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How Did Harry Houdini Pass Away?
And His Untimely Demise REMEMBERING THE WORLD’S GREATEST MAGICIAN
The idea of magic has captivated audiences for generations. Their tricks and illusions defy not only common reasoning but sometimes even death itself. While we’ve had the opportunity to watch some great magicians on television or at live performances in Las Vegas, few have left a greater impact on spectators than Harry Houdini. Houdini got his first taste of the spotlight when he was only 9 years old as a trapeze artist. Before long, he moved on to card tricks and then even started experimenting with escape tricks using handcuffs — which proved to be a big hit. He continued to advance his escape artist skills until he ended up touring across America and Europe. Although Houdini repeatedly defied death in his shows for a number of years, it finally caught up to him in 1926. During a show in Albany, New York, Houdini shattered his ankle while performing his famous Chinese water torture cell trick. He finished the show and continued his tour which took him to Canada where he gave a lecture in Montreal, Quebec. He spoke with some of the students after, and someone asked about his alleged ability to withstand hard punches to the abdomen. According to a witness, Sam Smilovitz, when Houdini confirmed that the rumors were true, a student named J. Gordon Whitehead abruptly delivered “four or five terribly forcible, deliberate, well-directed blows” to Houdini’s stomach. According to reports, he’d been sitting — probably because of his recently injured ankle — and had no time to prepare for the punches.
Houdini didn’t think twice about the incident, but later that night he reported discomfort in his abdomen. Despite worsening symptoms, he pressed on to Detroit, Michigan, and got a fever of 104 degrees F, cold
sweats, and even fatigue. During the opening night of his show in Detroit,
Houdini promptly collapsed. He was taken to the hospital where doctors removed his appendix which they confirmed
had ruptured a few days prior. Unfortunately, he passed away from peritonitis shortly after this on Halloween. Some people believe his appendix might have ruptured with or without the blows from J. Gordon Whitehead, but many historians still believe that this is what caused Houdini’s ultimate demise.
Houdini’s memory still lives on almost a century after his death. We’ll likely never see another magician who can amaze and bewitch a global audience in the same manner — he was surely one of a kind.
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