Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini

Overview
Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American magician
Magic (illusion)
Magic is a performing art that entertains audiences by staging tricks or creating illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats using natural means...

 and escapologist, stunt performer
Stunt performer
A stuntman, or daredevil is someone who performs dangerous stunts, often as a career.These stunts are sometimes rigged so that they look dangerous while still having safety mechanisms, but often they are as dangerous as they appear to be...

, actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

 and film producer
Film producer
A film producer oversees and delivers a film project to all relevant parties while preserving the integrity, voice and vision of the film. They will also often take on some financial risk by using their own money, especially during the pre-production period, before a film is fully financed.The...

 noted for his sensational escape acts. He was also a skeptic
Skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

 who set out to expose fraud
Fraud
In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

s purporting to be supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 phenomena.


Harry Houdini was born as Erik Weisz in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, on March 24, 1874. His parents were Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 Mayer Samuel Weisz (1829–1892) and his wife, Cecelia (née Steiner; 1841–1913).
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Quotations

I'm tired of fighting, Dash. I guess this thing is going to get me.

Last words, to his brother Theo, in Grace Hospital of Detroit, Michigan (30 October 1926), quoted in Houdini, The Man Who Walked Through Walls (1959) by William Lindsay Gresham, p. 286, and in Final Séance : The Strange Friendship between Houdini and Conan Doyle (2001) by Massimo Polidoro, p. 204

I knew, as everyone knows, that the easiest way to attract a crowd is to let it be known that at a given time and a given place some one is going to attempt something that in the event of failure will mean sudden death. That's what attracts us to the man who paints the flagstaff on the tall building, or to the 'human fly' who scales the walls of the same building.

As quoted in The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini‎ (1993) by Ruth Brandon, p. 153
Encyclopedia
Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American magician
Magic (illusion)
Magic is a performing art that entertains audiences by staging tricks or creating illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats using natural means...

 and escapologist, stunt performer
Stunt performer
A stuntman, or daredevil is someone who performs dangerous stunts, often as a career.These stunts are sometimes rigged so that they look dangerous while still having safety mechanisms, but often they are as dangerous as they appear to be...

, actor
Actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

 and film producer
Film producer
A film producer oversees and delivers a film project to all relevant parties while preserving the integrity, voice and vision of the film. They will also often take on some financial risk by using their own money, especially during the pre-production period, before a film is fully financed.The...

 noted for his sensational escape acts. He was also a skeptic
Skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

 who set out to expose fraud
Fraud
In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

s purporting to be supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 phenomena.

Early life



Harry Houdini was born as Erik Weisz in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, on March 24, 1874. His parents were Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 Mayer Samuel Weisz (1829–1892) and his wife, Cecelia (née Steiner; 1841–1913). Houdini was one of seven children: Herman M. (1863–1885); Nathan J. (1870–1927); Gottfried William (1872–1925); Theodore "Theo"
Theodore Hardeen
Theodore Hardeen , known simply as Hardeen, was a Hungarian magician and escape artist, best known as Harry Houdini's brother...

 (1876–1945); Leopold D. (1879–1962); and Carrie Gladys (born 1882 – unknown year of death).

Weisz arrived in the United States on July 3, 1878, sailing on the SS Fresia with his mother (who was pregnant) and his four brothers. The family changed the Hungarian spelling of their German surname into Weiss (the German spelling) and Erik's name was changed to Ehrich. Friends called him "Ehrie" or "Harry".

They first lived in Appleton, Wisconsin
Appleton, Wisconsin
Appleton is a city in Outagamie, Calumet, and Winnebago Counties in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. It is situated on the Fox River, 30 miles southwest of Green Bay and 100 miles north of Milwaukee. Appleton is the county seat of Outagamie County. The population was 78,086 at the 2010 census...

, where his father served as Rabbi of the Zion Reform Jewish Congregation. From 1907 on, Houdini would claim in interviews to have been born in Appleton which was not true and on April 6, 1874, on the Gregorian calendar or 13 days difference from the Julian calendar (March 24, 1874) in Hungary at that time.

According to the 1880 census, the family lived on Appleton Street. On June 6, 1882, Rabbi Weiss became an American citizen. Losing his tenure at Zion in 1887, Rabbi Weiss moved with Ehrich to New York City. They lived in a boarding house on East 79th Street
79th Street (Manhattan)
79th Street is a major two-way street in the Upper East Side and Upper West Side of the New York City borough of Manhattan. East 79th Street stretches from East End Avenue to Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side, where it enters Central Park through Miners' Gate...

. They were joined by the rest of the family once Rabbi Weiss found permanent housing. As a child, Ehrich Weiss took several jobs, making his public début as a 9-year-old trapeze artist, calling himself "Ehrich, the Prince of the Air". He was also a champion cross country
Cross country running
Cross country running is a sport in which people run a race on open-air courses over natural terrain. The course, typically long, may include surfaces of grass and earth, pass through woodlands and open country, and include hills, flat ground and sometimes gravel road...

 runner in his youth. Weiss became a professional magician
Magic (illusion)
Magic is a performing art that entertains audiences by staging tricks or creating illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats using natural means...

 and began calling himself "Harry Houdini" because he was heavily influenced by the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin
Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin
Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin was a French magician. He is widely considered the father of the modern style of conjuring.-Early life and entrance into conjuring:...

, and his friend Jack Hayman told him, erroneously, that in French, adding an "i" to Houdin would mean "like Houdin" the great magician. In later life, Houdini would claim that the first part of his new name, Harry, was a homage to Harry Kellar
Harry Kellar
Harry Kellar was an American magician who presented large stage shows during the late 19th and early 20th centuries....

, whom Houdini admired.

In 1918, he registered for selective service
Selective Service System
The Selective Service System is a means by which the United States government maintains information on those potentially subject to military conscription. Most male U.S. citizens and male immigrant non-citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 are required by law to have registered within 30 days of...

 as Harry Handcuff Houdini.

Magic career


Houdini began his magic career in 1891. At the outset, he had little success. He performed in dime museums and sideshows, and even doubled as "The Wild Man" at a circus. Houdini focused initially on traditional card tricks. At one point, he billed himself as the "King of Cards". But he soon began experimenting with escape acts
Escapology
For the Jessica Mauboy song, see Inescapable.Escapology is the practice of escaping from restraints or other traps. Escapologists escape from handcuffs, straitjackets, cages, coffins, steel boxes, barrels, bags, burning buildings, fish-tanks and other perils, often in combination.-History:The art...

.

In 1893, while performing with his brother "Dash
Theodore Hardeen
Theodore Hardeen , known simply as Hardeen, was a Hungarian magician and escape artist, best known as Harry Houdini's brother...

" at Coney Island
Coney Island
Coney Island is a peninsula and beach on the Atlantic Ocean in southern Brooklyn, New York, United States. The site was formerly an outer barrier island, but became partially connected to the mainland by landfill....

 as "The Houdini Brothers", Harry met fellow performer Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner
Bess Houdini
Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner , known as Bess, was the stage assistant and wife of Harry Houdini; they had no children.-Biography:...

, whom he married. Bess replaced Dash in the act, which became known as "The Houdinis." For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess would work as his stage assistant.

Houdini's "big break" came in 1899 when he met manager Martin Beck
Martin Beck (vaudeville)
Martin Beck was a vaudeville theatre owner who founded Orpheum Circuit, Inc.-Early Life and Career:Martin Beck was born on 31 July, 1868 at Liptovský Mikuláš, a town in northern Slovakia that at the time of his birth was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire...

 in rural Woodstock, Illinois
Woodstock, Illinois
Woodstock is a far northwest suburb of Chicago in McHenry County, Illinois. The population was 20,151 at the 2000 census. The 2010 Census shows 24,770 residents. It is the county seat of McHenry County...

. Impressed by Houdini's handcuffs
Handcuffs
Handcuffs are restraint devices designed to secure an individual's wrists close together. They comprise two parts, linked together by a chain, a hinge, or rigid bar. Each half has a rotating arm which engages with a ratchet that prevents it from being opened once closed around a person's wrist...

 act, Beck advised him to concentrate on escape acts and booked him on the Orpheum vaudeville
Vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

 circuit. Within months, he was performing at the top vaudeville houses in the country. In 1900, Beck arranged for Houdini to tour Europe. After some days of unsuccessful interviews in London, Houdini managed to interest Dundas Slater, then manager of the Alhambra Theatre
Alhambra Theatre
The Alhambra was a popular theatre and music hall located on the east side of Leicester Square, in the West End of London. It was built originally as The Royal Panopticon of Science and Arts opening on 18 March 1854. It was closed after two years and reopened as the Alhambra. The building was...

. He gave a demonstration of escape from handcuffs at Scotland Yard, and succeeded in baffling the police so effectively that he was booked at the Alhambra for six months.

Houdini became widely known as "The Handcuff King." He toured England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Russia. In each city, Houdini would challenge local police to restrain him with shackles and lock him in their jails. In many of these challenge escapes, Houdini would first be stripped nude and searched
Strip search
A strip search is the stripping of a person to check for weapons or other contraband.-Legality of strip searches:...

. In Moscow, Houdini escaped from a Siberian prison transport van. Houdini claimed that, had he been unable to free himself, he would have had to travel to Siberia, where the only key was kept. In Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

, he sued a police officer, Werner Graff, who alleged that he made his escapes via bribery. Houdini won the case when he opened the judge's safe (he would later say the judge had forgotten to lock it). With his new-found wealth and success, Houdini purchased a dress said to have been made for Queen Victoria. He then arranged a grand reception where he presented his mother in the dress to all their relatives. Houdini said it was the happiest day of his life. In 1904, Houdini returned to the U.S. and purchased a house for $25,000, a brownstone
Brownstone
Brownstone is a brown Triassic or Jurassic sandstone which was once a popular building material. The term is also used in the United States to refer to a terraced house clad in this material.-Types:-Apostle Island brownstone:...

 at 278 W. 113th Street in Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

, New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

.

From 1907 and throughout the 1910s, Houdini performed with great success in the United States. He would free himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjacket
Straitjacket
A straitjacket is a garment shaped like a jacket with overlong sleeves and is typically used to restrain a person who may otherwise cause harm to themselves or others. Once the arms are inserted into the straitjacket's sleeves, they are then crossed across the chest...

s, often while hanging from a rope in plain sight of street audiences. Because of imitators, on January 25, 1908, Houdini put his "handcuff act" behind him and began escaping from a locked, water-filled milk can. The possibility of failure and death thrilled his audiences. Houdini also expanded repertoire with his escape challenge act, in which he invited the public to devise contraptions to hold him. These included nailed packing crates (sometimes lowered into water), riveted boilers, wet-sheets, mailbags, and even the belly of a whale that had washed ashore in Boston. Brewers challenged Houdini to escape from a barrel after they filled it with beer in Scranton, PA and other cities.

