For some time Harry Houdini was one of the two most popular people on Earth, the other was Charlie Chaplin. The name of the legendary magician is so recognizable that everyone who tries to repeat his incredible tricks is still called "Houdini". He was considered immortal, a real magician and sorcerer. It seems he could do absolutely everything. On October 31, 1926, the Great Houdini was gone. An absurd mistake of a magician or a conspiracy of charlatans, whom the king of illusions so loved to expose?
This did not have much effect on the relationship between father and son, since Weiss was very cold with children and gloomy in life. Eric was completely different from him. He had a very cheerful, light disposition and an inquiring mind. He was always interested in all devices, what and how it works, what is inside. At first, the boy took apart toys, and later moved on to more complex things. He could disassemble and reassemble the watch dozens of times. The most amazing thing is that they worked after that!
Eric loved sweets, and the sweets were locked in the cupboard. But how could any castles of the future Great Houdini be stopped ?! My father had to change them very, very often. Candy, meanwhile, continued to disappear somewhere. Harry later recalled that it was not so much the sweets themselves, but the admiration of the grateful audience. Siblings are his first viewers. When they got tired of tricks with locks, Eric switched to tricks with cards and coins.
The happiest moments in the boy's life were those when the traveling circus came on tour. One day, Eric even tried his hand during the show. He showed a risky trick - collecting needles with eyelashes. The boy got a thunderous ovation and earned a bunch of small coins. It was on that day that he realized what his true calling was.
The family of Jewish immigrants lived very poorly. Therefore, when, at the age of 13, the novice magician announced that he was leaving with a traveling circus on tour, no one objected - one hungry mouth in the family would be less. Eric, at the age of sixteen, bought from a second-hand bookstore a battered volume entitled Memoirs of Robert Goodin, Ambassador, Writer, and Magician, Written by Himself. This book turned his entire consciousness and changed his destiny. The young man even took a consonant artistic pseudonym for himself.
The Great Magician began with modest performances at fairs. He was assisted by his younger brother Theodore, under the pseudonym Dash. One of these performances gave him an acquaintance with the one who would become his companion for the rest of his life. Her name was Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner. She gained fame as an assistant to the magician Bess.
Wilhelmina looked like an angel from the paintings of great artists. Short and slender, fragile, with an alluring gaze of bottomless blue eyes. During the performance, Houdini accidentally splashed acid on the girl's dress.The dress was hopelessly ruined, but both found in this life something much more valuable. Love at first sight struck them in the very heart. The girl enthusiastically accepted Harry's apology and courting. After the very first meeting, the young people did not part with each other, and three weeks later they officially tied the knot.
The spouses' personal life was as turbulent as their legendary performances. Both of them were incredibly hot-tempered, and if they fought, then on a grand scale. Sometimes it got to very absurd things. In order not to commit irreparable in the heat of anger, the newlyweds agreed that they would use special signs. If Harry raised his right eyebrow, it meant that he was extremely furious and the best thing that his wife can do now is to be silent.
When the faithful was furious, the magician left to get some air. On his return, he threw his hat out the window of the house. If the hat flew back, you should not go in yet, but it is better to take a walk again. At the same time, they were madly in love with each other. Houdini wrote gentle letters to his beloved, while being at arm's length!
It was a great disappointment for Houdini that, as it turned out, he could not have children. It was rumored that the maestro's brother, Leopold, was conducting some kind of experiments on him and this became the reason for Harry's infertility. Leopold was a renowned radiologist and conducted his experiments at Houdini. It is possible that radiation exposure played a key role in this tragedy. Harry so desperately wanted to have a child that he even made one up. The couple named their imaginary son Meer Samuel and predicted the fate of the future president of the United States.
Harry wrote "The Great Houdini" on his business cards from the very beginning. His tricks were not always successful. People laughed at him: "Oh, this is the same Great Houdini, who yesterday divers got from the bottom of the Thames, and the police pulled out of a bag the day before yesterday on the bridge?" The illusionist did not lose heart, he worked hard on himself. He really became Great. Houdini's performances became more difficult, risky and life-threatening from year to year. There were cases when the magician was on the verge of death. For example, once Harry allowed himself to be buried on a bet. He himself later recalled this experiment with horror. At a depth of two meters, in a coffin, handcuffed, the great magician and sorcerer nearly died of fear. Panic almost killed Houdini. But he pulled himself together and quietly, like a mole, got out of the grave.
Another no less remarkable incident occurred in Detroit, during one of the performances. The "king of handcuffs" had to throw himself off the bridge and free himself from the shackles under water. The magician was not even stopped by the crust of ice on the surface of the river. He threw himself into the ice hole and did not emerge for more than four minutes. Reporters vied with each other to report to their newsrooms about the death of the magician. But that was premature.
Faithful Bess constantly prayed that her beloved would not die. Yes, Wilhelmina's life is not easy. Maybe extreme and happy when you are young, but with age you want peace and home comfort. Constant touring frankly began to tire the wife of the king of illusions. The situation was aggravated by the fact that Bess was very jealous of her husband for his mother, Cecilia, whom Houdini simply idolized.
