Debunking the Myth of Houdini’s Death on Halloween, 1926

By | October 30, 2018

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Always amazing and often mystifying, escape artist Harry Houdini’s name is now synonymous with daring, death-defying escape tricks. Houdini dodged death multiple times when he was chained up and plunged upside down in a vat of water, yet the great Houdini did die, and fairly young, too. At only 52 years old, on Halloween in 1926, the Great Houdini could escape death no more and passed away at Grace Hospital in Detroit. The urban myth surrounding Houdini’s death is one that nearly everyone has heard…he was punched in the stomach and the blow burst his appendix. But there is much more to the story than that, as we see here. 

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Harry Houdini (1874-1926) American conjuror, here with chains, c. 1906. (Photo by APIC/Getty Images)

Harry Houdini, the Man, the Myth, the Legend

Born Ehrich Weiss in Hungary in 1874, Houdini adopted his stage name “Harry Handcuff Houdini” while working as a vaudeville performer. He toured across Europe and the United States and challenged local police officers to handcuff him on stage. He would promptly escape, to the surprise of the officers and delight of the audiences. He took his performances up a notch by adding ropes, chains, straitjackets, padlocks, and large tubs of water to his act. He was quick to silence critics who claimed his tricks were faked. He maintained a level of professionalism, learned how to effectively market himself, and kept his trade secrets closely guarded. All this earned him a reputation for being the greatest magician escape artist ever. Even today, we use his name to describe a person or pet who can quickly escape.