Many of these challenges were pre-arranged with local merchants in what is certainly one of the first uses of mass tie-in marketing. Rather than promote the idea that he was assisted by spirits, as did the Davenport Brothers
Davenport Brothers
Ira Erastus Davenport and William Henry Davenport , known as the Davenport Brothers, were American magicians in the late 19th century, sons of a Buffalo, New York policeman...

 and others, Houdini's advertisements showed him making his escapes via dematerializing
Teleportation
Teleportation is the fictional or imagined process by which matter is instantaneously transferred from one place to another.Teleportation may also refer to:*Quantum teleportation, a method of transmitting quantum data...

, although Houdini himself never claimed to have supernatural powers.

In 1912, Houdini introduced perhaps his most famous act, the Chinese Water Torture Cell
Chinese Water Torture Cell
The Chinese Water Torture Cell is a predicament escape made famous by Hungarian-American magician Harry Houdini. The illusion consists of three parts: first, the magician's feet are locked in stocks; next, he is suspended in mid-air from his ankles with a restraint brace; finally, he is lowered...

, in which he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full to overflowing with water. The act required that Houdini hold his breath for more than three minutes. Houdini performed the escape for the rest of his career. Despite two Hollywood movies depicting Houdini dying in the Torture Cell, the act had nothing to do with his death. Throughout his career, Houdini explained some of his tricks in books written for the magic brotherhood. In Handcuff Secrets (1909), he revealed how many locks and handcuffs could be opened with properly applied force, others with shoestring. Other times, he carried concealed lockpicks
Lock picking
Lock picking is the art of unlocking a lock by analyzing and manipulating the components of the lock device, without the original key. Although lock picking can be associated with criminal intent, it is an essential skill for a locksmith...

 or keys, being able to regurgitate
Professional regurgitator
A professional regurgitator is an entertainer whose act consists of swallowing and regurgitating various unusual objects. The objects may consist of anything from live animals , to light bulbs, billiard balls and kerosene .Some magicians perform regurgitation as part of their act , but professional...

 small keys at will. When tied down in ropes or straitjacket
Straitjacket
A straitjacket is a garment shaped like a jacket with overlong sleeves and is typically used to restrain a person who may otherwise cause harm to themselves or others. Once the arms are inserted into the straitjacket's sleeves, they are then crossed across the chest...

s, he gained wiggle room by enlarging his shoulders and chest, moving his arms slightly away from his body
Body
With regard to living things, a body is the physical body of an individual. "Body" often is used in connection with appearance, health issues and death...

, and then dislocating his shoulders.

His straitjacket escape was originally performed behind curtains, with him popping out free at the end. However, Houdini's brother, (who was also an escape artist, billing himself as Theodore Hardeen
Theodore Hardeen
Theodore Hardeen , known simply as Hardeen, was a Hungarian magician and escape artist, best known as Harry Houdini's brother...

), discovered that audiences were more impressed when the curtains were eliminated so they could watch him struggle to get out. On more than one occasion, they both performed straitjacket escapes whilst dangling upside-down from the roof of a building for publicity.

For most of his career, Houdini was a headline act in vaudeville
Vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

. For many years, he was the highest-paid performer in American vaudeville. One of Houdini's most notable non-escape stage illusions was performed at New York's Hippodrome Theater, when he vanished a full-grown elephant (with its trainer) from the stage, beneath which was a swimming pool. In 1923, Houdini became president of Martinka
Martinka
Martinka & Company is America's oldest magic company. Throughout the years the company has acquired and combined with over 30 other magic firms including Hornmann and Milton Chase and its roots date back to the early 19th century.-Beginnings:...

 & Co., America's oldest magic company. The business is still in operation today.

He also served as President of the Society of American Magicians (aka S.A.M.) from 1917 until his death in 1926. Founded on May 10, 1902 in the back room of Martinka
Martinka
Martinka & Company is America's oldest magic company. Throughout the years the company has acquired and combined with over 30 other magic firms including Hornmann and Milton Chase and its roots date back to the early 19th century.-Beginnings:...

's magic shop in New York, the Society expanded under the leadership of Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American magician and escapologist, stunt performer, actor and film producer noted for his sensational escape acts...

 during his term as National President from 1917-1926. Houdini was magic's greatest visionary. He sought to create a large, unified national network of professional and amateur magicians. Wherever he traveled, Houdini would give a lengthy formal address to the local magic club, making speeches, and usually threw a banquet for the members at his own expense. He said "The Magicians Clubs as a rule are small: they are weak...but if we were amalgamated into one big body the society would be stronger, and it would mean making the small clubs powerful and worth while. "Members would find a welcome wherever they happened to be and, conversely, the safeguard of a city-to-city hotline to track exposers and other undesirables."

For most of 1916, while on his vaudeville tour, Houdini, at his own expense, had been recruiting local magic clubs to join the SAM in an effort to revitalize what he felt was a weak organization. Houdini persuaded groups in Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, ande Kansas City join. As had happened in London, Houdini persuaded magicians to join. The Buffalo club joined as the first branch, (later assembly) of the Society. Chicago Assembly No. 3 was, as the name implies, the third regional club to be established by the S.A.M., whose assemblies now number in the hundreds. In 1917, he signed Assembly Number Three's charter into existence, and that charter and this club continue to provide Chicago magicians with a connection to each other and to their past. Houdini dined with, addressed, and got pledges from similar clubs in Detroit, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cincinnati and elsewhere. This was the biggest movement ever in the history of magic. In places where no clubs existed, he rounded up individual magicians, introduced them to each other, and urged them into the fold.

By the end of 1916, magicians' clubs in San Francisco and other cities that Houdini had not visited were offering to become assemblies. He had created the richest and longest surviving organization of magicians in the world. It now embraces almost 6,000 dues paying members and almost 300 assemblies worldwide. In July, 1926, Houdini was elected for the ninth successive time President of the Society of American Magicians. Every other president has only served for one year. He also was President of the Magicians' Club of London.

In the final years of his life (1925/26), Houdini launched his own full-evening show, which he billed as "3 Shows in One: Magic, Escapes, and Fraud Mediums Exposed".

Mirror handcuff challenge



In 1904, the London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 Daily Mirror newspaper challenged Houdini to escape from a special handcuff that it claimed had taken Nathaniel Hart, a locksmith from Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, seven years to make. Houdini accepted the challenge for March 17 during a matinée performance at London's Hippodrome theater. It was reported that 4000 people and more than 100 journalists turned out for the much-hyped event. The escape attempt dragged on for over an hour, during which Houdini emerged from his "ghost house" (a small screen used to conceal the method of his escape) several times. On one occasion, he asked if the cuff could be removed so he could take off his coat. The Mirror representative, Frank Parker, refused, saying Houdini could gain an advantage if he saw how the cuff was unlocked. Houdini promptly took out a pen-knife and, holding the knife in his teeth, used it to cut his coat from his body. Some 56 minutes later, Houdini's wife appeared on stage and gave him a kiss. It is believed that in her mouth was the key to unlock the special handcuff. Houdini then went back behind the curtain. After an hour and ten minutes, Houdini emerged free. As he was paraded on the shoulders of the cheering crowd, he broke down and wept. Houdini later said it was the most difficult escape of his career.

After Houdini's death, his friend, Martin Beck was quoted in Will Goldstone's book, Sensational Tales of Mystery Men, in which he said that Houdini was bested that day and had appealed to his wife, Bess, for help. Goldstone goes on to claim that Bess begged the key from the Mirror representative, then slipped it to Houdini in a glass of water. However, it was stated in the book "The Secret Life of Houdini" that the key required to open the specially designed Mirror handcuffs was 6" long, and thus could not have been smuggled to Houdini in a glass of water. Goldstone offered no proof of his account, and many modern biographers have found evidence (notably in the custom design of the handcuff itself) that the Mirror challenge was prearranged by Houdini, and that his long struggle to escape was pure showmanship. In support of this, it has been reported that the sterling silver replica of the Mirror cuffs presented to Houdini in honor of his escape was actually made the year before the escape actually took place.

This was recently covered in depth on the Travel Channel's "Mysteries At The Museum" in an interview with Houdini expert, magician and escape artist Dorothy Dietrich of Scranton's Houdini Museum.

A full-sized replica of the Mirror Handcuffs, as well as a replica of the Bramah style key for it, is on display to the public at the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA. This is the only public display of this style cuff anywhere.

Milk Can Escape


In 1901, Houdini introduced his own original act, the Milk Can Escape. In this act, Houdini would be handcuffed and sealed inside an over-sized milk can filled with water and make his escape behind a curtain. As part of the effect, Houdini would invite members of the audience to hold their breath along with him while he was inside the can. Advertised with dramatic posters that proclaimed "Failure Means A Drowning Death", the escape proved to be a sensation. Houdini soon modified the escape to include the milk can being locked inside a wooden chest, being chained or padlocked, and even inside another milk can. Houdini only performed the milk can escape as a regular part of his act for four years, but it remains one of the acts most associated with the escape artist. Houdini's brother, Theodore Hardeen, continued to perform the milk can (and the wooden chest variation) into the 1940s.

The American Museum of Magic
American Museum of Magic
The American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan, houses a large collection of magical paraphernalia and illusions, including an extensive collection of devices that once belonged to famed magician Harry Blackstone, Sr., .-Museum collection:...

 has the “Milk Can” and "Overboard Box" used by Harry Houdini.

Chinese Water Torture Cell



In 1912, the vast number of imitators prompted Houdini to replace his Milk Can act with the Chinese Water Torture Cell
Chinese Water Torture Cell
The Chinese Water Torture Cell is a predicament escape made famous by Hungarian-American magician Harry Houdini. The illusion consists of three parts: first, the magician's feet are locked in stocks; next, he is suspended in mid-air from his ankles with a restraint brace; finally, he is lowered...

