American escape artist born March 24, 1874 (with the name Erik Weisz), died October 31, 1926 at age 52.
The preeminent Stage Magician
of his time and the greatest Escape Artist
time, Harry Houdini (who based his stage name on the French magician, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin) was one of the great entertainers in Vaudeville
and became one of the highest paid in the industry. He also accepted dares to see if he could escape various police jail cells, secure transports and personal restraints, and usually did, and sometimes while nude to "prove" he wasn't carrying tools.
In addition to stage craft, Houdini also starred in films although that career path proved unsuccessful and even had some notoriety as an airplane pilot, doing the first flight in Australia.note
Houdini married his stage partner Wilhelmina Beatrice "Bess" Rahner three times. Once in secret and then once in each of their houses of worship, as Houdini was Jewish and Bess Roman Catholic. They were Happily Married
Houdini had some interest in the supernatural, but was disgusted to find the only ones available were frauds. As a result, Houdini dedicated himself to debunking claims of the paranormal by infiltrating seances to expose the fakery and showing how the fakers did it on stage. All the while, Houdini dearly hoped to find the real thing in this crusade and even arranged a secret signal that he would try to use after he died. After his death, his wife would regularly do seances trying to contact him until she gave up in 1936 saying "Ten years is enough for any man."
Namesake for tropes where a character escapes retribution for whatever reason (Idiot Houdini
, Elimination Houdini
, Karma Houdini
, Karma Houdini Warranty