|I love the magic stuff too…I got a pair of fake thumbs that light up-take one up to my
mouth all lite up and then pull it out of my ear…great when you have some student that
is not paying attention; especially on a Friday afternoon…So on your survey, put me
and the guys down for every quiz being the best…your man in the milk can.
.epacse ot ydaer gnitteg s'eH .iniduoH yrraH
ybereh era uoY .scixelsyd erew sretsamziuQ hcihw ees ot yaw siht ti did I !yug esiW
.tsetnoc s'keew siht forenniw a deralced
Looks like watching David Letterman every night really pays off. Just a couple weeks
ago, they had a skit that featured a stocky young man that was going to duplicate the
Houdini milk can escape. Turns out, the can was too small for him to fit in. In the set
up for the gag, they showed the same exact photo as this week's quiz.
At first, I thought it might be a photo of someone who had gone over Niagara Falls in a
barrel (or milk can in this case). That lead to some interesting searches about people
going over the falls in all sorts of contraptions, but no milk cans. I then looked at the
photo carefully and noted the padlocks. People had to be crazy to want to go over the
falls but no was crazy enough to lock themselves in with six padlocks. That's when I
realized it was Harry Houdini conducting his famous milk can escape.
I've always been fascinated with Houdini since I first saw the movie with Tony Curtis!
Note: When your answer came in, I had a chuckle about your fascination with
Houdini. You of all people - with claustrophia and fear of large bodies of water. And
here you idol is being locked into a milk can full of water! Do you think you were a
failed escape artist in a former life and some of the bad experience is still with you
Yea, I do believe that I drowned in a previous life - I'm just not sure if it was in old
Egyptian times or during the Civil War (both time periods of history with which I've
had a fascination) - hmmm, now that I think about it, as crazy as I am (and wild about
magic), I was probably condemned as a Salem witch and drowned - didn't they do that?
Elaine C. Hebert
I'm not particularly a magic fan, however, when we lived in Redlands,CA in the 1970's
one of our sons was in the same class as Harry Blackstone III. His father,H.B. Jr and
his mother Gay did many "freebie" performances for the local schools. Harry,Jr's voice
and presence were absolutely mesmerizing. Pinky Palladino
With respect to today’s high tech magicians, think about this is the aspect of the
difference between silent movies, and today’s mega-media hits. Didn’t we get the point
of the non-verbal messages, and such without all the high tech? The stars of the silent
screen were masters, they could convey a message without blaring music (perhaps the
one-man band employed by the theater?), without high tech lights, and post production
color editing. We didn’t even need words to know that Mary Pickford was going to be
swept over the falls, and that she was in a desperate situation. How about Charlie
Chaplin, and “Modern Times”, what an innovative movie for the time? Who could
forget “Nosferatu”? Yes, Houdini was a master! Kelly Fetherlin
I thought this must be Harry Houdini "in the can" what with all the locks & the 'official'
attendants and I thought the 'backwards' caption might relate to a quote that's attributed
to him...".. I am sensible enough to know that when you stop doing your job you
begin to go backwards. And I don't want to go backwards."
M. Diane Rogers
Good one, Colleen -- I spent 20 minutes looking at daredevils that went over Niagara
Falls before I paid attention to the locks.... Kristi
I assume since his hair appears dry, he was just entering the can but I have not been
able to find a definitive answer to this question. I was completely on the wrong track
for a while until I noticed the photo id when the picture was enlarged- hh_escape.
conferred with the magician's own New York physician, Dr. Stone. After Cohn
explained the urgency of the case, Dr. Stone persuaded Houdini to follow orders and be
admitted to the hospital. Dr. Kennedy performed the operation immediately after
Houdini was admitted.
Later that day, Houdini developed severe pain
that persisted and intensified. Instead of calling
a doctor, he completed his performance and
took the train to Detroit for his next
Not until he collapsed in the middle of the
night after his first and only show in Detroit
was a doctor called. That doctor was a young
man who had just opened his downtown
office -- Dr. Daniel Cohn.
Dr. Cohn found Houdini in excruciating pain
and with a high fever. On examination, he
diagnosed appendicitis, declared an
emergency, summoned an ambulance and
called Dr. Kennedy, chief of surgery at Grace
Hospital where Dr. Cohn had recently
completed his residency. Sick as Houdini was,
he refused to go to the hospital until Cohn
During a visit to a psychiatrist friend in Nova Scotia
in 1896, Houdini saw his first strait jacket. Rather
than be shocked by it, he was inspired to create an
act around escaping from it. And Houdini didn't just
escape from a strait jacket- he did it hanging upside
down from his ankles, suspended yards above the
He soon began experimenting with escape acts.
Harry Houdini's "big break" came in 1899, when he
met the showman Martin Beck. Impressed by
Houdini's handcuffs act, Beck advised him to
concentrate on escape acts and booked him on the
Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Within months, he was
performing at the top vaudeville houses in the
country. In 1900, Houdini traveled to Europe to
perform. By the time he returned in 1904, he had
become a sensation.
Houdini then expanded his Challenge Act to escape
not only from any handcuffs offered, but from most
any location suggested. Houdini escaped from jail
cells, from handcuffed bridge jumps, from
padlocked crates thrown into rivers, from locked
canvas mailbags- even from a giant paper bag,
without making a single tear in it.
Possibly his most memorable escapes were the stage
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Erich Weiss aka Harry Houdini
He is preparing to do his famous milk can escape.
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Erik Weisz was born in Budapest, Hungary, on
March 24, 1874. He immigrated at the age of 4 on
July 3, 1878 on the SS Fresia with his mother (listed
as Cisy), sister Aurine, and brothers Nathan, and
Willi. As happened to many families entering the
new world, the spelling of their name was changed.
