“I am a great admirer of mystery and magic. Look at this life – all mystery and magic.” – Harry Houdini.
October 31st marks the anniversary of the death of the great magician Harry Houdini. Born in Hungary on March 24, 1874 under the name of Erick Weisz, he and his parents moved to Wisconsin when he was just four years old and changed his name to Erich Weiss. In 1890, at the young age of 17, he renamed himself Harry Houdini and began his career in magic doing small magic shows with his brother in music halls and sideshows. By 1895, Houdini and his new wife, Beatrice Raymond, had joined the Welsh Brothers Circus where they sang and danced and performed a trick called “metamorphosis” that amazed crowds, in which they switched places in a locked trunk.
In 1899, entertainment manager Martin Beck took notice of Houdini and was extremely impressed by his skill and technique. Beck booked Houdini in increasingly well-known vaudeville venues where he became the highest paid performer in American vaudeville. As a result, Houdini was able to indulge his passions in film and aviation. Though his films were unsuccessful, he was a pioneer in aviation – a little known fact about Houdini.
Houdini was constantly upping the ante from handcuffs and straitjackets to locked, water-filled tanks and nailed packing crates. Due to his uncanny strength and equally uncanny ability to pick locs, he was always able to escape. The hallmark of his career, the Chinese Water Torture Cell act, which began in 1912, was so successful that it ran until his death in October 1926. The official cause of his death was peritonitis, yet how he received it is still unknown. Since the 1930’s, Houdini’s fans have held Houdini séances every Halloween to try and communicate with his ghost.
Houdini used his God given gift, making the most of his creativity and imagination. Harry Houdini’s grand illusions and daring, spectacular escape acts made him one of the most famous magicians of all time. He was able to make people believe in magic, even if it was only for one minute. From him, we can be reminded that the impossible is possible. We all should tap into our skills and continue to remind others of this important truth.
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