The mother was also madly in love with her son. She always believed in him, in his success, supported him. Even as a little boy, Houdini promised that his mother would swim in money and luxury. He fulfilled his promise. He did it in his own style. When he showed his trick, where he freed himself from the ropes, he asked to pay him not with paper money, but with gold coins. With the help of his assistants, Harry polished every coin to a shine and came to his mother. “Do you remember how before he died, dad took from me a promise to take care of you? Now substitute the hem! " - and poured shiny dollars into it. Houdini always said later that it was the happiest moment in his life.
The mother lived in his house, and the son treated her like a queen.In their hometown, Houdini gave his mother a real show. He rented the most luxurious room, there was a palm garden, which was crowned with a glass roof. His mother sat in the box, like a queen. Harry even gave his mother a dress that was made for Queen Victoria herself. The day his mother died, Harry was just distraught with grief. He sat at her grave all day and talked to her. People even began to think that the Great Houdini had gone mad.
What happened made Houdini look for help where he had never thought of before. The magician turned to mediums. He wanted only one thing: to talk to his beloved mother at least once. Sessions of spiritualism were extremely fashionable in those days. All and sundry contacted psychics for any questions. The main thing, of course, was to communicate with deceased relatives. At one of these sessions, Harry met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The genius writer and author of the deductive method in matters of spiritualism became childishly naive. Maybe it's because his wife was a medium.
There are many things about the Great Houdini that few people know. For example, the fact that he was one of the world's first private pilots. On tour in Europe in 1909, he bought a French Voisin biplane. At the time, airplanes were a completely new and amazing invention that could rarely be seen in the sky. Houdini couldn't stop thinking about what it would be like to wade through the clouds, and unfortunately, on his first flight in Germany, he crashed. Eventually, he learned to keep the plane in the air for several minutes at a time. And this happened just six years after the first flight of the Wright Brothers. Houdini went down in aviation history as the first person to make a controlled flight.
The maestro has always stated that he will definitely inform about himself from the other world when he dies. Houdini told his wife that he would contact her. Bess went to mediums for ten years, hoping that this would happen. But she didn’t wait.
Despite his fascination with mediums, an interest in everything magical and magical, Houdini was a great skeptic. He very often exposed charlatans and fraudsters who claimed that they had contact with the supernatural, while robbing gullible citizens. To this end, he often revealed secrets and his tricks, which simply infuriated colleagues. To promote and advertise his performances, Houdini went to local prisons or police stations, and escaped from there after being shackled.
Also, few people know the fact that Harry's brother, Theo, was also an illusionist. He and Harry worked together on his tricks. Brother Houdini performed under the pseudonym "Hardin". After Houdini's death, Hardin continued performing using Harry's original equipment.
Houdini also had an interesting trick called "escape from the sea monster." The creature was most likely a dead whale or a large turtle. The magician was chained and placed in a carcass. Houdini later said that he almost died of a rotting stench.
The sorcerer was one of the first to give charitable concerts to the military to raise morale. He also gave the soldiers lessons on how to escape from a sinking ship, and avoid ropes and handcuffs if taken prisoner. The maestro's versatile hobbies knew no bounds. Harry even had his own movie studio. He was always attracted by everything new. The studio shot several silent films and a series called "The Master Mystery", in which he played a detective who often had to avoid difficult situations. Initial success and bankruptcy of the studio in 1923. Houdini left the business like a boring toy.
The magician was often called the "plasticine man". The plasticity of his muscles was brought to such perfection that the magician could free himself from any shackles without the help of any auxiliary means.
Houdini called his most famous trick "Walking Through the Wall."The audience assisted him. The stage was covered with a carpet: if there is a carpet, then there is no hatch. Bricks and cement were brought out to the middle, the volunteers built the wall with its butt-end into the hall - two meters in length and in height. Booths were placed on both sides of the wall: Houdini entered one and exited the other. Later, when the trick was solved, it was repeated in different variations by David Copperfield - he passed, for example, through the Great Wall of China. But he did it differently from Houdini.
Houdini, of course, did not pass through the wall - there was still a hatch under it, covered with a carpet. But when the hatch was opened, the carpet sagged very slightly - just enough for a head turned to one side to pass. Houdini quickly and imperceptibly crawled under the wall from booth to booth!
The end of the genius magician is still a mystery. The official cause of Harry's death is peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix. Houdini died after a tense performance in Detroit in 1926 at the age of 52. In his dressing room after the performance, the illusionist talked to a small number of fans, one of them was a student who had heard that Houdini's abs were so strong that he could withstand any blow. The young man punched the magician in the stomach without warning. At first, he writhed in pain, before that he had already complained that his stomach ached. Then he concentrated and asked the student to beat again. He struck the sorcerer three more blows, after which he said that he had injured his hand on his steel press.
For the rest of the day and night, Houdini complained of stomach pains. Then it turned out that his appendix burst, followed by peritonitis and death. But many experts still believe that the magician was killed. There are versions that this student was sent and all this was planned. There are also people who believe that the great and terrible Houdini was poisoned by the Spiritualists. After all, he undermined their business with his revelations. During his lifetime, Harry received many threats.
Be that as it may, Houdini was and is the greatest master of his craft. He earned the title of the king of illusion, genius and maestro. The Great Houdini will forever remain a part of American history.
Read about another great illusionist of our time in our article. David Copperfield: The first illusionist to learn to fly and walk through walls.
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