Famous American illusionist Harry Houdini

Famous American illusionist Harry Houdini
Famous American illusionist Harry Houdini

Faith in magic is often used by dishonest magicians solely for deception and making money. But there are people, fascinated by watching whose actions, you begin to doubt that there is no magic. One of these geniuses was the famous Harry Houdini.


Harry Houdini was born on March 24, 1874 in the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the city of Budapest. The future magician liked to hide his place of birth and often mentioned in his autobiographies the city of Appleton, Wisconsin, where the family of a four-year-old boy moved from Europe. Relatives were fluent in German, Hungarian and Yiddish.

Erich Weiss (the real name of the magician) took at a very early age the pseudonym Harry Houdini. Since then, the biography of the great artist has been written exclusively under this name, coined in honor of the magician of French origin, Jean Eugene Robin-Houdin. The boy bought his works with the first money he earned and immediately absorbed everything that was written there like a sponge.

Harry Houdini

The name was borrowed from the American illusionist of German origin Harry Kellar. Although friends claim that this was the name of Erichstill in early childhood.

Later, in 1887, Harry Houdini's family moved to New York, where the young talent had to work hard as a blacksmith's assistant in a locksmith's shop and live in a boarding house. At the same time, he helped in a lock repair shop, where he got acquainted with the work of their mechanisms. Work in the forge was a temporary refuge - the artist was not taken to a cafe in Harlem, one of the most prosperous areas of New York at that time, due to his too young age.

Erich had to work from an early age - back in Appleton, he worked as an aerialist in an amateur circus, often under the very dome.


When describing the life of any famous person, it is worth starting with his parents. Who was the father of the magician Harry Houdini, is known in quite detail. The father of the young illusionist, as well as of his six brothers and sisters, is Meer Samuel (according to other sources - Shamuel) Weiss, a rabbi who, when moving to the USA, got a job in a synagogue called the Reform Jewish Community of Zion.

The early death of his father in 1892 prevented young Harry Houdini from getting a good education.

The future illusionist was trained by his mother, Cecilia Steiner. Of course, home schooling could not fully replace school, and instead of deep knowledge, the mind of the young talent began to occupy the secrets of Harry Houdini - magic tricks.

First success

The successful career of an illusionist began at the age of ten. The tricks of Harry Houdini were striking in their skill. The bright posters that hung the billboards of the city called him the "king of cards", and thisit was indeed not far from the truth.

Founded together with his brother Theo, the Houdini Brothers ensemble became the main breadwinner for the family. The artists performed a lot, traveling a lot to different cities. But the soul of the maestro demanded real recognition, for which it was necessary to prepare more spectacular tricks.

Harry Houdini tricks

The chance that paved the way to the big stage

During numerous tours, in one of the suburbs of New York, the policeman "recognized" in the illusionist a thief, whom law enforcement officers had been unsuccessfully trying to find for a long time. Confident in his innocence, the constable handcuffed Harry. It took Tom no more than five seconds to free himself from the shackles. Of course, the bogus charges were dropped.

But that wasn't what struck the illusionist. And the fact that a formidable policeman who was severe a minute ago was blinking his eyes with his mouth open in confusion. Then he apologized and asked for an autograph. All this happened under the influence of a stormy applause of a crowd of idle onlookers. Already in the evening, this trick was shown from the stage and for some time became the highlight of the program.

Freeing from handcuffs was done by many magicians at that time, but only Harry did it with equipment that visitors brought with them. Of course, there were also envious people. Once a police officer brought handcuffs with a broken mechanism that could not be opened. That evening it went unnoticed by the audience, but the magician, aiming at a grand continuation of his career, has since carefully checked the inventory, because any hitch could cost himlife.

Family life

1893 was one of the happiest years of Harry's life - he sealed the knot with Wilhelmina Beatrice Runer (often referred to simply as Betty). This woman became a faithful companion of the artist both in life and on stage - from now on, he only trusted her with the honorary title of assistant, until the end of his life.

harry houdini magic tricks

Career Growth

Without waiting for the audience to get tired of the handcuff trick, the artist complicated it by hanging it in a bag on the ledge of a skyscraper, straitjackets appeared in the program.

Recognition allowed for large-scale stunts to pass through brick walls and free from locked rooms. The police of various cities happily took part in the show, locking the magician in the most impregnable cells, from which he miraculously freed himself.

harry houdini secrets

In 1899, the maestro met Martin Beck, who organized a tour of Europe. The inhabitants of the old part of the planet were dumbfounded by the new numbers, in which the illusionist was released from various containers with liquids. During one of his performances, he was even thrown into the River Thames in a bag with a heavy weight tied to it. Of course, with handcuffed hands. There was no limit to the jubilation of the crowd when, after a few moments, Harry surfaced with absolutely free limbs.

Houdini biography

The inhabitants of London have passed on to several generations that they could witness the trick with the elephant with their own eyes.An animal in a dark room was covered with a white blanket and then removed. There was no elephant. Where he went, the inexperienced viewer, of course, could not guess. Obviously magic.

The trick was so popular that over the years the magician was asked to repeat it. He gave up only in 1918 and performed a miracle at the racetrack in New York. Needless to say, the number was a resounding success, which was written about in newspapers around the world for a long time.

Journey around our edges

The famous magician visited Russia in 1908. In addition to his signature numbers for the crowd, he made the jailers of the Butyrskaya prison and the Peter and Paul Fortress a lot to worry about.

For the entourage, the magician was dressed in the clothes of prisoners, locked in the most impregnable cells, in which suicide bombers were usually located. Of course, the bolts were of the highest quality and modern.

A quarter of an hour later, the magician, dressed in his clothes, was peacefully drinking tea with the guards in their room. It is said that he could free himself in just two minutes. Rumor has it that for the sake of fun, he switched the prisoners. It is not known only if the guards had fun.

Hobbies of the great magician

Harry Houdini was a man far ahead of his time. Not surprisingly, his bank account had steady cash flows. They say that his income in 1920 was several times higher than the salary of the American president. But Harry Houdini bought his first plane back in 1909 and already in 1910 he was the first person to cross Australia by air.

who was the fathermagician Harry Houdini

He founded a production company and starred in several films. The talent of the magician was so great that over the past century seven films were made about him with such famous actors as Tony Curtis, Guy Pearce, Adrien Brody and others. Harry Houdini was also the president of the American community of magicians and sorcerers, and also actively fought against charlatans who "communicated" with the spirits.

Death of a magician

There are several versions of how Harry Houdini died. According to one of them, the magician died right during the performance. The news was widely reported by newspapers, but was not true.

How did Harry Houdini die?

According to another, he was poisoned. The third one speaks of bursting appendicitis and peritonitis that soon struck the magician. The great Harry died on October 31, 1926. He was only 52 years old.

Valuable items were donated to the Appleton Museum, most of which were subsequently sold at auction to David Copperfield.

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