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On this historic day, October 31, 1926, escape artist Harry Houdini eternally chained by Grim Reaper


Harry Houdini, the remarkable illusionist who stunned international audiences with his death-defying act of escape, was chained for eternity by the grim reaper on this Halloween in history, October 31, 1926.

“As one of the most influential figures on the American scene, [Houdini’s] the popularity lasted a quarter of a century,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in its obituary of the performer, considered by many to be the greatest magician in history.

“Houdini counted royalty from Europe and Asia among his audience.”

Harry Houdini’s cause of death was peritonitis, caused by a ruptured appendix.

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But questions continue to surround the bizarre circumstances of Houdini’s death at 52, including suggestions from some fans that the famous performer was murdered.

Houdini had just given a lecture at McGill University in Montreal and met with students after the appearance.

Hungarian-born American magician, escape artist and psychic debunker Harry Houdini (1874-1926) showed off his handcuffs as he stood in a wooden box on a boat and prepared to be overwhelmed, a situation difficulty from which he would escape to the delight of the spectators, East River, July 7, 1912.
(Photo by FPG/Getty Images)

The muscular magician was known to boast that his stomach was so strong he could withstand a blow from any man.

“A student, Joselyn Gordon Whitehead, asked if he could take a punch and Houdini immediately nodded,” PBS News Hour wrote in a 2019 online account of the artist’s death. escape.

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“The student punched the tall magician twice, but before he had a chance to tighten his abdominal muscles and brace himself. The ‘hammer-like’ punches caused visible pain and Houdini stopped Whitehead mid-shot on the third attempted punch to his gut.”

The pain only got worse when Houdini endured a 15-hour train ride to Detroit.

On this historic day, October 31, 1926, escape artist Harry Houdini eternally chained by Grim Reaper

Harry Houdini in motion picture art for the film “Haldane Of The Secret Service”, 1923.
(Houdini Picture Corporation/Getty Images)

He was quickly diagnosed with acute appendicitis.

Still, he put on one more show before being rushed to hospital for emergency surgery on October 24.

“Houdini counted royalty from Europe and Asia among his audience.”

It was too late. Houdini’s appendix had already ruptured.

He died a week later from the infection.

“Whitehead was not charged in the incident and lived a solitary life in Montreal,” the active fan site WildAboutHoudini.com reported.

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Medical research today indicates that it is extremely rare for blunt force trauma to cause appendicitis. But by the 1920s, it was widely believed that Whitehead’s punches had killed Houdini.

“The poor medical student probably went to his grave thinking he had robbed the world of the great Harry Houdini,” PBS wrote.

The magician was born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874 and grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin.

On this historic day, October 31, 1926, escape artist Harry Houdini eternally chained by Grim Reaper

“Houdini had made a career out of surviving the impossible, which only made the circumstances of his death in 1926 all the more mysterious.”
(Getty Pictures)

His disappearance under such unexpected but mundane circumstances is all the more shocking in light of his career spent defying death – or at least appearing to defy death.

“The Hungarian-born escape artist jumped off bridges while handcuffed and in leg irons, slipped out of sealed milk cans filled with water, and designed a ‘torture cell’ to Chinese water “in which he was immersed and hung upside down by his ankles”, reported History.com.

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“The thrilling escapades usually involved a fair amount of trickery and sleight of hand, but they were also fraught with real risk.”

On this historic day, October 31, 1926, escape artist Harry Houdini eternally chained by Grim Reaper

American magician Harry Houdini (1874-1926) here with chains, c. 1906.
(Photo by APIC/Getty Images)

Many fans were hoping to hear Houdini talk about the afterlife.

“Famous in life for his improbable escapes from physical restraints, the illusionist promised his wife, Bess, that – if possible – he would also break the chains of death to send her a coded message from beyond. “, noted the Smithsonian Magazine in a 2021 column of his unusual life and bizarre death.

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But Bess Houdini, who married the magician in 1894 and also served as his stage assistant, was ultimately disappointed.

“Houdini promised his wife Bess to send him a coded message from beyond.”

As Smithsonian further noted, “On Halloween Day 1936, she finally gave up, declaring to the world, ‘Houdini didn’t come…I don’t believe Houdini can come back to me, or to whom.’ whether it be. “”

Houdini is buried in Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York, where his grave has become a site of pilgrimages and Halloween rituals among the magician community.

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However, the cemetery is now closed on Halloween due to repeated acts of vandalism to Houdini’s grave on October 31.

“Houdini had made a career out of surviving the impossible, which only made the circumstances of his death in 1926 all the more mysterious,” History.com writes in a biography of a famous artist on both sides of Atlantic.


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