Harry Houdini (1874 - 1926) was a Hungarian-born American magician, escapologist (widely regarded as one of the greatest ever), stunt performer, as well as a skeptic and investigator of spiritualists, film producer, and actor.
Houdini initially focused on traditional card tricks. At one point, he billed himself as the "King of Cards". But he soon began experimenting with escape acts. Houdini became widely known as "The Handcuff King" while he toured England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Russia. In each city, Houdini would challenge local police to restrain him with shackles and lock him in their jails.
From 1907 and throughout the 1910s, Houdini performed with great success in the United States. He would free himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in plain sight of street audiences. Houdini escaped from many unique situations and invented some of the most memorable escapes in the history of magic like the "Chinese Torture Cell", "Metamorphosis" and much more.
In 1923, Houdini became President of Martinka & Co., America's oldest magic company. The business is still in operation today. He also served as President of the Society of American Magicians (aka S.A.M.) from 1917 until his death in 1926.
Houdini published numerous books during his career. His representative works on magic tricks and magicians are:
- Book 1: Handcuff Secrets (1907)
- Opening Sealed Handcuffs
- Blunders of Some Handcuff Exposers
- Fake or Spoof Manacle
- American Manacles
- French Letter Cuff
- Lock Pickers
- Safe-Opening Micrometer
- Skeleton Keys
- Cologne Police Sued for Libel
- More Lock-Picking Implements
- Strait-Jacket Release
- Method of Escape
- Historical Lock-Picking Contests, with James Sargent as the Centre Figure
- Handcuffs and Their Keys
- Book 2: The Unmasking of Robert Houdin (1908)
- Significant Events in the Life of Robert-Houdin
- The Orange-Tree Trick
- The Writing and Drawing Figure
- The Pastry Cook of the Palais Royal
- The Obedient Cards -- The Cabalistic Clock -- The Trapeze Automaton
- The Inexhaustible Bottle
- Second Sight
- The Suspension Trick
- The Disappearing Handkerchief
- Robert-Houdin's Ignorance of Magic as Betrayed by His Own Pen
- The Narrowness of Robert-Houdin's "Memoirs"
- Book 3: Magical Rope Ties and Escapes (1920)
- Photograph -- Ira E. Davenport and "Houdini"
- For Opening of Rope Act
- A Simple Release
- The Kellar Tie
- The Knotted Rope Tie
- Another Knotted Rope
- The Twin-Rope Tie
- The Jacobi Tie
- Three Effects with the Handcuff Tie
- An Added Effect for Handcuff Tie
- The Tom Fool Knot
- The Double-Header
- The Volunteer Release
- The Revenge Tie
- A Good Chair Tie
- An Interlude
- The Comedy Tie
- The Thumb Tie
- Another Method
- The Handkerchief Release
- The Clothes Line Tie
- Simplex Tie
- Under-Water Escapes
- Spectacular Escapes
- The Big Wheel Release
- The North American Indian Tie
- The Russian Transport Tie
- Slade's Knots
- The Cotton-Bandage Test
- Houdini's "Full View of Audience" Release
- The Turned Vest
- Sack Escapes
- An Easy Sack Escape
- The Broomstick Escape
- Lock and Chain Sack Escape
- The Spirit Sack
- Double Sack Challenge Escape
- Book 4: Miracle Mongers and Their Methods: A Complete Exposé of the Modus Operandi of Fire Eaters, Heat Resisters, Poison Eaters, Venomous Reptile Defiers, Sword Swallowers, Human Ostriches, Strong Men, and the Like (1920)
- Fire worship. -- Fire eating and heat resistance. -- The Middle Ages. -- Among the Navajo Indians. -- Fire-walkers of Japan. -- The Fiery Ordeal of Fiji
- Watton's Ship-swabber from the Indies. -- Richardson, 1667. -- De Heiterkeit, 1713. -- Robert Powell, 1718-1780. -- Dufour, 1783. -- Quackensalber, 1794.
