Harry Houdini and his unseen legacy.

Today’s date is 31st October 2016 and the current time is 19:26 here in Malta. Take note that in Detroit the current time is 13:26. It is also, exactly on this day and time, 90 years ago in 1926 (which year happens to be the current time in Malta now 19:26), that Harry Houdini died aged 52 in Room 401 at Detroit’s Grace Hospital at 13:26 (Detroit time).

However, it is not surprising that after all these years, people of all ages recognise the name, ‘Harry Houdini’. It is exactly for this, that the man is a legend and the name is a legacy.  A legacy that leaves behind a great deal of riches amongst magicians of our days.

Life Of A Legend

Houdini was born on March the 24th, 1874 in Hungary and lived a mysterious life.  After joining his family during their immigration to America, in later years he would find fame and fortune there. starting off as a magician in Vaudeville. His sensational escape acts from straitjackets whilst hung from skyscrapers, escapes from boxes under water or sealed in milk cans filled to the brim with water made him world famous. He is better known for his aquarium escape, the illusion many wrongly believe was the illusion to kill Houdini.

Houdini also had a passion for film and tried his hand at several movies. However this failed to bring in money. He was also a keen aviator, who’s aim had become the first man to fly a plane in Australia.

 In Coney Island he met Bess, who he married very shortly after. He was performing there as a magician together with his brother Dash. She was a dancer in the dance troupe. Bess eventually replaced Dash in the act, and from then on, Bess worked as his stage assistant.

Harry Houdini and Bess

Harry Houdini and his wife Bess

A Worldwide Phenomenon

Houdini became famous for performing modern illusions for the times he lived in and of course outrages dangerous stunts. He became a worldwide phenomenon performing the world over. He was an expert at reaching out to peoples across the seas, even at a time when social media did not exist and the only means of news were the papers.

The story behind the illusions and stunts that Houdini performed is much more amazing than the actual illusions themselves. Although he did not create many of the illusions he performed, he did however create various methods to perform them.

In June, 1917, Harry Houdini was elected National President of the Society of American Magicians. This is a position he held until his untimely death on October 31, 1926. (Brian Role is also a member of the Society of American Magicians.)

The Truth Behind Houdini’s Death

Houdini died on the Halloween October 31, 1926 of peritonitis. It is believed to have been aggravated by an incident that took place in Houdini’s dressing room. It is speculated that Houdini’s death was caused by a University student, who repeatedly struck his abdomen. Houdini would often have this performed on him as a stunt. However Houdini was had broken his ankle while performing several days earlier and at the time was reclining on a couch and not in the correct position for this kind of stunt.

Although in great pain Houdini went on to perform that evening. However he remained in pain for the next two days not seeking any medical assistance. When a doctor finally examined Houdini, the advice was to immediately seek surgery. However Houdini ignored this advice since he had a show that evening. That show was Houdini’s last performance, passing out during the show. After the show, Houdini was admitted to hospital, where he died two days after.

Communication With The Dead

Houdini’s death sparked off something else, that to prove or debunk being able to communicate with the dead. He discovered that many mediums of the time, claiming to be able to make contact with the dead, were actually fake and frauds, using tricks to fake materialism of spirits and communication with spirits. He went on to expose their devious methods after trying to make contact with his deceased mother through them. But proved to be able to do this, and those that apparently did, used tricks and illusions of the time.

Houdini carried on with this obsession until his last days, debunking and exposing medium and spiritualists around the world, hoping to find a genuine case where he could make contact with his mother. Before dying Houdini and Bess devised a secret code. This was meant to be used as a sign between them that life after death exists. For 10 years after Houdini’s death, Bess held a séance on the eve of Halloween, hoping that Houdini would make contact with the secret code. It is believed that this never occurred, but only Bess knew the truth.

Harry Houdini and the legacy we can’t touch

I do not know if Houdini did get in touch with Bess after his death. Apart from that I do not know if he really possessed supernatural powers as some believe. However I believe he had the ability to pass on a legacy of unique methodology across wide spectrums of magic. Magicians and illusionists use these same methods, in a modern manner, to this very day. Whether it is escaping from a box under water, performing a card trick, inducing thoughts into a person’s mind or simply reading a spectators mind, it is he who created the modern magician.

The Metamorphosis Illusion

Brian and Lola perform one of Houdini’s most famous illusions. The ‘Metamorphosis Illusion’, although not a Houdini creation, is an illusion synonymous with Houdini. It is one of those rare illusions that audiences love watching time and time again. The reason for this is the speed at which the illusion occurs. However what appears to be an easy illusion, it is in fact one of the most difficult illusions to perform. Agility, timing and synchronisation make the illusion what it appears to be. Brian and Lola perform this illusion during their show at the Chamber of Mysteries in Malta.

They perform the illusion to the style of Houdini for the show. What makes their version special, is the proximity of the audience during their performance. However they also perform different versions of the same illusion. One of them is a transparent box where audiences can see through until the very last moments. The version they perform at the Chamber of Mysteries is that of a packing crate. While both versions look different, they both require the professionalism we mention above.

Watch Brian Role` and Lola Palmer perform the Metamorphosis Illusion during one of their stage shows at the Manoel Theatre in Malta.

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