Monday, March 28, 2016

The Bear, Houdini and Easter

Pablo Fanque, owned and
ran Bear's circus in England.
The Year of Our Lord 1900 found the Bear in England. He had already been there for decades, having achieved some degree of notoriety. In 1843, none other than the famous Pablo Fanque discovered the author in a two-bit dancing bear act. Although Pablo was a horse man, he appreciated the Bear's unique talents. Unfortunately, the Bear (whose stage name was "Samson") failed to make it into the Beatles song about Billy Kite. (As for Henry the Horse -- real name "Zanthus" -- the Bear pleads the fifth.)

Always the digressions. The Bear apologizes.

In 1900 the Bear was a regular at the famous Alhambra theater in London's West End. A young escape artist named Harry Houdini was new to England, and wanted to add some drama to his escape bit. He hit upon the idea of including the Bear in his act.

Now Harry was always looking for a way to improve his act. It wasn't enough to escape from handcuffs. There had to be chains with a lock, then two chains and two locks. The audience would see all this, and would be even more impressed when he escaped. But a failure to get out of handcuffs and chains didn't have much in the way of a downside. A Bear, however...

The setup went like this. Harry would be handcuffed, and bound with two heavy chains and two very large locks. In a cage would be moi. No, the Bear was not required to escape from his cage, although that might make a great act. With great drama, a small charge of "explosive" (carried very carefully) was attached to the lock, with a long fuse trailing all the way past Harry. The final element was a gun on a stand. 

Bear's Friend Harry Houdini
Of course, the gun was loaded with blanks, the explosives were just fireworks, and the cage door would be unlocked at the offstage tug on a line. The fuse would be lit, the Bear would rattle the bars, pretend to be ferocious, his cage door would fly open, and everyone would be terrified, except for Houdini. He would escape just in time to grab the gun and "shoot" the Bear, whereupon the Bear would act wounded and run offstage.

Great act, if rather bloodthirsty. (The Bear has seen much worse!)

An old show-Bear cannot help but be reminded of old Harry Houdini when he reads about the resurrection. You don't get any deader than being flogged, crucified and stabbed in the heart with a spear. (That's why the hoary old theory that Jesus just fainted is ridiculous.) Not only was there the huge stone, but it was elaborately sealed, and furthermore watched by a group of armed soldiers. You would think rising from the dead would be enough. But lest there be any doubt...

There's precedent. Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to see whose deity could light up some sacrifices. The priests of Baal did their thing all morning, with Elijah making helpful observations like "maybe your god is going to the bathroom." When it came to Team Yahweh's turn, Elijah ostentatiously kept pouring water over the sacrifices, the altar and all around the altar. Blam! Fire came from the sky and cooked the sacrifices anyway.

Sometimes the Bear wonders if God doesn't have a touch of show business in Him. Parting the Red Sea? Yeah. The Bear's gotta love it.

As for Houdini and the Bear? We became good friends and he taught the (talking) Bear some escape tricks which inevitably came in handy.


  1. I love it! Our God! ....of suffering, sacrifices, surprises and showmanship.
    And some of His best shows are when the curtain rises and then again when it comes down. (Except being in the woods, sometimes I have to go out to the fields to see these shows). St. Corbinian's Bear, I am starting to see you as God's wonderful assistant.

  2. Any way these posts can get a soundtrack inserted Bear? I can almost hear the sound of the cornets, trombones, tubas, drums, cymbals and calliope in this one!

    1. The Bear has thought about a podcast, but is unfamiliar with the process and doesn't know if enough people would be interested to make it worth the trouble. Personally, the Bear doesn't listen to any.


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