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Harry Houdini

Updated on July 28, 2008

Harry Houdini was born in Hungary on March 24, 1874 and died October 31, 1926. His real name was Ehrich Weiss, which he changed to Ehrich Weisz when he came to the United States. He is considered to be one of the greatest magicians, escapologists, and stunt performers of all times. In addition, he was an amateur aviator, film producer, actor, and an investigator of spiritualists. 

"My Two Sweethearts". Harry Houdini (1874-1926) with his wife Beatrice (1876-1943) and mother Cecilia Steiner Weiss, half-length portrait

Harry Houdini Live on YouTube

Houdini: The Movie Star - (Three Disc Collection) (1910)

Houdini: The Movie Star (Three-Disc Collection)
Houdini: The Movie Star (Three-Disc Collection)

Product Description

By the year 1919, Harry Houdini was known throughout the world as a master magician and escape artist. Having conquered the stage, he set out to rule the screen, appearing in a series of thrillers built upon his almost supernatural powers. Culled from film archives and private collections, this Kino DVD set includes all of Houdini s suriving films as an actor, rare footage of actual handcuff and straitjacket escapes, and a wealth of historical information. Includes: THE MASTER MYSTERY (1919, 238m, Color Tinted) TERROR ISLAND (1920, 55m, B&W) THE MAN FROM BEYOND (1922, 68m, Color Tinted) HALDANE OF THE SECRET SERVICE (1923, 84m, Color Tinted) THE GRIM GAME (Fragment, 1919, 5m, Color Tinted) - SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE: Filmed records of Houdini escapes (ca. 1907-23) - Audio recording of Houdini speaking (1914) - Excerpts from the NY Censor Board files - Slippery Jim, a 1910 Houdini-inspired comedy - The illusion Metamorphosis performed by Houdini s brother Hardeen and others.


The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero - (Paperback)

"Kalush and Sloman appear to have raked through every known Houdini archive to produce the most comprehensive and controversial biography ever written about the man, with its contention that he was a spy who may have been murdered by a cult."-- Tony Barrell, London Sunday Times

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero
The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero

Product Description

Handcuff King. Escape Artist. International Superstar. Since his death eighty years ago, Harry Houdini's life has been chronicled in books, in film, and on television. Now, in this groundbreaking biography, renowned magic expert William Kalush and bestselling writer Larry Sloman team up to find the man behind the myth. Drawing from millions of pages of research, they describe in vivid detail the passions that drove Houdini to perform ever-more-dangerous feats, his secret life as a spy, and a pernicious plot to subvert his legacy.

The Secret Life of Houdini traces the arc of the master magician's life from desperate poverty to worldwide fame -- his legacy later threatened by a group of fanatical Spiritualists led by esteemed British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Initiating the reader along the way into the arcane world of professional magic, Kalush and Sloman decode a life based on deception, providing an intimate and riveting portrayal of Houdini, the man and the legend.



is the practice of escaping from restraints or other traps, such as handcuffs, straitjackets, cages, coffins, steel boxes, barrels, bags, burning buildings, fish-tanks and other perils, often in combination.

Houdini Straightjacket Escape

In 1909, the London Daily Mirror newspaper challenged Houdini to escape from a special handcuff that it claimed had taken Nathaniel Hart, a locksmith from Birmingham, five years to make. Houdini accepted the challenge for March 20 during a matinee performance at London's Hippodrome theater. It was reported that 4000 people and more than 100 journalists turned out for the much-hyped event. The escape attempt dragged on for over an hour, during which Houdini emerged from his "ghost house" (a small screen used to conceal the method of his escape) several times. On one occasion, he asked if the cuff could be removed so he could take off his coat. The Mirror representative, Frank Parker, refused, saying Houdini could gain an advantage if he saw how the cuff was unlocked. Houdini promptly took out a pen-knife and, holding the knife in his teeth, used it to cut his coat from his body. Some 56 minutes later, Houdini's wife appeared on stage and gave him a kiss. It is believed that in her mouth was the key to unlock the special handcuff. Houdini then went back behind the curtain. After an hour and ten minutes, Houdini emerged free. As he was paraded on the shoulders of the cheering crowd, he broke down and wept. Houdini later said it was the most difficult escape of his career.

