One could easily argue that Harry Houdini created the modern magic performance. His performances involved coffins, chains, shackles, and even jail cells. His nickname as the Master of Illusion is still true today even nearly a century after his death. Houdini was and still is a superstar and here are some interesting facts about him.
1. Houdini Would Hide Keys Everywhere.
The ability to get out of shackles or a lock wasn’t a complicated skill or relied on some strange level of flexibility. Houdini would simply have keys tucked in places that no one would expect. Whether it was under his foot or trapped in his hair, there was always a way to unlock the lock. In a pinch, he’d bring in a partner who would just palm him a key before he’d begin his illusion. Many jail cells or locked containers had keys hidden in them as well.
2. It Wasn’t All Magic.
Houdini was well loved throughout the world. He was fluent in German and already had a knack for slight of hand. To the British, this meant that he would also make for the perfect spy. Houdini would end up passing along information to the British from what he learned while performing in both Germany and Russia thanks to the access he had to their heads of state.
When the first world war broke out, he would also take his tricks to the troops to help entertain them. Even then, however, it wasn’t always about magic. Houdini taught several classes that would help soldiers be able to escape from handcuffs and ropes or how to escape from a sinking ship.
3. It Wasn’t All About Being On The Ground Either.
Houdini had many loves in his life. He had a love for flying and watched avidly as the technology developed in the early 1900’s. In 1910, he would become just the third person to fly across Australia. Not bad for a kid that was born in Hungary as Erik Weisz, would later emigrate to the USA and change his name to Ehrich Weiss, or be known as the magician Ehrich the Great early on in his career. His ability to get out of a tight spot would eventually bring him a personal invitation to meet with Woodrow Wilson.
4. Spirituality That Turned Into a Public Mission.
When Houdini’s mother died, he became very intrigued with the idea that the living could communicate with the spirits of those who had passed on before. His interest would quickly fade when he realized that mediums were basically doing the same thing that he was doing, but selling their performances at the expense of people’s emotions. He would end up spending 25 years of his life investigating and discrediting mediums.
5. A Magic Act Didn’t Kill Houdini.
Some folk stories say that Houdini was killed when he failed to get out of one his famous escapes. This isn’t actually true. He did narrowly escape death dozens of times during his act, but a simple punch to the stomach is what eventually seems to have killed him. A college student challenged Houdini about how strong his abdominal muscles were and punched him the stomach. He would wind up passing away because of an infected and ruptured appendix.
6. Houdini Is On The Walk Of Fame.
Although the dedication of his star on Hollywood’s walk of fame was posthumous, it is notable that it is there. Houdini actually stars in several movies that highlight his ability to escape from a dangerous situation. One of them is even a story of a character who is an undercover spy for the justice department, mimicking his life’s story. He was also the longest serving president in the history of the Society of American Magicians and he is honored every year with a broken wand ceremony where he is buried.
7. His Wife Never Gave Up On Him.
Houdini may have spent a majority of his life trying to discredit mediums, but that didn’t stop his wife from trying to contact him after his death. She would attend numerous seances after his death in the hopes of being able to contact him in the hopes that the clairvoyant components Houdini had incorporated into his acts would somehow bring him back.
Harry Houdini will always be remembered as one of the greatest magicians who has ever graced the stage. His career and life may have ended much too early for such a great talent, but the gifts that he left this world will never be forgotten.