Harry Houdini is hands down one of the most famous magicians in all of history. His “tricks” are that of legend and still leave even some of the most highly-esteemed, professional magicians baffled as to how they were done. The sheer complexity and danger of some of the acts performed by Houdini are what made him one of the most talked about magicians of our time. Although there is no shortage of great performers, whether they are stage or table magicians, even today, with all of our advancements, there is still no one who comes close to the showmanship and unparalleled talent of this world-class magician.
Born in 1874 as Erik Weisz, this Hungarian-American focused much of his career on performing “real magic”. Not interested in the many fraudulent supernatural phenomena of the time, his stunts were based much more in reality than his other contemporary performers. While he started out, in typical fashion, with small sideshows and card-tricks, Harry Houdini quickly became taken with the idea of performing escape acts. Logistically, the most advanced of all types of magic, these stunts also carried with them very real safety risks, causing the majority of magicians to shy away from them.
However, the challenge of escape acts was probably what drew Harry Houdini to them in the first place. Specializing in escaping from various locations while wearing shackles, he soon became known as the “Handcuff King”. Escaping from foreign prisons, jails, and so forth, one of the most awe-inspiring elements of his act was the fact that these tricks were often performed in plain sight of his audience. Without all the smoke and mirrors of traditional types of magic, this sort of performance art gained both a domestic as well as a worldwide following in a fairly short amount of time.
Constantly wanting to further challenge himself as well as impress his audience members, Houdini moved on to develop even more technically advanced escape acts. These included such feats as escaping from locked, water-filled milk can as well as his, most famous, Chinese Water Torture Cell. In this act, he was hung, upside-down in a cabinet made of glass and steel that was filled to the brim with water. Because of this, the famed magician not only needed to escape, but also had the physical challenge of holding his breath for over 3 minutes. Eventually becoming his one and only act, Harry Houdini and his many previous magical feats still amaze magicians and non-magicians alike.
Anyway I’ve been playing around with some video projects testing things for my future showreel, so here’s a quick performance trick back stage with Stavros Flatley at the Dorchester Hotel London.