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19th April 2002 - Page 4
A hundred and twenty eight years after his death, Houdini is still the most famous name in magic. He was born on 24th march 1874 as Erich Wesis in Budapest to a Hungarian Rabbi. Inspired by a French magician Robert Houdini, he later followed suit and changed his name. Brought to the United States in his infancy he was best remembered as the ultimate escape artist. Harry Houdini was also a debunker of fraudulent spirit mediums, a motion picture actor, and an aviator, president of the Society of American Magicians. In 1880 Houdini found work as a trapeze performer which helped developed his athleticism. His compact body became powerful and agile. This later helped him to perform the great escapes. In the mid 1890's with the help of his wife Houdini developed a variety of magic tricks and performed them in dime museums earning a reputation as a skillful manipulator of cards.
Escape became the dominant theme of Houdini's magic in later years. While other magicians were more proficient at general magic illusions, in the area of escapology there was only one master. Houdini challenged the world, claiming he could escape from any confinement. He was bound with rope. He was restrained in handcuffs, shackles and straitjackets. He was placed in fishnets, nailed wooded crates, trunks and even embalmed carcass of a whale.
Among the most famous of Houdini self devised escapes was the “Chinese Water Torture Cell.”

is yet to begin

After being handcuffed and shackled, he was lowered into a tank of water upside down. The whole apparatus was covered with a cloth with a little glass window allowing the audience to see him. His assistant stood near this cell with an axe waiting for the signal given by Houdini to crack open the cell in case his trick failed. But within a minute Houdini appeared from behind the curtain to take a bow, and the audience burst into applause. 
Later on Harry Houdini became a public figure a source of inspiration and spiritualism. So he took the idea of escape from

restraints away from the paranormal and into a secular and rationalist context and made it his personal crusade to expose spirit mediums and to enlighten the public as to the true events of a séance. Because of his early experience as a medium, he was in a good position to take on this public mission. He exposed some of the most believable of séances. In fact he was so obsessed in exposing these fakes and to prove that we cannot communicate with the dead that he made a pact with her wife that who ever would died first would try to communicate with the other in order to test the claims of the afterlife.
The exact cause of Houdini's death to date is still unknown. Reportedly a college student physically assaulted him. His appendix ruptured soon afterwards perhaps caused by the blows. On October 31, 1926 at 1:30 p.m. on Halloween Houdini passed away.
Each Halloween from 1926 to 1936 's wife participated in a séance to make contact with her deceased husband. During the séance of 1936 she put her wedding ring into a mahogany box and proceeded with the séance. After receiving no signal from her husband she announced that she now believed it to be impossible to communicate the dead. The she opened the box to take her ring out and remarkably it had vanished all that remained inside was a piece of paper with the words "The Mystery is yet to begin".

Abhishek Narula

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