Above, Harry Houdini.
Harry Houdini - Magician, Illusionist, escape artist, stunt performer, actor, historian, film producer, pilot, spiritualist debunker; born Erik Weisz on March 24, 1874 in Budapest Hungary but grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin where he later claimed he was born. Weisz (Houdini) arrived in the United States on July 3, 1878, on the SS Fresia with his mother (who was pregnant) and his four brothers. The family changed their name to the German spelling Weiss, and Erik became Ehrich. The family lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, where his father served as Rabbi of the Zion Reform Jewish Congregation. According to the 1880 census, the family lived on Appleton Street.
Houdini began his magic career in 1891, but had little success. His big break came in 1899 when he met manager Martin Beck in St. Paul, Minnesota. Beck was impressed by Houdini's handcuffs act and advised Houdini to concentrate on escape acts. It was Beck who arranged for Houdini to tour Europe in 1900.
Houdini notable "escapes" include: Milk Can Escape, Chinese water torture cell, Suspended straitjacket escape, Overboard box escape and Buried alive stunt.
In 1909, Houdini became fascinated with aviation. He purchased a French Voisin biplane for $5,000 and hired a full-time mechanic, Antonio Brassac. After crashing once, he made his first successful flight on November 26 in Hamburg, Germany. The following year, Houdini toured Australia with his Voisin biplane.
In 1918, Houdini signed a contract with film producer B. A. Rolfe to star in a 15-part serial, The Master Mystery (released in November 1918). As was common at the time, the film serial was released simultaneously with a novel.
In the 1920s, Houdini turned his energies toward debunking psychics and mediums. 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 committee that offered a cash prize to any medium who could successfully demonstrate supernatural abilities. No prize was ever collected.
Houdini served as President of the Society of American Magicians (a.k.a. S.A.M.) from 1917 until his death in 1926. Founded on May 10, 1902, in the back room of Martinka's magic shop in New York, the Society expanded under the leadership of Harry Houdini during his term as National President.
Houdini died on October 31, 1926 at the age of 52 as the result of peritonitis, secondary to a ruptured appendix, caused by a surprise attack of multiple blows to his abdomen from a McGill University student, Jocelyn Gordon Whitehead.
For more information on Harry Houdini, visit Wikipedia.
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"The Handcuff King"
Above: Harry Houdini in handcuffs (1905).
Above:The heavyweight boxing champion (Jack Dempsey) mock punching Harry Houdini, who is held back back by the lightweight boxing champion (Benny Leonard). Date unknown (early 1920s est.)
Above: Harry Houdini in chains (18990.
Above: Harry Houdini performing the Chinese Water Torture Cell.
The legendary escape artist performs his signature Strait Jacket Escape.