Harry Houdini Can't Disappear From Public Fascination

Julie Ryan Evans

HoudiniToday Harry Houdini would have turned 137, and he's honored in the Google Doodle complete with handcuffs from which he could seemingly escape in any situation. Strangely, his last surviving assistant, Dorothy Young, died this week as well. She was the last from the show that once mystified the masses and whose legacy still intrigues us today. 

We all know and use the phrase he "pulled a Houdini," but what is it about this man and his work that still fascinates us years later? Plenty of magicians and illusionists have followed in his footsteps but none has ever knocked him from his top spot as the magic master.

Born Erich Weisz in Hungary, he later moved to Wisconsin. He was drawn to magic as a teenager, primarily as a way to make money and escape the poverty he faced. He started small with card tricks and the like, but later started experimenting with escapes that would later make him a legend.

Some of his most memorable escapes and feats included:

Chinese Water Cell Torture Escape Just the fact that such a thing exists is pretty fascinating in itself. But Houdini went in head first and still managed to escape upside down. He kept performing this showstopper until he died.

Buried Alive He first tried this feat in California and almost died doing so. He later did the trick in a casket submerged in a swimming pool. This one makes me panic just thinking about it!

Milk Can Escape A huge milk can (they had those back then) was filled with water, then Harry, locked in a padlocked wooden box, would somehow manage to escape.

He died, not so surprisingly, as the result of one his tricks. He used to take "body blows" as part of his act, and sadly, he died from complications of being punched in the stomach while on tour. His wife is said to have held a seance on Halloween every year waiting for his spirit to come back and speak the phrase "Rosabelle believe," which they agreed upon for such purposes before his death. She did so for 10 years with no show from his ghost, then stopped, saying, "10 years is long enough to wait for any man." Smart lady.

No one really knows how he performed his feats of escape, but one stomach-turning explanation is that he would swallow the handcuff keys and vomit them back up to make an escape. Most of us would rather just believe in the magic and wonder.

Are you fascinated by magic and Harry Houdini?

Image via Google.com

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