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The Escape Plans of Harry Houdini

Mar 29, 2008
Harry Houdini was one of the world's most famous magicians and escape artists. Publicity played as much of a role in his acts as magic. Whether he was performing tricks at the request of a newspaper or awing a captive audience, Houdini knew how to work (and escape from) a room. Below are some of the escape acts that brought him the most attention.

The London Daily Mirror Challenge

In 1909, the newspaper gave Houdini the challenge of escaping from a pair of special handcuffs that had taken a locksmith five years to create. The feat was scheduled to be performed on March 20th at the Hippodrome Theater in London. Four thousand spectators and one hundred journalists came out for the escape. Houdini's attempt lasted longer than an hour. At one point, he asked for the cuffs to be taken off so that he could take off his coat but the Mirror representative refused- stating it would allow Houdini to see how the cuffs unlocked. Houdini cut the cut from his body with a pen knife. Nearly an hour later, his wife Bess came onstage and gave him a kiss.

There are different schools of thought on how exactly he escaped- which he finally did at the one hour and ten minute mark. Bess may have slipped a key into his mouth with the kiss. A book by one of Houdini's fellow magicians claimed that it was in a glass of water she brought him when he asked for her help. Others suspect that it was all a publicity stunt on the part of the mirror and Houdini's struggling was just for show. Regardless of how he escaped, Houdini broke down in tears when he was finally free and stated it to be the most difficult escape he ever faced.

Water Filled Milk Can

The Milk Can Escape was an invention original to Houdini. He brought it out in 1908. He was handcuffed then sealed inside a large Milk Can that was filled with water. He performed his escape behind a curtain (so others couldn't learn his trick) and asked the audience to hold their breaths while he was in the can since he wouldn't be able to breathe in there. Later versions of the act included the can being placed inside a wooden chest. He was able to escape by pushing out rivets on the inside that had been filed down ahead of time. He pushed off the lid, climbed out and replaced the rivets and lid.

Suspended in a Straightjacket

Houdini's straightjacket escapes were very popular with the public of the time. He would be strapped in then hoisted up by his ankles from either a crane or a building. He escaped in full view of his audience below. He added a safety wire to his ankles later on after he was blown into the side of a building several times. The wire allowed him to be moved away from the side if impact seemed likely. He escaped from straightjackets by puffing up his chest and shoulders, pushing out his arms and dislocating his shoulders while it was being put on.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for magic, art, and Tantra. You can find the best marketplace for magic, art, and Tantra at these 3 sites for magic, art, and Tantra.
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