Person: Harry Houdini

Houdini escaped from handcuffs, strait jackets, crates submerged in the river, even graves. Uploaded by handcuffs.org.

Houdini’s first trick was to escape his name — Erich Weiss. I don’t know why, but you don’t expect the most amazing escape artist in history to have that name. Or to come from Appleton, Wisconsin. Or to be only 5’5″ tall and have a high-pitched voice. But such was Houdini’s talent and reputation, that he rose above all these limitations.

Uploaded by boingboing.net.

Houdini’s act wasn’t an instant success. In fact, he became so discouraged that he took out an ad to sell all his magic equipment for $20. No one called. Then he came up with what he called the “Challenge Act.” He told the audience he could escape from any pair of handcuffs they produced. (Local law enforcement officers started jamming them on purpose to thwart him.) He then started escaping from more difficult circumstances — upside down in a strait jacket, jail cells, padlocked crates thrown in rivers, an oversize milk can filled with water, even being buried alive.

Sadly, Houdini also thought he could escape death from a ruptured appendix. He was wrong. A fascinating display of Houdini memorabilia and paraphernalia is part of an exhibit titled Houdini’s Art and Magic. It’s going to be on display at the Jewish Museum in New York through March 27, 2011, then will be moved to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Madison, Wisconsin.

I think I see my grandfather in this video. He’s the man in the hat:

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2 responses to “Person: Harry Houdini

  1. Hey, I saw my grandpa too! How cool is that :)

  2. Did I tell you that my now 6th grader did a book report on Harry Houdini in 4th grade? He had to read a bio, write a book report, then give a presentation – dressed like Mr. Houdini! He did very well! Though, I doubt seriously Mr. Houdini was ever a shiny-red-headed little boy. Are there any red-headed Jewish boys? ;)

    Cool story – what a determined man!

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