Showing posts with label Straight Jacket. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Straight Jacket. Show all posts

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The UnMasking of Harry Houdini Part 2

Fatty Arbuckle and Houdini

I hope everyone who read Part 1 understands, I'm not criticizing Houdini or passing any sort of judgement on him. He was and always will be an iconic performer. I'm just giving some background as to where some of his material originated. Make no mistake, though he may not have created everything he did, it all had his unique stamp on it. A Houdini trick was a very specific sort of thing and he really knew how to find and develop those routines that fit him. In many cases he did create something original. Here are a few more for you to enjoy.

The Origins of Houdini's Magic

Once again, I refer to Houdini-The Key, and Patrick Culliton's knowledge. In the book, he says the East Indian Needle trick originated with a magician named Ramo Sami in early 19th Century London. This information came from Houdini. Interestingly, Long Tack Sam, who was a friend of Houdini's was very well versed in the Needle Trick, having learned it in China. So, maybe the trick came from China and found it's way to Europe or vice versa.

Houdini made a masterpiece out of the trick and because of this it became one of his signature routines. This goes back to what I was saying in Part 1. A good performer takes a routine and does it so well that it becomes associated with him. Houdini did add one other thing...according to Long Tack Sam, Houdini copyrighted his presentation which prevented anyone else in Vaudeville from performing it. I can't say I really blame him either.

One piece of Houdini's act that I was surprised to find he did not invent was the Galvanized Milk Can Escape. This was actually the idea and creation of Montraville Wood. You can read all about the Milk Can and it's inventor by clicking here. I will say, that although Houdini did not invent the Milk Can Escape, in this instance he surely was the first to present it and that alone makes it a Houdini Original in my book. He created the iconic performance that other performers try to copy. But Houdini did it first and it was a huge hit for him for many years.

Another Houdini original was the Straitjacket Escape. Houdini was the first to escape from a straitjacket. However, it was his brother Hardeen,  who stumbled upon the idea of doing the escape in full view. Houdini's original presentation had him being tied and secured in full view and then put into a curtained cabinet to escape.

In the Hardeen version, he did the entire escape out in the open. Houdini quickly added that feature to his escape as well. And yet another bit that took the straitjacket from an indoor escape to an outdoor spectacle was the Hanging Upside Down Straitjacket escape. Oddly this too, was the idea of someone else and not Houdini.

It was believed for a long time that a young man named Randini, shared the idea with Houdini. But has presented an article about a man named Mysterio who did the hanging straitjacket escape even before Randini.

I think it's safe to say however, that no one received the kind of press for the Upside Straitjacket Escape that Houdini did.

To be continued....

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Houdini's First Straitjacket Escape in Washington D.C.

I was going through some old files today and came across an image I had set aside 'for the right time'. As I looked at the date on the image, April 19th, 1916 (98 years ago today) I figured THIS must be the time for this article...except, I apparently already wrote that article a year ago. So, this is a follow up to what I wrote then.

First, let's begin with this little blurb to my right, from the Washington Times, April 18th, 1916. It describes the escape that Houdini has planned for the following day and invites people out to cheer him on. For historical accuracy they mention that the escape will take place in front of the Munsey Building.

I remember the first time I found out about this detail. I had no idea where the Munsey Building was and it took a fair amount of time to figure it out. As fate would have it, even after I found out where it was, I still made some minor errors in my assumptions.

The Munsey Building was in the 1300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. The Munsey Building was where The Washington Times Newspaper had their offices. That would explain the extra special coverage Houdini was getting from their paper.

Munsey Building in 1919. (Smithsonian Institution)
The photo above is pretty much what the Munsey Building looked like when Houdini did his escape. The smaller building to the left is the old Washington Post Newspaper building. And hidden by the trees on the right is where the National Theatre resides. The Munsey Building was torn down in the early 1980s, the Washington Post building was torn down long before that. In place of the Munsey building is a Marriot Hotel.

I will reprint the front page of the April 19th, 1916 Washington Times Newspaper for you, enjoy...

More than 15,000 Persons Cheer as "Handcuff King"
Frees Himself Hanging Head Down


More than 15,000 persons saw Harry Houdini hanged today in front of the Times Building. In just 2 minutes and 30 seconds from the time he was swung into mid-air, trussed up in a strait-jacket from which there is said to be no escape, Houdini wiggled himself free, waved his arm and was lowered to the ground.