. In this escape, Houdini's feet would be locked in stocks, and he would be lowered upside down into a tank filled with water. The mahogany and metal cell featured a glass front, through which audiences could clearly see Houdini. The stocks would be locked to the top of the cell, and a curtain would conceal his escape. In the earliest version of the Torture Cell, a metal cage was lowered into the cell, and Houdini was enclosed inside that. While making the escape more difficult (the cage prevented Houdini from turning), the cage bars also offered protection should the front glass break. The original cell was built in England, where Houdini first performed the escape for an audience of one person as part of a one-act play he called "Houdini Upside Down". This was so he could copyright the effect and have grounds to sue imitators (which he did). While the escape was advertised as "The Chinese Water Torture Cell" or "The Water Torture Cell", Houdini always referred to it as "the Upside Down" or "USD". The first public performance of the USD was at the Circus Busch in Berlin, on September 21, 1912. Houdini continued to perform the escape until his death in 1926.

Suspended straitjacket escape


One of Houdini's most popular publicity stunts was to have himself strapped into a regulation straitjacket and suspended by his ankles from a tall building or crane. Houdini would then make his escape in full view of the assembled crowd. In many cases, Houdini would draw thousands of onlookers who would choke the street and bring city traffic to a halt. Houdini would sometimes ensure press coverage by performing the escape from the office building of a local newspaper. In New York City, Houdini performed the suspended straitjacket escape from a crane being used to build the New York subway. After flinging his body in the air, he escaped from the straitjacket. Starting from when he was hoisted up in the air by the crane, to when the straitjacket was completely off, it took him two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. There is film footage of Houdini performing the escape in The Library of Congress. After being battered against a building in high winds during one escape, Houdini performed the escape with a visible safety wire on his ankle so that he could be pulled away from the building if necessary. The idea for the upside-down escape was given to Houdini by a young boy named Randolph Osborne Douglas
Randolph Osborne Douglas
Randolph Osborne Douglas was a silversmith, artist and amateur escapologist, who worked under the stage name, The Great Randini. Douglas is said to have devised tricks for Houdini...

 (March 31, 1895 – Dec 5, 1956), when the two met at a performance at Sheffield's Empire Theatre.

Overboard box escape



Another one of Houdini's most famous publicity stunts was to escape from a nailed and roped packing crate after it had been lowered into water. Houdini first performed the escape in New York's East River on July 7, 1912. Police forbade him from using one of the piers, so Houdini hired a tugboat and invited press on board. Houdini was locked in handcuffs and leg-irons, then nailed into the crate which was roped and weighed down with two hundred pounds of lead. The crate was then lowered into the water. Houdini escaped in fifty-seven seconds. The crate was pulled to the surface and found to still be intact with the manacles inside. Houdini would perform this escape many times, and even performed a version on stage, first at Hamerstein's Roof Garden (where a 5,500-gallon tank was specially built), and later at the New York Hippodrome.

Buried Alive stunt


Houdini performed at least three variations on a "Buried Alive
Premature burial
Premature burial, also known as live burial, burial alive, or vivisepulture, means to be buried while still alive. Animals or humans may be buried alive accidentally or intentionally...

" stunt/escape during his career. The first was near Santa Ana, California in 1915, and it almost cost Houdini his life. Houdini was buried, without a casket, in a pit of earth six feet deep. He became exhausted and panicky trying to dig his way to the surface and called for help. When his hand finally broke the surface, he fell unconscious and had to be pulled from the grave by his assistants. Houdini wrote in his diary that the escape was "very dangerous" and that "the weight of the earth is killing."

Houdini's second variation on Buried Alive was an endurance test designed to expose mystical Egyptian performer Rahman Bey, who claimed to use supernatural powers to remain in a sealed casket for an hour. Houdini bettered Bey on August 5, 1926, by remaining in a sealed casket submerged in the swimming pool of New York's Hotel Shelton for one hour and a half. Houdini claimed he did not use any trickery or supernatural powers to accomplish this feat, just controlled breathing. He repeated the feat at the YMCA in Worcester Massachusetts on September 28, 1926, this time remaining sealed for one hour and eleven minutes.

Houdini's final Buried Alive was an elaborate stage escape that was to feature in his full evening show. The stunt would see Houdini escape after being strapped in a strait-jacket, sealed in a casket, and then buried in a large tank filled with sand. While there are posters advertising the escape (playing off the Bey challenge they boasted "Egyptian Fakirs Outdone!"), it is unclear whether Houdini ever performed Buried Alive on stage. The stunt was to be the feature escape of his 1927 season, but Houdini died on October 31, 1926. The bronze casket Houdini created for Buried Alive was used to transport Houdini's body from Detroit back to New York following his death on Halloween
Halloween
Hallowe'en , also known as Halloween or All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31, the night before All Saints' Day...

.

Movie career


In 1906 Houdini started showing films of his outside escapes as part of his vaudeville act. In Boston he presented a short film called Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt. Georg Hackenschmidt
Georg Hackenschmidt
Georg Karl Julius Hackenschmidt was an early 20th-century Estonian strongman and professional wrestler, and the first free-style heavyweight champion of the world. He launched his professional career in Russia and lived most of his life in London, England, where he gained the nickname of 'The...

 was a famous wrestler of the day, but the nature of their contest is unknown as the film is lost. In 1909 Houdini made a film in Paris for Cinema Lux titled Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris (Marvellous Exploits of the Famous Houdini in Paris). It featured a loose narrative designed to showcase several of Houdini's famous escapes, including his straitjacket and underwater handcuff escapes. That same year Houdini got an offer to star as Captain Nemo
Captain Nemo
Captain Nemo, also known as Prince Dakkar, is a fictional character featured in Jules Verne's novels Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island ....

 in a silent version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but the project never made it into production.

It is often erroneously reported that Houdini served as special-effects consultant on the Wharton/International cliffhanger serial, The Mysteries of Myra, shot in Ithaca, New York, because Harry Grossman, director of The Master Mystery also filmed a serial in Ithaca at about the same time. Houdini had nothing to do with "Myra", which treated spiritualism as real, something he never would have approved of. The actual consultants on the serial were pioneering psychic investigator Hereward Carrington
Hereward Carrington
Hereward Carrington, Ph.D. was a well-known British investigator of psychic phenomena and author...

 and magician Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

.

In 1918 Houdini signed a contract with film producer
Film producer
A film producer oversees and delivers a film project to all relevant parties while preserving the integrity, voice and vision of the film. They will also often take on some financial risk by using their own money, especially during the pre-production period, before a film is fully financed.The...

 B.A. Rolfe to star in a 15-part serial
Serial (film)
Serials, more specifically known as Movie serials, Film serials or Chapter plays, were short subjects originally shown in theaters in conjunction with a feature film. They were related to pulp magazine serialized fiction...

, The Master Mystery (released in January 1919). As was common at the time, the film serial was released simultaneously with a novel. Financial difficulties resulted in B.A. Rolfe Productions going out of business, but The Master Mystery led to Houdini being signed by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation/Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

, for whom he made two pictures, The Grim Game
The Grim Game
The Grim Game is a 1919 silent film starring Harry Houdini. The film's basic plotline serves as a showcase for Houdini's talent as an escapologist, stunt performer and aviator.-Plot:...

 (1919) and Terror Island (1920).
While filming an aerial stunt for The Grim Game, two biplanes collided in mid-air with a stuntman doubling Houdini dangling by a rope from one of the planes. Publicity was geared heavily toward promoting this dramatic "caught on film" moment, claiming it was Houdini himself dangling from the plane. While filming these movies in Los Angeles, Houdini rented a home in Laurel Canyon
Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, California
Laurel Canyon is a canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. It was first developed in the 1910s, and became a part of the city of Los Angeles in 1923 ....

. Following his two-picture stint in Hollywood, Houdini returned to New York and started his own film production company called the "Houdini Picture Corporation". He produced and starred in two films, The Man From Beyond (1921) and Haldane of the Secret Service (1923). He also founded his own film laboratory business called The Film Development Corporation (FDC), gambling on a new process for developing motion picture film. Houdini's brother, Theodore Hardeen
Theodore Hardeen
Theodore Hardeen , known simply as Hardeen, was a Hungarian magician and escape artist, best known as Harry Houdini's brother...

, left his own career as a magician and escape artist to run the company. Magician Harry Kellar
Harry Kellar
Harry Kellar was an American magician who presented large stage shows during the late 19th and early 20th centuries....

 was a major investor.

Neither Houdini's acting career nor FDC found success, and he gave up on the movie business in 1923, complaining that "the profits are too meager". But his celebrity was such that, years later, he would be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame
The Hollywood Walk of Fame consists of more than 2,400 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along fifteen blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California...

 (at 7001 Hollywood Blvd).

In April 2008 Kino International released a DVD box set of Houdini's surviving silent films, including The Master Mystery, Terror Island, The Man From Beyond, Haldane of the Secret Service, and five minutes from The Grim Game. The set also includes newsreel footage of Houdini's escapes from 1907 to 1923, and a section from Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris (although it is not identified as such).

Pioneer aviator


In 1909, Houdini became fascinated with aviation. He purchased a French Voisin biplane
Biplane
A biplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with two superimposed main wings. The Wright brothers' Wright Flyer used a biplane design, as did most aircraft in the early years of aviation. While a biplane wing structure has a structural advantage, it produces more drag than a similar monoplane wing...

 for $5000 and hired a full-time mechanic, Antonio Brassac. Houdini painted his name in bold block letters
Block letters
Block letters are a form of writing in which the letters are upright, separated, and usually made without serifs. In English-speaking countries children are first taught to write in block letters , and later may advance to cursive writing...

 on the Voisin's sidepanels and tail. After crashing once, he made his first successful flight on November 26 in Hamburg, Germany. The following year (1910), Houdini toured Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. He brought along his Voisin biplane and made the first powered flight over Australia on March 18 at Diggers Rest, Victoria
Diggers Rest, Victoria
Diggers Rest is a town in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 33 km north-west from Melbourne's central business district. It lies on the old Calder Highway near the Calder Freeway. Its Local Government Area is the Shire of Melton and City of Hume...

 (near Melton), north of Melbourne. Colin Defries
Colin Defries
Colin Defries was an English pilot who made the first attempted powered flight over Australia on 9 December 1909 in Victoria Park racecourse. He crashed his biplane when he lost control upon reaching for his hat, which was being blown off by the wind...

 preceded him, but he crashed the plane on landing.

Following his Australia tour, Houdini put the Voisin into storage in England. He announced he would use it to fly from city to city during his next Music Hall tour, although Houdini never in fact flew again (for no documented reason).

