Houdini Biography: Harry Houdini Magician-Escape Artist

Harry Houdini: The most famous magician of all time.

In 1913 he introduced his legendary Chinese Water Torture Cell.

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Large repro available from souvenir page
This was the same year his mother died which was a great shock, as he was in Europe and not told of his mother's illness. He was also the first to do the largest stage illusion to that day, making the largest object known at the time - an elephant disappear. This was done in 1918 at the Hippodrome in New York City. According to Houdini the elephant Jenny, weighed 10,000 pounds. Houdini was very creative and introduced and invented many magic tricks that are depicted at the Houdini Museum in the Scranton, Pennsylvania Pocono region. After escaping underwater Houdini would often hide under a dock forcing people to think Houdini might have drowned. At the opportune moment Houidni would make his reappearance. Houdini had great strength and agility that he used in accomplishing his stunts. Houdini also spent many hours studying, practicing and conditioning. For Houdini's underwater stunts, Houdini would practice holding his breath in the bathtub for up to four minutes. He also stayed in an underwater "coffin" for over an hour.

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Large repro available from souvenir page

Houdini's film career.

In 1916 Houdini began a film career. This gave people all over the world a chance to see the great artist. Houdini made five major silent films up until1923. He is the only magician in history to have starred in 5 films. He also wrote several of them. His films include "The Master Mystery," "The Grim Game," "Terror Island" and "The Man From Beyond." Houdini was given one of the first stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to the film industry. The star is in a prominent spot out side of Hollywood's famous Chinese Theater. Houdini was the first magician to be so honored. Houdini is the only magician in history to make five feature films, and the only one to have a full length feature film made about his life story. Houdini wrote and even directed several of his movies. Had Houdini lived longer he would have probably made more films, possibly a talking movie, as they were just coming into prominence. Houdini's film "The Man From Beyond," as well as"Terror Island"

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Large repro available from souvenir page
is on constant view at the Houdini Museum in the Scranton, Pennsylvania Pocono region. Both are also available from the museum.

Houdini hated cheats and frauds.

Throughout his career Houdini exposed cheats and frauds in the areas of gambling, spiritualism, and psychic frauds. Houdini never believed in spiritualism, but would often pretend to in order to gain entry to seances, etc. Early on he attempted to do a spiritualist act when he was down and out, but found it so distasteful that he stopped and would forever expose those who made such claims.

Houdini would write many books and articles throughout his life. Theyh included "The Right Way To Do Wrong," an expose of swindlers, "A Magician Among The Spirits," an expose of psychic frauds, and "The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin," which was up until that time the greatest book on the history of magic.

Death to Legend.

On October 22, 1926, Houdini was in Montreal performing at the Princess Theater. Houdini also gave a lecture exposing spiritualism at McGill University. In his dressing room at the theater, while lying on a couch backstage, an young athlete from McGill University, asked if Houdini could actually withstand punches to the stomach as he had heard. Before Houdini could prepare himself by tightening his stomach muscles, the student began to punch the legendary magician in the mid section. Houdini did not know it, but his appendix was ruptured. Houdini did several more shows in Montreal and then headed for Detroit. Houdini did one performance there and then collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Houdini did not die in an escape or fail in some final escape as many believe. The greatest "ghost buster" of all time died on October 31, 1926, Halloween of peritonitis ( an inflamation (-itis) of the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity), a kind of internal Gangrene. Houdini loved his fellow magicians and promoted magic and the Society of Americian Magicians all over the world. Houdini was its president for some ten years until the day he died. He also left quite a bit of money for the Society of American Magicians in his will (we have a copy in our collection at the museum). He had the crest of the Society of American Magicians on his gravesite. He also throughout his life paid for the repair of famous magicians around the world whose graves were in disrepair. No other famous magician worked as hard as Houdini to promote his craft and those around him. Houdini today is one of the best know performers and promoters in theatrical and film history and Houidni's name has come to mean the ability to escape from any restraint or difficult situation. He always insisted that all he did was by natural means, and that he had no supernatural powers of any kind. One of his last inventions was to escape after being buried alive, a stunt he did very few times. For some twenty six years Houdini was a major headliner. Houdini not only earned a place in history but in the dictionary as well.

1874 -1887
1887 - 1900
1900 - 1913
1913 - 1926 and beyond.

Go to Houdini Museum .



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