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Harry Houdini's Biography

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Harry Houdini was born Ehrich Weiss in 1874, the son of Dr Mayer Samuel Weiss, a Jewish rabbi. The Houdini family originally came from Hungary.

Houdini died on October 31, 1926 in Detroit, having been a performer for 43 years.

By the time he was six, Harry Houdini had already developed a taste for conjuring. His first trick was making a dried pea appear in any one of three cups. As a boy, he practised acrobatics, and also did odd jobs as a newspaper seller and boot-black.

When aged 9, a circus arrived in town, Houdini showed the manager his tricks. The man was impressed with Houdini's talent for releasing himself from rope ties and picking up pins with his eyelids when suspended upside down from a rope and hired Houdini whilst the circus was in town.

At 11, Harry Houdini got work with a local locksmith and was soon able to pick any lock provided.

Upon reading a memoir by the famous French magician, Houdin, Houdini determined to follow him career-wise. With a friend, named Hayman, he started the Houdini Brothers, named after Houdin.

When Hayman and Harry split, Harry's brother, Theodore became his partner. At 19, Harry met Beatrice Rahner. They soon married. Houdini taught his wife the principles of conjuring and mind-reading and she became his assistant.

It was frustrating how little recognition the Houdinis were getting in their early years. They put on a 'psychic' act, but neither of them liked the way they were treated as genuine mediums.

There were a couple of key turning points in Houdini's career. One was when he escaped from handcuffs in a Chicago prison; another was when in 1900 he escaped from a pair of Scotland Yard cuffs.

Finally Houdini was getting the success he deserved. He performed more and more extraordinary escapes.

Harry Houdini's death was tragic, when in his dressing room at Montreal, a student who had heard that Houdini could receive blows to his stomach without pain, hit him a few times. Houdini was not prepared and a few days later he died.

In writing this biography of Houdini we would like to acknowledge the importance of the excellent book, The Secrets of Houdini by J.C. Cannell as a resource.


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