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Escapes & Illusions


Houdini developed many of his own
escapes and illusions.
The most notable are the
Metamorphosis Illusion,
Suspended Strait Jacket Escape,
Milk Can Escape and the
Chinese Water Torture Cell Escape.



Okay, here you go - you asked for it - large size versions
of my popular COLORIZED Houdini escape photos - Bob.

COLORIZED Houdini - Water Torture Cell Escape
COLORIZED Houdini - Milk Can Escape

Houdini and Bess in Metamorphosis Illusion
Houdini's Wooden Crate for Metamorphosis Illusion
Houdini's Metamorphosis Illusion Poster - 1
Houdini's Metamorphosis Illusion Poster - 2
Houdini's Metamorphosis Illusion Poster - 3
Houdini's Metamorphosis Illusion Ad - circa May 1898
Houdini's Poster
Houdini in Underwater Handcuff Escape
Houdini in Manacled Bridge Jump 1 - Boston
Houdini in Manacled Bridge Jump 2 - Boston
Houdini in Manacled Bridge Jump 3 - Boston
Houdini in Manacled Bridge Jump
Houdini in Manacled Jump - Seine River
Houdini Bridge Jump w/ Iron Ball - 1
Houdini Bridge Jump w/ Iron Ball - 2
Houdini After Removing all Hardware
Ad for Houdini Appearing in Baltimore, MD
Houdini's Sunken Box Escape - 1
Houdini's Sunken Box Escape - 2
Houdini's Sunken Box Escape - 3
Houdini Poster - Sunken Box Escape
Houdini's Sunken Box Escape - Ad
Crate Escape Challenge - Ad
Houdini's Jail Escape
Houdini Jail Escape / Barrel Escape Poster
Houdini being placed in Strait Jacket
Houdini in Strait Jacket
Poster used by Houdini when on the Road
Houdini in Strait Jacket on Edge of Building
Houdini in Suspended Strait Jacket Escape - 1
Houdini in Suspended Strait Jacket Escape - 2
Houdini in Suspended Strait Jacket Escape - 3
Houdini in Suspended Strait Jacket Escape - 4
Houdini in Suspended Strait Jacket Escape - 5
Houdini in Suspended Strait Jacket Escape - 6
Suspended Strait Jacket - Washington, DC
Houdini in Suspended Strait Jacket Escape - Pittsburgh, PA
Houdini in Suspended Strait Jacket Escape - Boston
Houdini in Suspended Strait Jacket Escape
Crowd gathered for a Suspended Strait Jacket Escape
Poster - Houdini in Strait Jacket Escape
Houdini Escape Challenge - Article
Houdini Items in Pre-show Lobby Display at Keith's Theatre
Houdini's Mail Bag Escape - 1
Houdini's Mail Bag Escape - 2
Houdini in Glass Box Escape - 1
Houdini in Glass Box Escape - 2
Houdini in Milk Can Escape - 1
Houdini in Milk Can Escape - 2
Houdini's Milk Can in Storage Crate
Another Actual Houdini Milk Can
Houdini Milk Can Escape Poster - 1
Houdini Milk Can Escape Poster - 2
Houdini Escapes From Beer Cask - Article
Houdini in Chinese Water Torture Cell Escape - Preparation
Houdini in Chinese Water Torture Cell Escape - Entry
Houdini inside Chinese Water Torture Cell
Houdini's brother Theo and Sid Radner w/ Torture Cell
Houdini Letter Introducing Water Torture Cell
Chinese Water Torture Cell - Ad 1
Chinese Water Torture Cell - Ad 2 - Orpheum, Boston, MA
Chinese Water Torture Cell - Ad 2 cropped - Orpheum, Boston, MA
Houdini Buried Alive Illustration
Houdini Poster - Buried Casket Escape
Houdini's Needle Illusion Program - 1915
Houdini's Radio Cabinet Illusion - Girl Appears
Houdini's Vanishing Elephant - 1918
Houdini Stayed Underwater 90 minutes in a Casket - 1
Houdini Stayed Underwater 90 minutes in a Casket - 2
Houdini Stayed Underwater 90 minutes in a Casket - 3
Article Re: Underwater Casket
Houdini Needle Swallowing - 1924?

Surprising as it may seem, Houdini was not an instant success. For the first five years, he tried every type of magic, from card manipulations (billed as the "King of Cards") to illusions and run-of-the-mill box escapes. In 1896, ready to give up, he actually ran a newspaper ad offering to sell all of his magic and secrets for $20. There were no takers.

His one big success was the Needle Trick, a grisly effect involving the swallowing of dozens of needles and thread, then the regurgitation of the thread with all the needles neatly threaded on. This effect would be a cornerstone of his act throughout his life.

By 1898, Houdini had come up with the Challenge Act, the act that would make him a legend. As the Handcuff King, Houdini would escape from any pair of handcuffs produced by the audience. Generally, this act was well received. By 1904, Houdini was forced to make some modifications in the act, due to repeated attempts by various police officers who tried to spoil his routine by secretly jamming the cuffs offered.
Until the success of the Challenge Act, Houdini had even resorted to posing as a "spirit medium", gathering information from cemeteries and town clerks before shows to make his "messages" more convincing.

The Challenge Act was the turning point for Houdini. With its success came the development of the spectacular escapes that would make Houdini a legend.

Houdini's Escapes

During a visit to a psychiatrist friend in Nova Scotia in 1896, Houdini saw his first strait jacket. Rather than be shocked by it, he was inspired to create an act around escaping from it. And Houdini didn't just escape from a strait jacket- he did it hanging upside down from his ankles, suspended yards above the ground.

Houdini then expanded his Challenge Act to escape not only from any handcuffs offered, but from most any location suggested. Houdini escaped from jail cells, from handcuffed bridge jumps, from padlocked crates thrown into rivers, from locked canvas mailbags- even from a giant paper bag, without making a single tear in it.
Possibly his most memorable escapes were the stage illusions he made famous, the Water Torture Cell, the Milk Can Escape and Buried Alive.

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Copyright 1998-2013 by Robert R. King