Harry Houdini Biography

The Harry Houdini biography continues to mesmerize magician fans and spiritualist debunkers today.

Biography of Harry Houdini

Some of Houdini's life is shrouded in mystery, sometimes because of lack of documentation and sometimes because Houdini "improved" his story. For example, Houdini was much happier stating that he was born in Appleton, Wisconsin on April 6, 1874, than revealing his true birthplace, Budapest, Hungary on March 24, 1874, as Ehrich Weisz. Houdini did, in fact, live in Appleton. However, his family didn't emigrate to the United states until 1876.

Houdini's childhood was characterized by poverty. As a child, Houdini worked a number of jobs to help support his family, including selling newspapers, being a photographer's assistant and cutting neckties, but he did run away for a year at the age of twelve.

While still in his early teens, Houdini developed an interest in magic. If he could have had a mentor, it might have been the French magician Robert-Houdin. Houdini probably derived his stage name from "Houdin."

Houdini began his career as a magician when he was a 17-year-old New Yorker. He married his wife, Bess, who was a singer, in 1894. The two were together in show business and in life until Harry died.

Houdini had already started working with keys and locks before he left the United States for England in 1900. When he returned five years later, he was an international darling.

As his fame grew, Houdini became the president of the Society of American Magicians. He helped other magicians unless the other magicians invaded his territory. Houdini did have an ego.

Over the years, Houdini developed an interest in spiritualism. Eventually, he started to show audiences how mediums and other spiritualists conned their public. Houdini offered $10,000 to anyone who could validate a true physic experience. This was a huge sum at the time that no one ever claimed.

In 1926, Houdini took a new show on the road. The show was plagued with problems. Bess got food poisoning. Houdini lost sleep tending her, despite the fact that a nurse was on hand. On top of this, Houdini broke his ankle during a show, refused medical care and wouldn't stay off of his foot, continuing the tour.

On October 23, 1926, Houdini was backstage with students from McGill University. One of the students, who was an amateur boxer, was curious about Houdini's ability to "deflect" any hits to his body between his waist and his head. Houdini allowed the student to hit him, despite Houdini's physical condition. Unfortunately, the student hit Houdini in the abdomen three times before Houdini was able to contract his stomach muscles to protect himself. Houdini died several days later, from a burst appendix, on Halloween, 1926.

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