As Houdini freed himself from the jacket, the crowd sent up a cheer which could be heard for blocks. As a moment later, Houdini waved his arm to the yelling, applauding throng, and while the cameras and motion picture machines clicked, the men who held the ropes let him down.
Persons who saw the great throng from windows of nearby buildings said it was the biggest crowd ever assembled in Washington at one place, except for the inauguration of a President. Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street from Thirteenth to Fourteenth Streets were literally jammed. Human beings were packed as tight and close as sardines in a can.
Had To Get Police Aid
There came near being no Houdini hanging. There were too many spectators. The "handcuff king" and Manager Robbins, of Keith's Theater found it necessary to call for police aid to get through the mob that assembled in front of the Munsey building. Robbins was left behind in the automobile, and Captain Peck conducted the star performer of the day to the platform that had been built for him by main strength.
"That's worse than getting out of a straitjacket" said Houdini, when he reached the platform, puffing and setting his clothes back in place, from (continued below)
(click image to enlarge)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Houdini Straight Jacket History & More

(library of congress photo)
The escape from a straight jacket was original with Houdini. He claimed that he visited St. John Asylum in New Brunswick in 1896 and saw an inmate there struggling inside a straight jacket and this struggling gave him an idea for both an escape and the method. He also claimed to have asked a doctor for a jacket and worked on it for a week, no doubt practicing and improving his time. The Ken Silverman HOUDINI biography speculates that Houdini may have presented the straight jacket escape in New Brunswick theatres at that time.

In August 2011, John Cox wrote a great article on his blog WildAboutHarry, about an apparent dispute over that story being accurate. Harold Wright, a historian in New Brunswick claimed the story was a myth made up by Houdini. Interestingly, in the May 1918 issue of Ladies Home Journal, Houdini says that the asylum was actually in Europe. So perhaps, the story was indeed fictional. True or not, escaping from a straight jacket was a great idea and one Houdini profited from both financially and through publicity.

The first official straight jacket escape however took place in San Francisco not in front of a theatre audience but instead at a police station. He repeated the escape a few days later at a hospital. Both times he was placed in a private room to work his escape hidden from prying eyes.

When he added it to the stage show Houdini would be strapped in the straightjacket and then placed inside a curtained cabinet. My guess is he used the Metamorphosis cabinet to do the escape. Hidden from view, Houdini did his escape. I don't see any records that say Houdini's escape was boring or suspect. I would imagine like most things that Houdini did, the audience totally bought it. But his brother Dash was not so lucky. In 1904 at the Swansea Empire Theatre in Wales, Dash's attempt with the escape was met with skepticism. The audience challenged him to do it in the open, thinking that he had a hidden helper in the curtained cabinet who simply released him. Presenting it in the open would prevent any outside help. Dash repeated the escape and stunned the crowd. Somewhere there must be a letter or telegram from Dash alerting Houdini of the sensational discovery. One thing is for sure, Houdini too began doing the escape out in the open and left the curtained cabinet behind!

Another straight jacket perk that came out of England was the idea of hanging upside down while escaping. Except, the idea was not Harry's or Dash's, it was actually the idea of a young fellow by the name of Randolph Douglas, who chose the stage name Randini. Houdini and Randolph became friends and during a visit to Randolph's home in Sheffield, Houdini watched the young man demonstrate the hanging upside down escape from a framework in the attic of the house. Houdini's addition to the idea was doing it outdoors from a building, which you must admit was a pretty decent contribution. UPDATE: Turns out the previous paragraph might not be accurate. There was another performer who very well might have been doing the Upside Down Straight Jacket Escape prior to Houdini and Randolph Douglas. His name was Mysterio and was also known as The Great Alvin. You can read more about him here.

Over the years, Houdini accepted challenges from all sorts of straight jackets, and full body canvas devices. Some of the jackets were all leather, some were a combination of leather and canvas. One thing they all had in common, Houdini got out of each and every one of them. Then in 1918, he exposed his method (kindof) in the Ladies Home Journal. He claimed that he dislocated his shoulder in order to do the escape. But the truth was less dramatic. Dislocating a shoulder is not necessary, but it sure sounds exciting!

Houdini kept doing the straight jacket escape pretty much until the end of his career as far as I can tell. It's certainly an easy thing to travel with and the publicity he gained from hanging upside down from a building was priceless.

