The Magic of Harry Houdini

We look back at Harry Houdini and his magic. See images of Harry Houdini, from The Jewish Museum in New York.

View this gallery: Houdini: Art & Magic

Harry Houdini was the greatest escape artist of his time, maybe any time. A century ago, Americans and Europeans flocked to see him shackled, chained, handcuffed, locked in a box, a jail, a water tank, hanging upside down in a straight jacket from a skyscraper, impossibly bound, nearly drowned, then, magically, free.

His magic tricks are legend. His life is quite a story, too.

He was born in Budapest and raised in Wisconsin and New York. His big break was in Omaha. His fame was worldwide. And his death was on Halloween, in Detroit.

We look at the Harry Houdini story, with David Copperfield and more.

-Tom Ashbrook


Brooke Kamin Rapaport, guest curator of the “Houdini: Art and Magic” exhibit at The Jewish Museum in New York.

Kenneth Silverman, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and author of “Houdini!!! The career of Ehrich Weiss.” He’s professor emeritus of English at New York University.

David Copperfield, world-renowned illusionist.

Here’s a little from the exhibit’s introduction:

Through impossibly daring feats Harry Houdini (1874-1926) captivated audiences worldwide, and his legendary escapes instill awe to this day…Born Ehrich Weiss, Houdini was known to observers as someone who could not only escape from straitjackets, water tanks, milk cans and handcuffs, but as an individual who threw off his background, making an immigrant’s getaway from Budapest to Appleton, Wisconsin to New York and the international stage. His celebrity and the metaphor of escape have rightly become significant chapters in the Houdini storyline in biographies and biopics. This message is similarly carried in the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century posters, photographs, and film footage from Houdini’s day…

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