Although the legend of Harry Houdini continues lives on till this day and will so over the times to come, certain accounts of his life have been totally misrepresented and misconceived by the public and particular facts about him have not been known by many. The only exceptions to this could have been magicians of high caliber including advanced historians.
Harry Houdini facts every Houdini Fans Should know
1. Regarding the true nationality and origin of the magician, Harry Houdini’s real name was
Erik Weisz, a Jewish, and he was born in Austria-Hungary in Budapest on March 1874.
2. Later on, when his family moved to the USA, his name was Americanized to Ehrich Weiss.
3. Houdini falsely claimed that he was born in America.
4. Despite the fact that Houdini was more well known when he was a man, he started
performing as a trapeze artist at the age of 9 and called himself “Ehrich the Prince of Air”.
5. As Houdini had deep regards for the French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin,
famously known as the father of modern magic, he turned his stage name into Houdini by
adding the “i” at the end to show that he was similar to Houdin. The French magician’s real
name was Jean Eugene Robert who added the word Houdin at the end by taking the last
name of his wife. Harry Houdini derived his stage name from the French magician’s wife, not the magician himself.
6. Apart from giving himself a name, he also gave one to Buster Keaton, a famous
American actor, director, producer, writer, and stunt performer, whose real name was Joseph Frank Keaton. The story behind it is that once Keaton fell down a flight of stairs but was unharmed and which Houdini called it a buster, which back then meant a fall that could
potentially hurt someone.
7. As Houdini wanted to be in the spotlight of fame, he acted in several silent films prior to
opening his own movie production studio. However, after producing and acting in two silent
films and realizing that it wasn’t a very profitable initiative, he abandoned that Line of interest.
8. Although Houdini initially was intrigued by spirituality and fascinated by the way of
communicating with the dead after the death of his beloved mother, due to him being a
master in sleight of hand and trickery, he soon went on to discredit and vilify them by
exposing their tricks to the public, which he did succeed in doing several times.
9. However, his wife was a believer in spirituality and continued to attend spiritual gatherings after his death in hope that she would be able to get in contact with him.
10. “Rosabelle Believe” was the secret code that Houdini and his wife had agreed to
communicate in after his death as Rosabelle was their favorite song.
11. Houdini was a member of the Scientific American committee that offered a cash prize to
anyone who could prove that they possessed supernatural abilities. Whatsoever, the prize
was never won by anyone.
12. As proposed by conspiracy theorists, Houdini did not die in Halloween but was poisoned to death by pro-spiritualists whose livelihoods had been shattered as Houdini exposed the
secret behind their work.
13. Although there is a widely held belief that Houdini died in the famous Chinese Water Tank trick, or immediately after being rescued from it as popularized by the 1953 Hollywood movie played by actor Tony Curtis, he actually died at a Detroit, Michigan hospital, one week after his last performance.
14. Many believed that Houdini died due to punches delivered on his stomach by a Canadian college student from McGill University that ruptured his appendix. But as stated by medical historians, Houdini already had appendicitis whose pain he had been feeling for a while.
15. The burial place of Houdini was separate to that of his wife for various reasons not known to many like the fact that he was Jewish and she was Catholic. Due to her not being Jewish, she was denied permission to be buried in the Jewish burial ground. It was also that her family thought that she would not go to heaven if she was buried next to a Jewish.
16. Houdini entertained and even instructed soldiers of World War I on the techniques of
escaping from ropes, handcuffs, and shipwrecks.
17. A thing that was not known to the public at the time was that Houdini hid a key beneath his foot, in his bushy hair and inside the hollowed-out compartment of his shoe to escape from handcuffs, leg irons, and jail cells. At times his associate would secretly place the key in his hand during a handshake.
18. At many times he used handcuffs that were rigged in such a way that they would unlock and snap open when they were turned upside-down.
19. One main reason that Houdini was able to perform difficult stunts was that he was an athlete and had the endurance, stamina, and strength required to sustain himself during such acts.
20. Houdini practiced holding his breath for three minutes in a bathtub that he had purchased.
21. Being a hardcore aviation enthusiast, Houdini mastered the skill of flying his own Voisin
biplane and was the third person to fly across Australia in 1910. He relied on aviation as his
second career and believed that someday all of his tricks would get exposed to the public.
Hence the way to keep his popularity alive was through his contribution towards the world of
22. There is controversy surrounding the issue of Houdini being the first person to fly an
airplane in Australia when he flew over Melbourne on 18 March 1910. Some historians
report that Colin Defries, flying Wright Model Aircraft on 9 December 1909, was the first
person to do such an act.