After Houdini died, other magicians began to add the straight jacket escape to their acts. Some even copied his upside down publicity idea. One of the first twists to the upside down part was setting the rope on fire. It was Alan Alan in the 1950s who added this unique change to the hanging straightjacket escape, though Alan gives the credit to fellow magician Keith Clark for the idea. Alan Alan may have been the first to present the escape hanging upside down from a helicopter. James Randi, later presented the upside down straight jacket escape from a helicopter in Venezuela and also hung upside down over Niagara Falls in a straight jacket!

In 1967 in Oakland California, a magician who was using the stage name 'The Great Gerhardt' hung upside down outside of the Tribune Tower Building. Forty four years earlier, Harry Houdini hung outside the same building to present the straight jacket escape. It took Houdini several minutes to get out. This young fellow, whose real name was Steve Baker, got out in under ten seconds before a crowd of 20,000 people. Like Houdini, the publicity gained was enormous. So influential was this one event, that Steve dropped the 'Gerhardt' name which he used because he was a comedy magician, and instead went with 'Mr. Escape'. The name 'Mr. Escape' actually came from the Steranko Issue of Genii. Steve talked to Jim Steranko and got his permission to use the name.

David Copperfield presented a hanging straight jacket escape on one of his specials also from a burning rope. His twist was to be suspended with three flaming ropes which would burn through one by one and to hang over flaming spikes! Lance Burton presented the hanging straight jacket escape a number of times on TV and in front of an audience during the dedication of the HOUDINI Postage Stamp and also escaped from a straight jacket while inside a very small water torture cell like device. Dean Gunnerson hung upside down by his feet with no ankle restraints over Hoover Dam and escaped from a straight jacket, yet another dangerous twist.

Then there are the comedy magicians who use the routine for laughs rather than as a genuine escape. The comedy for them is the driving force. I have seen comedy routines that are funny, even hysterically funny. But most use tired old lines and gags and seem more like a filler routine than anything. Once the person is inside, they are out in no time. Most of the comedy routines just miss, for me at least.

There are the lightning fast escapers. Again, not a fan of folks who get out lighting fast. Steve Baker got out in under 10 seconds and it kicked off his career as an escape artist. But honestly, though we are friends, I'm not on board with the speed aspect. I watched a video of Norman Bigelow getting out of a straight jacket recently. His approach was slow and steady and it genuinely appeared difficult. THAT is the way to do it. IF you can get out super fast, my first thought is, you weren't in it very well. And you can bet that lay people are probably thinking the same thing.

Maybe the best modern day hanging straight jacket escape was presented by Penn & Teller. Theirs has comedy in it, but they also have a great deal of suspense.

Teller is hung in the jacket while Penn holds onto the rope reading 'Casey at the Bat'. Teller has to free himself before Penn finishes reading otherwise Penn will let go of the rope. Penn reads faster and faster as the routine progresses. It is funny, but it also has incredible tension. Penn and Teller have made the trick their own.

Watching their performance doesn't make you think about Houdini, it makes you think about this poor lil guy getting out of the jacket before his crazy buddy drops him onto a bunch of spikes! It's a great routine.

Have you ever personally been inside a straight jacket? I'd guess that at least a few readers of this blog probably have, not because you're crazy but because you are probably magicians. The first straight jacket I wore was not a real straight jacket at all, but instead a large jacket with long sleeves that had the sleeve ends tied off with rope rope and then used the rest of the rope to wrap numerous times around the jacket. It simulated a straight jacket quite well. I was an adventurous and creative youth.

When I finally did encounter an actual straight jacket, it was a Posey brand canvas jacket, the real thing. It was also too small for me. A friend put me in it and I could hardly breath, that is how tight it was. If you know anything about straight jacket escapes, you'll know I've already broken a couple cardinal rules of getting out easily, too small of a jacket and putting it on super tight. For the first minute I just relished the thought of actually being in a straight jacket, it was really cool. Then I decided to attempt the escape. I can't say that I got out in 6 seconds like many so-called record breakers claim. It took me a couple minutes to free myself from a jacket that was way too small and way too tight. I was thrilled to have gotten out and frankly a bit relieved.

