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Henry Houdini's Death

Henry Houdini

The life and death of Harry Houdini:

He changed his name and gained his fame by performing feats of daring. He was America's original stunt man, noted for his sensational escape acts. However, he died at a relatively early age when he acted on a dare to prove a point and suffered severe internal injuries as a result.

Harry Houdini's birth name was Ehrich Weiss. He was born in Budapest, Hungary - one of seven children. His father was a Rabbi.

He came to the United States as a four year old in 1878 with his pregnant mother and four brothers. Erich became known as "Ehrie", or Harry. He remained close to his Mom and later married Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, nicknamed "Bess".

Henry Houdini's parents

The Weiss family lived in Wisconsin and Harry began his career as a magician in 1891. He started with card tricks, calling himself the "King of Cards".

Henry Houdini's king of Cards promotion

Houdini was also a noted pilot, and became the first man to fly a plane in Australia.

Henry Houdini piloting an airplane

Gradually, he started experimenting with an escape act.

Henry Houdini escape acts

His stunts eventually included freeing himself from chains, straightjackets under water, ropes hanging from tall buildings and being sealed up in a milk can. Another had him buried alive, digging his way to the surface, and air, in the nick of time.

He also made a series of movies, but stopped because they weren't big financial successes.

Henry Houdini movie posters

Amazingly, Houdini would always survive. What he couldn't survive was a series of rapid, hard punches to the gut.

Houdini was known for being able to take a punch, seen here with legendary boxer Jack Dempsey.

Henry Houdini getting punched by Jack Dempsey

However, Houdini died on Halloween, 1926 or peritonitis, which resulted from a ruptured appendix.

That happened about a week before when a college student named J. Gordon Whitehead delivered a series of sharp blows to Houdini's abdomen.

Whitehead had asked if it was true that blows to the stomach didn't hurt him. Houdini gave him the 1926 equivalent of "Go for it." Whitehead started delivering a series of hard blows below the belt. Houdini was reclining at the time and finally, wincing in pain, told Whitehead to stop.

Henry Houdini getting punched in the stomach

Although in severe pain, Houdini continued to perform and didn't see a doctor. When he did get medical attention, he had a fever of 102 and was told have immediate surgery. Houdini did a show instead. His fever spiked at 104 and Harry passed out on the stage of Detroit's Garrick Theater. He was revived and continued his act.

But he could not escape death. He was finally hospitalized at Detroit's Grace Hospital when the final curtain fell.

He's buried at Machpelah Cemetary in Ridegwood, Queens, New York.

Henry Houdini grave
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