Friday, September 19, 2014

Houdini's last suspended straitjacket escape?

Here's a clipping from The Indianapolis News showing Houdini performing a suspended straitjacket escape above a crowd of 12,000 on April 2, 1925. This is pretty late in Houdini's career, and I'm thinking this could be his last suspended straitjacket escape. In fact, before I discovered this clipping, I would have said he didn't do a suspended jacket escape beyond 1923.

Click to enlarge.

In a follow-up article published on April 6 (Houdini's 51st birthday), the magician praised the paper for helping draw the record crowd that day:

"It is a wonderful tribute to The Indianapolis News for, with only one day's publicity exploiting my performance, The News drew between 12,000 and 15,000 people in front of its building last Thursday at noon. I have performed similar feats in cities all over the world, usually with a week's heralding. The News announced my intended public appearance in last Wednesday's issues alone. On Thursday we had the show. The pictures tell the story."

Speaking of pictures, Houdini awarded photographer Robert A. Twente $10 for the best photograph taken that day. Houdini presented Twente his prize from the stage of B.F. Keith's Theatre on the Saturday following the stunt. Runner-up prizes of $5 and $2.50 where award to Turner D. Bottome and the Coburn Photo Company respectively.

Robert Twente's prize winning photo.

I admit I haven't tried all that hard to confirm or deny whether this really was Houdini's final suspended straitjacket escape. So if someone wants to drill down deeper and find evidence for or against...Houdini may award you a $10 prize!

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17 comments:

  1. Do you have any info on how many times he did it in NYC and on what dates?

    Phil

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    1. Houdini had a lot of trouble getting permission to do the jacket escape in NYC. The first time he was able to manage it was Nov. 5, 1917, when he tied it into a charity event. This might have been the only time he did it in NYC, although I'm not sure about that. Houdini in New York

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    2. Houdini also did a suspended strait-jacket escape during his last trip to Dallas in October of 1924. He was there for the State Fair's Magician's Day, where he also gave a passionate lecture against Spiritualism. At that time, Dallas was home to an excellent French restaurant, the Golden Pheasant, which he claimed as one of his inducements to play there.

      -Meredith

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    3. 1924…also pretty late.

      So Houdini liked French cooking? Always enjoy learning these little things. Thanks Meredith. :)

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  2. The photo of the crowd is incredible! It's interesting to see that at this point in his career, he has already become a living legend. The copy begins, "Houdini, the world's greatest escape artist…" It's like saying Calvin Coolidge is the 30th president of the US. They're both a statement of fact.

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  3. I think the Indianapolis News exaggerated the crowd capacity. If you examine the photo, you might see a 1,000--but 12,000 in that street? Are you kidding me?

    In 1925 money, Mr. Twente won something like $133.00. Not bad for a prize.

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  4. Actually a quick estimate of the people in that second photo is around 3000 so it's quite possible if the entire street is full that many more were watching Houdini that day. 12000 may not be an exaggeration. I see that some always seem to think everything Houdini ever did was exaggerated. In some cases this may be true but to automatically assume it's always the case is doing a great disservice to the Houdini legacy. Perry from NJ.

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  5. Houdini exaggerated on many counts and sometimes even lied. Those that take his accounts with a grain of salt would be well within reason to doubt at least some of his stories. I don't see what appears to be 12,000 people in both photos. How did you estimate 3,000 in the second photo?

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  6. Again constantly making that claim hurts the Houdini legacy. Some things we know we're exaggerated many we don't. Why claim constantly every event is an exaggeration when no real evidence exists? You don't know how many people were packed shoulder to shoulder that day watching Houdini yet you jump to claim the number reported was exaggerated. Why do so? (And you do so constantly). Basic numerical estimation tells me there were thousands just in that one photo.

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  7. We know that Houdini never really was trapped under the ice after the Belle Island Bridge jump. The late Robert Lund uncovered the true story through microfilm records that appeared on the front page of the November 27, 1906 Detroit News. Houdini jumped into the water with a lifeline tied around his waist. There was no mention in the article of the river being iced over.

    Houdini also took credit for the plane to plane transfer crash from the Grim Game when he actually never left the ground. A year after the mishap, he told an interviewer for Picture Show magazine "I was dangling from the rope end ready for the leap..."
    You bet Perry.

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  8. For the third time........we know there were exaggerations. It's another thing altogether to immediately say everything associated with Houdini has been exaggerated which is what you do in almost every post you make. As only one example you see a street full of people watching Houdini perform and without knowing the truth you immediately claim the number watching him is exaggerated 12 fold. What's your agenda? I am sure I am not the only one who has noticed your bias to slam the Houdini legacy every chance you get.

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    1. Hmmm…getting a little flammey here, guys. That's not typical of this place. I know it got intense during the miniseries when we had new people and tone of things became more opinion based and negative, but I hoping we will go back to being super civil, especially to one another, in these comments.

      As to the crowd. Probably an exaggeration. But we also might not being seeing the entire crowd in these photos. When you watch film of these escapes, the camera pans over a sea of people that stretches for blocks.

      Funny how few people a suspended straitjacket escape attracts today. You'd be lucky to draw a few dozen.

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    2. I bet that if David Blaine announced to the press that he was planning on performing a suspended straitjacket escape, or "Houdini's" straitjacket escape, he'd get quite a crowd. I'd watch.

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    3. That's true. Blaine knows how to draw a crowd. But I think part of his success with his own outdoor stunts is he's doing something completely unique, much as Houdini's straitjacket escape was unique in his day. I'd be a little let down if he did a suspended jacket escape. I wanna see that dude in ice!

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    4. Frozen suspended jacket escape!

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  9. I think Perry might be having a bad day. I suggested that the Indianapolis News exaggerated the amount of people in the crowd--not Houdini.

    Getting to the truth is not an attack on anybody.

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    1. I've had some who think I'm defaming Houdini or somehow hurting his legacy when I do posts such as the one in which I questioned whether the Scotland Yard handcuff escape really happened. I understand the fear. But I don't think peeling away the myths or going deeper hurts Houdini in any way. It usually reveals an even more interesting, and more human, story.

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