A celebration of the centenary of Houdini's first flight was held at Diggers Rest in 2010. The event included the dedication of a new monument, a Houdini-Centenary air-show, magic performances, and the display of a one-third scale model of Houdini's Voisin.

Debunking spiritualists



In the 1920s Houdini turned his energies toward debunking self-proclaimed psychics
Parapsychology
The term parapsychology was coined in or around 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir, and originates from para meaning "alongside", and psychology. The term was adopted by J.B. Rhine in the 1930s as a replacement for the term psychical research...

 and mediums
Mediumship
Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

, a pursuit that would inspire and be followed by later-day conjurers. Houdini's training in magic allowed him to expose frauds who had successfully fooled many scientists and academics. He was a member of a Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

 committee that offered a cash prize to any medium who could successfully demonstrate supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 abilities. None were able to do so, and the prize was never collected. The first to be tested was medium George Valentine of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. As his fame as a "ghostbuster" grew, Houdini took to attending séance
Séance
A séance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma"...

s in disguise, accompanied by a reporter and police officer. Possibly the most famous medium whom he debunked was Mina Crandon
Mina Crandon
Mina "Margery" Crandon was the wife of a wealthy Boston surgeon and socialite, Dr. Le Roi Goddard Crandon. She became well known as a medium who claimed that she channeled her dead brother, Walter Stinson.-Biography:...

, also known as "Margery".

Houdini chronicled his debunking exploits in his book, A Magician Among the Spirits. These activities cost Houdini the friendship of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...

. Doyle, a firm believer in Spiritualism during his later years, refused to believe any of Houdini's exposés. Doyle came to believe that Houdini was a powerful spiritualist medium, and had performed many of his stunts by means of paranormal abilities and was using these abilities to block those of other mediums that he was 'debunking' (see Conan Doyle's The Edge of The Unknown, published in 1931). This disagreement led to the two men becoming public antagonists and led Sir Arthur to view Houdini as a dangerous enemy.

Before Houdini died, he and his wife agreed that if Houdini found it possible to communicate after death, he would communicate the message "Rosabelle believe", a secret code which they agreed to use. This was a phrase from a play in which Bess performed, at the time the couple first met. Bess held yearly séances on Halloween
Halloween
Hallowe'en , also known as Halloween or All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly holiday observed around the world on October 31, the night before All Saints' Day...

 for ten years after Houdini's death, but Houdini's spirit never appeared. Bess, grieving and in need of some attention, did stage a false contact which she later recanted. In 1936, after a last unsuccessful séance on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel
Knickerbocker Hotel (Los Angeles)
The Hollywood Knickerbocker Apartments, formerly the Knickerbocker Hotel, is a senior home 1714 Ivar Avenue in Los Angeles, California. Built in 1925 by E.M. Frasier in Spanish Colonial Revival style, the historic hotel catered to the region's nascent film industry, and is the site for some of...

, she put out the candle that she had kept burning beside a photograph of Houdini since his death. In 1943, Bess said that "ten years is long enough to wait for any man."

The tradition of holding a séance for Houdini continues, held by magicians throughout the world. The Official Houdini Séance is currently organized by Sidney Hollis Radner
Sidney Hollis Radner
Sidney Hollis Radner was a retired rug salesman from Holyoke, Massachusetts, who owned one of the world's largest and most valuable collections of Harry Houdini artifacts...

, a Houdini aficionado from Holyoke, Massachusetts. Yearly Houdini Séances are also conducted in Chicago at the Excaliber
Excalibur (nightclub)
The Excalibur nightclub in Chicago was first opened in 1989. It is located in the former Chicago Historical Society building which is a Chicago historical landmark...

 nightclub by "necromancer" Neil Tobin
Neil Tobin
Neil Tobin is a performer of magical and psychic entertainment.Since his performance material often involves themes of spirit contact—in addition to demonstrations of telepathy, precognition, magic, and even divination—he often performs as "Neil Tobin, Necromancer."-Live Performance:Since Friday...

 on behalf of the Chicago Assembly of the Society of American Magicians
Society of American Magicians
The Society of American Magicians is the oldest fraternal magic organization in the world. Its purpose is "to advance, elevate, and preserve magic as a performing art, to promote harmonious fellowship throughout the world of magic, and to maintain and improve ethical standards in the field of...

; and at the Houdini Museum in Scranton by magician Dorothy Dietrich
Dorothy Dietrich
Dorothy Dietrich is an American stage magician and escapologist, and the first and only woman to have performed the bullet catch in mouth. She was also the first woman to perform a straitjacket escape while suspended hundreds of feet in the air from a burning rope Dorothy Dietrich is an American...

 who previously held them at New York's famous Magic Towne House with such magical notables as Houdini biographers Walter B. Gibson
Walter B. Gibson
Walter Brown Gibson was an American author and professional magician, best known for his work on the pulp fiction character The Shadow...

 and Milbourne Christopher
Milbourne Christopher
Milbourne Christopher was an American illusionist.President of the Society of American Magicians, an honorary vice-president to the Magic Circle, and one of the founding members of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Christopher authored several books, including a biography of Harry Houdini, and...

. Gibson was asked by Bess Houdini to carry on the tradition. Before he died, Walter passed on the tradition to Dorothy Dietrich
Dorothy Dietrich
Dorothy Dietrich is an American stage magician and escapologist, and the first and only woman to have performed the bullet catch in mouth. She was also the first woman to perform a straitjacket escape while suspended hundreds of feet in the air from a burning rope Dorothy Dietrich is an American...

.

In 1926, Harry Houdini hired H. P. Lovecraft
H. P. Lovecraft
Howard Phillips Lovecraft --often credited as H.P. Lovecraft — was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction....

 and his friend C. M. Eddy, Jr.
C. M. Eddy, Jr.
Clifford Martin Eddy, Jr. was an American author best known for his horror and supernatural short stories. He is best remembered for his work in Weird Tales magazine.- Career :...

, to write an entire book about debunking superstition, which was to be called The Cancer of Superstition. Houdini had earlier asked Lovecraft to write an article about astrology, for which he paid $75. The article does not survive. Lovecraft's detailed synopsis for Cancer does survive, as do three chapters of the treatise written by Eddy. Houdini's untimely death derailed the plans, as his widow did not wish to pursue the project.

Appearance and voice recordings


Unlike the image of the classic magician, Houdini was short and stocky and typically appeared on stage in a long frock coat and tie. Most biographers peg his height as , but descriptions vary. Houdini was also said to be slightly bow-legged, which aided in his ability to gain slack during his rope escapes. In the 1997 biography Houdini!!!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss, author Kenneth Silverman
Kenneth Silverman
Kenneth Silverman is a professor emeritus at New York University and a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer. Silverman was born in Manhattan in 1936.-Books:* The Life and Times of Cotton Mather New York : Harper & Row, 1984...

 summarizes how reporters described Houdini's appearance during his early career:
Houdini made the only known recordings of his voice on Edison wax cylinder
Phonograph cylinder
Phonograph cylinders were the earliest commercial medium for recording and reproducing sound. Commonly known simply as "records" in their era of greatest popularity , these cylinder shaped objects had an audio recording engraved on the outside surface which could be reproduced when the cylinder was...

s on October 29, 1914, in Flatbush, New York. On them, Houdini practices several different introductory speeches for his famous Chinese Water Torture Cell
Chinese Water Torture Cell
The Chinese Water Torture Cell is a predicament escape made famous by Hungarian-American magician Harry Houdini. The illusion consists of three parts: first, the magician's feet are locked in stocks; next, he is suspended in mid-air from his ankles with a restraint brace; finally, he is lowered...

. He also invites his sister, Gladys, to recite a poem. Houdini then recites the same poem in German. The six wax cylinders were discovered in the collection of magician John Mulholland after his death in 1970. They are part of the David Copperfield
David Copperfield (illusionist)
David Copperfield is an Emmy Award-winning American illusionist, and was described by Forbes as the most commercially successful magician in history. Copperfield's network specials have been nominated for 38 Emmy Awards and won a total of 21 Emmys...

 collection.

Artifacts


Houdini's brother, Theodore Hardeen
Theodore Hardeen
Theodore Hardeen , known simply as Hardeen, was a Hungarian magician and escape artist, best known as Harry Houdini's brother...

, who returned to performing after Houdini's death, inherited his brother's effects and props. Houdini's will stipulated that all the effects should be "burned and destroyed" upon Hardeen's death. Hardeen sold much of the collection to magician and Houdini enthusiast Sidney Hollis Radner
Sidney Hollis Radner
Sidney Hollis Radner was a retired rug salesman from Holyoke, Massachusetts, who owned one of the world's largest and most valuable collections of Harry Houdini artifacts...

 during the 1940s, including the Water Torture Cell. Radner allowed choice pieces of the collection to be displayed at The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Ontario
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Niagara Falls is a Canadian city on the Niagara River in the Golden Horseshoe region of Southern Ontario. The municipality was incorporated on June 12, 1903...

. In 1995, a fire destroyed the museum. While the Water Torture Cell was reported to have been destroyed, its metal frame remained, and the cell was restored by illusion builder John Gaughan. Many of the props contained in the museum such as the Mirror Handcuffs, Houdini's original packing crate, a Milk Can, and a straitjacket, survived the fire and were auctioned off in 1999 and 2008.

Radner archived the bulk of his collection at the Outagamie Museum in Appleton, Wisconsin, but pulled it in 2003 and auctioned it off in Las Vegas on October 30, 2004.

Houdini was a "formidable collector," He bequeathed his holdings on magic and spiritualism to the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

, which became the basis for a collection in cyberspace.

Death


Harry Houdini died of peritonitis
Peritonitis
Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the serous membrane that lines part of the abdominal cavity and viscera. Peritonitis may be localised or generalised, and may result from infection or from a non-infectious process.-Abdominal pain and tenderness:The main manifestations of...

, secondary to a ruptured appendix
Appendicitis
Appendicitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the appendix. It is classified as a medical emergency and many cases require removal of the inflamed appendix, either by laparotomy or laparoscopy. Untreated, mortality is high, mainly because of the risk of rupture leading to...

. Eyewitnesses to an incident at the Princess Theater in Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

 gave rise to speculation that Houdini's death was caused by a McGill University
McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...

 student, J. Gordon Whitehead, who delivered a surprise attack of multiple blows to Houdini's abdomen.

