Noah Emile Evra-Houdin
Member from 1844 to 1872
Noah Emile Evra-Houdin, born on 7th December 1805 in Blois, France, was a renowned magician and automaton maker who became a member of the Adventure Club of Europe in 1844. After his shocking disappearance in 1871 he was officially declared dead on 3 February 1872. The day he was last seen was noted as the date of his death: 13th June 1871.
Thanks to the fine craftsmanship Evra-Houdin had learned from his father, a watchmaker, he was able to produce extraordinary mechanical and electrical appliances. He used these mainly in magic shows and presented them to the public in open exhibitions. In 1844, for instance, he debuted his automatic writing machine in Paris, astonishing an audience who had never seen anything like it. Eduard Ballhauser, then President of ACE, was present that very evening. With enthusiasm he arranged a meeting with the magician and asked Evra-Houdin to become a member of the Adventure Club of Europe.
In the years following, Evra-Houdin became an extremely valued member of the club with his inventions. His inventions served not only as a huge source of entertainment, but also as key tools on large expeditions carried out by ACE members. Among these were a mechanical navigation system that was able to follow a ready-made route in real time, and a mechanical climbing aid that was strapped to the leg and the torso and helped mountaineers to move with greater stability in adverse conditions.
15th November 1869 would prove to be a day when Evra-Houdin’s life would change forever. After a period of three months in which he had not been seen, he showed up visibly upset at the clubhouse of the Adventure Club of Europe.
“I have done it,” he shouted angrily, according to eyewitnesses.
“I have invented a time machine. And it works!”
Eduard Ballhauser probed him and, highly confused by his ranting and raving, decided he would not make any statement about the authenticity of Evra-Houdin’s claims.
It was then that Evra-Houdin himself approached the press. He claimed to have invented a time machine he called the Mystorial. The name derived from the fact that its functionality was a mystery and it jumped uncontrolled through time. He claimed that he had travelled through the ages with his two sons. He had seen feathered dinosaurs, visited King Louis XIV in Versailles, and witnessed a terrible war in the future in which he and his sons had almost lost their lives.
The once esteemed magician experienced a life of ridicule after he made these claims. He had become mad, former admirers and colleagues would agree.
The Adventure Club of Europe, too, refrained from commenting on the truth of Evra-Houdin’s reports, stressing only that it was fully behind its valued member.
Mathematicians intervening in the discussion considered it highly unlikely that he would be able to return to the time of the origin of the universe, unless the machine actually jumped completely arbitrarily through time and space. They initially provided counter-evidence to Evra-Houdin’s claims which would provide some fuel for the reasoning of his final disappearance only two years later.
When Evra-Houdins had disappeared for six months in 1871, supporters of his time travel claims agreed that he was lost forever in time. Critics, on the other hand, attributed alleged gaming debts to Evra-Houdin’s motivation to disappear, while others considered his disappearance with the supposed time machine to be his greatest trick.
Many years later his time machine, Mystorial, was discovered in an ancient cave near Evra-Houdin’s birthplace. His sons, who kept their father’s time travel stories quiet until the time of their own deaths, donated the machine to the Adventure Club of Europe in 1890. It looked visibly worn out and it seemed as if a central piece of the machine’s workings had been damaged.
To this day, admirers of the beloved magician still hotly debate the truth in his stories. Two astounding discoveries were made between the 1940s and 1960s. On the one hand, a portrait of King Louis XIV was found in the background of which a machine, strikingly similar to the Mystorial, can be seen. On the other hand, another photograph was found that was taken in France during the Second World War. Evra-Houdin and his sons can be seen in the background in a large crowd.
Evra-Houdin’s statement on feathered dinosaurs also garnered fresh attention at the end of the 20th century when researchers increasingly agreed that most dinosaurs were probably feathered – a fact that was completely unknown in the mid-nineteenth century.
In the possession of the Adventure Club of Europe:
- The Mystorial time machine
- Portrait of King Louis XIV with Mystorial in the background
- Photo of Evra-Houdin with his two sons during World War II