Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Re the Birthdays...

Today is Houdini's other birthday. While we now know the great magician was born on March 24, 1874, Houdini himself always claimed his date of birth as April 6. In fact, it's possible Houdini didn't even know his real birthday.

Why this confusion exists is not clear. Some put it down to a confusion with the Jewish calendar in which March 24, 1874 was the 6th of Nisan. It's likely this is when Rabbi Weiss recorded the birth and somehow that became April 6. That's a pretty good explanation.

The true answer may be in letters from his mother, but that evidence is, literally, buried with him. All we have are Houdini's own words, written to his brother on November 22, 1913, not long after his mother's death:

Re the Birthdays, I shall celebrate mine? always APRIL 6th.

It hurts me to think I cant talk it over with Darling Mother as SHE always wrote me on April 6th, that will be my adopted birthdate.

April 6 remained Houdini "official" birthday until the late 1950s when the evidence of his birth certificate (discovered in 1932) became widely disseminated, and William Lindsay Gresham marked March 24 as his true birthday in his seminal biography, Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls. Today the date has become firmly established and April 6 has largely faded from history.

But April 6 was the day Houdini himself celebrated his birthday, and the date clearly held great personal significance for him. And if Houdini is able to look down and see if he's still remembered on his birthday, today is the day he will do it. So on this day I still say...

Happy birthday, Harry!



  1. I found it interesting that there was evidence that at least by 1910, both Bess and Harry knew what his real birthdate was but he kept up with the April 6 one anyway. And I think you're right about why too.

    You still come across the odd reference to the birthday being April 6. I guess not everyone got the memo.

    This is a good picture of him.

  2. I noticed the AP has posted a "This Day in History" video that pegs HH's birthday as today. How does one even make this mistake anymore? Time to update those files, AP.

  3. I applaud Houdini for cherishing his mother just like I did mine. And I truly think his letter tells us why April 6th. If he wanted to celebrate it then as that day was special to him due to his devotion to his dear mother, I see no valid reason to go against his wishes. What on earth would it accomplish anyway? Nothing. That's what. It's not like celebrating it on April 6th instead is illegal or immoral. His devotion to his dear mother is a testiment to what kind of a man he was as far as I'm concerned, so let him have his wish. James Randi, who I never cared for, especially for this, always refered to Houdini as a "mamma's boy". Well then, so am I, and I'm danged proud of it. I'm in real good company.
    Whitt Smith