The Mysterious Harry Houdini: 10 Fascinating Facts

Despite the fact that Houdini kicked the container nearly a century ago, his mystique never faded. He captured the imagination of the world with his death-defying stunts and performances, which continue to amaze today’s magicians. As a magician, Houdini was known for leaving people breathless with his incredible escapes, whether it was from a straitjacket suspended above the streets or escaping from his famed water torture cell with just seconds to spare.

The life of Harry Houdini was no less fascinating with performances that spectacular. Here are ten interesting facts about Harry Houdini.

1. Harry Houdini’s real name was Ehrich Weiss

Harry Houdini's real name was Ehrich Weiss

Image credit: wikimedia.org

It is likely that his stage name was inspired by his childhood nickname, Ehrie, although some sources suggest that it was a tribute to his mentor, magician Harry Kellar.

His last name was definitely a tribute to French illusionist Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin.

2. Houdini first found fame as the King of Handcuffs

Houdini Showing How To Escape Handcuffs

Image credit: wikipedia

While Houdini was struggling to make it in show business, he considered open a magic school. In 1899, he was booked on a tour of America and Europe by vaudeville impresario Martin Beck. On Beck’s advice, Houdini made escapes a central part of his act.

He began challenging audiences to tie him up or lock him in handcuffs, and he advanced his shows by staging escapes from local jails, usually after being strip-searched and placed in shackles by police. The routine was a tremendous success. The as of late christened “King of Handcuffs” played to sold-out crowds across Europe, and he later established his fame by staging several prominent escapes in the US.

One stunt saw him ricochet into a Rochester, New York, stream with his hands manacled behind his back; in another, he broke out of the jail cell that had once held Charles Guiteau, the man who assassinated President James A. Garfield.

3. According to legend, Harry Houdini also named Buster Keaton, although inadvertently

Image credit: wikipedia

Along with Houdini, Buster’s dad, Joe, was the co-proprietor of a traveling show called the Mohawk Indian Medicine Company. The story Buster tells is that one day when he was only about 18 months old, he took a tumble down a stairwell while he was under his dad’s watch, yet came out of it totally unscathed.

Houdini said “That was a real buster!” Afterward, Keaton began referring to himself as Buster, and the name stuck. His real name was Joseph Frank Keaton, in case you’re interested.

4. Houdini once staged an escape from inside a sea monster

Image credit: wikipedia

In September 1911, a gathering of Boston businessmen challenged Houdini to attempt the most bizarre stunt of his career an escape from the belly of a 1,500-pound “sea monster” that had washed up in the city’s harbor. Historians still aren’t sure what the creature actually was it’s been described as everything from a whale to a leatherback turtle anyway Houdini was capable.

As thousands of spectators looked on, he allowed himself to be handcuffed, shackled in leg irons, and wedged inside the stinking carcass, which was then canvassed in chains and placed behind a curtain.

Houdini arose in win after just 15 minutes, yet later admitted that he was nearly suffocated by the fumes from the chemicals used to embalm the beast.

5. Harry Houdini introduced his famous milk can trick in 1908

Image credit: imgur

In case you’re not familiar with it, Houdini invented an oversized milk can that would be loaded up with water for his act. Once in the can, he would be handcuffed and sealed inside, then gave up a curtain to make his daring escape. When this became too commonplace, he further encased the milk can in a wooden crate.

Perhaps building on this stunt, the folks at Joshua Tetley and Son, the brewers behind Tetley’s lager, invited him to escape from a cask of their fine thing.

Houdini accepted and gave the stunt a go, anyway the task demonstrated too troublesome and he had to be rescued by his assistant, Franz Kokol.

6. He was an aviation pioneer

Image credit: monash.edu

After developing a passion for aviation while in Europe in 1909, Houdini purchased a French-made Voisin biplane and became one of the world’s first private pilots. The magician crashed during his maiden excursion in Germany, anyway, he continued practicing and eventually set his sights on becoming the first man to direct an airplane in Australia. During a tour Down Under in March 1910, Houdini bobbed behind the controls of his Voisin and made three successful flights near Melbourne, each several minutes long.

The Aerial League of Australia affirmed Houdini’s display as the nation’s first powered and controlled flight, yet some historians have since argued that the record actually belongs to Colin Defries, an Englishman who had made a short several months earlier.

In 2010, Houdini and Defries were both honored in a series of stamps commemorating the centennial of the energized trip in Australia.

7. The symbol of the Society of American Magicians is engraved on harry Houdini’s tombstone

Houdini tombstone

Image credit: themagicdetective

Houdini was president of the Society of American Magicians when he passed on. And members are still invested in making sure the famed magician’s gravesite at Machpelah Cemetary in Queens, New York, receives routine maintenance and restoration.

Sadly, his dearest spouse, Bess, is shrouded 10 miles away in Westchester; she wasn’t allowed to be covered with him because she wasn’t Jewish.

8. Houdini assisted with the American war effort during WWI

Image credit: imgur

Although he was brought into the world in Hungary, Houdini was an American patriot and staunch supporter of U.S. involvement in The Second Great War. He persuaded the Society of American Magicians to sign loyalty oaths to President Woodrow Wilson and later canceled his touring season to invest in entertaining soldiers and raising money for the war effort.

Houdini also drew on his arsenal of magician’s tricks to give special instruction to American troops. In a series of classes held at New York’s Hippodrome, he counseled doughboys on the best way to escape sinking ships and extricate themselves from ropes, handcuffs, and other restraints in case of capture by the Germans.

9. Harry Houdini was an avid aviator

Image credit: monash.edu

In spite of the fact that there’s some dispute over the claim, Houdini is often seen as the first person to at any point make a controlled excursion in a filled plane on Australian soil.

The flight took place on March 18, 1910, in Diggers Rest, which is near Melbourne. In June 1920, it was accounted for that Houdini was in any occasion, making plans to embark upon what may have been the first transatlantic departure from Paris to New York. The plans, unfortunately, never materialized.

10. Houdini debunked psychics and the supernatural

Image credit: wikipedia

As the world’s greatest trickster and illusionist, Houdini had little patience for anyone who claimed to be in possession of supernatural powers. Beginning in the 1920s, he embarked on a second career as a professional skeptic and debunker of psychics, mind readers, mediums, and other “Spiritualists” who suspected to have the option to contact the deceased. Houdini campaigned tirelessly, often visiting séances in disguise to expose their ringleader as frauds.

He also offered a $10,000 reward to any psychic who could present physical phenomena that couldn’t be explained rationally and in 1926 he testified before Congress in support of a bill to outlaw the practice of “pretending to tell fortunes for reward or compensation.

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