Showing posts with label new orleans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new orleans. Show all posts

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Houdini vs The Mighty Mississippi

Houdini in New Orleans (Library of Congress)
I remember a few years ago, driving through Minneapolis and wondering if Houdini ever did a bridge jump into the Mississippi River. I don't know if he did one in Mpls. but I found a very interesting Challenge that took place in Mississippi River in New Orleans.

It began in the pages of The New Orleans Item Newspaper on November 13th, 1907. A daily column called SPORTING CHAT written by a fellow named simply as Ham, publicly challenged Houdini.
"Sporting Chat, dares Houdini to permit himself to be bound-say, by a member, in good standing, of the police department-with some reliable expert of chains and handcuffs as the judge; AND THEN JUMP INTO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER. The challenge is in keeping with Houdini's boasts. Wonder if he'll accept?"
The November 15th, 1907 edition of the same newspaper has a small article with a photo of Houdini. The headline reads "WILL HANG BY TOES, THEN DROP IN RIVER". Houdini accepted the challenge and threw in a counter proposal. He agreed to the challenge and then added, "I have arranged a dive from the steamer J.S. and if Chat wants me to, I will hang by my toes, and plunge perpendicularly into the water". The time and date of the escape are mentioned in the article and the exact location is given, The Foot of Canal Street.

There is another interesting and revealing item. The article says "Houdini said today, he would offer $10 for the best picture taken, $5 for the next best and $2.50 for the third best". But I'm unaware of any photos taken of the escape. They may yet be out there!

On November 17th, 1907, the rain was pouring down in New Orleans. Still, almost 10,000 showed up to watch Houdini attempt his escape.  Houdini was wrapped in chains, shackles and padlocks by First Recorder’s Court Judge Jon Fogarty, using manacles provided by the Orleans Parish Prison. Houdini jumped into the muddy waters of the mighty Mississippi River and vanished below the surface of the water. Thirty seconds later a hand slowly emerged from the water holding the shackles and chains, Houdini had freed himself to the delight of the New Orleans crowd.

Special Note: The photo at the top is Canal St. looking out into the Mississippi River, the photo below is IN the Mississippi River looking towards Canal St.

The spot where Houdini escaped in the Mississippi River in New Orleans