Today I kick off a week-long celebration of magic, in particular escape magic, in honor of the launch of my novella Escape Magic. Escape Magic is Book 2 of my Sleight of Hand series, in which either the hero or the heroine is a magician, so I’m not going to limit myself to celebrating just escapology. However, I did want to kick off the week with a list of the ten most intriguing things I’ve discovered about Houdini during my research on escapology:
1. Houdini was not an instant success and after years of trying various magic bits and tricks, he actually ran an ad offering to sell all his tricks and equipment for $20. Fortunately, no one took him up on it.
2. Houdini began his career as the greatest escape magician very humbly. He started out by challenging the crowd to present him with a pair of handcuffs he couldn’t get out of. Houdini’s “Challenge Act” quickly became a success and launched his career as an escapologist.
3. Houdini was fascinated with the occult but also dedicated to debunking every “spiritualist” he encountered. Being a magician and a former “spiritualist” himself, he knew all the tricks, would attend seances in disguise, then expose the illusions in his own shows.
4. Magic tricks could not be copyrighted, so Houdini introduced his “Chinese Water Torture Cell” in a one-act play, which he copyrighted, thus preventing other magicians from using the effect.
5. Houdini was one of the first movie stars, having starred in an experimental film in 1901. He later went on to produce, act and in many films through his Houdini Pictures Corporation.
6. Houdini’s interest in water escapes led to his development of a diving suit that a diver could take off quickly in case of emergency.
7. Although a great deal of controversy surrounds the events leading up to Harry Houdini’s death on October 31, 1926, the actual cause of death was peritonitis, brought on by untreated appendicitis.
8. Several days before his death, Houdini is rumored to have been punched in the stomach several times by a university student, who had heard that Houdini could withstand any punch to the abdomen.
9. Houdini and his wife, Bess, had made a pact to try to contact each other from the afterlife. Bess remained true to her husband, holding seances for ten years after his death. Finally, however, she gave up. Seances continue to be held by Houdini afficionados and fans every year on the anniversary of his death.
10. Houdini was buried in a bronze coffin he planned to use in a new underwater effect he was never able to add to his act.
Now it’s your turn. What do you know about Harry Houdini? This week I’m awarding prizes to my commenters! These prizes include a pack of Archangels Bicycle playing cards, a pack of Love Me playing cards by artist Curtis Kulig, the famous Magic Rings trick and one of the best coin tricks I actually know the secret to, Scotch & Soda, which I actually purchased at the Houdini Magic Shop in Las Vegas. I also have magic wands and several paperback copies of both Close Up Magic and Escape Magic, although you get either one of those for only 99 cents for the Kindle!