Harry Houdini was one of the greatest magicians of the 20th century! Houdini was born on March 24, 1874 in Budapest, Hungary.
A facination with magic led to reading the memoirs of French magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. Houdini changed his name from Erich to Harry and added an "I" to his idol's name to create a the name Houdini, which literally means "like Houdin."
Houdini became the greatest escape artist, but he also pursued a number of unusual hobbies, including:
- Aviation - Houdini completed the first manned flight on the continent of Australia.
- Film - Houdini served as a writer, producer, or actor in a number of movies during the dawn of the motion picture industry. Among the movies he appeared in were Terror Island, The Grim Game, and The Man from Beyond.
After the death of his mother, and many frustrated attempts to contact her spirit through the mediums and spiritualists of the day, Houdini became the leading debunker of fake mediums. His career as a magician enabled Houdini to recognize many illusionist techniques employed by the mediums during their so called "contact" with the spirit world.
Houdini’s close friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was well known for the impeccably logical reasoning of his Sherlock Holmes character. All logic aside though, Doyle himself said that he believed Houdini's magical art was a supernatural phenomena and he was opposed to Houdini’s crusade to expose fake mediums.
Houdini died on Halloween, 1926 from peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix.
"For years, it has been assumed that a blow to his abdomen from an overzealous college student killed him. Houdini was known for his tremendous physical condition, and could withstand blows to the abdomen by tensing his muscles. While performing in Canada, however, he was challenged by a student who didn't give him time to prepare for the punch. Whether or not the blow ruptured his appendix, it did not cause the appendicitis, which is a bacterial infection. Houdini met his untimely death on October 31, 1926, at Grace Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. (The most common misinformation about his death resulted from the 1953 Houdini movie starring Tony Curtis, in which Houdini dies during an underwater escape.)" from the Houdini virtual exhibit of the The Outagamie County Historical Society.
The Official Houdini Seance originated from Houdini's efforts to expose fraudulent mediums. He claimed that if there were truly a way to contact the living after one's death, he would do so. Bess faithfully attended the annual seances for 10 years after Houdini's death in 1926, but it seems that Harry either could not or choose not to return.