Friday 3 November 2006


Tomorrow marks the 80th anniversary of the funeral in New York City of magician and escapologist Harry Houdini.

More than two thousand mourners turned out to say farewell to a man who had, again and again, successfully cheated death with his daring and dangerous stunts.

So much about Houdini, even the name that made him famous, was enigmatic that his death - coming as it did on Halloween, 31 October 1926 - fitted completely within the mythology of his life. In contrast, the reason for his death seems curiously mundane: peritonitis allegedly caused by a ruptured appendix resulting from repeated punches to the abdomen by an over-zealous college student in Montreal, eager to test Houdini’s claim to be able to resist heavy blows to the stomach…

This story is told in full - and appropriately de-mythologized - in Punched Out, an article on that doughty urban-legend-slayer

But what remains fascinating - and impossible to debunk - is our fascination with Houdini!

Eighty years after the death of a man who very few people have seen perform - other than in a handful of grainy archive clips and a few appearances in terrible early Hollywood adventure movies - his is still the most celebrated and enduring name in the mysterious history of the magic arts.

And that is a trick of totally devastating brilliance!

[Click on image to enlarge]

You can read more about Houdini (in life and death) on Bob King's Houdini Tribute

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