Eric Weiss aka Harry Houdini

Eric Weiss
Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American illusionist and stunt performer, noted for his sensational escape acts. He first attracted notice in vaudeville in the United States and then as "Harry 'Handcuff' Houdini" on a tour of Europe, where he challenged police forces to keep him locked up. pic credit - Timess of Israel

It has been an hour until the journalists at Hotel Shelton looking at the swimming pool in horror. A man's heart is beating in the iron box lying under the water. Some of them cursed the magician Rahman Bay. Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American illusionist and stunt performer, noted for his sensational escape acts. He first attracted notice in vaudeville in the United States and then as "Harry 'Handcuff' Houdini" on a tour of Europe, where he challenged police forces to keep him locked up.

An hour is gone. Rahman’s record was already broken. Assistant messaged this to the transmitter. But the buzzer didn’t ring.At the last buzzer rang in 91 minutes. Yes, one hour and 31 minutes. Harry Houdini, the best showman of all time, came out of the box with a grin.

Eric Weiss was born in 1874 in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. His family moved to the United States when he was one year old. Eric ran away from home due to poverty and worked under a mechanic as a helper.

From the age of 15, he was well known under the name ‘Eric the Great’  and he started showing his unlocking skills throughout the whole country.

Robert Houdin was a magician whom Eric loved very much. His autobiography greatly influenced Eric. He adopted his name after

adding a letter. Eric Weiss thus became Harry Howdini.

At first, Harry was not a great success as a magician. Harry showed more card tricks then. But Harry lacked the vibrancy and presentation talents which were inevitable for that. So Harry turned to Escaping Acts.

Despite announcing a $ 100 reward for those who can trap him in an inescapable brace in public, no one has ever locked a lock he could not get out of. Harry was able to get out of the iron cage, the coffin and even the jail which attract a lot of people.

That’s when a London newspaper publicly challenged Harry. Harry’s mission was to get out of a chain that an ironmonger had built in five years. In a matter of minutes in front of 4,000 people, Harry succeeded.

Harry was married to Beatrice, a dancer and singer. They have performed together in Europe and Russia and his performances have been a huge success.

Harry was a member of the American Scientific Commission. He was able to uncover the whereabouts of many fraudsters who said they could talk to the dead and read the words written inside a closed iron box.

In October 1926, doctors suggested that he should have appendix surgery immediately, but he was unable to do so due to tight schedule. So the magician succumbed to poisoning in his blood.

Many say the cause of Harry’s death was an accident at the Princess Theatre. Jocelyn Whitehead, a student at McGill University asked Harry if he could handle any pressure on his stomach, to which Harry lazily replied, “Yes.” And then Whitehead heavily punched Harry in the abdomen. Witnesses Jack Price and Sam Smiley said that he tried to stop Whitehead by saying that he was not ready to resist the jabs, but he was not able to stand and say no because of the unpredictability of the move. And after this incident he was affected by the Appendix Rupture and died a week later.

 Harry’s famous techniques are listed below

  • Belly of a Whale Escape

 As part of the challenge, he is heavily locked and sewed inside the whale’s stomach. In 15 minutes, Harry comes out.

  • East India Needle Trick

 Harry swallows 100 needles and 20 yards of thread with the help of only a glass of water.

  • Milk Can Escape

 Filling a large milk barrel with water including Harry inside, then placing the barrel in a wooden box and hung vertically.

  • The Overboard Box Escape

 In a 200-pound lead-filled box, with his hands and feet tied, and tightening the lid of the box with nails, and throwing it into the river. In 57 seconds, Harry came out.

  • Buried Alive Stunt

 When Harry first did this, he was on the verge of death. They dug a hole six feet deep and covered Harry raw without even a box. Harry was so exhausted that he could not get out. Finally, Harry fainted after only one hand came out of the mud.  Even after this incident, this stunt was successfully performed twice.

  • Escape from Murderer’s Row

 Harry was locked in a cell on Murderer’s Row, the south wing of the Washington, D.C. prison. He escaped in 2 minutes, and in the remaining 19 minutes, he released all the other inmates from their cells and exchanged them to other cells. The escape in Houdini’s count was his 64th jaislbreak.

  • Suspended Straight Jacket Escape

 Harry is hung upside down from a crane or a building and his body is tied tight with a straight jacket in public. Harry broke free in 3 minutes.

  • Chinese Water Torture Cell

 A very popular technique that combines a ‘suspended straight jacket escape’ and ‘milk can escape’. Harry is hung under the water, upside down.

 A tribute for the greatest Magician of all time.

*The Author is currently pursuing graduation in political science at Hindu College, University of Delhi.