Harry Houdini

“The World's Greatest Escape Artist”

The world's greatest escape artist was born Erich Weis, and as a child, read French magician Robert Houdin's autobiography.  He was so impressed that he added an "i" to the great conjuror's name and at the age of seventeen, transforming himself into HOUDINI, the magician. He decided to specialize in escapes. Handcuffed and wearing leg irons or police shackles, Houdini could free himself easily, even when locked in jail cells or under water.

One of his great feats was to escape from a heavy wooden crate that was nailed shut and banded with steel before being submerged in a river or lake. He was the first to do the famous upside-down escape from a straight jacket, while dangling high in the air from a rope attached to the corner of a tall building. Houdini heard about the feat of a mystic yogi who claimed to go into a trance and to stay in an air-tight box for a long period of time. Houdini surpassed this stunt by staying in a waterproof coffin, submerged in water for an hour and a half.

Houdini invented the sensational "Water Torture Cell". It consisted of an upright, rectangular tank that was filled with water and had a plate glass front. Houdini was handcuffed and his ankles were locked in a massive frame. He was then hauled upside down and lowered head-down into the water. The top of the tank was locked, and you could see Houdini suspended in the water until drapes were closed around him.  He would escape in two minutes, stepping out of the drapes, smiling and wet, just at the moment the frightened audience became convinced he had drowned.

Houdini got interested in movies. He wrote, produced, and starred in a number of silent mysteries, doing all of his own spectacular escapes and stunts. Houdini will also be remembered as the first man to make a successful flight in Australia with his own Voisin Biplane in 1910.

Though he died on Halloween night back in 1926, Houdini will be remembered for all time as one of the greatest magic showmen who ever lived. If you ask anyone today to name some famous magician, they might say David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy, or a few others...but they will always remember Harry Houdini!