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Harry Houdini is Born

Today in Masonic history Harry Houdini is born in 1874.

Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American Illusionist and Stunt Performer.

Houdini was born on March 24th, 1874 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now just Hungary) as Erik Weisz.

Houdini arrived in the United States on July 3rd, 1878 with his pregnant mother and four brothers. The family settled in Appleton, Wisconsin where his father served as a Rabbi. In 1887 the family moved to New York City, New York.

Houdini began his magic career in 1891 and initially had little success. He changed his name to Harry Houdini after a French magician named Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. He initially focused on card tricks and even billed himself as the "King of Cards." Most magicians at the time saw Houdini as a competent magician, lacking the finesse for slight of hand magic. Before long he started experimenting with escape acts.

In 1893, while performing with his brother "Dash," Houdini met his future wife Bess. She joined the act and a year later Houdini and Bess were married and the act was renamed to "The Houdinis." In 1899 Houdini met Martin Beck in Minnesota who booked the act on the Orpheum Vaudeville circuit. In 1913, Houdini introduced the Chinese Water Torture Cell where he was suspended upside down in an overflowing water tank while handcuffed.

Later in life as the President of the Society of American Magicians he wanted to keep professional standards very high by exposing fraudulent performers. In the 1920's he turned his attention to alleged spiritualists and mediums. He was a member of the Scientific American committee that offered a cash prize to anyone who could prove their supernatural abilities.

Prior to his death Houdini and his wife Bess setup their own test for the alleged mediums. They decided on a code word that, after Houdini's passing, he would communicate from beyond the grave if possible. Bess held séances for 10 years on Halloween none of them were successful. After the final unsuccessful attempt Bess put out a candle that had been burning by Houdini's picture since his death. She was quoted as saying "ten years is long enough to wait for any man."

Houdini passed away on October 31st, 1926. The official cause of death was peritonitis secondary to a ruptured appendix. Witnesses to an incident in Houdini's dressing room prior to his death said that a McGill University student challenged Houdini about his belief in miracles in the Bible and whether it was true that he felt no pain when he was struck in the stomach. The man began striking Houdini below the belt while Houdini was lying on a couch due to a broken ankle. Houdini was able to stop the man's blows, but the damage was done. After performing that evening Houdini got a 102° fever.

Houdini was a member of St. Cecile Lodge No. 568.