The eyewitnesses, students named Jacques Price and Sam Smilovitz (sometimes called Jack Price and Sam Smiley), proffered accounts of the incident that generally corroborated one another. The following is Price's description of events:

Houdini reportedly stated that if he had had time to prepare himself properly, he would have been in a better position to take the blows. He had apparently been suffering from appendicitis for several days prior and yet refused medical treatment. His appendix would likely have burst on its own without the trauma. Although in serious pain, Houdini continued to travel without seeking medical attention.

When Houdini arrived at the Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is the major city among the primary cultural, financial, and transportation centers in the Metro Detroit area, a region of 5.2 million people. As the seat of Wayne County, the city of Detroit is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan and serves as a major port on the Detroit River...

 on October 24, 1926, for what would be his last performance, he had a fever of 104 °F (40 °C). Despite a diagnosis of acute appendicitis, Houdini took the stage. He was reported to have passed out during the show, but was revived and continued. Afterwards, he was hospitalized at Detroit's Grace Hospital
Sinai-Grace Hospital
DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital is the largest hospital in the eight hospitals/institutions composing the Detroit Medical Center. Located in northwest Detroit, Sinai-Grace offers a comprehensive heart center, cancer care, gerontology, emergency medicine, obstetrics/gynecology and cosmetic/plastic surgery...

.

Houdini died of peritonitis
Peritonitis
Peritonitis is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the serous membrane that lines part of the abdominal cavity and viscera. Peritonitis may be localised or generalised, and may result from infection or from a non-infectious process.-Abdominal pain and tenderness:The main manifestations of...

 from a ruptured appendix
Vermiform appendix
The appendix is a blind-ended tube connected to the cecum , from which it develops embryologically. The cecum is a pouchlike structure of the colon...

 at 1:26 p.m. in Room 401 on October 31, aged 52. In his final weeks, he optimistically held to a strong belief that he would recover.

After taking statements from Price and Smilovitz, Houdini's insurance company concluded that the death was due to the dressing-room incident and paid double indemnity.

Houdini's funeral was held on November 4, 1926, in New York, with more than 2,000 mourners in attendance. He was interred in the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York, with the crest of the Society of American Magicians
Society of American Magicians
The Society of American Magicians is the oldest fraternal magic organization in the world. Its purpose is "to advance, elevate, and preserve magic as a performing art, to promote harmonious fellowship throughout the world of magic, and to maintain and improve ethical standards in the field of...

 inscribed on his gravesite. A statuary bust was added to the excedra in 1927, believed to be the only graven image in a Jewish cemetery anywhere. In 1975 it was knocked over and destroyed. Temporary ones were placed there until in 2011 when a group who came to be called The Houdini Commandos from The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA placed a permanent bust with the permission of Houdini's family and the the cemetery. To this day the Society holds a broken wand ceremony
Broken wand ceremony
A broken wand ceremony is a ritual performed at the funeral of a magician, in which a wand—either the wand which the magician used in performances, or a ceremonial one—is broken, indicating that with the magician's death, the wand has lost its magic....

 at the grave site in November. Houdini's widow, Bess
Bess Houdini
Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner , known as Bess, was the stage assistant and wife of Harry Houdini; they had no children.-Biography:...

, died on February 11, 1943, aged 67, in Needles, California
Needles, California
Needles is a city located in the Mojave Desert on the western banks of the Colorado River in San Bernardino County, California. It is located in the Mohave Valley, which straddles the California–Arizona border. The city is accessible via Interstate 40 and U.S. Route 95...

. She had expressed a wish to be buried next to him but instead was interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery
Gate of Heaven Cemetery
The Gate of Heaven Cemetery, approximately 25 miles north of New York City, was established in 1917 at 10 West Stevens Ave. in Hawthorne, Westchester County, New York, United States, as a Roman Catholic burial site...

 in Westchester, New York, as her Catholic family refused to allow her to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Proposed exhumation


On March 22, 2007, Houdini's great-nephew (the grandson of his brother Theo), George Hardeen, announced that the courts would be asked to allow exhumation of Houdini's body. The purpose was to investigate the possibility of Houdini being murdered by Spiritualists, as suggested in the biography The Secret Life of Houdini.
In a statement given to the Houdini Museum
Houdini Museum
The Houdini Museum was established in 1988 at 1433 N. Main Avenue in Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA. It is in a turn-of-the-20th-century building that has been entirely renovated. Houdini performed in Scranton and did several special challenges there. His brother, Hardeen, also appeared in Scranton...

 in Scranton, the family of Bess Houdini opposed the application and suggested it was a publicity ploy for the book. The Washington Post stated that the press conference was not orchestrated by the family of Houdini. Instead, the Post reported, it was orchestrated by authors Kalush and Sloman, who hired the PR firm Dan Klores Communications to assist them, allegedly because of terribly sagging book sales.

In 2008 it was revealed the parties involved never filed legal papers to perform an exhumation.

Legacy

  • 1936: On October 31, 1936, Houdini's widow held the "Final Houdini Séance" atop The Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood, California. A recording of the séance was made and issued as a record album. She then asked Houdini ghost writer and biographer Walter B. Gibson (writer of "The Shadow" series) to continue the seances. Before Gibson died he passed on the legacy to magician and Houdini expert Dorothy Dietrich of The Houdini Museum in Scranton.
  • 1938: Bess Houdini appeared as herself in the film, Religious Racketeer (a.k.a. Mystic Circle Murder), and expressed her belief that communication with those who have died is impossible. The film sparked controversy among spiritualists, but was praised by magicians.
  • 1953: A film, Houdini
    Houdini (film)
    Houdini is a 1953 biographical film about the life of the magician and escapologist Harry Houdini. It was made by Paramount Pictures, directed by George Marshall and produced by George Pal from a screenplay by Philip Yordan, based on the book Houdini by Harold Kellock. The music score was by Roy...

    , a fictionalized biopic of Houdini's life, was released. Starring Tony Curtis
    Tony Curtis
    Tony Curtis was an American film actor whose career spanned six decades, but had his greatest popularity during the 1950s and early 1960s. He acted in over 100 films in roles covering a wide range of genres, from light comedy to serious drama...

     and Janet Leigh
    Janet Leigh
    Janet Leigh , born Jeanette Helen Morrison, was an American actress. She was the wife of actor Tony Curtis from June 1951 to September 1962 and the mother of Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis....

    , the film has partially contributed to several misconceptions about Houdini's life. For example, it portrays the cause of Houdini's death to be his failure to escape from the Chinese Water Torture Cell
    Chinese Water Torture Cell
    The Chinese Water Torture Cell is a predicament escape made famous by Hungarian-American magician Harry Houdini. The illusion consists of three parts: first, the magician's feet are locked in stocks; next, he is suspended in mid-air from his ankles with a restraint brace; finally, he is lowered...

    . (Curtis's Houdini agrees to seek medical attention "when the tour is over.") Houdini actually developed the Chinese Torture Cell trick fourteen years before he died and performed it numerous times.
  • 1968: The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame was opened on Clifton Hill
    Clifton Hill (Niagara Falls)
    Clifton Hill is one of the major tourist promenades in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The street, close in proximity to Niagara Falls and the Niagara River, leads from River Road on the Niagara Parkway to intersect with Victoria Avenue. The street contains a number of gift shops, wax museums, haunted...

     in Niagara Falls, Ontario
    Niagara Falls, Ontario
    Niagara Falls is a Canadian city on the Niagara River in the Golden Horseshoe region of Southern Ontario. The municipality was incorporated on June 12, 1903...

    , Canada. At its opening, the museum contained the majority of Houdini's personal collection of magic paraphernalia. One of Houdini's death wishes was that his entire collection be given to his brother Theodore (also known as the magician Hardeen) and burned upon Theodore's death. Against his wishes, forty years after Houdini's death, the items were taken from storage and sold. Two entrepreneurs purchased the items and renovated a former meat-packing plant on Clifton Hill, Ontario, Canada, to house the museum. The Hall of Fame was moved in 1972 to its final location on the top of Clifton Hill. Séances were held every year at the museum on October 31, the anniversary of Houdini's death. A fire destroyed the museum on April 30, 1995.
  • 1968: Stuart Damon
    Stuart Damon
    Stuart Damon is an American actor. He is known for thirty years of portraying the character Dr. Alan Quartermaine on the American soap opera General Hospital, for which he won an Emmy Award in 1999....

     played Houdini in a lavishly staged London musical, Man of Magic.
  • 1970: Welsh
    Welsh people
    The Welsh people are an ethnic group and nation associated with Wales and the Welsh language.John Davies argues that the origin of the "Welsh nation" can be traced to the late 4th and early 5th centuries, following the Roman departure from Britain, although Brythonic Celtic languages seem to have...

     singer-songwriter Meic Stevens
    Meic Stevens
    Meic Mortimer Stevens is a Welsh singer-songwriter often referred to as "the Welsh Dylan" and has been compared favourably with musicians like Syd Barrett. Stevens's songs have a mystical, faintly psychedelic flavour, and are mostly sung in his native Welsh language...

     song "Y Brawd Houdini" ("The Brother Houdini") was released in his album Outlander.
  • 1975: Canadian magician Doug Henning
    Doug Henning
    Douglas James Henning was a Canadian magician, illusionist, escape artist and politician.-Early life:...

     successfully duplicated Houdini's Chinese Water Torture trick for the first time since its original performance, on an ABC TV special.
  • 1975: Houdini received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
    Hollywood Walk of Fame
    The Hollywood Walk of Fame consists of more than 2,400 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along fifteen blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California...

    . The star is located on the northwest corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Orange Drive, just across from the Grauman's Chinese Theater and down the street from The Magic Castle
    The Magic Castle
    The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, California, is a nightclub for magicians and magic enthusiasts, as well as the clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts. It bills itself as "the most unusual private club in the world."-Nightclub:The Magic...

    .
  • 1975: Houdini repeatedly appears in E. L. Doctorow
    E. L. Doctorow
    Edgar Lawrence Doctorow is an American author.- Biography :Edgar Lawrence Doctorow was born in the Bronx, New York City, the son of second-generation Americans of Russian Jewish descent...

    's historical novel Ragtime
    Ragtime (novel)
    Ragtime is a 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow. This work of historical fiction is primarily set in the New York City area from about 1900 until the United States entry into World War I in 1917...

    .
  • 1976: Houdini was played by Paul Michael Glaser
    Paul Michael Glaser
    Paul Michael Glaser is an American actor and director, perhaps best known for his role as Detective David Starsky on the 1970s television series Starsky and Hutch; he also appeared as Captain Jack Steeper on the 1999 to 2005 NBC series Third Watch.-Early life:Glaser, the youngest of three...