Years later I opted for a Steel Straight jacket. Mine is a reproduction of the one used in the Tony Curtis Houdini movie. In 2008, I presented the escape twice at the National Theatre in Washington D.C.. I was curious about the often quoted notion 'that modern audiences wouldn't sit through a long drawn out escape'. I decided to test the waters during the first performance. I struggled and struggled and struggled to get out of the steel jacket, sweat poured down my face, my shirt was ripped, I 'sold' that routine with every ounce of energy I had. Shocker, the audience sat for the entire thing and it really hit them hard. The second show, I did a more traditional presentation, getting out along with the recorded music background. Guess which one got the stronger reaction? The LONNNNG one! Oh, in case you're wondering, that is an air tight plastic box my head is locked in. I had to get out of that first, and then the jacket.

Today, the straight jacket escape has been way overdone. It's like the Zig-Zag Lady in the 1980s. Many magicians use jackets that are way too large. If you look like you are swimming in the jacket you've lost an important element in the appearance of being secure. Do a Google search for 'straight jacket escape' and look at the number of images of people you've never heard of doing the escape. IF that many people can do it, is it really hard?

I've written about the Straight jacket on one of my older blogs quite a bit. I have a love hate relationship with it. In Houdini's day, it was a fantastic escape. After Houdini died, most of us have just been doing a cheap imitation of his escape. The majority of people using a straight jacket escape in their act don't have a clue how to deliver a striking escape with it. Watch Houdini, if he was presenting it onstage he was rolling on the floor, gyrating around, he knew how to sell it! On the flip side, watch Tony Curtis's escape from a straight jacket while portraying Houdini. His escape goes in the opposite direction, very little movement, complete concentration, his is also quite engaging. David Copperfield used this very same technique when he was strapped in a straight jacket during his Escape From Alcatraz Special. Some people do know how to deliver a good escape, but they are in the minority.

Sadly, many presentations today are more about the crotch strap jokes and then getting out as fast as possible. Even hanging upside down doesn't seem to be as big a deal anymore. The thing that scares me about the abundance of people trying the hanging straight jacket is that it is legitimately dangerous* and people can and do get hurt.

A while ago I was thinking about the Pendragons, and how against all odds, when everyone was doing the Sub-trunk, Sword Basket and Broom Suspension, they took those three illusions and built a career on them by adding something unique to each routine. They were able to presentations that were so compelling that people associate those effects with them.  I wondered, what was missing with the regulation straight jacket escape? What had not been done? It appeared that everything had been done: on the stage, in the air, upside down, underwater, over spikes, you name it, and it's been done. Or at least I thought.

A few months ago I had an idea for a new approach. A new angle that hadn't been tried. I spoke to Steve Baker about it. He thought it was brilliant. I shared it with Norman Bigelow, who said it was 'new, fresh and different'. There are a few obstacles yet to overcome so I can't divulge what it is. But trust me, I'm working hard on it, time will tell if it pans out.

In the meantime, my hats off to my fellow performers who are using the jacket the way it was meant to be used, to bring thrills to an audience. The most recent one was Wayne Houchin, who presented the straight jacket while hanging upside down. He has done the escape before, and has a safety crew there to assist him, he is smart and careful.

I'm not sure Houdini would be proud of us though, because he didn't really like anyone doing his stuff. But he might be amazed to know one of his creations is still be used over 80 years after he left this earth.

Just because a lot of people have presented a hanging upside down straight jacket escape, doesn't mean YOU should. If you do, DO NOT go into it lightly. I know of a fellow in Memphis TN who fell while hanging upside down in a straight jacket. The doctors told him the only thing that saved him was the jacket still being on, but otherwise he should have died. He was lucky.

Alan Alan, the escape artist from England, has fallen while hanging upside down and been injured. He once came up with a crazy idea of setting the jacket itself on fire. He got hurt with that too!

I know of a fellow who tried to do the straight jacket escape in the heat of the summer with a jacket that was too small. He did not get out. He struggled so much he actually caused a rip in the thick canvas. He also could have seriously injured himself.

The straight jacket escape, hanging or not hanging can be dangerous. To think otherwise is foolish. Take every precaution while learning. Always have safety people standing by. To put yourself in serious danger is just plain stupid. You'd be better off learning from a professional who knows the ins and outs of the escape.

