His escape acts, many of which often appeared to be dangerous and life-threatening, drew crowds all over the United States and Europe. To this day, 89 years after his death, he still remains to be one of the most respected magicians of all time.
However, many people think that he was simply this performer whose endurance and physical strength were unmatched. Many people are quite unaware that Houdini was, in fact, a visionary. He dabbled into different fields such as aviation and film, and he also published a number of books in attempts to debunk fraudulent magicians and spiritualists. Houdini’s mind was just as much a part of his success as was his spirit and charm.
Harry Houdini was one of the most influential magicians of all time. His work often included dangerous and death-defying performances. In fact, his fame can be attributed to his ability to look death in the eye so nonchalantly, and always come out on top. However, in 1926, at the young age of 52, Harry Houdini suddenly passed away.
Many were shocked at the early death of a man whose entire life was dedicated to escaping it. To this day, there is still some debate about how or why he died. How did Harry Houdini die, and what mystery surrounds his untimely demise?
As the Master of Escape, Harry Houdini often performed stunts where he would seem to cheat death just at the last minute. While his performances began modestly with handcuffs and straight jackets, as he gained popularity his stunts became more and more dangerous, often mortifying audiences and leaving them stunned as he would claw his way out of being buried alive, or emerge from milk cans filled with water, seeming to be only seconds away from drowning to death.
His most dangerous stunt, which indeed made a ‘Harry Houdini death’ newspaper headline seem inevitable, involved being buried alive. His first attempt had him buried without a casket 6 feet underground. He barely made it, collapsing unconscious as he reached the surface. His second attempt had him employ controlled breathing as he was sealed in a coffin and submerged in a swimming pool for one and a half hours. Surely, many imagined Houdini’s death right then and there, but he emerged unscathed.
Houdini died of peritonitis on October 31, 1926. Houdini’s death is marred by mystery and speculation because of an instance with a student on the days leading up to his passing. One student asked Houdini if it was true that “punches in the stomach did not hurt him.” In an attempt to test the magician’s will, he delivered a series of blows to Houdini’s abdomen.
Later in the evening, Houdini began to experience extreme abdominal pain. Houdini attempted to perform despite the great pain he was in. At his last show, he was reported to have passed out on stage. By the time he had gone to the hospital, it was already too late.
While this story created confusion about whether the punches done by the student had actually caused his appendix to rupture, some people speculated that Harry Houdini’s death could have been a case of poisoning by Spiritualists whom he may have angered throughout his career.
While an early death may not have been fitting for the master of escape and the defier of death, perhaps it was fitting, if not in a way ironic, that even in death he was shrouded in mystery.
“I’ll get out of this the way I always get out of everything.” – Houdini, showing us right to the very end, just how fearless and strong he really was.