Harry Houdini – Famed Escape Artist and Magician

In the early 1900s, a man born with the name Erik Weisz became a worldwide sensation. With a start in vaudeville and then a tour in Europe, Harry Houdini became a household name. His skills as an escape artist and magician are legendary. 

Read about Houdini’s rise to fame and untimely death on Halloween Day 1926 through the nation’s newspapers of the early 20th century.

Early Days

After his stint in Europe, Harry’s escape artist skills popped up in newspapers around the country. As part of their New Year week offering, Chase’s Theatre headlined Houdini and told of his incredible escape from sixty-one of Europe’s strongest jails.

In 1906, the Washington Post ran identified the key muscles to prevent organ a piece called “To Test Police Cells.” Houdini claimed “there was no police cell strong enough or with a sufficient number of locks to hold him.” He was to be placed in the most modern jail facilities at the Tenth Precinct without any clothes to keep him from using keys or any kind of instruments to aid his escape.

In 1908, Harry Houdini authored a book exposing the tricks of great magicians. A Boston Sunday Post article tells of Houdini’s new book, along with biographical information on his guide and hero, Robert Houdin, the inspiration for his stage name. 

Renowned Stunts

Incredibly tight-lipped about his stunts, “Only Houdini Knows – And He Won’t Tell” provided an intimate glimpse into Harry’s world. With death-defying feats commonplace in his performances, the fact that his secrets would die with him was evident to those who interacted with him.

By 1916, Harry Houdini was a phenomenon. “Houdini Accepts University Challenge” claimed he was “undefeated in all his stunts so far” and would attempt yet another escape in an advertisement published in the Daily Texan, this time from a “heavily constructed box” tied with “heavy ropes.”

Secrets Die

For a man who defied death on a routine basis, his death in 1926 shocked the world. The Evening Star in Washington, D.C., published a tribute to the legend in “Houdini’s Secrets of Escape Locked in Mystery of Death,” with stories about the magician in life and death.

Captivating Content

The content available at NewspaperArchive for Harry Houdini is incredible. Here are a few unique tidbits found about the infamous escape artist and magician:

“Hands – Artist, Beautiful, Fastest, Strongest—Which Do YOURS Resemble?” in the Cumberland Sunday Times – January 24, 1926

“The Passing of Harry Houdini” in Vaudeville News – November 5, 1926

“Butte Woman Gets Spirit Message Signed ‘Houdini’” in the Helena Daily Independent – December 12, 1926

“Uncle Sam Gets Houdini’s Books” in the Republic City News – July 21, 1927

Looking to unveil more of Houdini’s secrets in the pages of past periodicals? Try a 7-Day Free Trial at NewspaperArchive.com.

Start Free Trial