This Saturday marks the 144th birthday of Harry Houdini, the world-famous escape artist whose sensational stunts made his audience wait for the denouement with bated breath. Despite the long way that his posthumous fellow magicians have covered in terms of performance intricacy and special effects, Mr. Houdini is still regarded as one of the greatest illusionists of all time. To bring an homage to the legacy of the one dubbed The Handcuff King by his contemporaries, we give you The Harry Houdini Timeline, which summarizes his life and most notable acts.
Born in Hungary as Erik Weisz, he moved with his family to the US and made his public debut as a trapeze artist at the tender age of 9, calling himself ‘Ehric, the Prince of the Air’. It was in 1894 that he began his career as a magician and renamed himself Harry Houdini, after the French illusionist J.E. Robert-Houdin, whom he admired. Initially revolving around card tricks, his shows had little success, so he introduced feats of escape involving handcuffs, which soon drew manager Martin Beck’s attention and ultimately brought his big break. From then on, his rise to stardom was meteoric, reaching its pinnacle in 1912, when he inaugurated the Chinese Water Torture Cell. The performance enthralled the crowds so much that it stayed a recurring act until his death in 1926.
Expanding his repertoire with increasingly dangerous escape challenges, Houdini quickly sued anyone who imitated his stunts. He also indulged in other passions such as aviation, setting out to be the first to fly a plane over Australia in 1910. However, it is said that he was beaten to the draw just a few months earlier by Capt. Colin Defries.
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