What Was Unusual about Harry Houdini’s Death?

You could lock him in an iron chest and toss it into New York’s East River. You could hang him upside down in a tank of water, shackled. Or you could bury him in a hole six feet (1.8 m) deep. But you couldn’t outwit Harry Houdini, the most celebrated magician and escape artist of the 20th century. However, mortality finally caught up with Houdini in 1926, in an unexpected turn of events. During an informal talk with students in Montreal, he boasted about his rock-hard stomach, inviting a student to take his best shot. One of the punches ruptured Houdini's appendix and 12 days later, on 31 October 1926, he died. For the next decade, Houdini's wife, Bess, held yearly séances on Halloween, fulfilling an agreement that she and Harry had made before his death to try to contact each other from the afterlife.

An escape to the spirit world:

  • In 1936, after an unsuccessful séance on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles, Bess extinguished a candle that had burned next to Houdini's photograph since his death.
  • Bess claimed to have been contacted during a séance in 1929, but later admitted the whole thing had been faked.
  • The tradition of holding an annual Halloween séance for Houdini has been continued by magicians around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the cause of Harry Houdini's death?

Harry Houdini died from peritonitis, which is an inflammation of the peritoneum, the tissue lining the inner wall of the abdomen and covering most of the abdominal organs. His peritonitis was caused by a ruptured appendix. While it is often believed that a series of punches to his abdomen led to the rupture, medical opinions suggest that his appendix might have been already diseased. According to the official Houdini biography by Kenneth Silverman, Houdini's death was more likely due to appendicitis that he had ignored or misdiagnosed.

Why is Houdini's death considered unusual?

Houdini's death is considered unusual because it was indirectly related to his famous ability to withstand blows to the abdomen. A college student tested this claim by striking Houdini multiple times before he could prepare himself, possibly exacerbating an existing appendicitis condition. The unexpected nature of this event, combined with Houdini's legendary status as an escape artist who seemed invincible, adds to the unusual circumstances surrounding his death.

Did Houdini die during a performance?

No, Harry Houdini did not die during a performance. He died on October 31, 1926, at Grace Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. However, his final performance was on October 24, 1926, at the Garrick Theatre in Detroit. Despite being in severe pain and having a fever, Houdini performed that night but was hospitalized shortly after the show. His death a week later was due to complications from the ruptured appendix.

Has the theory that Houdini was murdered been substantiated?

The theory that Harry Houdini was murdered has been a topic of speculation, but it has not been substantiated with concrete evidence. Some have theorized that spiritualists, whom Houdini openly debunked, may have had a motive to harm him. However, there is no credible evidence to support the claim of murder, and the prevailing belief among historians is that his death was due to natural causes related to his appendicitis.

What impact did Houdini's death have on the public and the world of magic?

Harry Houdini's death had a profound impact on the public and the world of magic. As an iconic figure known for his death-defying stunts and escapes, his sudden demise shocked and saddened fans worldwide. It also marked the end of an era for the golden age of magic. Houdini's legacy continued to inspire magicians and entertainers, and his death has been the subject of numerous books, films, and theatrical performances, cementing his status as a legendary figure in entertainment history.

More Info: History.com

Discussion Comments


Interesting story but I would like to know if they had any contact from afterlife!

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