Monday, January 9, 2012

Houdini Hired To Entertain in Backyard

Belmont House, Newport R.I.
Imagine just for a moment, if you could hire the biggest name in show business to entertain at your private event for a handful of guests. That would be like hiring Elvis, Sinatra, Madonna, or Beyonce today. Now it would be a long shot, but if they said yes, you wouldn't expect them to do their full show. Maybe a couple songs and that would be it. IF they would even agree. Get this...

The date was August 21, 1912 and Houdini had been hired to entertain the guests of a garden party in Newport Rhode Island. He was hired by Mrs. August Belmont, any idea who that was? August Belmont was the man who built the Belmont Racepark in NY where they still hold the Belmont Stakes. He was the first president of The Jockey Club and chairman of the New York State Racing Commission. He was also a wealthy banker and the chairman of the board for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Suffice to say, he was probably one of the richest men in America at the time.

Houdini was hired to perform at a garden party for Mrs. August Belmont and her guests! Mrs. Belmont wanted to be sure that Houdini used no confederates in his act, so she asked Hermann Oelrichs and Preston Gibson to serve as a 'committee' to see that his performance was above board. Houdini proceeded to do a few tricks in the backyard of the mansion to the delight of the guests. Then, Mr. Gibson and Mr. Oelrichs were instructed to tie up Houdini with ropes and then lock him into a large wooden box. Yes, you are reading this correctly. They tied him up, locked him in a box....

Then the box was carried over to a yacht which was just offshore. All of the guests lined up along the cliff to watch what was about to come. Houdini, still inside the box, was pushed off into the water! He was hired to entertain at a private event and do the Overboard Packing Crate Escape!!!! The crowd of extremely wealthy people acted like any other group of people, they stood spellbound, transfixed as bubbles came up to the surface of the water while the box sunk below the sea. The tension was beyond belief when suddenly Houdini burst out of the water, free from his watery confinement. I wonder if they cheered or if he received polite golf-like claps. Actually, to quote the paper "there were ejaculations of astonishment when Houdini rose to the surface."

That has got to be one of the coolest Houdini stories I've ever heard. And one of the strangest newspaper quotes regarding Houdini.

Houdini doing the Overboard Crate Escape in 1912 (this photo not from Belmont party)


  1. Wow, this is quite a story! I believe in Kalush there is another story of Houdini giving a private performance at a party and the guests tied him up. But doing the overboard box is wild! Thanks.

  2. I wonder if that box is still partially in tact in the harbor?

  3. That is so funny that you say that, I thought that exact same thing. Because it was a yacht, I doubt they pulled the box back up. But it was also 100 years ago, so unless the water is consistently ice cold, I doubt there is anything left of it.