    , of Starsky and Hutch
    Starsky and Hutch
    Starsky and Hutch is a 1970s American cop thriller television series that consisted of a 90-minute pilot movie and 92 episodes of 60 minutes each; created by William Blinn, produced by Spelling-Goldberg Productions, and broadcast between April 30, 1975 and May 15, 1979 on the ABC...

     fame, in a 1976 TV movie called The Great Houdinis!
    The Great Houdinis
    The Great Houdinis is an American made-for-television film which originally aired on ABC on October 8, 1976. The film was written and directed by Melville Shavelson and features Paul Michael Glaser and Sally Struthers . It is a fictionalized account of the life of the Hungarian-American escape...

     (a.k.a. The Great Houdini
    The Great Houdini
    The Great Houdini: Magician Extraordinary, written by Beryl Williams and Samuel Epstein, is a biography on Harry Houdini, the great handcuff king and magician.This book tells about Houdini's life and reveals some of the secrets to his greatest tricks....

    ), which was also highly fictionalized. The film focused on Houdini's relationship with his wife and mother, who were portrayed as frequently bickering because his wife was a devout Christian, while his mother was portrayed almost fanatical in her Judaism (although, in reality, they had cordial relations). The film also treated with his fascination with life after death. The cast included Sally Struthers
    Sally Struthers
    Sally Ann Struthers is an American actress and spokeswoman, best-known for her roles as Gloria Stivic on All in the Family, for which she won two Emmy awards, and as Babette on Gilmore Girls.-Personal life:...

    , Vivian Vance
    Vivian Vance
    Vivian Roberta Jones was an American television and theater actress and singer. Often referred to as “TV’s most beloved second banana,” she is best known for her role as Ethel Mertz, sidekick to Lucille Ball on the American television sitcom I Love Lucy, and as Vivian Bagley on The Lucy...

    , Bill Bixby
    Bill Bixby
    Wilfred Bailey Everett “Bill” Bixby III was an American film and television actor, director, and frequent game show panelist.His career spanned over three decades; he appeared on stage, in motion pictures and TV series...

    , and Ruth Gordon
    Ruth Gordon
    Ruth Gordon Jones , better known as Ruth Gordon, was an American actress and writer. She was perhaps best known for her film roles such as Minnie Castevet, Rosemary's overly solicitous neighbor in Rosemary's Baby, as the eccentric Maude in Harold and Maude and as the mother of Orville Boggs in the...

    . Peter Cushing
    Peter Cushing
    Peter Wilton Cushing, OBE was an English actor, known for his many appearances in Hammer Films, in which he played the handsome but sinister scientist Baron Frankenstein and the vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing, amongst many other roles, often appearing opposite Christopher Lee, and occasionally...

     appeared as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Actor/Houdini authority Patrick Culliton played Houdini's assistant Franz Kukol.
  • 1982: English singer/songwriter Kate Bush
    Kate Bush
    Kate Bush is an English singer-songwriter, musician and record producer. Her eclectic musical style and idiosyncratic vocal style have made her one of the United Kingdom's most successful solo female performers of the past 30 years.In 1978, at the age of 19, Bush topped the UK Singles Chart...

     included a song about Houdini on her album The Dreaming
    The Dreaming (album)
    -Personnel:*Stewart Arnold: vocals, background vocals*Jimmy Bain: bass*Ian Bairnson: acoustic guitar, vocals, background vocals*John Barrett: assistant engineer*Brian Bath: electric guitar*Haydn Bendall: engineer...

    .
  • 1985: The City of Appleton, Wisconsin
    Appleton, Wisconsin
    Appleton is a city in Outagamie, Calumet, and Winnebago Counties in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. It is situated on the Fox River, 30 miles southwest of Green Bay and 100 miles north of Milwaukee. Appleton is the county seat of Outagamie County. The population was 78,086 at the 2010 census...

    , constructed the Houdini Plaza on the site of the magician's childhood home.
  • 1985: Wil Wheaton
    Wil Wheaton
    Richard William "Wil" Wheaton III is an American actor and writer. As an actor, he is best known for his portrayals of Wesley Crusher on the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gordie Lachance in the film Stand by Me and Joey Trotta in Toy Soldiers...

     played Houdini in Young Harry Houdini, a made-for-TV movie that aired on ABC as a "Disney Sunday Movie." The film also featured Jeffrey DeMunn
    Jeffrey DeMunn
    Jeffrey DeMunn is an American theatre, film and television actor.-Life and career:DeMunn was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Violet and James DeMunn. Stepson of noted actress Betty Lutes DeMunn...

     as the adult Houdini. DeMunn first played Houdini in the film version of Ragtime.
  • 1989: Canadian synth pop act Kon Kan
    Kon Kan
    Kon Kan was a Canadian synthpop band formed in 1988 in Toronto, Ontario. The band was awarded a 1990 Juno for their song "I Beg Your Pardon " and nominated for a 1991 Juno Award for their single "Puss n' Boots/These Boots ".-History:The band members consisted of Barry Harris and Kevin Wynne...

     released "Harry Houdini," the third single from the Move to Move
    Move to Move
    Move to Move is the debut album by Kon Kan, released in 1989. Released on Atlantic records, it spawned the singles “Harry Houdini”, “I Beg Your Pardon ” and “Move to Move”.-Track listing:...

     album. Also, Cutting Crew
    Cutting Crew
    The Cutting Crew is a pop rock band formed in England in 1985, best known for their #1 hit, " Died in Your Arms".-Career:Vocalist Nick Van Eede founded the group along with Canadian guitarist Kevin MacMichael in 1985, and the two made demos that led to a recording contract, before bassist Colin...

    's sophomore album The Scattering contained track number 5 entitled "Handcuffs for Houdini".
  • 1997: Actor Harvey Keitel
    Harvey Keitel
    Harvey Keitel is an American actor. Some of his most notable starring roles were in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, Ridley Scott's The Duellists and Thelma and Louise, Ettore Scola's That Night in Varennes, Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Jane Campion's The...

     played Houdini and Peter O'Toole
    Peter O'Toole
    Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole is an Irish actor of stage and screen. O'Toole achieved stardom in 1962 playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, and then went on to become a highly-honoured film and stage actor. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, and holds the record for most...

     Conan Doyle in the film FairyTale: A True Story
    FairyTale: A True Story
    FairyTale: A True Story is a 1997 film from Paramount Pictures, loosely based on the story of the Cottingley Fairies.-Plot:Early 20th Century England was a time and place ripe for believing, both in scientific advancements such as electric light and photography, and in anomalous phenomena of all...

    , set during World War I and portraying the alleged photographing of live fairies by two English schoolgirls. Houdini and Doyle are portrayed as collegial, even though they disagree as to the validity of spiritualism. In reality, Conan Doyle's fervent belief and Houdini's avowed skepticism sparked a bitter feud between the two that was never resolved. Keitel hired Patrick Culliton and Stanley Palm as "Houdini advisors."
  • 1998: Ragtime
    Ragtime (musical)
    Ragtime is a musical with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty.Based on the 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime tells the story of three groups in America, represented by Coalhouse Walker Jr., a Harlem musician; Mother, the matriarch of a WASP family in...

    , the Broadway musical version of the movie, premiered on January 18, 1998. It featured Houdini as a character and has a song called "Harry Houdini, Master Escapist." The book was written by Terrence McNally
    Terrence McNally
    Terrence McNally is an American playwright who has received four Tony Awards, an Emmy, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Hull-Warriner Award, and a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been a member of the Council of the...

    , with music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty
    Stephen Flaherty
    Stephen Flaherty is an American composer of musical theatre. He works most often in collaboration with the lyricist/bookwriter Lynn Ahrens...

     and Lynn Ahrens
    Lynn Ahrens
    Lynn Ahrens is an American writer and lyricist for the musical theatre, television and film. She has collaborated with Stephen Flaherty for many years...

    . The play ran on Broadway
    Broadway theatre
    Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

     until January 16, 2000, and won four Tony Awards. Both the movie and the play are based on E.L. Doctorow's 1975 novel of the same title.
  • 1998: Johnathon Schaech
    Johnathon Schaech
    Johnathon Schaech is an American actor, writer, and director.-Early life:Schaech was born in Edgewood, Maryland to Joseph, a Baltimore City law enforcement officer, and Joanne Schaech, a human resources executive. He is of German and Italian descent, and was raised Roman Catholic...

     played Houdini in the TNT original movie Houdini. The film co-starred Stacy Edwards
    Stacy Edwards
    Stacy Edwards is an American actress.Edwards was born in Glasgow, Montana, the daughter of Patty and Preston Edwards, who was an Air Force officer. She grew up all over the world, from Guam to Alabama. At 18, she received a scholarship to the Lou Conte Dance Studio in Chicago and began her...

     as Bess and Mark Ruffalo
    Mark Ruffalo
    Mark Alan Ruffalo is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter. He starred in films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Zodiac, Shutter Island, Just Like Heaven, You Can Count on Me and The Kids Are All Right for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best...

     as his brother "Dash" (a.k.a. Theo. Hardeen). The TV movie first aired on December 6, 1998.
  • 1999: Six Flags Great Adventure opened a Mad House ride named "Houdini's Great Escape", with the ride and pre-show based on bringing Houdini's spirit back into the world.
  • 2000: In Michael Chabon
    Michael Chabon
    Michael Chabon born May 24, 1963) is an American author and "one of the most celebrated writers of his generation", according to The Virginia Quarterly Review....

    's novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a 2000 novel by American author Michael Chabon that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. The novel follows the lives of two Jewish cousins before, during, and after World War II. They are a Czech artist named Joe Kavalier and a Brooklyn-born...

     the character Josef "Joe" Kavalier is inspired by Houdini and learns magic and escapology. In 1939 he escapes from Europe to America, where as a cartoonist he draws the adventures of The Escapist, a superhero
    Superhero
    A superhero is a type of stock character, possessing "extraordinary or superhuman powers", dedicated to protecting the public. Since the debut of the prototypical superhero Superman in 1938, stories of superheroes — ranging from brief episodic adventures to continuing years-long sagas —...

     inspired in part by Houdini.
  • 2001: The Houdini Seance was mounted as a theatrical piece in Chicago by Neil Tobin
    Neil Tobin
    Neil Tobin is a performer of magical and psychic entertainment.Since his performance material often involves themes of spirit contact—in addition to demonstrations of telepathy, precognition, magic, and even divination—he often performs as "Neil Tobin, Necromancer."-Live Performance:Since Friday...

     and becomes an annual Halloween event at Excalibur (nightclub)
    Excalibur (nightclub)
    The Excalibur nightclub in Chicago was first opened in 1989. It is located in the former Chicago Historical Society building which is a Chicago historical landmark...

