Harry Houdini, also known as Erik Weisz, was a world-famous magician who wowed audiences with his daring and incredible escapes. By claiming to be free of any type of prison, leg-iron, steel lock, and chain, this Hungarian-born American escape artist knew how to attract attention. Fascinated by the French magician Jean Robert-Houdin, Harry Houdini not only stepped into his shoes, but also took on his surname, launching a successful and lucrative career. This master of illusion became famous around the world for his ability to escape from various closed containers, including prison cells, milk cans, and airtight coffins. His incredible stunts added to his illustrious illusion career, with his underwater box escape being one of his most impressive feats. The Daily Mirror challenge, milk can escape, Chinese water torture cell, and buried alive prank were among his other notable deeds. Aside from his near-death experiences and adrenaline-pumping stunts, he tried acting and directing but failed miserably. He also became the first person to fly a plane in Australia after purchasing his own plane as a passionate aviator. He preferred to be recognized as an aviation pioneer rather than a famous escapologist.
Childhood and Adolescence
Harry Houdini was born Erik Weisz on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary, to Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz and his second wife, Cecilia Steiner Weisz, as one of their six children. In 1878, his family came to the United States and settled in Appleton, Wisconsin, where they changed their surname to the German ‘Weiss’ and changed his name to ‘Ehrich.’
The family moved to New York City in 1887, where he worked odd jobs to support his family and became interested in trapeze arts. At 1891, he began appearing as a magician in dime museums, sideshows, and circuses, but he was not particularly successful. He then began attempting to flee using handcuffs.
Career of Harry
In 1899, Harry Houdini rose to prominence after doing the handcuffs act, which involved escape from prisons, at the top vaudeville locations, as organized by entertainment promoter Martin Beck. As a result of these performances, he became the highest-paid performer in US television shows.
During the early 1900s, he traveled across the United States, expanding his act repertoire. He escaped from shackles to straitjackets, coffins, nail packing crates, and locked, water-filled tanks, among other things. He carried his show to Europe, where he was sponsored by Dundas Slater, who scheduled his escape acts for six months at the Alhambra Theatre.
His incredible power and dexterity in picking locks led him to Scotland, France, Germany, England, Russia, and the Netherlands, where he was imprisoned by local cops and successfully escaped. He made his cinematic debut with ‘Merveilleux Exploits du Celebre Houdini Paris’ (1901), a documentary about his escapes, and went on to star in films including ‘The Grim Game,’ ‘The Master Mystery,’ Terror Island,’ and ‘The Man From Beyond.’
He founded a production firm, Houdini Picture Corporation, and a film lab, The Film Development Corporation, but neither of these ventures were successful. In 1909, he published ‘Handcuff Secrets,’ which detailed how to open locks and handcuffs using proper force or hidden lockpicks, shoestrings, and keys.
In 1909, he purchased a Voisin biplane built in France, and in 1910, he became the first person to perform a successful controlled power flight over Australian soil. ‘Miracle Mongers and Their Methods’ (1920), ‘Magical Rope Ties and Escapes’ (1920), ‘Houdini’s Paper Magic’ (1921), and ‘A Magician Among the Spirits’ (1922) were among his literary works (1924).
In 1916, he founded the Society of American Magicians (SAM), the world’s richest and longest-surviving organization of magicians, by encouraging local magic clubs to join the SAM in several US cities. He debuted his full evening presentation, ‘Three Shows in One: Magic, Escapes, and Fraud Mediums Exposed,’ in 1925-26.
Major Projects of Harry
He went on to unlock the customized handcuffs, constructed by a Birmingham locksmith in five years, following a 90-minute effort in response to a challenge from London’s Daily Mirror in 1904, and he rated it his career’s most difficult escape.
In 1908, he devised the Milk Can Escape, in which he was shackled and trapped inside an over-sized milk can filled with water (later changed with milk), and promoted it as ‘Failure Means Drowning Death.’ The underwater box escape, first performed in 1912, was one of his most renowned acts, in which he needed 57 seconds to unlock his handcuffs and leg irons and escape from a container filled with 200 pounds of lead and submerged in water.
He founded the Chinese Water Torture Cell in 1912. In order to escape, he was hanging upside-down in a sealed glass-and-steel cabinet filled with water and forced to hold his breath for more than three minutes.
In 1926, he shattered Egyptian performer Rahman Bey’s one-hour record by being submerged in a sealed bronze casket for one-and-a-half hours, claiming to have breathed quietly without employing any trick or supernatural force.
Achievements & Awards
In 1917, Harry Houdini was elected President of the Society of American Magicians, a position he held until his death in 1926. In 1923, he was named President of Martinka & Co., America’s oldest magic company. In 1975, he was posthumously awarded with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 7001 Hollywood Boulevard.
Personal History and Legacy
In 1893, Harry Houdini married Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, a fellow performer, and she continued to work with him onstage as Beatrice ‘Bess’ Houdini. On October 24, 1926, he underwent surgery at Grace Hospital in Detroit for a perforated appendix and suffered peritonitis. He died on October 31, 1926, at the age of 52, while enduring a second surgery and an experimental serum.
He was brought from Detroit to New York in the bronze casket that had been designed for his yet-to-happen 1927 buried alive act. On November 4, 1926, he was laid to rest in the Machpelah Cemetery in Glendale, Queens, in front of 2,000 mourners. A crest of the ‘Society of American Magicians’ was engraved on his gravestone.
Estimated Net Worth
Harry is one of the richest Magician & listed on most popular Magician. According to our analysis, Wikipedia, Forbes & Business Insider, Harry Houdini net worth is approximately $500 Thousand.
He changed his first name from Ehrich to Harry after becoming a professional magician, and he took the surname Houdini after the legendary French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin.