The man known world wide as the most famous magician of all time, Harry Houdini, was born March 24, 1874 in Budapest. Although Houdini often claimed to be born in Appleton, Wisconsin, Houdini actually came to the United States when he was four years old. In later years, in a magazine interview, Houdini said, the greatest escape I ever made was when I left Appleton, Wisconsin. Houdinis actual name was Ehrich Weiss. His father was Mayer Samuel Weiss. He was a Rabbi for the German Zoin Jewish Congregation in Appleton.

His mothers name was Cecilia Steiner Weiss. His parents spoke Yiddish, Hungarian, and German. The family was quite poor so most of the children began work at an early age. At the age of eight, young Houdini sold newspapers and worked as a shoeshine.

At the age of 12, Houdini left home to make his way in the world in an attempt to help support his family. Young Houdini traveled the country for about a year, always sending money home when he could. Finally he joined up with his father in New York City. The move to New York would change his life and introduce him to the world of big time magic. In New York, Houdini worked as a messenger and as a cutter in the garment center sweatshop to help support the family.

He was very athletic and won awards in swimming and track. He would use these athletic and swimming talents to great use in his future as an escape artist. Houdinis first magic shows consisted of card tricks and other simple magic. They called him Soon Harry starts using handcuffs and other restraints in his shows. Houdini begins offering rewards to anyone that can restrain him.

Houdini escaped from handcuffs, leg irons, straightjackets, jail and prison cells, a mail pouch, packing crates, a giant paper bag (without tearing the paper), a giant football an iron boiler, milk cans, coffins, and the famous Water Torture Cell. In most of these escapes, there was never a sign of how Houdini accomplished his release. To help draw the crowds Houdini would perform his escape in full view of the audience. Houdini was the King of Handcuffs. On October 22, 1926, after a long lifetime of dangerous feats, Houdini was in Montreal performing at the Princess Theater. In the dressing room at the theater a young athlete from McGill University asked Houdini if he could actually withstand punches to the stomach as he heard.

Before Houdini could prepare, the student began to punch the legendary magician in the mid-section. Houdini did not know it but his appendix ruptured. Houdini did not die in an escape or fail in some final escape, as many believe. The King of Handcuffs died on October 31, 1926 of an inflammation of the abdominal lining, a kind of internal Gangrene.

Houdini today is one of the best known performers of all time and Houdinis name has come to mean the ability to escape from any restraint or difficult situation. He always insisted that all he did was by natural means. One of his last inventions was to escape after being buried alive, a stunt he did very few times. Houdini not only earned a place in history but in the dictionary as well.


1. Christopher, Milbourne. Houdini: the Untold Story. Crowell, 1969.
2. Fitzsimmons, Raymond. Death and the Magician: The Mystery of Houdini, Atheneum, 1980.
Adam Hanson Eng 111 56 E September 16, 1999 Short Writing (profile) King of Handcuffs The man known world wide as the most famous magician of all time, Harry Houdini, was born March 24, 1874 in Budapest.
3 dc 1. Christopher, Milbourne. Crowell, 1969.