Harry Houdini also famous by his stage name Ehrich Weiss is arguably the greatest magician of all time. His performances were ingenious and way ahead of his time. Many other magicians after him use Harry Houdini magic tricks. He often brushed his shoulders with death every time he performed but this never shook him. He was a daring bravado who was willing to go to any lengths to make sure a performance was perfect. Houdini died but nevertheless, he left us with some great memories that magicians and fans will never forget. Here are some of Houdini’s greatest ever magic tricks.
List of Greatest Harry Houdini magic Tricks
The disappearing elephant
This illusion was performed by Houdini in 1918. The normal routine at the time was to make small animals like birds and rabbits disappear. Vanishing such a large creature was unprecedented at the time. Only Harry had the courage to attempt such a fete and he made it happen. He had a specially made closet that could spin really fast. He enlisted the services of a big elephant as well. The elephant was directed into the closet and the closet was shut. A huge curtain was then drawn over the large cabinet and a few moments passed. Houdini then drew the curtains and opened the door to the cabinet. Lo and behold, the elephant had disappeared and the closet was rotated around the audience to prove that the elephant had indeed vanished. The trick was very simple. Houdini got a pair of professional handlers who were strategically positioned in the cabinet. When the elephant got in, the handlers put a very dark tarp over the animal. When the cabinet was reopened, it was really impossible for anyone in the audience to see the elephant, let alone its shape. The action of rotating the cabinet after opening it also made it extremely impossible for anyone to spot the creature.
The Straightjacket Escape
Some magicians have over the years failed to successfully replicate some of Houdini’s stunts. This is because some of this stunts were particularly dangerous and not advisable. But Houdini loved the dangerous and untested stunts. Most of the Harry Houdini magic tricks requires a lot of courage and ability to take risks. They were his specialty. The straight jacket escape was one such dangerous stunt. Houdini famously said that he once saw a person who was trapped in a straightjacket and was desperately trying to free himself. It’s from here, that Houdini got this idea from. Since his hands were tied to his back, it was really difficult for him to escape from the jacket. However, Houdini developed an ingenious, yet painful way of escape. In this Harry Houdini magic trick, He would wriggle around in the jacket all the while trying to get his hands to the front. Most times he ended up dislocating his shoulder, but this never stopped him. After his hands came to the front, he would then proceed to use his teeth to free himself. He became so adept at escaping the jacket that he went a notch higher by performing stunts where he would be bound in the straight jacket, while suspended upside down, with his ankles bound. He was so good at this stunt, that he would set himself free after only three minutes.
Initially, Harry had envisioned this stunt to be much more difficult than the one which he performed. He had planned to be buried alive, in a six feet deep pit, wearing a straightjacket, and in a casket. It is also worth noting that sandy soil was Houdini’s choice of soil. This stunt was one of the most difficult stunts that Houdini ever performed among all the Harry Houdini magic tricks and all observers agreed that the originally envisioned version would have been almost impossible to perform. He, however, went ahead and performed buried alive in 1915 in front of a packed crowd. Houdini was shackled and buried six feet below under a huge heap of sand. He managed to unchain himself and began the excruciating process of trying to claw his way back to the top. The sheer weight of the sand was unbearable for Houdini and at one point, he even panicked. He had to dig deep into his energy reserves to be able to claw out of the hole. On reaching the top, he was so exhausted that he fell unconscious. He had to be ushered to safety by his assistants. Harry had planned to again attempt the stunt, but this time, according to his earlier specifications. Sadly, he never got to perform the act like he wanted, because he died before he could revise it.
The Chinese Water Torture Cell
This stunt was so dangerous, that the audience was always advised never to try it at home, or anywhere. The peculiar thing about Harry Houdini was that most of his tricks were actually real life, and he always put his life on the line when he attempted these risky stunts. The Chinese Water Torture Cell was no different. Houdini had to escape from a glass pond full of water. But that’s just the start of the story. He was immersed into the pond suspended upside down, and with his feet chained. A system of pulleys had to be used to enable the safe dropping of the magician. Houdini would then be dropped into the tank and left for two minutes to free himself. A curtain would be drawn over the tank, and after two minutes, the curtain would be lifted, revealing a free Houdini. This stunt was so dangerous, that a man with an axe always stood beside the glass tank, to break the tank if Houdini was unable to break free.