    .
  • 2002: The United States Postal Service
    United States Postal Service
    The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States...

     issued a postage stamp
    Postage stamp
    A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

     with a replica of Houdini's favorite publicity poster on July 3, 2002.
  • There is a Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania
    Scranton, Pennsylvania
    Scranton is a city in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania, United States. It is the county seat of Lackawanna County and the largest principal city in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area. Scranton had a population of 76,089 in 2010, according to the U.S...

    . It is the only building in the world entirely dedicated to Houdini and is run by magicians Dick Brooks and Dorothy Dietrich
    Dorothy Dietrich
    Dorothy Dietrich is an American stage magician and escapologist, and the first and only woman to have performed the bullet catch in mouth. She was also the first woman to perform a straitjacket escape while suspended hundreds of feet in the air from a burning rope Dorothy Dietrich is an American...

    . The museum also holds an annual Houdini séance.
  • 2003: Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, a show inspired by Houdini's skepticism and hosted by magicians Penn & Teller
    Penn & Teller
    Penn & Teller are Las Vegas headliners whose act is an amalgam of illusion and comedy. Penn Jillette is a raconteur; Teller generally uses mime while performing, although his voice can occasionally be heard during their performance...

    , premiered.
  • 2007: The movie, Death Defying Acts
    Death Defying Acts
    Death Defying Acts is a 2007 supernatural romantic thriller. The film is a UK-Australian co-production directed by Gillian Armstrong and starring Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It concerns an episode in the life of Hungarian-American escapologist Harry Houdini at the height of his career in...

    , starring Guy Pearce
    Guy Pearce
    Guy Edward Pearce is an English-born Australian actor and musician, known for his roles as Leonard Shelby in Christopher Nolan's Memento, Lieutenant Ed Exley in L.A...

     and Catherine Zeta-Jones
    Catherine Zeta-Jones
    Catherine Zeta-Jones, CBE, is a British actress. She began her career on stage at an early age. After starring in a number of United Kingdom and United States television films and small roles in films, she came to prominence with roles in Hollywood movies such as the 1998 action film The Mask of...

    , was loosely based on Houdini's life. August 2007: the Independent Investigative Group (IIG) awarded Houdini a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. This honor has also been awarded to Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan
    Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

     and James Randi
    James Randi
    James Randi is a Canadian-American stage magician and scientific skeptic best known as a challenger of paranormal claims and pseudoscience. Randi is the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation...

    .
  • 2008: Australian rock band Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
    Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
    Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is the fourteenth studio album by Australian alternative rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The album was recorded in June and July 2007 at The State of the Ark Studios in Richmond, London and mixed by Nick Launay at British Grove Studios in Chiswick, and was released on...

     based on Houdini's attempt to discredit spiritualists.
  • 2008: Houdini's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
    Hollywood Walk of Fame
    The Hollywood Walk of Fame consists of more than 2,400 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along fifteen blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California...

     was restored and rededicated in a ceremony attended by Neil Patrick Harris
    Neil Patrick Harris
    Neil Patrick Harris is an American actor, singer, director, and magician.Prominent roles of his career include the title role in Doogie Howser, M.D., Colonel Carl Jenkins in Starship Troopers, the womanizing Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, a fictionalized version of himself in the Harold...

    , Penn & Teller
    Penn & Teller
    Penn & Teller are Las Vegas headliners whose act is an amalgam of illusion and comedy. Penn Jillette is a raconteur; Teller generally uses mime while performing, although his voice can occasionally be heard during their performance...

    , Tippi Hedren
    Tippi Hedren
    Nathalie Kay "Tippi" Hedren is an American actress and former fashion model with a career spanning six decades. She is primarily known for her roles in two Alfred Hitchcock films, The Birds and Marnie, and her extensive efforts in animal rescue at Shambala Preserve, an wildlife habitat which she...

    , Milt Larsen
    Milt Larsen
    Milt Larsen is a writer, actor, performer, lyricist, magician, entrepreneur, speaker and the creator of The Magic Castle, a private club for magicians and enthusiasts.-Early life:...

    , and other notables from the world of magic and movies.
  • 2009: Ragtime
    Ragtime (musical)
    Ragtime is a musical with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty.Based on the 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime tells the story of three groups in America, represented by Coalhouse Walker Jr., a Harlem musician; Mother, the matriarch of a WASP family in...

     (music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Terrence McNally, based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow) was revived on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. Houdini, played by Jonathan Hammond, wore costumes designed by the legendary Santo Loquasto
    Santo Loquasto
    Santo Richard Loquasto is a Sicilian-Italian-American production designer, scenic designer and costume designer for stage, film, and dance. He is a descendant of Libertino lo Guasto of Serradifalco, Caltanissetta, Sicily. Indy race car driver Al Loquasto was his first cousin...

     (Woody Allen's designer of choice). Houdini made a grand entrance hanging upside down on a wire, suspended high above the stage.
  • 2009: Summit Entertainment purchased the film rights to The Secret Life of Houdini and announced plans to produce a series of films featuring Houdini as an action hero in the vein of Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes.
  • 2009: The Perth Mint released a limited supply of dollar coins commemorating Houdini's first flight in Australia on March 18, 1910. A commemorative stamp was also issued.
  • 2010: A celebration commemorating the centenary of Houdini's first flight in Australia was held at Diggers Rest near Melbourne. The weekend-long event included the dedication of a new monument, a Houdini-Centenary air-show, magic performances, and the display of a one-third scale model of Houdini's Voisin biplane.
  • 2010: The World Premier of Houdini—The Man From Beyond musical opened in Toowoomba, Australia, at the University of Southern Queensland.
  • 2010: A major traveling exhibition of Houdini memorabilia, paraphernalia, and art (inspired by him) —titled Houdini: Art and Magic—opened at the Jewish Museum
    Jewish Museum (New York)
    The Jewish Museum of New York, an art museum and repository of cultural artifacts, is the leading Jewish museum in the United States. With over 26,000 objects, it contains the largest collection of art and Jewish culture outside of museums in Israel. The museum is housed at 1109 Fifth Avenue, in...

     in New York on October 29, 2010. The show will close on March 27, 2011, and then will be displayed in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Madison, Wisconsin. Art & Antiques Magazine Winter 2010–11 issue reported on this exhibition.
  • 2010: Airing November 28, Paris Green
    Paris Green (Boardwalk Empire)
    "Paris Green" is the eleventh episode of the first season of the HBO television series Boardwalk Empire, which premiered November 28, 2010. The episode was written by supervising producer Howard Korder and directed by Allen Coulter.-Plot:...

     (an episode of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire) makes several references to and features an appearance of Houdini's brother Hardeen
    Theodore Hardeen
    Theodore Hardeen , known simply as Hardeen, was a Hungarian magician and escape artist, best known as Harry Houdini's brother...

     as performed by actor Remy Auberjonois as an Atlantic City Boardwalk attraction circa 1920/1921.
  • 2011: Google featured a special Houdini "Doodle
    Doodle
    A doodle is an unfocused drawing made while a person's attention is otherwise occupied. Doodles are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning or may just be abstract shapes....

    " logo to commemorate his 137th birthday on March 24. The Harry Houdini "Google doodle" was the first of its kind to appear.
  • 2011: Dorothy Young
    Dorothy Young
    Dorothy Lena Young was an American entertainer who worked as a stage assistant to magician Harry Houdini from 1925 to 1926. She left the act two months prior to his death on October 31, 1926...

    , who assisted Houdini in his full evening roadshow and was the last living person to have worked with Houdini, died on March 20 at the age of 103.
  • 2011: Houdini and his Milk Can escape are featured in an episode of The Simpsons
    The Simpsons
    The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...

     (“The Great Simpsina” Season 22 Episode 18).
  • 2011: Houdini appears as himself in Eio Books
    Eio Books
    Eio Books is an American based small press publishing house founded in 2004 in the city of Brattleboro, Vermont. In 2009, it opened a second office in Belvedere, California...

     Houdini Heart, a novel of fantasy and horror by Ki Longfellow
    Ki Longfellow
    Ki Longfellow is an American novelist, playwright, theatrical producer, theater director and entrepreneur. In Britain, as the widow of Vivian Stanshall, she is well known as the guardian of his artistic heritage, but elsewhere she is best known for her own work, especially the novel The Secret...

    .
  • 2011: On September 27, Houdini's bust, missing for 36 years from his grave site, was replaced at a cost of $10,000 by Scranton's Houdini Museum. The museum is tending to the grave site with the sanction of Houdini's family and the administrators of the cemetery.

Publications


Houdini published numerous books during his career (some of which were written by his good friend Walter Brown Gibson, the creator of The Shadow
The Shadow
The Shadow is a collection of serialized dramas, originally in pulp magazines, then on 1930s radio and then in a wide variety of media, that follow the exploits of the title character, a crime-fighting vigilante in the pulps, which carried over to the airwaves as a "wealthy, young man about town"...

): Audio book at Librivox
LibriVox
LibriVox is an online digital library of free public domain audiobooks, read by volunteers and is probably, since 2007, the world's most prolific audiobook publisher...

  • Handcuff Secrets (1907) at Internet Archive
    Internet Archive
    The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly 3 million public domain books. The Internet Archive...

    , a debunking study of Robert-Houdin
    Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin
    Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin was a French magician. He is widely considered the father of the modern style of conjuring.-Early life and entrance into conjuring:...

    ’s abilities.
  • Magical Rope Ties and Escapes (1920)
  • Houdini's Paper Magic (1921)
  • A Magician Among the Spirits (1924) Arno Press, A New York Times Company, New York, 1972. Original printing, 1924. ISBN 0-405-02801-6
  • Under the Pyramids
    Under the Pyramids
    "Under the Pyramids", also published as "Entombed with the Pharaohs" and "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs", is a short story written by American fantasy author H. P. Lovecraft in February 1924. Commissioned by Weird Tales founder and owner J. C...

