving the Hebrew word "met", meaning dead. The Golem's body was stored in the attic of the Old New Synagogue. 

A recent legend tells of a Nazi agent ascending to the synagogue attic during World War II and trying to stab the Golem, but he died instead.  In 1974, Marvel Comics introduced "The Golem" as a recurring character in its Strange Tales comic book series. 

The legend of Rabbi Loew’s golem is told in the 1920 horror fantasy Movie, Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam, starring Paul Weneger, Albert Steinruck and Ernst Deutsch.