Today marks the 137 birthday of Mr. Harry Houdini. It would have been a magic trick in itself had he managed to stay alive that long. Today also marks the death of one of his former stage assistants, Dorothy Young, who magically lived until the wonderful age of 103. Pushing the age envelope even further is Rebecca Lanier who just celebrated her 119th birthday yesterday! Could you imagine? Unfortunately, and a bit harsh, in my opinion, the Guinness Book of World Records will not recognize her age because they don’t have a birth certificate. Lanier, who was born during the time of slavery in 1892, has no birth certificate due to laws and practices targeting black people at the time of her birth. Perhaps if Houdini was still alive he would be able to make one randomly appear in thin air.
Harry Houdini, originally known as Ehrich Weisz was born on March 12, 1874 in Budpest, Hungary to Rabbi Mayer Weisz and Cecilia Steiner. Two years later, the family immigrated to the United States with the dream of a better life. Ehrich spent his early youth in Milwaukee until the ripe ol’ age of 12 when he decided to leave home and mysteriously disappear for a year. Although he returned to help support his family by doing various odd jobs, very little is known as to his whereabouts and activities during the time he was gone.
Upon returning to his family, Ehrich Weiss began to take an interest in magic and assumed the name Harry Houdini modeled after his idol, French magician Robert Houdin. When he was 17, Ehrich, now known as Harry Houdini, left his family to pursue his magic career. Three years later, Harry was performing small acts throughout New York. Shortly thereafter, Harry got married and began performing in a circus show where he began to develop and perfect his escape tricks.
Houdini began to earn a name for himself over the years by repeatedly escaping from police handcuffs and jails. Once he had established his name in the United States, Harry began to take his shows to Europe, where he was known for escaping from straitjackets and coffins.
Additionally, Harry took up acting acted and even created his own film company called The Film Development Corporation in which he eventually was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In the 1920s, Harry expanded his repertoire by exposing mediums and psychics for frauds which he recorded in his book, A Magician among the Spirits. In researching this book Houdini attended hundreds of séances, and never experienced one he thought was authentic. A Magician among the Spirits, he described events such as spirit writing, table rapping, spirit manifestations, and levitation, superstitious and for the gullible.
On October 20th, 1926, at McGill University, Houdini was giving a on his recent debunking of a Boston medium. After the presentation at least two students came to visit him to compose a sketch. During the course of the meeting, one of the students, Jocelyn Gordon Whitehead, decided to challenge Houdini’s strength and, without warning, delivered three punches to his stomach. Although the punches were not fatal, they aggravated an existing, yet undetected case of appendicitis. Despite being in serious pain, Houdini continued to travel and did not seek medical attention, leading to his death at the age of 52.
You are never too old to believe in magic. Although Houdini may not be around to escape from strait jackets or coffins, many magicians have taken his lead and followed in his footsteps. Shows can be seen all over the world, and among the many venues often visited, none stand out more than those in Las Vegas. Even though it may seem like magic watching your money disappear at the slot machines and poker tables, a Las Vegas Magic Show will positively leave you undeniably amazed and entertained! Las Vegas has a long standing reputation for hosting the greatest magic shows on earth, and is home to some of today’s best magicians such as Lance Burton and David Copperfield.
If you live in Las Vegas or are thinking of planning a trip there, now or in the future, make sure you schedule a show in your itinerary! Whether it’s a magic show, an Off Broadway show, or Cirque du Soleil, it will surely be an experience you will never forget.
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