The worst thing about escapes is 'magicians' think they are easy. I can't tell you the number of stories I've heard about magicians who went into some escape trick thinking it would be sensational and easy and they were hurt or even killed. Hmmm, maybe that's why so many people use the straight jacket as a comedy routine, it's safer and you live longer! Maybe they are on to something after all.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Houdini D.C. Challenges

The photograph of Houdini hanging upside down in a straight jacket with the Washington Monument in the distance and the Treasury Building across the street is quite famous. Although in the photo to the left the monument is not visible.  I always assumed that this was the only time he did an out door stunt in D.C.. However, I was mistaken. That escape took place in front of the Keith's Vaudeville Theatre on January 12, 1922 (today). It just so happens that the National Press Club had their offices in the same building as the theatre at the time, which I'm sure had something to do with the iconic photo that was taken. But there were earlier publicity escapes and challenges that took place in Washington D.C..

Early Challenges
Let's begin in January of 1906.  New Years Day 1906 he escaped from a jail cell at the 10th Precinct  625 Park Road NW in D.C. (Turns out the building IS still there, though I had originally reported that it wasn't. ). A few days later on January 6th Houdini escapes from the Jail Cell that once held the assassin of President Garfield at the D.C. Jail. He was no stranger to pulling out all the stops when he came to the Nation's Capital.

In fact, also in 1906 Houdini accepted a challenge to escape from a man sized Paper Bag. He also took on the challenge to escape from a zinc lined Knabe piano case. If that wasn't enough both Saks & Company (they would later become Saks Fifth Avenue Dept Store) and S. Kann Sons & Company (The first D.C. area Department store) challenged Houdini to get out of a packing crates that they built.  These challenges took place at the Chase Theatre which was previously known as The Grand Opera House and was located at 1424 Pennsylvania Ave NW, directly across the street from the Willard Hotel.

Following Houdini's departure from D.C., a local athletic teacher Maurice Joyce said he would expose how Houdini did his escapes. He did this at the Columbia Theatre. Please remember this name as later in the year I'm going to do a piece on the Columbia Theatre in D.C.. Mr. Joyce claimed the boxes and cases were all made per Houdini's instructions and were faked by the builders. All of the challengers said Mr. Joyce was a liar, more than likely he just didn't know and this was good a chance as any to gain some personal fame for himself.

The First Outdoor Straight Jacket Escape in D.C.

The Munsey Building in Wash D.C.
Then years later on April 19, 1916, Houdini is back and this time he is hung upside down 100 ft in the air outside of the Munsey Building. It took him two minutes and thirty seconds to free himself from the straight jacket! The police claimed that over 100,000 people watched Houdini's escape. They also said it was the single biggest crowd next to an Inaugural Event in the city's history. At least that is what the Kalush biography states. The Washington Times reported 15,000 and then the following day corrected that up to 20,000. Clearly they couldn't count any better in 1916 than they do counting crowds in DC today! One more note about the Munsey Building Straightjacket escape, and I didn't realize this when I first posted the article. Apparently, the Washington Times Newspapers Offices are located IN the Munsey Building. Well Done Houdini!

When I first read about this escape I searched and searched for the Munsey building and came up with nothing. And then one day I found it, and I was rather surprised at where it was. The Munsey building was directly next door to the National Theatre on Pennsylvania Ave. The day before his straight jacket stunt he gave an interview to the Washington Times. It's an interesting interview because he says that he's been escaping for 'thirty years' and so far has never been stuck. But eventually someone will come along and trap him so he's about ready to hang it up. He also mentions he'll continue to perform but presenting things that are not quite as spectacular. Well first, thirty years from the date of the newspaper would have made Houdini 12 years old, so I'm not sure that's quite accurate. Secondly, this is 1916, and six years from when this article came out, he does another upside down straight jacket escape promoting his appearance at Keith's Vaudeville Theatre that I mentioned above. The problem was, Houdini wasn't Houdini unless he was doing spectacular things.

Houdini and Politicians

While at Keith's President Woodrow Wilson took his wife to see Houdini perform the Water Torture Cell. Keith's was actually President Wilson's favorite theatre and he attended performances there often. According the the Silverman biography, following the show Wilson said to Houdini that he envied his ability to get out of tight situations. Although for facts sake, the Kalush Biography says this exchange actually happened in Dec 1914 (two years previous) when Houdini received a private invitation to visit the President at the White House. Who cares it's still a pretty big compliment from the President of the United States!

