Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy 137th!

Happy Birthday, Houdini!

So 137 years ago, little Erik Weisz was born in Budapest. (He claimed later that he was born in Wisconsin; this was perhaps to avoid anti-semitic and/or anti-foreign sentiment.) At 4, he traveled to the US with his mother and brothers. He grows, he astounds with great magical wonders, and then, before his time, he dies. (Due to peritonitis brought on by appendicitis being punched by some dumbass college kid, on Halloween, no less.)

Houdini's wife had a seance every year on Halloween to try and make contact until 1936, when Bess declared it would be her last. That didn't stop other magicians from picking up where she left off. Today, the annual seance is held at the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Also famous for The Office and that's pretty much it...)

So in Harry's will, it stated that his brother was to get all of his personal belongings, including his very large magical memorabilia collection. Then, the will stated, after his brother's death, all of it was to be burned. Well, he kinda got his wish... But I digress. So Theodore didn't burn it, he stored it in a warehouse where it sat for some 40 years until it was auctioned off and was bought by a couple of entrepreneurs from Canada. They opened The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame and displayed the original Chinese Water Torture Cell, an extensive handcuff collection and posters from his magic displays, among other things. But in April 1995, it burned to the ground, destroying most of everything. So there. Houdini got his wish.

Another fun Houdini related story:
In 2002, Long Island resident Stephen Chotowicky called the police to report that his son in law had stolen some tools. The son in law proved that he didn't steal anything but out of spite, mentioned to the cops that his dear daddy in law had something they had been looking for. In 1983, the bust of Houdini was stolen from his gravesite, and he claimed that Stephen had it. So the police kick down the door and found not just the bust but also news articles about the theft to make a jaunty little shrine to the whole thing. And to jail he went!

He was handsome, talented and had a mind for magic like no one else had. So to you I raise my glass, Houdini! Happy 137th!

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