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Biography, Entertainment: Harry Houdini Magician-Escape Artist

Harry Houdini: The most famous escape artist of all time. He originated the concept

Harry Houdini's actual name.

Harry Houdini's actual name was Ehrich Weiss.

Harry Houdini moves to New York City at the age of 13.

Young Ehrich traveled the country for about a year, always sending money home when he could. Finally he joined up with his father in New York City. His father would die about five years later on October 5, 1892, The move to New York would change his life and introduce him to the world of big time magic. The family moved to New York in the the hope of finding a better life there. In New York, Harry Houdini worked as a messenger and as a cutter in a garment center sweat shop, Richter & Sons, a tie factory to help support his family. He was very athletic and won awards in swimming and track. He would use this athletic and swimming talents to great use in his future as an escape artist.

How Harry Houdini gets his name.

Harry Houdini began performing magic as a teenager first calling himself Eric the Great. Always a reader, two books would change his life. He read, as a teen ager in New York, "Revelations of a Spirit Meduim" by A. Medium, which exposed the tricks of phony psychics, who after being tied up would secretly release themselves to make ghostly things happen in darkened rooms. The second book was "The Memoirs of Robert-Houdin," the autobiography of one of the greatest magicians of the day. Influenced by what he read and learned about the internationally known magician Robert Houdin, young Ehrich changed his name to Harry Houdini, hoping to be in some way like his new found mentor.

Harry Houdini's early shows.

Harry Houdini's first magic shows consisted of card tricks and other simple magic. Harry Houdini early on called himself "The King Of Cards."

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Large repro available from souvenir page
Soon Harry Houdini began experimenting with hand cuffs and using them in his acts. Harry Houdini performed with another young man who worked with him in the tie factory in New York. They called themselves the Harry Houdini Brothers. Soon Harry Houdini's younger brother Theo took the place of the boy from the factory. Harry Houdini's father died when Harry Houdini was a teenager. Together with his brother Theo, they tried to succeed as the Harry Houdini Brothers. Their first performances included shows at amusement parks, beer halls, "dime museums," and at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.

Harry Houdini meets his life long love.

In 1894, Harry Houdini met Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, who was singing and dancing as part of the Floral Sisters. They were working Coney Island at the time.

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After knowing each other only two weeks they were married in the month of July. Bess, as she was called, worked and traveled with Harry Houdini and helped by singing, dancing, and performing the Metamorphosis exchange which Harry Houdini invented.

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Large repro available from souvenir page
Bess took Theo's place in the act that would now be called "The Harry Houdini's". He then travels throughout the United States and then the world for the next thirty three years. Needless to say he leaves mom behind again proving his independence from his mother, though he did love her greatly. His early travels take him to North East Pennsylvania where the Harry Houdini Museum is now located, for 2 seasons with the Welch Brothers Circus which traveled throughout Northeast Pennsylvania. He would return in later years to the Scranton area as a major star, and present several unique challenges. His brother Hardeen would also appear in the area as well.

Harry Houdini invents the challenge escape act. The concept of the escape artist is born.

Harry Houdini began offering rewards to anyone who could successfully restrain him, first in handcuffs and later in all manner of objects. Harry Houdini escaped from handcuffs, leg irons, straightjackets, jails and prison cells, a mail pouch, packing crates, a giant paper bag (without tearing the paper), a giant football, an iron boiler, milk cans, coffins, and the famousWater Torture Cell. In most of these escapes, upon later examination, there was never a sign of how Harry Houdini accomplished the release, that added to the miracle. Some of Harry Houdini's escapes, such as the Straight Jacket or being tied with a hundred feet of rope, Harry Houdini would do in full view of the audience. To help draw crowds and sell tickets, Harry Houdini would do escape challenges, often at police stations with newspaper reporters present, assuring a headline story.

Harry Houdini is discovered.

Martin Beck, Vaudeville's most important booking agent caught Harry Houdini's act in 1899 and was impressed with his dynamic personality and booked him as a "challenge escape artist," a new form of entertainment. Martin Beck booked the Orpheum circuit, the largest chain of vaudeville theaters in the country and booked all of the stars of vaudeville. He had a trained eye for talent. He immediately placed Harry Houdini in big time vaudeville as a supporting act. Harry Houdini soon began to headline in several theaters throughout the country. Harry Houdini having invented a new form of entertainment, "The Challenge Escape" soon would become an international star.

Harry Houdini as "King of Handcuffs" goes to Europe at the age of 26.

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Large repro available from souvenir page
After some success in the United States Harry Houdini decided to go to Europe in the year 1900, on the advice of a friend, the greatest coin magician of all time, T. Nelson Downs. Harry Houdini created a sensation in London, England and went on to travel throughout Europe for five years as a headliner. Harry Houdini had so much work in Europe that he summoned his brother Theo to work there under the name Hardeen.

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

Go to Harry Houdini Museum .



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The Harry Houdini Museum attractions in Scranton, Pennsylvania PA, near Wilkes Barre in the Pocono Mountain or Poconos Mountains region features Harry Houdini's biography and quotes and is near many resorts, hotels and motels where tourists spend their vacations.

This web site includes Houdini's biography, Houdini's tricks, Houdini's death, Houdini quotes, the Houdini movies or Houdini movies, our Houdini Inc., Houdini's real last name, and Houdini's magic.

Website of Scranton Magician Dick Brookz

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