Many modern biographers have found evidence (notably in the custom design of the handcuff itself) that the entire Mirror challenge was pre-arranged by Houdini and the newspaper, and that his long struggle to escape was pure showmanship.

Poster promoting Houdini taking up the challenge of escaping an "extra strong and large traveling basket".

A Predicament escape

is any form of magic trick or escapology stunt in which the performer is trapped in a dangerous situation and is required to escape from it. Classic examples include the Table of Death, Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Cell, Princess Tenko's escape from an exploding boat and the Upside Down Suspended Straitjacket escape, in which a performer is suspended high in the air from a burning rope.

Chinese Water Torture Cell

In 1912, Houdini introduced perhaps his most famous act, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full to overflowing with water. The act required that Houdini hold his breath for more than three minutes. Houdini performed the escape for the rest of his career. Despite two Hollywood movies depicting Houdini dying in the Torture Cell, the escape had nothing to do with his demise.

After Houdini's death, the cell was willed to his brother who performed as the escape artist Theodore Hardeen. Hardeen never performed the cell himself, and despite Houdini's instructions for it to be "burnt and destroyed" upon Hardeen's death, his brother gave the cell to Houdini collector Sidney H. Radner in the 1940s. The cell remained in the Radner basement until 1971 when it was put on display at The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada. Here the cell suffered from neglect and theft. At one point, the museum owners put a fish tank inside the cell to achieve an aquarium effect. The leaky tank caused mold and damage to the cell wood and structure.

In 1995, the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame burned to the ground in a mysterious fire. While it was initially reported that the cell was completely destroyed, the metal frame survived, and the cell was restored by illusion builder John Gaughan. In 2004, the restored cell was sold at auction to magician David Copperfield. It now resides as part of his massive private magic collection in his home in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Houdini: The Handcuff King - [BARGAIN PRICE] (Hardcover)

"I just can't help but wonder, will anyone even remember me a hundred years from now?" Houdini

Houdini: The Handcuff King
Houdini: The Handcuff King

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Following Houdini on the morning of his leap (while handcuffed) into the frigid Boston River, readers gain a remarkably complete picture of his world. They will meet his wife, Bess; his strong-arm man, Beatty; reporters desperate to get a quote; and crowds hungry for a glimpse of him. Most of all, they get to know Houdini himself, who, as an extensive introduction notes, was probably the most famous man in the world at the time. Proud and obsessed--with his skill, his fame, and his wife--Houdini was a showman of the highest order who knew he represented hope to his adoring American public. He also knew that he had an unprecedented talent for self-hype. Avoiding overt, showy tricks themselves, Lutes and Bertozzi^B use clean, simple storytelling and crisp, clear black-and-white art to create not only a portrait of the man but also that sense of suspense and anticipation Houdini generated in his performances. Endnotes linked to specific pictures offer background on everything from anti-Semitism (Houdini was Jewish) to handcuffs. A bibliography of mostly older adult titles is appended. Jesse Karp

Copyright � American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


The case of the alleged unauthorized Houdini replica

By Kate Silver, Las Vegas Weekly

December 11, 2003

If his wish had been honored, if his illusions had all gone to the grave with him and his brother, one of Houdini's most famous tricks wouldn't be boxed up in a Las Vegas warehouse right now, in need of an escape artist. But there it sits, the original Chinese Water Torture Cell. Then again, how original is it? That's the question shackled to the cell by a chain of broken agreements, alleged devious tricks and legal actions. Because, thanks to a craftsman hired to restore this device, there may be a working replica.

"Houdini would be throwing up," says Geno Munari, the disgusted president of Houdini's Magic Shops, the Houdini's Museum at the Venetian and the warehouse in which the crates sit. He'd planned to display it in the Houdini museum at the Venetian, but has chosen to keep it boxed and hidden. The rumored replica is said to be indiscernible from the original, shedding doubt as to the authenticity of both.

The Chinese Water Torture Cell dates back to 1911. It's a water-tight rectangular piece made of glass, mahogany and steel, a little more than 2 feet wide and just under 5 feet tall, valued at $1.5 million. Houdini would be lowered into the cramped, water-filled cell headfirst, feet shackled to its lid. Through the glass, viewers could watch the struggle on the face of the great escape artist and see there was no discernable way air could get in—but somehow, it did. Houdini even offered $10,000 to anyone who could tell him how he was breathing. He never had to pay.

