Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Houdini: The Escape King

Houdini in ChainsHarry Houdini was born Erik Weisz on March 24, 1874, in the large city of Budapest, Hungary.

At the age of four his family traveled to the United States where they settled in the town of Applegate, Wisconsin.

When he was nine years old, Erik (now with the spelling Erich) appeared in his first public appearance as a trapeze artist, with the title "Erich, Prince of the Air."

At the debut of his magician career in 1894, Erik Weisz changed his name to Harry Houdini, combining a derivative of his childhood nickname "Ehrie" and Houdini from his idol the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin

Houdini found companionship with the man Jack Hayman, and they worked as partners together for their magic act calling themselves, "The Houdini Brothers." Later Hayman was replaced by Houdini's younger brother Theo.

Houdini's career was hard in the beginning.  According to the New York Times he was able to get work in a circus with the title "The Wild Man." He also began working to master card tricks eventually nicknaming himself  "The King of Cards."

Later in 1894, Houdini met Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, a fellow magician. The two of them married and she replaced Theo in the Houdini Brothers, the duo now named, "The Houdini's."

As Houdini grew and became more famous he became notoriously known for being an escape artist. He was known around the world as "The Handcuff King." Many of his famous tricks include:

Chinese Water Torture Cell
  •  Chinese Water Torture Cell
  • Milk Can Escape
  • Suspended Straitjacket Escape
  • Overboard Box Escape
  • Buried Alive Stunt
  • Handcuff Escape

During his time as a magician, Houdini performed at the New York's Hippdrome theater. He starred in several films including The Grim Game and Terror Island. He also acted as president of The Society of American Magicians. Eventually he was even awarded a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.

Houdini died on October 31, 1926 due to peritonitis from a ruptured spleen. As the story goes, Houdini was famous for being able to take punches to the stomach without injury because of his athletic history. After a night of performing, a college student approached him and asked if the rumors about his stomach were true. When Houdini said yes, the student then punched him in the stomach multiple times without warning. Because he was unable to prepare his stomach muscles for the punches, Houdini suffered from great pain. The story then goes that the punches from the college student were the reason for his spleen to rupture, therefore responsible for his death. 


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