When Houdini returned from Europe in 1914 to fulfill his regular summer booking at Hammerstein's Roof Garden and Victoria Theatre in New York, he revealed a dramatic new magic effect: Walking Through A Brick Wall. He performed the illusion for the first time during a matinee on July 13, 1914.
In the effect, a 9 foot high brick was rolled out on stage and placed atop a carpet (to insure no trap doors were used.) Audience members were invited onstage to examine both the wall and stage covering, some were even given hammers to test the wall's veracity. The audience members then surrounded the wall so all sides could be seen.
Houdini, dressed in a long white duster, took his place at one side of the wall. A screen was placed over the magician and another screen was placed on the opposite side of the wall. Houdini waved his hands above the screen and said, "Here I am." His hands then vanished and almost instantly reappeared from the screen on the other side. Both screens were pulled away to reveal that Houdini had seemingly walked through the wall. Billboard reported that, "The audience sat spellbound for fully two minutes after this feat was accomplished. They were too dumbfounded to applaud."
Walking Through Wall was not an original Houdini creation. He had purchased the secret from magician Sidney Josolyne, whose original plans called for a steel wall. Controversy would later erupt over whether the secret was Josolyne's to sell. Magician P.T. Selbit claimed to have invented it and accused Joselyne and Houdini of theft. This controversy, plus the fact that so many knew the secret, could be why Houdini only performed the illusion for this one week at Hammerstains. He then passed it to his brother Hardeen.
There have also been several notable modern interpretations of Walking Through A Brick Wall. Doug Henning did his own version during his third live television special in 1978. David Coppefield later walked through the Great Wall of China.
When Houdini walked through a brick wall (100th anniversary post)
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