23. Although many of his stunts were tricks, the suspended straightjacket escape wasn’t.
24. Randolph Osborne Douglas, a young boy, who met Houdini during a performance at
Sheffield’s Empire Theatre was the originator of the idea of the straightjacket escape trick.
25. There was an image of Houdini wrapped in chains, in the U.S. post stamp that could only be seen through a special lens obtained from the post office, although no longer the case, to honor the deceptive prowess of the magician for making people disappear into thin air.
26. Houdini was not successful with his magic career during 1891 and started performing at
museums, sideshows and at a circus as Wildman.
27. Being an escape artist came later in his career after he was not successful with his magic tricks during 1891.
28. Houdini’s brother Theodore was also an escape artist who escaped from straitjackets while hanging down from the roof of a building in the same city where Houdini was performing the same act.
29. Although his most famous stage illusion was vanishing a full grown Elephant along with the trainer from the Hippodrome Theatre in New York, the stage was set on top of a Swimming pool.
30. In a private meeting at the White House, President Woodrow Wilson told Houdini “I envy your ability of escaping out of tight places. Sometimes I wish I were able to do the same.”
31. Houdini worked as an undercover agent for the American and British government for several years where he was involved in espionage of royalty and political leaders of Europe.
32. Houdini was the president who served the Society of American Magicians for the longest
duration of time from 1917 to 1926. A broken wand ceremony is held at his grave at
Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York each year during his death anniversary.
33. Houdini introduced the famous milk can trick in 1908 in which he built a giant milk can, that would be filled with milk and sealed, put himself in it and then escaped. Later on he when this became an old thing, he made the stunt more difficult by encasing the can with a
wooden crate. However, this stunt failed badly when a British beer company named Tetley
hired him to escape from a barrel filled with beer and he had to be rescued.
34. One of his performances nearly killed him when he was buried in a pit six feet underneath the surface without a casket with dirt being shoveled on top of him. Although his attempt to verbally call for help failed, luckily he was able to dig his way up and lift his hand till it reached above the ground before being rescued.
35. Although he was about to attempt the buried alive stunt on stage for the second time, he died before it could happen and was carried in the same bronze casket he had prepared for the show.
36. Despite all of his brave stunts the last words he said before he died were “I am tired of
fighting” as he had optimistically believed that he would recover from the illness soon.
37. Although Houdini was suffering from immense pain caused due to appendicitis, he kept
performing on shows. Even after being punched in the stomach in the dressing room, he did
not consult with any doctors for two days.
38. While shooting the movie “The Grim Game” in 1919 there was an accidental mid-air collision between two planes; however, Houdini wasn’t involved in performing the stunt.
39. Houdini wrote many books and magazines on magic tricks; however, he kept those of his a deep secret that only his assistants knew about. In order to ensure his assistant’s loyalty, he made them sign an oath of allegiance.
40. Any overly eager and curious person who showed up on Houdini’s backstage were
chloroformed by his assistants and left unconscious at a different location.
41. Houdini was friends with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the Scottish author and the creator of
Sherlock Holmes. Doyle believed that Houdini could talk to the dead without knowing it,
although Houdini despised spirituality.
42. Houdini’s had a fascination with the death was such that he bought the first electric chair and even performed stunts to inmates on Death Row.
43. There was once a story that Houdini escaped from jail using his trick which was later
reprimanded by the newspaper that bribed the official while doing so. Houdini sued the
newspaper and won the case.
44. Houdini wrote letters hundreds of love letters to his wife during their 30 years of marriage even when they were in the same room.
45. As Houdini was x-rayed several times by his brother, it is said that he got sterile due to the effects of the radiation. Hence, Houdini and his wife created an imaginary son and named him Mayer Samuel Houdini. Houdini kept writing letters to his wife on their son’s progress until it finally stopped when he became the president of the United States.
46. Houdini almost quit magic and even tried to sell his “magic secrets” for $20, but not a single person took his offer.
47. He received a lot of death threats as a result of exposing people who used the art of magic to deceive people.
48. He began performing at Orpheum Vaudeville circuit with the help of manager Martin Beck.
49. His first house was bought for $25000 in the U.S in 1904 at 278W.113th Street in Harlem, New York.
50. The newspaper company named “daily mirror” challenged Houdini to escape from a handcuff that was designed by the locksmith Nathaniel Hart. Hart worked for five years to complete the task. Although was able to get out of it after struggling for hours, there is the controversy that his wife who went on stage to kiss him must have hidden the key in her mouth although the key was 6 inches long and could not have been easily smuggled by her.
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