In his lifetime, Houdini and his brother, Theodore Hardeen, were the only two who held the key to the mystery, and when Houdini died, he willed the cell to Hardeen, with the understanding that brother and cell would expire simultaneously. That didn't happen. Hardeen gave and sold many of his brother's tricks to friend and fellow escape artist Sidney Radner, who kept mum about how the tricks work. For decades, the Water Torture Cell was on display in the Canadian Houdini Magical Hall of Fame, until the place burned in 1995 and the cell was partially destroyed. Radner, who lives in Massachusetts and owns the world's largest collection of Houdini memorabilia, sent it to John Gaughan, a Houdini collector/repairman in California who had restored the cell in the early nineties.

The restoration seemed successful, and the cell was shipped to Munari, who'd rented it from Radner and was prepared to put the device on display. Then came the replica rumors. Munari first heard them at the 2002 Halloween Houdini sance in Seattle (every year, mediums and fans try to contact the escape artist, who died on Halloween). Respected magicians were saying they'd seen the replica and the original side-by-side and couldn't tell the difference. Munari took that information to Radner, who was aghast.

"He was hired to restore the original," says Radner's attorney, Michael McCue, from his Las Vegas office. "The implied terms were not to build a replica that would injure the value of the original or create doubt as to the authenticity of the original."

Radner, an honorary curator of the Houdini museum and founder of the Houdini Historical Society, sent four letters to Gaughan, asking to see the replica, and received no response. So he's suing Gaughan for fraud, breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets, among other things. He's demanded that Gaughan either return or destroy the replica, leaving the original as the only one in the world. Attempts to reach Gaughan were unsuccessful, and his lawyer would not comment, other than to deny the allegations and say they've filed a motion to dismiss, claiming a Las Vegas court doesn't have jurisdiction because Gaughan is a California resident.

For now, the water-torture cell will continue gathering dust. Munari says he'll eventually put it on display, when they open a new museum next to the Liberace museum in coming months. But as long as the replica exists, doubts will remain.

"Which one's the real one?" Munari demands. "How do I know all the pieces are in there, or if he's got some of the pieces in the other one? It's just an improper thing to do."

Then again, if Houdini's will had been obeyed and the cell was destroyed upon his brother's death, none of this would be an issue. Mediums, psychics and Ouija board operators take note. Perhaps that's a topic for next year's sance.


Yearly Seance and Secret Code

Houdini died on Halloween, 1926.

For ten years after his death, Houdini's wife Bess held a yearly sance on Halloween in order to try to contact him in the after-life. They had agreed upon a secret code before he died to see if he could be contacted from the spirit world when the time came. Sadly, Bess never heard from him. Still, people hold sances in an attempt to contact him every Halloween.

Want to know the secret code word?

Houdini's Funeral

Houdini Exhumation - Statement from Houdini Family

March 24th, 2007


Re: Houdini Exhumation

Regarding the proposed plan to exhume the body of Harry Houdini, relatives of Beatrice (Bess) Houdini are totally against it.

Based on information made available to us over the years, we feel there is no need to exhume his body. It is our firm belief that Bess Houdini would never approve of this. The family believes this is likely being done to promote sales of a recent book on Harry Houdini suggesting he may have been murdered.

The Houdini family wants to honor the name of Houdini and not use it for sensationalism that does not honor him. Several members of Bess Houdini's family are members of the Society of American Magicians (SAM) and have tried to promote him through the art of magic that Houdini loved. Bess's relatives were honored guests at the US Post Office official stamp issuance held at the Society of American Magician convention held in New York City on July 3, 2002. Marie Hinson Blood (Houdini's niece)and David Copperfield were two of the honored speakers. Our family presence at this event was represented by 14 family members.We do not know why relatives of Hardeen (Houdini's brother) did not participate in this event honoring Houdini. The Houdini family established a youth magic scholarship fund through SAM when Marie Hinson Blood passed away in November 2004. This was to honor Houdini, the uncle she loved so much. Marie spent the last 20 years of her life speaking at magic conventions,

schools and community events of her childhood memories of living with her aunt and uncle, the famous Houdini's. In 2000 we established "Houdini Family" DBA to preserve the memories of Houdini and promote the art of magic.