- The nineteenth century. -- A "Wonderful Phenomenon." -- "The Incombustible Spaniard, Senor Lionetto," 1803. -- Josephine Girardelli, 1814. -- John Brooks, 1817. -- W. C. Houghton, 1832. -- J. A. B. Chylinski, 1841. -- Chamouni, the Russian Salamander, 1869. -- Professor Rel Maeub, 1876. -- Rivelli (died 1900)
- The Master -- Chabert, 1792-1859
- Fire-eating magicians: Ching Ling Foo and Chung Ling Soo. -- Fire-eaters employed by magicians: The Man-Salamander, 1816. -- Mr. Carlton, Professor of Chemistry, 1818. -- Miss Cassillis, aged nine, 1820. -- The African Wonder, 1843. -- Ling Look and Yamadeva die in China during Kellar's world tour, 1877. -- Ling Look's double, 1879. -- Electrical effects, The Salambos. -- Bueno Core. -- Del Kano. -- Barnello. -- Edwin Forrest as a heat-resister -- The Elder Sothern as a fire-eater. -- The Twilight of the Art
- The Arcana of the fire-eaters: The formula of Albertus Magnus. -- Of Hocus Pocus. -- Richardson's method. -- Philopyraphagus Ashburniensis. -- To breathe forth sparks, smoke and flames. -- To spout natural gas. -- Professor Sementini's discoveries. -- To bite off red-hot iron. -- To cook in a burning cage. -- Chabert's oven. -- To eat coals of fire. -- To drink burning oil. -- To chew molten lead. -- To chew burning brimstone. -- To wreathe the face in flames. -- To ignite paper with the breath. -- To drink boiling liquor and eat flaming wax.
- The spheroidal condition of liquids. -- Why the hand may be dipped in molten metals. -- Principles of heat resistance put to practical uses: Aldini, 1829. -- In early fire-fighting. -- Temperatures the body can endure.
- Sword-swallowers: Cliquot, Delno Fritz, Deodota, a razor-swallower, an umbrella-swallower, William Dempster, John Cumming, Edith Clifford, Victorina.
- Stone-eaters: A Silesian in Prague, 1006; Francois Battalia, ca. 1641; Platerus' beggar boy; Fther Paulian's lithophagus of Avignon, 1760; "The Only One in the World", London, 1788; Spaniards in London, 1790; a secret for two and six; Japanese training. -- Frog-swallowers: Norton; English Jack; Bosco; the snake-eater; Billington's prescription for hangmen; Captain Veitro. -- Water-spouters; Blaise Manfrede, ca. 1650; Floran Marchand, 1650.
- Defiers of poisonous reptiles: Thardo, Mrs. Learn, dealer in rattle-snakes. -- Sir Arthur Thurlow Cunynghame on antidotes for snake-bite. -- Jack the Viper. -- William Oliver, 1735. -- The advice of Cornelius Heinrich Agrippa, (1480-1535). -- An Australian snake story. -- Antidotes for various poisons.
- Strongmen of the eighteenth century: Thomas Topham (died, 1749); Joyce, 1703; Van Eskeberg, 1718; Barsabas and his sister; The Italian Female Sampson, 1724; The "little woman from Geneva," 1751; Belzoni, 1778-1823
- Contemporary strong people: Charles Jefferson; Louis Cyr; John Grun Marx; William Le Roy. -- The Nail King, The Human Claw-hammer; Alexander Weyer; Mexican Billy Wells; A foolhardy Italian; Wilson; Herman; Sampson; Sandow; Yucca; La Blanche; Lulu Hurst; -- The Georgia Magnet, The Electric Girl, etc.; Annie Abbot; Mattie Lee Price. -- The Twilight of the Freaks. -- The dime museums.
- Book 5: Houdini's Paper Magic: The Whole Art of Performing with Paper, Including Paper Tearing, Paper Folding and Paper Puzzles (1922)
- PAPER TRICKS: The Travelling Paper Balls; Ring and Program; The Cigarette-Paper Tear; The Torn Paper Ribbon; The Restored Calendar; The Selective Touch; The Dancing Sailor; The Spirit Communication; The Knife and Paper Sleight; The Chameleon Confetti; Production of Confetti; Another Confetti Change; Watered Confetti; The Floating Ball; The Japanese Butterflies; The Shaving Stick; The Paper Flags; The Pig and the Ring; Coffee, Milk and Sugar; The Ballot or Pellet Test; Paper Clippings and Water; Werner's Bill Tearing Trick; An Effective Finish
- PAPER FOLDING: The Japanese Bird; The Bullfrog; Puzzle Box for Sweets; Trouble Wit; The Chapeau; Japanese Paper Purse; Japanese Hexagon Puzzle Box
- PAPER TEARING: Trewey's Paper Rings; Jacob's Ladder; The Trellis; The Fir Tree; The Dancing Skeletons; Grandma's String of Dolls; The Dancing Girls; Paper Pictures; Circular Designs; The Five Pointed Star; Tearing the Pack
- PAPER PUZZLES: Paper Puzzles; The Symmetrical Square Puzzle; The Stairs; Hexagon Puzzle; The Octagon Puzzle; The House and Ell Puzzle; The Cross and Crescent; The Latin Cross; The Short Dozen; The Right Angle Triangle; The Greek Cross Puzzle; The Square Deal Puzzle; To Pass through a Card; The Liberty Bell; The Cross Cut Puzzle; The Three Crosses
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