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Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini (born in 1874, Budapest, died in 1926, Detroit)

Houdini was born Erich Weiss on March 24, 1874. Though he claimed throughout his life that Appleton, Wisconsin was his birthplace, he was really born in Budapest, Hungary. He was four years old when his family moved to America.

Houdini fascinated audiences with his great escapes and illusions for decades. To this day he is the one magicians aspire to. He was honored as first to fly a plane in Australia and also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his film career.

Harry was the third of five children. When he was about four years old, his father, Rabbi Dr. Mayer Samuel Weiss, who was a religious scholar and teacher, moved the family to Appleton, Wisconsin where he became the first rabbi of a new congregation.

He told everyone for his entire life that he was born in Appleton, so they would accept him as an American. In later years, in a magazine interview, Houdini said about Appleton, "the greatest escape I ever made was when I left Appleton, Wisconsin." He was always concerned about physical fitness and staying in shape. He won awards in track and swimming and later used these talents as an escape artist.

When I was 15, I read an autobiography by the French Magician named Jean Robert-Houdin. This changed my life forever. I wanted to be just like Robert-Houdin, so I added the letter “I” which means “like” to his name, and I became Houdini. He career was storied to the say the least. In 1926, he lay underwater over 90 minutes in a sealed casket to beat the world record.

Later that year, on October 22, 1926, while in his dressing room at the Princess Theater in Montreal with several students from McGill University, he was asked if he could actually withstand a punch to the stomach thrown by any man. This is something he would routinely do, but before he could prepare himself by tightening his stomach muscles, J. Gordon Whitehead hit him three times.

He didn’t know it at the time, but his appendix had burst. He did several shows at the Garrick after that, but soon became ill. Nine days later in room 401 of Detroit's old Grace Hospital, he died from peritonitis, which is inflammation of the appendix. He died at the age of 52, on October 31, -- Halloween.

Source: The Hungary Page

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