There has always been a certain magic about the city of Baltimore to me. First off, Milbourne Christopher, Hen Fetch, Johnny Eck, Phil Thomas, Denny Haney, and a host of others were born there. And even more lived there like Henry Ridgely Evans, Thomas Worthington, and it was home to the Demon's Clubhouse and The Society of Osiris Magicians. In 1908, Harry Kellar passed the mantle of magic on to Howard Thurston, from the stage at Ford's Theatre in Baltimore. And I should mention, I too was born in Baltimore. My Great Great Grandfather was killed in Baltimore. run over by a train while working for the B&O Railroad Company. Which brings me to the photo at the top of the page.
The photo was taken from the B&O Railroad Building on Charles St. in Baltimore. The crowd is watching Houdini free himself while hanging upside down in a straitjacket in front of the Sun Building on April 26, 1916. The photo is of the crowd, which has been mistakenly printed as 500,000 on several websites. It is actually a crowd of 50,000. You may note, Houdini is not in the picture. He would have been on the far right hand side, IF the photographer had been able to reach out far enough to capture him.
|Houdini Upside down from the cornice of the Balt. Sun Bld.|
At 12:22pm he was hoisted 50 ft into the air from the corner of the Baltimore Sun Newspaper Building. The police chief was the one who made the estimate of 50,000 people. The paper said the people were so densely packed that it was almost impossible to move! Not only did people fill the streets, but they were hanging out windows and could even be seen from the rooftops of nearby buildings all to catch a glimpse of Houdini's escape.
The Baltimore Sun paper also mentions that a wagon was set up so that Houdini and the policemen could stand on it and secure Houdini in place. This also allows the huge crowd to watch every detail of the event take place because of it's higher position.
The police chief and police marshall both watched Houdini's escape from an office in the Sun Building, so they likely had the best seat in the house. Bess Houdini stayed on the wagon below, but according to the paper did not watch her husband escape. "I am always afraid" she said after it was over.
His straitjacket escape was covered in three papers: The Daily Record, The Baltimore Sun and a German language paper Der Deutsche Correspondent.
The Baltimore Sun also has a report on a challenge Houdini received during his run. He was challenged to escape from a Piano Box that would be screwed and nailed shut and then have iron bands placed around it. This from the April 25th edition (day 2 of his week long run) of the Baltimore Sun. Day three he did the Hanging Straitjacket outdoors. But there was also a challenge on Day 3 which appeared as the following: Dear Sir, the undersigned mechanics hereby challenge you to escape from a gibbit we made from heavy irons bands, such as was used many years ago to suspend prisoners in mid-air until death relieved their sufferings."
On April 27th, Houdini was challenged to escape from a cask filled with Arrow Beer by the C.B.S. Brewing Company. There is no record of any special challenge on the 28, 29th or 30th.
Houdini was in Baltimore numerous times, so I will be covering more about them soon.