Harry Houdini, the remarkable illusionist who stunned international audiences with his death-defying escape act, was shackled eternally by the Grim Reaper on this Halloween in history, Oct. 31, 1926.

“As one of the outstanding personages of the American stage, [Houdini’s] popularity lasted for a quarter-century,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in its obituary of the performer, considered by many the greatest magician in history. 

“Houdini counted among his audiences the royalty of Europe and Asia.”

Harry Houdini’s cause of death was peritonitis, caused by a ruptured appendix. 

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY, OCT. 29, 1886, STATUE OF LIBERTY UNVEILED TO THE US

But questions continue to surround the bizarre circumstances of Houdini’s death at age 52, including suggestions by some fans that the celebrated performer was murdered. 

Houdini had just given a lecture at McGill University in Montreal and met with students after the appearance.

Hungarian-born American magician, escape artist and psychic debunker Harry Houdini (1874-1926) showed his handcuffs as he stood in a wooden box on a boat and prepared to be submerged, a predicament from which he would escape to the delight of onlookers, East River, July 7, 1912. 
(Photo by FPG/Getty Images)

The muscular magician was known to boast that his stomach was so strong that he could withstand a blow from any man. 

“One student, Joselyn Gordon Whitehead, asked if he could take a punch and immediately Houdini nodded an assent,” wrote PBS News Hour in a 2019 online account of the escape artist’s death. 

MEET THE AMERICAN WHO CONJURED UP ‘LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW’: WASHINGTON IRVING, FIRST US CELEBRITY AUTHOR

“The student hit the great magician twice but before he had a chance to tighten his abdominal muscles and brace himself. The ‘hammer-like’ punches caused visible pain and Houdini stopped Whitehead in mid-blow on the third attempt to punch his gut.”

The pain only worsened as Houdini endured a 15-hour train ride to Detroit. 

Harry Houdini in movie art for the film "Haldane Of The Secret Service," 1923. 

Harry Houdini in movie art for the film “Haldane Of The Secret Service,” 1923. 
(Houdini Picture Corporation/Getty Images)

He was soon diagnosed with acute appendicitis.

Yet he performed one more show before being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery on Oct. 24.

“Houdini counted among his audiences the royalty of Europe and Asia.” 

It was too late. Houdini’s appendix had already ruptured. 

He died a week later from the infection.

“Whitehead was not charged in the incident and lived out a solitary life in Montreal,” reported the active fan site WildAboutHoudini.com. 

SPIRIT HALLOWEEN MEME SENSATION SWEEPS THE INTERNET AS USERS SHARE FAKE COSTUMES

Medical research today indicates it’s exceedingly rare for blunt trauma to cause appendicitis. But in the 1920s, it was widely perceived that Whitehead’s punches killed Houdini.

“The poor medical student probably went to his grave thinking he had deprived the world of the great Harry Houdini,” wrote PBS.

The magician was born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874 and raised in Appleton, Wisconsin.

"Houdini had made a career out of surviving the impossible, which only made the circumstances of his 1926 death all the more mysterious."

“Houdini had made a career out of surviving the impossible, which only made the circumstances of his 1926 death all the more mysterious.”
(Getty Images)

His demise under such unexpected yet mundane circumstances is all the more shocking in light of his career spent defying death — or least appearing to defy death.

“The Hungarian-born escape artist jumped off bridges while handcuffed and wearing leg irons, slithered out of sealed milk cans filled with water, and devised a ‘Chinese Water Torture Cell’ in which he was submerged and suspended upside down by his ankles,” reported History.com.

GAME ON! CHECK OUT THESE MIND-BENDING PUZZLES AND OPTICAL ILLUSIONS

“The heart-pounding getaways usually involved a healthy dose of trickery and sleight-of-hand, but they were also fraught with genuine risk.”

American conjuror Harry Houdini (1874-1926) here with chains, c. 1906. 

American conjuror Harry Houdini (1874-1926) here with chains, c. 1906. 
(Photo by APIC/Getty Images)

Many fans hoped to hear Houdini speak from the afterlife. 

“Famous in life for his improbable escapes from physical constraints, the illusionist promised his wife, Bess, that — if at all possible — he would also slip the shackles of death to send her a coded message from the beyond,” Smithsonian Magazine noted in a 2021 chronicle of his unusual life and bizarre death. 

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR OUR LIFESTYLE NEWSLETTER

But Bess Houdini, who married the magician in 1894 and who also served as his stage assistant, was left disappointed in the end.

“Houdini promised wife Bess to send her a coded message from the beyond.”

As Smithsonian further noted: “On Halloween 1936 she finally gave up, declaring to the world, ‘Houdini did not come through … I do not believe that Houdini can come back to me, or to anyone.’”

Houdini is buried at Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York, where his grave has become a site of pilgrimages and Halloween rituals among the magician community. 

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The cemetery is now closed on Halloween, however, because of repeated acts of vandalism at Houdini’s grave on October 31. 

“Houdini had made a career out of surviving the impossible, which only made the circumstances of his 1926 death all the more mysterious,” wrote History.com in a biography of a performer celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic.  

Leave a Reply