The Handcuff Escape
During Houdini’s time, the Handcuff escape was a very common magic trick by many magicians. It was really simple. A pair of early, heavy cuffs was fastened around your wrist and you had to escape out of your chains in the shortest time possible. The artist had to invent a hiding place for the keys to the handcuffs from whence he would now locate the keys, and free himself from the cuffs. This trick was so common in the early 20th century that everybody was used to it. What set Houdini apart was the ease and speed at which he would set himself free. This is exactly what made him famous. He would free himself from the handcuffs in seconds while other magicians usually took minutes to free themselves. So how did he do it? Harry custom built for himself a belt that had soft steel compartments where he stored the keys to the cuffs. He was thus able to get the keys discretely and free himself from the cuffs within seconds.
The Overboard Escape
This was another really dangerous trick that Harry accomplished. He took escape artistry to a whole new level with this one. If someone was chained and trapped, it had to be Harry Houdini. This trick was another form of box escape, but it had a slight variation. In July of 1912, he performed the overboard escape in front of a huge crowd. The stunt was a bit scary because his feet and hands were heavily chained. He was also placed in a wooden box, and a very heavy weight placed on top of the box for the sinking effect. The box was nailed all round just to make the escape difficult, and a huge weight attached to the box for a sinking effect. He was then dropped into New York’s East river where he was supposed to escape in under a minute. So did he really escape? Well, your guess is as good as mine. He did.
The Milk can Escape
The old fashioned metallic milk can was a really small vessel. Its height was roughly the height of an average man from his legs to his waist. So when Harry suggested that he would attempt a milk can escape, everybody thought he was crazy. But Harry never failed to deliver, and the milk can escape went ahead as planned. In his own words, Houdini once claimed that the Milk Can trick was the best trick he ever attempted. This trick was performed in 1901 and it didn’t disappoint. In this Harry Houdini magic tricks, Harry was handcuffed and squeezed into a milk can. The fact that he actually fitted into the can is a thing of wonder. After being cramped into the can the can, it was completely filled with water and the lid securely shut on the top. Houdini involved the audience in the act by asking them to hold their breaths as he submerged into the water. No one in the crowd was able to hold their breath for more than two minutes. Harry was able to hold his for more than two minutes, and also uncuff himself and escape from the milk can.
Murderer’s row escape
This was a truly vintage Harry Houdini Classic act. Murderer’s row was an infamous prison where the worst of the worst were locked up. Convicted murderers were the permanent inhabitants of these halls. The facility was so secure, that in all its existence, there had never been a reported escape. Well, this looked like Houdini territory and the setting of a very famous act. In 1906, he was cuffed and stripped of his clothes so he would not hide any keys in his garments. He was then locked up in one of the prison’s cells and his clothes thrown in the next cell. Typical of Harry, he freed himself in under two minutes, opened the cell door- which had also been locked from the outside- opened the next cell, where his clothes lay, and even had time to unlock other cells and shuffle up the prisoners. All these exploits he achieved in less than 21 minutes.
The Indian Needle Trick
This was one of the more disgusting tricks that Harry performed. But it was still a sight to behold. Houdini would swallow up to 100 needles, all attached to about 20 yards of thread. He would then open up his mouth to reveal its emptiness as a sign that he had indeed swallowed all the sharp needles. Crowds would line up just to see Houdini, the man who could swallow sharp needles. After a few moments, he would insert his fingers into his mouth and pull out the whole yarn with all the needles attached. So how was he able to achieve this fete without injuring himself? Well, for starters, a lot of practice and mouth movements. He would trap the threaded needles between his teeth and lower lip. They would then be exchanged with the unthreaded needles and thread when he appeared like he was swallowing them. The hard job was being able to hide the needles from the audience when he opened his mouth to reveal that there were no contents. He found a clever way of doing this because he used his fingers to completely hide the prop.
The Brick Wall Walk
In this 1914 New York performance, Houdini performed a simply out of this world trick. Before the audience’s very eyes, Harry’s assistants built a large wall on top of a carpet -to ensure no possibility of a trap door- that was erected perpendicularly so that the audience would have a clear view of Harry. The wall was nine feet tall and 10 feet wide. Audience members were even invited to confirm that the wall was real. After all this, Harry appeared on one side of the wall with a screen in front of him, and another on the other side of the wall. When the screens were pulled away, Harry was on the other side of the wall. The trick was so spectacular that the audience momentarily froze and forgot to applause. Houdini was able to cross over to the other side by the use of Hammock that was V-shaped in nature. The hammock was under the wall and so nobody could ever suspect. His performance on stage was also exemplary which added to the spectacular nature of the act.These Harry Houdini magic tricks are used by many other magicians after him.
Houdini is a legend of magic and some people even term him as the father of all magic. So great was his magic, that it is still used as a guide for even the best magicians today. Some of the tricks are even considered too dangerous to perform today – even with all the high-tech equipment available these days. It is safe to say that his legendary status will live forever. If you have any different opinion about our Harry Houdini magic tricks article, Please Leave your comment below.