5 Things You May Not Have Known About Houdini
Harry Houdini was without doubt the most famous and talented illusionist to ever walk the earth. Few performers have captured the public’s imagination like Houdini did and even today over a hundred years later his legacy continues to live on. So, here are five things you may not have known about this magnificent showman.
- Houdini’s escapes from seemingly impossible situations thrilled audiences, but his obsession for perfection and extreme motivation in his practice often wasn’t seen by his fans. In order to perform his mind-blowing stunts Houdini had to train intensely both physically and mentally. He trained himself to be ambidextrous making his left hand as able as his right.
He was said to practice untying knots with his toes so much so that his toes had the dexterity of his fingers. He would swallow large objects and regurgitate them back up again. He practiced slightly off hand and misdirection in front of a large mirror for hours and hours at a time, and his practice sessions were so constant that he would frequently forget to eat, change, and even bathe.
Of course, all this dedication consumed most of his time, meaning there was hardly time to sleep. Four hours a night was said to be a lion for Houdini, but if in his short hours of sleep, he did awake with an idea for a new stunt or trick.
There was always a notebook by his bedside in order for him to write it down. He even had a large sunken bathtub installed in his house where he could practice his breath holds and would fill it with ice in order to prepare his body for his handcuffed freezing river plunges. He built himself into the man he wanted to become and you can help but respect every ounce of that.
- His bizarre interest in the macabre. He would study murder cases and used to enjoy performing to inmates on death row. He even bought a device that would eventually kill the men he was performing for; a real electric chair which was used to kill inmates on death row at the Sing Sing prison.
He was also very interested in life after death. He would visit hundreds of mediums and spiritual get-togethers in an attempt to contact his deceased mother who he loved dearly, but of course he couldn’t just turn up to a seance and noticed so he would disguise himself with a hat and a fake beard.
Houdini later said that all mediums are conmen, and wrote this in an article; “In the 25 years of my investigation, and the hundreds of seances which I’ve attended, I have never seen or heard anything that could convince me that there is a possibility of communications with the loved ones who have gone beyond. Despite saying this, Houdini still believed in the afterlife. He just wasn’t convinced that communication was possible.
- Houdini’s Imaginary Son: Now, it’s unsure why Houdini and his wife of 32 years Bess didn’t have children. Some say Bess was unable to carry and others say that Houdini was x-rayed many times by his brother who was remarkably New York’s first x-ray specialist, and the constant exposure to radiation made Houdini sterile.
But just because they couldn’t have a child it didn’t mean they couldn’t invent one. Yep, they invented a son, and he was called Mayor Samuel Houdini named after Harry’s father.
While Harry was away, he would write letters the best asking how his son was getting on and what he’d been up to. Bess would let Harry know that Mayo was doing well the final letters written about their son was that he was doing well and had now become the president of the United States.
Now, lots of people say that they were both just nerds, but I see it as a cute way to bring each other closer together and help brighten the fact that he couldn’t have children.
- Houdini was killed by one of his own fans. Harry Houdini died of peritonitis secondary to a ruptured appendix on October 31st Halloween in 1926. He was aged just 52. His insurance company concluded that the death was due to him being punched in the stomach by a university student called J Gordon Whitehead.
Whitehead was witnessed delivering several heavy blows to Houdini stomach before he had the chance to prepare.
After the incident, Houdini continued performing his upcoming show in a great deal of pain. The pain lasted for two days, and when he finally visited a doctor, he was told he had a fever and acute appendicitis. He was advised to have immediate surgery, but Houdini being so dedicated to his craft ignored the advice and decided to go on with another show.
When Houdini arrived at the Garrick Theatre in Detroit Michigan on October the 24th, 1926 for what would be his last performance, he had a fever of 104, and must have felt awful, but despite this he took to the stage. He was reported to have passed out during the show but was revived and continue to perform. Afterwards, he was hospitalized at Detroit’s Grace Hospital where he died shortly after. His last words were said to be; “I am weaker, I guess I have lost the fight”.
- The Houdini Paranormal Ritual: Despite Houdini not seeing any first-hand proof of communication with the afterlife, he certainly believed in life after death, and always told his wife Bess that if he died, he would attempt to communicate with her if he was able to do. So, he gave her a secret code that if she heard being whispered one day, or if a spiritualist said the secret code was coming through during a séance, Bess would know it was her husband.
Every Halloween Bess would hold a seance in an attempt to contact him, but after 10 years with no success she gave up. Incredibly though the seance still continues to this day. Every year on October 31st, a group of spiritualists hold a ritual in an attempt to communicate with Houdini. Unfortunately, communication with him hasn’t yet been successful.
So that’s five little-known facts about the most famous escape artist who has ever lived.