Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Harry Houdini

by Brian H.

Harry Houdini was magician and escape artist that lived in the 1920’s and was famous for his amazing and daring escapes.

Early Life:
Harry Houdini was born as Ehrich Weisz on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary. After his first wife died in childbirth he moved his family to America in 1876 hoping for a better life in the new world. Houdini’s mother said that he learned as a child how to open locks to get at the pies and cookies she had baked although this might not be true. The family moved to Milwaukee when Ehrich was eight. They didn’t have much money so Ehrich had to shine shoes and sell newspapers to support the family. His first appearance in front of an audience was when he was nine doing a routine on a trapeze. He ran away when he was twelve.

Professional Career:
Harry became interested in magic and started performing when he was 17 and travelled with his brother Theo as The Houdini Brothers. While performing in Coney Island Harry met Bess, a singer and dancer. They got married in 1894 and remained devoted companions for the rest of their lives. Harry became an expert on handcuffs and asked the police in each town they visited Harry challenged the police to handcuff him but he always escaped. He offered anyone $100 dollars if they could make a pair of handcuffs that he could not get out of. Althougth no one ever claimed the money the inventor of the mirror handcuff came close. Although he was a headliner in the vaudeville circuit Harry was not happy with the low level of his fame and decided to take his act to England.

In 1900 he arrived in London with no bookings and very little money. Harry managed to get a place in a London theater but his breakthrough came when he broke free from the Scotland Yard after being wrapped around a pillar and handcuffed. This stunt increased his fame and sold out bookings followed all over Europe. By the time he returned to America in 1905 he was an international celebrity.

On October 23rd, 1926 after a show he met with two university students. One was a boxer and asked if Houdini could actually withstand ant blow to the stomach. Harry started to get out of his chair but the boxer punched him three times before he could tighten his stomach muscles. Harry did not go to a hospital and continued doing shows. When he finally went to a hospital he found out that he had peritonitis a fatal disease caused by the appendix bursting. Harry Houdini died on October 31, 1926.



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