     (1924) with H. P. Lovecraft
    H. P. Lovecraft
    Howard Phillips Lovecraft --often credited as H.P. Lovecraft — was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction....

    .

Filmography


Films starring Houdini:
  • Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris—Cinema Lux (1909)—playing himself
  • The Master Mystery—Octagon Films (1918)—playing Quentin Locke
  • The Grim Game
    The Grim Game
    The Grim Game is a 1919 silent film starring Harry Houdini. The film's basic plotline serves as a showcase for Houdini's talent as an escapologist, stunt performer and aviator.-Plot:...

    Famous Players-Lasky
    Famous Players-Lasky
    Famous Players-Lasky Corporation was an American motion picture and distribution company created on July 19, 1916 from the merger of Adolph Zukor's Famous Players Film Company -- originally formed by Zukor as Famous Players in Famous Plays -- and Jesse L...

    /Paramount Pictures
    Paramount Pictures
    Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

     (1919)—playing Harvey Handford
  • Terror Island—Famous Players Lasky/Paramount (1920)—playing Harry Harper
  • The Man From Beyond
    The Man from Beyond
    The Man from Beyond is a 1922 film starring Harry Houdini as a man found frozen in arctic ice who is brought back to life.-Plot:A man named Howard Hillary is found frozen for a hundred years in the arctic ice and is thawed out and awoken. After his awakening he insists that a young woman, Felice,...

    —Houdini Picture Corporation (1922)—playing Howard Hillary
  • Haldane of the Secret Service—Houdini Picture Corporation/FBO
    Film Booking Offices of America
    Film Booking Offices of America was an American film studio of the silent era, a producer and distributor of mostly low-budget films. The business began as Robertson-Cole , the American division of a British import–export company...

     (1922)—playing Heath Haldane


Biographical films:
  • Houdini
    Houdini (film)
    Houdini is a 1953 biographical film about the life of the magician and escapologist Harry Houdini. It was made by Paramount Pictures, directed by George Marshall and produced by George Pal from a screenplay by Philip Yordan, based on the book Houdini by Harold Kellock. The music score was by Roy...

     (1953)—played by Tony Curtis
    Tony Curtis
    Tony Curtis was an American film actor whose career spanned six decades, but had his greatest popularity during the 1950s and early 1960s. He acted in over 100 films in roles covering a wide range of genres, from light comedy to serious drama...

  • The Great Houdini aka The Great Houdinis (1976)—played by Paul Michael Glaser
    Paul Michael Glaser
    Paul Michael Glaser is an American actor and director, perhaps best known for his role as Detective David Starsky on the 1970s television series Starsky and Hutch; he also appeared as Captain Jack Steeper on the 1999 to 2005 NBC series Third Watch.-Early life:Glaser, the youngest of three...

     (TV movie
    Television movie
    A television film is a feature film that is a television program produced for and originally distributed by a television network, in contrast to...

    )
  • Ragtime
    Ragtime (film)
    Ragtime is a 1981 American film based on the historical novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow. The action takes place in and around New York City, New Rochelle, and Atlantic City in the first decade of the 1900s, and includes fictionalized references to actual people and events of the time. The film was...

     (1981)—played by Jeffrey DeMunn
    Jeffrey DeMunn
    Jeffrey DeMunn is an American theatre, film and television actor.-Life and career:DeMunn was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Violet and James DeMunn. Stepson of noted actress Betty Lutes DeMunn...

  • Young Harry Houdini (1987)—played by Wil Wheaton
    Wil Wheaton
    Richard William "Wil" Wheaton III is an American actor and writer. As an actor, he is best known for his portrayals of Wesley Crusher on the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gordie Lachance in the film Stand by Me and Joey Trotta in Toy Soldiers...

     & Jeffrey DeMunn (TV movie)
  • A Night at the Magic Castle (1988)—played by Arte Johnson
    Arte Johnson
    Arthur Stanton Eric "Arte" Johnson is an American comic actor. Johnson was a regular on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. His best-remembered "character" was that of a German soldier with the catchphrase: "Verrrry interesting, but...['stupid', 'not very funny', and other variations]".-Early life:Johnson...

  • FairyTale: A True Story
    FairyTale: A True Story
    FairyTale: A True Story is a 1997 film from Paramount Pictures, loosely based on the story of the Cottingley Fairies.-Plot:Early 20th Century England was a time and place ripe for believing, both in scientific advancements such as electric light and photography, and in anomalous phenomena of all...

     (1997)—played by Harvey Keitel
    Harvey Keitel
    Harvey Keitel is an American actor. Some of his most notable starring roles were in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, Ridley Scott's The Duellists and Thelma and Louise, Ettore Scola's That Night in Varennes, Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Jane Campion's The...

  • Houdini (1998)—played by Johnathon Schaech
    Johnathon Schaech
    Johnathon Schaech is an American actor, writer, and director.-Early life:Schaech was born in Edgewood, Maryland to Joseph, a Baltimore City law enforcement officer, and Joanne Schaech, a human resources executive. He is of German and Italian descent, and was raised Roman Catholic...

     (TV movie)
  • Cremaster 2 (1999)—played by Norman Mailer
    Norman Mailer
    Norman Kingsley Mailer was an American novelist, journalist, essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, and film director.Along with Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S...

  • Death Defying Acts
    Death Defying Acts
    Death Defying Acts is a 2007 supernatural romantic thriller. The film is a UK-Australian co-production directed by Gillian Armstrong and starring Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta-Jones. It concerns an episode in the life of Hungarian-American escapologist Harry Houdini at the height of his career in...

     (2007)—played by Guy Pearce
    Guy Pearce
    Guy Edward Pearce is an English-born Australian actor and musician, known for his roles as Leonard Shelby in Christopher Nolan's Memento, Lieutenant Ed Exley in L.A...


See also

  • American Museum of Magic
    American Museum of Magic
    The American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan, houses a large collection of magical paraphernalia and illusions, including an extensive collection of devices that once belonged to famed magician Harry Blackstone, Sr., .-Museum collection:...

  • Escapology
    Escapology
    For the Jessica Mauboy song, see Inescapable.Escapology is the practice of escaping from restraints or other traps. Escapologists escape from handcuffs, straitjackets, cages, coffins, steel boxes, barrels, bags, burning buildings, fish-tanks and other perils, often in combination.-History:The art...

  • Illusionist
  • List of magic museums
  • List of magicians
  • Magic (illusion)
    Magic (illusion)
    Magic is a performing art that entertains audiences by staging tricks or creating illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats using natural means...

  • Stunt
    Stunt
    A stunt is an unusual and difficult physical feat, or any act requiring a special skill, performed for artistic purposes in TV, theatre, or cinema...

  • Stunt performer
    Stunt performer
    A stuntman, or daredevil is someone who performs dangerous stunts, often as a career.These stunts are sometimes rigged so that they look dangerous while still having safety mechanisms, but often they are as dangerous as they appear to be...

  • Swami Laura Horos
    Swami Laura Horos
    Swami Laura Horos was a late 19th and early 20th century medium. She was convicted of fraud several times in the US, and was tried for rape and fraud in London in 1901...


Further reading

  • Houdini's Escapes and Magic by Walter B. Gibson
    Walter B. Gibson
    Walter Brown Gibson was an American author and professional magician, best known for his work on the pulp fiction character The Shadow...

    , Prepared from Houdini's private notebooks Blue Ribbon Books, Inc., 1930. Reveals some of Houdini's magic and escape methods (also released in two separate volumes: Houdini's Magic and Houdini's Escapes).
  • The Secrets of Houdini by J.C. Cannell, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1931. Reveals some of Houdini's escape methods.
  • Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship by Bernard M. L. Ernst, Albert & Charles Boni, Inc., NY, 1932.
  • Sixty Years of Psychical Research by Joseph F. Rinn, Truth Seeker Co., 1950, Rinn was a long time close friend of Houdini. Contains detailed information about the last Houdini message (there are 3) and its disclosure.
  • Houdini's Fabulous Magic by Walter B. Gibson
    Walter B. Gibson
    Walter Brown Gibson was an American author and professional magician, best known for his work on the pulp fiction character The Shadow...

     and Morris N. Young Chilton, NY, 1960. Excellent reference for Houdini's escapes and some methods (includes the Water Torture Cell).
  • The Houdini Birth Research Committee's Report, Magico Magazine (reprint of report by The Society of American Magicians), 1972. Concludes Houdini was born March 24, 1874, in Budapest.
  • Mediums, Mystics and the Occult by Milbourne Christopher
    Milbourne Christopher
    Milbourne Christopher was an American illusionist.President of the Society of American Magicians, an honorary vice-president to the Magic Circle, and one of the founding members of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Christopher authored several books, including a biography of Harry Houdini, and...

    , Thomas T. Crowell Co., 1975, pp. 122–145, Arthur Ford-Messages from the Dead, contains detailed information about the Houdini messages and their disclosure.
  • Arthur Ford: The Man Who Talked with the Dead by Allen Spraggett with William V. Rauscher, 1973, pp. 152–165, Chapter 7, The Houdini Affair contains detailed information about the Houdini messages and their disclosure.
  • Houdini: Escape into Legend, The Early Years: 1862–1900 by Manny Weltman, Finders/Seekers Enterprises, Los Angeles, 1993. Examination of Houdini's childhood and early career.
  • Houdini Comes To America by Ronald J. Hilgert, The Houdini Historical Center, 1996. Documents the Weiss family's immigration to the United States on July 3, 1878 (when Ehrich was 4).
  • Houdini Unlocked by Patrick Culliton, Two volume box set: The Tao of Houdini and The Secret Confessions of Houdini, Kieran Press, 1997.
  • The Houdini Code Mystery: A Spirit Secret Solved by William V. Rauscher, Magic Words, 2000.
  • Final Séance. The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle by Massimo Polidoro, Prometheus Books, 2001.
  • The Man Who Killed Houdini by Don Bell, Vehicle Press, 2004. Investigates J. Gordon Whitehead and the events surrounding Houdini's death.
  • Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century by Matthew Solomon, University of Illinois Press, 2010. Contains new information about Houdini's early movie career.
  • Houdini Art and Magic by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Jewish Museum, 2010. Essays on Houdini's life and work are accompanied by interviews with novelist E.L. Doctorow, Teller, Kenneth Silverman, and more.
  • Houdini The Key by Patrick Culliton, Kieran Press, 2010. Reveals the authentic working methods of many of Houdini effects, including the Milk Can and Water Torture Cell. Limited to 278 copies.

External links