Thursday, November 18, 2010

Houdini in Wash D.C. Jail

It was January 6,1906 when Houdini was invited try his hand at escaping from the Old D.C. Jail. Located on the Southeast Corner of East Capital Street and 19th St SE, the Old D.C. Jail was famous for holding Charles Guiteau the assassin of President Garfield. He was kept in Cell No. 2 of the South Wing of the Jail, also known as Murderer’s Row. Houdini, would be stripped naked and placed into the cell that once held Guiteau and currently held another prisoner named Hamilton who was waiting to be hung for the murder of his wife. The prisoner was so scared of Houdini that he hid in a corner of the cell while Houdini began his escape. Two minutes later, Houdini was out.

But that was not the end of his stunt. He went to several other cells and opened the doors and had the prisoners change cells with one another. Then after he had switched them around, Houdini broke into the cell which held his clothes. He got dressed and walked out to the shock of the prison officials. All of this in twenty one minutes.

The D.C. Jail was built in 1872. It stopped being used in the late 70s. I keep finding conflicting dates on when it was torn down.  It was located several blocks behind the Capital Building.

That was not Houdini’s only jail escape in D.C.. On January 1, 1906, five days before the Old DC Jail Escape Houdini was brought down to the Police Station in the 10th Precinct and he escaped from a jail cell there. I am not sure but that may be the current Metropolitan DC Police Station on 300 Indiana Avenue NW. At the time Police Chief Richard Sylvester had his office in that building and the current police chief has her office in this building. So it could be the same place.

I found a note online that the parking lot for the Old DC Jail buts up against the parking lot for RFK Stadium and the Old DC Jail lot is still there though the building is long gone.

1 comment:

  1. Where is this photo from? I am reaserching for a docuemntary film: email me at:

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