By Madhavi Pothukuchi
31 October, 2022
You may have heard the phrase “pull a Houdini” used when someone vanishes. It refers to Harry Houdini, the famous magician and escape artist in history. On his death anniversary, let’s learn more about this gifted wizard.
Houdini was born Erik Weisz into a Jewish family in Hungary on March 24, 1874. He and his family migrated to the US in 1876.
Houdini was passionate about magic and started doing tricks when he was only 17. He began a magic show with his brother, Dash and called themselves ‘The Brothers Houdini’.
In 1894, he met a performer Bess Rahner and fell in love. The two married quickly, and Bess became Houdini’s onstage assistant, replacing his brother and renaming the duo 'The Houdinis'.
At first, Houdini tried to make a name by focusing on card tricks but later began experimenting with escape acts – where he was handcuffed, tied and then escaped – which made him unique.
Houdini met his manager Martin Beck in 1899 in Minnesota. Beck was impressed with Houdini's escape acts and helped him get a seven-day show at the Orpheum Theatre in Seattle, which eventually led to more shows.
With Beck's advice, Houdini concentrated more on escape acts that soon made him one of the highest-paid entertainers. He would also perform his signature act, outdoor escape stunts.
Houdini’s outdoor stunts included tricks like the Chinese Water Torture Cell, where he would be put in a straight jacket, shackled and then submerged upside down in a tank full of water.
In the Box in a River trick, he was placed in a box and nailed shut but not before his hands and legs were bound with handcuffs and rope. The box was then thrown into the river. He would escape this in under a minute, leaving the box untouched in the river.
All these acts and illusions made Houdini famous in the world. He also tried acting and becoming a pilot, while being an excellent inventor and a businessman.
Houdini died on Halloween Day, October 31, 1926, due to a ruptured appendix. He still remains the greatest man of magic the world has ever seen.