What Famous Magician Died on Halloween?
Harry Houdini was the most celebrated and famous illusionist, magician, and escape artist of the 20th century. The magician is known for his death-defying escape stunts, such as escaping a whale's belly and coming out alive from 6 feet of dirt. However, he couldn’t escape the blow of death and died on Halloween in 1926. There is a lot of debate on the actual cause of Houdini’s death. Some believe that it was planned, while others think it was due to ignoring a serious medical issue. READ the whole story...
A Brief Overview Of Houdini’s Life
Harry Houdini was born Erik Weisz on March 24, 1874, to a Jewish family in Budapest. His name later changed to Ehrich Weiss when his family arrived in the United States. Because Ehrich did many jobs as a child, he made his first public debut at the age of 9, where he called himself the "Prince of the Air."
As soon as he started gaining public attention, he began calling himself "Harry Houdini," inspired by the French magician Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin.
Houdini made and showed up in many films such as The Grim Game, Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt, and Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris. Later on, he quit the career when it didn’t bring enough money. He was also known to be a pilot who wanted to be the first one to fly a plane in Australia. In short, Houdini was more than just a magician. He was an escapist, an actor, a pilot, an amateur historian, and an author.
Superb Escape Tricks
The insanely amazing yet deadly tricks that Houdini used to perform required an impressive dose of sleight of hand. His famous escapes were so dangerous that they could cost him his life. However, death had a different plan for him. Here are a few of the most famous escape tricks of Houdini.
THE BURIED ALIVE STUNT: Houdini performed the buried alive stunt three times. The first time when he tried this trick, it nearly killed him. He was buried alive under 6 feet of dirt without any casket. He cried for help and tried to dig himself out on the surface. His assistants pulled him out in an unconscious state. Imagine the horror!
Instead of quitting the trick like any sane person would have done, Houdini continued performing variations of this trick. In one stunt, he was submerged underwater, sealed in a coffin for and hour and a half. In the second variation, he was strapped in a straitjacket and buried in a tank filled with sand.
MILK CAN ESCAPE: The Milk Can Escape is the most famous trick of the magician. This escape trick added such suspense and thrill among the spectators that they never felt before. Houdini locked himself into a large milk can filled with water. He was handcuffed and sealed, which means if he failed to escape, he would drown. Houdini later added variations to the trick by getting locked into a chained wooden chest because the earlier trick wasn't dangerous enough.
MURDERER'S ROW ESCAPE: Houdini was undoubtedly the master of escaping art. It was evident when he escaped from the Murderer's row in 1906. It was the south wing of Washington D.C's old jail. It took him only 2 minutes to unlock himself from the handcuffs and the lock. He utilized the time left of his act to unlock eight other cells, switched the prisoners, and locked them again. Although many people thought his acts were fake, he was strictly against spiritualists and the people who claimed supernatural talents. He was quick to expose fraud magicians and sue anyone who tried to imitate his acts.
What Killed Houdini?
It is impossible to believe when the news of Houdini’s death started to circle in the media. Many critics believed that the series leading to his end started weeks before. The news was still shocking for everyone as New York Times published an obituary expressing the shock on the sudden death of the man who always used to cheat the "jaws of death" but here's the facts...
BROKEN ANKLE IN WATER TORTURE CELL: As the series of mishaps started, Houdini fractured his left ankle while performing the Chinese Water Torture Cell escape in Albany, New York. He was shackled into the cell from where he had to escape. Suddenly a broken piece of the equipment struck his ankle so severely that he had to limp throughout the show. He was diagnosed with a broken ankle later on. However, he continued to perform and travel with a sore ankle against his doctor’s advice.
THE J. GORDON WHITEHEAD INCIDENT: After the ankle incident, Houdini traveled to Montreal to deliver a lecture at the McGill University. After a few days, on October 22, 1926, he invited some McGill students in his dressing room at the Prince Theater. He was sitting on a couch because of the pain in his ankle when Gordon Whitehead blew four or five hard punches below his belt. Reportedly, Jacques Price, Sam Smilovitz, and Gordon Whitehead visited Houdini. Whitehead asked Houdini if the rumors were true that his stomach was strong enough to resist punches, to which he agreed. Without giving him time to prepare, Whitehead started punching his stomach. Later that night, he was in utter pain and discomfort, but he continued his routine.
LAST PERFORMANCE OF THE GREAT HOUDINI: Houdini boarded a train to Detroit to continue his performances the very next day, where his condition worsened. The doctors suspected that he might have appendicitis and asked him to go for treatment. Houdini was so devoted to his art that he refused to go to the hospital without performing for the night show in Garrick Theater. Unfortunately, this was his last show. His temperature rose to 104 degrees, and he collapsed right after the final curtain. He was rushed to the hospital, where the doctors removed his appendix, but the poison had spread. He died on October 31 (HALLOWEEN!) at the age of 52.
Many critics and authors showed their inability to accept the unusual death of Houdini. They claimed that his death might be carefully planned because he made many enemies in his struggles to outlaw fortune-telling and expose fake spiritualists. However, the official cause of his death was declared to be Peritonitis after the rupturing of the appendix.