Buried Alive

Houdini was fascinated with the idea of doing a stunt in which he would escape being be buried alive. But he had trouble developing the idea into a practical feat.

His first attempt was an elaborate stage escape that would see him strapped in a straitjacket, sealed in a casket, and then buried under "tons of sand" inside a large locked vault. While Houdini created a colorful poster advertising the escape in 1914 (right), it's unclear if he ever performed it at this time.

In 1915 Houdini submitted to an outdoor test in which he was manacled and buried in a "grave" six feet deep. As he struggled to dig himself free, he became exhausted and called for help. But he could not be heard. He struggle on and when his hand finally broke the surface, he was pulled unconscious from the grave by his assistants. Houdini wrote in his diary that the escape was "very dangerous" and that "the weight of the earth is killing."

In 1926 Houdini's performed a buried alive endurance test to expose Rahman Bey, a mystic who claimed to use supernatural powers to remain in a sealed casket for an hour. Houdini bettered Bey by remaining in a casket submerged in the swimming pool of New York's Hotel Shelton for 91 minutes. He repeated the feat at the Worcester YMCA on September 28, 1926. He did a third test out of water at Summerfield's Furniture Co. in Worcester on Sept. 30, 1926.

Riding the success and publicity generated by the Bey test, Houdini decided to revive his 1914 stage-bound version of the Buried Alive ("Egyptian Fakirs Outdone!"). Many sources say Houdini never performed the stunt, but this is not true. Houdini performed his Buried Alive at least twice at the Majestic Theater in Boston and in Worcester during September 1926.

It's likely the Buried Alive would have became a regular feature of Houdini's "3 Shows in One" during its 1926-27 Coast to Coast tour, possibly replacing the Water Torture Cell for good. But Houdini died in October of 1926. His body was reportedly buried in the casket that he used for his Buried Alive escape.

The Shelton pool test at 90

Houdini on being Buried Alive: "I like it very much."

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