Harry Houdini was a magician best known for his incredible escape acts. Houdini was originally born in 1874 as Erik Weisz in Hungary and his family emigrated to the United States in 1878. He took a job as a trapeze artist at just 9 years of age and later decided to become a magician. He took the name Harry Houdini, which was inspired by his favorite magicians. During his early career he performed in small shows where he focused on card tricks. However, it wasn’t long before he began performing the escape acts that would make him famous.
Many of Houdini’s escape acts were genuinely dangerous and he had many close calls throughout his career. Many people incorrectly believe that he was killed during an act and several Hollywood films have showed him dying during an act. However, it wasn’t an escape act that killed Houdini. The closest he came to death during an escape was a buried alive stunt where he became very tired and panicked trying to dig his way out. He managed to break the surface with his hand and fell unconscious. He was pulled to safely and made a full recovery.
How did Harry Houdini die?
Houdini died on October 31, 1926, from peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and viscera) which was caused by a burst appendix. It is thought that he had been suffering from appendicitis for several days, but refused treatment. In his last performance at the Garrick Theater in Detroit he had a fever and passed out during the show, but managed to keep performing. He was hospitalized later that day and died 7 days later.
Did you know?
Some people believe that student J. Gordon Whitehead caused Houdini’s death. Whitehead approached Houdini and asked him if he was able to take a blow to the stomach. Houdini confirmed it was true and Whitehead launched a surprise attack that caught Houdini off guard.
There are also rumors that Houdini was murdered because he exposed the frauds committed by spiritualists, but this rumor may have simply been a publicity stunt for a book about the life of Houdini.