Jeffrey Blood,

Grandnephew of Houdini

Was Harry Houdini Murdered?

The Magician's Oath

"As a magician I promise never to reveal the secret of any illusion to a non-magician, unless that one swears to uphold the Magician's Oath in turn. I promise never to perform any illusion for any non-magician without first practicing the effect until I can perform it well enough to maintain the illusion of magic."

Houdini Souvenir Program

Houdini Souvenir Program
Houdini Souvenir Program

Tricks in Magic, Illusions, and Mental Phenomena

This ebook is great for the curious fan of magic who is dying to know how a certain trick is done. It is not necessarily a good one for actually teaching the tricks; but, it explains how they are done quite simply.

The effects in this pamphlet are selected from among those secrets that have become common property in the magical field, and are given just as sent out by the vendors. Now, these secrets are revealed:

Handkerchief Multiplication

Now You See it, Now You Don't;


Soup Plate and Handkerchief

Mephisto's Glass Cylinders

The Flight Through Crystals

The Chameleon Handkerchiefs

New Postal Card Trick

Card Nailed Between Boards

Demon Cards

Pipe Trick

The Wa-Ha-Gi Billiard Ball

Magic Die, Flowers and Glass Box

Ice Freezing Extraordinary

New Programme, Ring and

Envelopes Trick

Bertram's Programme and Coin


New Chair Mystery

How to Tell Numbers of Borrowed


Slade's Wonderful Spirit Knots

Dexter's Sealed Cord Test

Bellachini's Cabinet Mystery

The Three Knotted Charmed


The Eglinton Rope Test

One of the Davenport Rope Ties

Braid and Tape Test

The Medium's Ties, Similar to No.


New Spirit Post

New Spirit Hand

The Mystery of L'Hassa

New Spirit Pictures

Shrine of Koomra Sami

Spirit Circle Under Test Conditions

Great Mahatma Miracles

One Way of Producing Great Mahatma Miracles

One Method of Materialization and


Kellar's New Karmos

Silent Thought Transference

New Silent Second Sight and Bank Note Test

Second Sight Through Brick Walls

Psychonotism, or Silent Thought Transmission

The Spirit Thinkerphone, or Marvelous Vision

Taschypsychography, or Long Distance Second



The Great Shooting Act

Head of Ibykus, or Talking Skull

The Mango Tree

Queen of Knives

The Appearing Lady

The Escape from Sing Sing

Rapid Transit

Noah's Ark

The Oriental Barrel Mystery

The Artist's Dream

New Half Lady Illusion

Edgar Poe's Raven in the Garland of Thebes

Samuel's Cartomantic Floral Charm

Samuel Mystic Percolator

Samuel's Wonder Kraut

Samuel's Magic Squeezers

Samuel's Wine Tassels

Samuel's Bloodstone Wonder

Samuel's Handkerchief Tassel

Samuel's Golden Flash of Light

And that's only half. Here's some more tricks you can learn:

Spirit Circle Under Test Conditions

Great Mahatma Miracles

One Way of Producing Great Mahatma Miracles

One Method of Materialization and


Kellar's New Karmos

Silent Thought Transference

New Silent Second Sight and Bank Note Test

Second Sight Through Brick Walls

Psychonotism, or Silent Thought Transmission

The Spirit Thinkerphone, or Marvelous Vision

Taschypsychography, or Long Distance Second



The Great Shooting Act

Head of Ibykus, or Talking Skull

The Mango Tree

Queen of Knives

The Appearing Lady

The Escape from Sing Sing

Rapid Transit

Noah's Ark

The Oriental Barrel Mystery

The Artist's Dream

New Half Lady Illusion

Edgar Poe's Raven in the Garland of Thebes

Samuel's Cartomantic Floral Charm

Samuel Mystic Percolator

Samuel's Wonder Kraut

Samuel's Magic Squeezers

Samuel's Wine Tassels

Samuel's Bloodstone Wonder

Samuel's Handkerchief Tassel

Samuel's Golden Flash of Light

All of these secrets are available at the link below.

New Houdini Amazon Plexo

Movie poster for The Master Mystery with Harry Houdini

Movie poster for The Master Mystery with Harry Houdini
Movie poster for The Master Mystery with Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini on Amazon

New Guestbook

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