Were there more? You bet there were. But I'm actually still gathering data on all of it. You see something that I never considered before was that when Houdini was appearing somewhere, part of his deal was that he would accept challenges daily. So in a two week span of time he could have 14 different challenges.

Apparently Houdini made quite an impression on other politicians in town as well. The same day that President Wilson attended a performance of Houdini's at Keith's theatre, Houdini later went to the Visitors Gallery at the Capital Building and was spotted by Vice President Marshall. The Vice President waved to Houdini and slowly and gradually others did as well. The Washington Times said "in show business terms, Houdini stopped the show!" Vice President Marshall sent a note to Houdini who was then taken to the V.P's office. Several other Senators showed up and Houdini did an impromptu performance for the members of congress right there in the Vice President's Office. Houdini was quoted as saying "it was the proudest moment of his life".  This quote was in regards to having Wilson see him at Keith's and then later sharing the afternoon with members of congress.

There is much more to Houdini in D.C. but most of that deals with his fight against Spiritualism which I'll save for another time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Houdini's Magic, The Best for Last

I saved the best for last. But when I finish this, I'm going to ADD to the list on another blog. First, as Houdini presented these two effects, they were escapes. But both can be done as a straight escape or as magic.

The Straight Jacket Escape: This is pure Houdini. He came up with the method, the idea and the delivery. It was his brother Hardeen however who took it up a notch.
Houdini claims he got the idea after seeing an inmate in an insane asylum struggling inside a straight jacket.

Houdini went about devising a method of escaping from one and sure enough he discovered it. In his original routine he would be strapped into the jacket by members of the audience and then step behind a curtained cabinet. The reaction was not quite as strong as he expected.

His brother Theo Hardeen, stumbled upon the idea of presenting it without the curtain. Hardeen would present the escape in full view for all to see. It was a hit. Houdini adopted the same idea and it became a hit for him as well.
His most amazing adaptation was hanging upside down from a building in the straightjacket. This idea of hanging upside down was not Houdini's however, he got the idea from a young fan from Sheffield England. The story is told in full in the Patrick Culliton book, Houdini The Key. (click the link and order the book if any are left)

His ultimate trick has become legend. The Chinese Water Torture Cell. Many people still think that Houdini died in the WTC because that was the Hollywood ending in the Tony Curtis HOUDINI movie. But Houdini presented the trick probably hundreds of times if not more. He ALWAYS escaped!
It's kind of a combination of his previous effects. You've got the water element from the Milk Can and the upside down element from the StraightJacket escape but the enclosed element from another of his previous effects the Glass Box Escape. All together it made a frightening effect. There were several different posters for this Houdini effect. The most famous one is on the right.

There is a fantastic article on John Cox's Blog about 'The Two Water Torture Cells'. This is a must read. Now, as to the effectiveness of the WTC today, let's put it like this, it's still being used by magicians. Doug Henning solidified his star on TV by using it on his first special in the 70s. David Copperfield presented an unusual version of it in the 80s. Criss Angel also used the WTC early in his TV career to make a name for himself. But to my mind the most effective presentation I've seen of the Water Torture Cell was presented by Steve Baker, also known as Mr. Escape. The video above is of one of Steve.

Sadly, both the Straightjacket escape and the Water Torture Cell have been overdone by magicians, so much so that they no longer seem to hold the impact that they once had. Now there are exceptions to the rule. One exception I can think of is from the couple Ridgeway and Johnson also known as Living Illusions. In their version of the WTC, the cell is cylindrical and completely see through. Also, their version features a female, Kristen Johnson as the escape artist rather than the male. And finally, they do it in full view. These alterations to the escape have made their routine unique to them.

The straightjacket has been done right into the ground. It is rarely presented as an escape anymore, most of the acts use it as a comedy piece, thus diminishing the allure of the effect even more. The Upside Down Straight Jacket Escape surely seems to thrill, but it doesn't draw the crowds anymore that Houdini did in his day.

The material from Houdini's act was powerful in his time and as you can see, is just as powerful today which is why entertainers still use his material almost 85 years after his death. He obviously presented it as the true showman he was. Even Dai Vernon who disliked Houdini admitted his Needle Trick was well done. Houdini may not have been a general practitioner but with the effects in his regular act he became a legend.

Tomorrow, a slightly different take on the MAGIC of Houdini...