Harry Houdini was one of the most famous magicians of all time and hailed as a real-life superman who could withstand powerful blows to the stomach. A talented magician and master showman, he was an artist at generating publicity. He was known for being the world’s greatest escape artist by performing death defying acts and creating many new tricks including the straight jacket escape.
Born Ehrich Weisz, in Budapest, Hungary he was the son of a Rabbi.
At 9 he performed in a neighborhood circus as a trapeze artist, "Ehrich, The Prince of the Air."
At 17 he began doing magic tricks before civic groups, music halls, amusement parks, beer halls and theaters. His father died when he was 18 in 1892.
He took on the Houdini after Robert Houdin, a famous French magician.
In 1894 after knowing Bess (Beatrice Wilhelmina Rahner) he married her.
He trained regularly and in his house he installed an oversize tub to hold his breath. He was able to use both hands equally and while performing he didn’t have to look at his hands at all. He could also untie knots with his feet.
He would break out of jails including the prison cell that held the prison cell that held the assassin of President James Garfield. He could dislocate both shoulders, which aided him in getting out of a straight jacket, could inflate his wrists to aid in getting out of handcuffs, and was in excellent shape both physically and mentally.
Houdini nicknamed Joseph Keaton’s “Buster.” Hence, he became the famous film comedian Buster Keating.
In 1909 just six years after the Wright Brothers flew a plane, he purchased a Voisin biplane in Germany and had it dismantled and shipped to Australia. In Australia he became the first person to fly a plane in Australia. He also purchased a car and taught himself how to drive so he could get to airport faster. After leaving Australia he never flew a plane or drove a car ever again.
In 1918 he stared in the silent film "The Master Mystery" and he appeared in 13 silent films before choosing not to be a movie actor.
He was a master showman of magic and illusion, whereas Nikola Tesla
was one of electricity and electrical displays
His created magic tricks include: the Strait Jacket Escape, the Hindu Needle Trick, the Metamorphosis, being Buried Alive, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, the Milk Can Escape, and Walking Through a Brick Wall.
After the passing of his mother he became interested in Spiritualist mediums in the 1920’s in attempt to reach her. In searching for truth he ended up starting a crusade to expos them by using his knowledge as an illusionist to reveal their methods. During this time he became friends of the creator of Sherlock Homes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was a spokesperson for Spiritualism, but later they broke apart due to a failed attempt in 1922 to contact Houdini’s mother.
He has an issued United States patent, #1,370,316 for a diving suit.
After Houdini died his wife continued paying for press coverage of Harry Houdini.
Houdini’s donated his collection of over 5,000 books to the Library of Congress.
October 31, 1926: It was initially thought that he died due to being hit in the stomach, but rather it was due to a burst appendix on October 25th. The delay of the removal, despite chills and sweating on October 24th performed in Detroit Michigan with a temperature of 102, caused an bacterial infection to set in. He died a couple of days later in the hospital on Halloween. His last words were to his brother and he said; "I'm tired of fighting"
He had a crowded public funeral in New York. At the ceremony a representative Society of American Magicians broke a wand, which began a new tradition for the passing of society members.
In honor of Houdini every Halloween has become the National Magic Holiday where magicians by giving free performances at local charities.
Just before his death he told his wife Bess, that if it would be possible to contact the living from the other side, he would do so. Bess every year on Halloween for ten years she held a séance to reach Houdini. The Séances still continue today long after Bess stopped attending them.