Harry Houdini

Hungarian-born American illusionist, escapologist, and stunt performer (1874–1926)

Harry Houdini (March 24, 1874 - October 31, 1926) was a Hungarian-born American magician and escapologist. He also investigated fake spiritualists and was a skeptic.

Houdini in handcuffs, 1918

Life and career


He was born in Budapest to Jewish parents and was named Ehrich Weiss,[1] but changed his name to Harry Houdini when he became a professional magician. At first he did not have much success in his career. In 1899 his acts got better when he met his manager Martin Beck. Mr Beck was impressed with Houdini's handcuff stunts and within a year Houdini was famous.

Houdini also appeared in several early movies and made many early airplane flights. He made the first successful airplane flight in Australia, on 18 March 1910, in Victoria.[2]

Houdini died in Detroit, Michigan, on October 31, 1926. Two weeks before his death, a college student approached Houdini and asked him if he could withstand a punch in the stomach, a challenge which Houdini often took, and the former punched him several times.[3] Houdini became sick afterwards, but continued to perform.[1] Houdini's official cause of death was peritonitis (inflammation in the abdomen). Some speculate that it was caused by a ruptured appendix from that incident.[3]

  • In 1953 there was a popular but fictionalized movie "Houdini" (with Tony Curtis as Houdini); its ending is that Houdini accidentally drowns trying to escape from a escape proof water trap.
  • A running gag in TV is that an evil magician is trying to steal Harry Houdini's "Magic Secrets":
    • In the TV show "Simon & Simon" "Grand Illusion" Season 3 episode 1 9/29/1983 is the theme of stolen Notes of Harry Houdini and a ghostly magician
    • In the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters episode "The Cabinet of Calamari" 9/30/1987 The Ghostbusters capture the ghost of Harry Houdini who keeps escaping from their traps; in a twist ending Houdini ghost not only rescuses Peter Venkman from a ghostly dimension but also help capture a dishonest magician who stole Houdini magic Secrets!


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Harry Houdini (1874-1926) - American Experience". PBS. March 5, 2019. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  2. Fraser, Bryce; Weldon, Kevin (1983). The Macquarie Book of Events. Sydney: Macquarie Library Pty.Ltd. p. 105. ISBN 0-949-75707-1.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mikkelson, Barbara and David P. (September 2, 2014). "Punched Out". Snopes.com.

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