Houdini’s name thus became Ehrich Weiss. The
family initially settled in Appleton, Wisconsin. From
1900 onwards Houdini claimed in interviews to have
been born in Appleton, Wisconsin on April 6, 1874,
but his Hungarian birth certificate was uncovered by
researchers after his death.
Houdini had four brothers (Theodore, Leopold,
Nathan and William) and a sister, Carrie. Heading the
family were Samuel and Cecilia, Houdini's mother
Houdini became fascinated with magic after seeing Dr. Lynn, a traveling magician, as a
young boy. He turned to magic at age 17 as an alternative to factory work. He teamed
up with Jack Hayman, a fellow magic enthusiast, to form the Houdini Brothers. The
name "Houdini" was used in tribute to Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, the most famous
magician of the era. Houdini even authored a book on Houdin.
The team's specialty was the Crate Escape. When Hayman became bored, Houdini's
brother Theodore (later known as Hardeen) became his partner. Shortly, Hardeen was
replaced by Bess Rahner, the woman who became Houdini's partner both in the act and
in his life. Houdini’s escape acts, which gained him his fame, were performed
worldwide to sell-out crowds, including command performances before royalty.
Surprising as it may seem, Houdini was not an
instant success. For the first five years, he tried
every type of magic, from card manipulations (billed
as the "King of Cards") to illusions and
run-of-the-mill box escapes. In 1896, ready to give
up, he actually ran a newspaper ad offering to sell all
of his magic and secrets for $20. There were no
His one big success was the Needle Trick, a grisly
effect involving the swallowing of dozens of needles
and thread, then the regurgitation of the thread with
all the needles neatly threaded on. This effect would
be a cornerstone of his act throughout his life.
By 1898, Houdini had come up with the Challenge
Act, the act that would make him a legend. As the
Handcuff King, Houdini would escape from any pair
of handcuffs produced by the audience. Generally,
|Houdini and his wife
Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess)
this act was well received. By 1904, Houdini was forced to make some modifications in
the act, due to repeated attempts by various police officers who tried to spoil his routine
by secretly jamming the cuffs offered.
illusions he made famous, the Water Torture Cell, the Milk Can Escape and Buried
Alive. On January 25 1908, in St. Louis, Houdini first featured his escape from a giant
milk can filled with water.
In the milk can trick, Houdini would be handcuffed
and placed in a large milk can filled with water where
he would escape after several minutes. The photo of
Houdini performing this trick is from The Library of
Congress. To add to the drama of the act, the
audience would usually be asked to hold their breath
until Houdini escaped. Most of the audience, of
course, couldn’t hold their breath for the duration of
the act, thus providing the desired dramatic affect.
He explained some of his tricks in books written for
the magic brotherhood throughout his career. In
Handcuff Secrets (1909) he revealed how many
locks and handcuffs could be opened with properly
applied force, others with shoestrings. Other times,
he carried concealed lockpicks or keys, being able to
regurgitate small keys at will. When tied down in
ropes or straitjackets, he gained wiggle room by
enlarging his shoulders and chest, and by moving his
arms slightly away from his body, and then
dislocating his shoulders.
His straitjacket escape was originally performed
behind curtains, with him popping out free at the end.
However, Houdini's brother who was also an escape
artist billing himself as Theodore Hardeen, after being
accused of having someone sneak in and let him out
and being challenged to escape without the curtain,
discovered that audiences were more impressed and
entertained when the curtains were eliminated, so that
they could watch him struggle to get out. They both
performed straitjacket escapes dangling upside-down
from the roof of a building for publicity on more than
one occasion. It is said that Hardeen once handed out
Houdini's Milk Can Trick
Read how he did it. Click here.
bills for his show while Houdini was doing his suspended straightjacket escape and
Houdini became upset because people thought it was Hardeen up there escaping, not
Houdini. Many People imitate some of his tricks to this day.
|Click here to read an interesting account of Houdini's death written by the wife
of his attending physician, Dr. Daniel Cohn.
His death, the result of
not while inside his famous
water torture cell as his
legend has many believing,
is said to have occurred on
Halloween, in 1927. He
was performing at the
Princess Theater in
Montreal after breaking his
ankle in his previous
performance in Albany.
According to eyewitness
accounts he was struck in
the abdomen in his dressing
room by J. Gordon Whitehead, a McGill university student wanting to see a
demonstration of his ability to take a punch. Before he could prepare himself for the
blow, the student suddenly hit him three times, the last blow rupturing his appendix.
This occurred on October 22nd.
|On his WWI Draft Registration,
Houdini identified himself as
Harry Hancuff Houdini
Unfortunately, the magician's stoical capacity to tolerate
pain for so long a time turned out to be his undoing.
Upon opening him up, Dr. Kennedy discovered a
ruptured, gangrenous appendix and pronounced his
Physicians from all over were called in for
consultation--outstanding, experienced men with
innumerable patients of their own. They had no choice
but to agree with the prognosis: without the as yet
undiscovered antibiotics -- miracle drugs that we take
for granted today -- medical science had no means of
saving Houdini's life.
By the time he was properly diagnosed, it was too late.
His first appendix operation occurred on October 24th.
He worsened and four days later on October 28th he
endured a second surgery. He died of peritonitis from a
ruptured appendix on October 31.
People have sometime suggested that I have a genius for this sort of thing, but I
know what I have is a 'sense.' I mean that I am sensible enough to know that when
you stop doing your job you begin to go backwards. And I don't want to go backwards.
Ridgewood, Queens County
New York, USA
Find a Grave
|Read about Other Aspects of Houdini's LIfe
|Houdini's Patent for a Diving Suit
Patent No. 1,370,316
Filed March 1, 1921