Are you a fan of magic? Well even if you aren’t, you’ve probably at least heard of Harry Houdini. He’s one of the most famous magicians in recent history. Today we’re going to take a look at his life and how a young trapeze artist from Budapest took the world of entertainment by storm. These are 25 Fascinating Facts About Harry Houdini.
His real name was Ehrich Weiss. Some people think that he got his stage name from his childhood nickname "Ehrie."
He didn't just name himself; he also named the famous performer, Buster Keaton. A friend of the Keaton family, Harry witnessed the little Keaton fall down the stairs one day and remarked, "That was quite a buster!" The name apparently stuck.
Born in Austria-Hungary, Harry initially gained recognition for traveling around Europe and challenging police forces to try locking him up.
In Moscow, he once escaped from a prison transport van, claiming that if he couldn't free himself, he would have had to travel all the way to Siberia because that's where the key was.
Houdini once sued a police officer in Cologne, Germany because the officer accused Harry of making his escapes via bribery. Harry won the case when he opened the judge's safe (he later admitted that the judge had forgotten to lock it)
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In 1918, he registered for the US selective service as Harry Handcuff Houdini
His first job in the United States was as a trapeze artist
While in school, one of his favorite hobbies was cross country running. In fact, he was really good at it!
Raised in a Jewish family, Harry became a Freemason later in life
In 1906, Houdini started his own magic publication called Conjurers' Monthly Magazine. It quickly went out of business, but not before he used it to attack his rivals, praise his own appearances, and subtly re-write history in his favor. Apparently he would have made a great 45th president...
He left behind his initial act, escaping from handcuffs, due to the fact that so many people tried to imitate him.
He was the inventor of the Chinese Water Torture Cell. In this trick he escaped from a water chamber while being suspended upside down from its ceiling
Harry once escaped from the belly of a whale!
Sometimes his escapes were marketing stunts. Brewers in Scranton, Pennsylvania challenged him to escape from their barrels after they had been filled with beer.
Harry once explained that many locks and handcuffs could be opened with little more than properly applied force or a simple tool like a shoestring
In his book Handcuff Secrets (1909), Harry admitted to carrying lockpicks and keys.
For many years, Houdini was a headline act in Vaudeville. In fact, he was the highest paid Vaudeville performer ever.
Harry's most notable non-escape illusion was making a full grown elephant disappear from the stage of the New York Hippodrome
While serving as president of the Society of American Magicians, Houdini sought to create a large international network in order to help prevent magic theft. His passion managed to successfully grow the organization into the richest and longest lasting magic society of our time.
One of his favorite past times was exposing mediums and psychics. In fact, his final show was titled "Three Shows in One: Magic, Escapes, and Fraud Mediums Exposed."
During his famous milk can escapes (the milk can would be filled with water), he invited the audience to hold their breaths along with him to heighten the effect.
One of his most popular publicity stunts was the suspended straitjacket escape, which was exactly what it sounds like. He would have himself strapped into a straitjacket and suspended from either a skyscraper or a crane.
Houdini's first "buried alive" stunt almost cost him his life. He became exhausted while digging and panicked. He tried crying for help and just managed to break the surface with his hand as he passed out.
Harry had a short lived career as a movie actor but gave it up when he didn't see much success.
He did have a relatively successful aviation career and even (almost) became the first man to fly a plane in Australia. Why almost? Well, although many outlets claimed Harry was the first, it later became clear that Londoner Mr. Colin Defries had beaten him by about a year.
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