On view June 24, 2018 – January 21, 2019
Harry Houdini wasn’t born. He was invented.
The world’s most famous magician began life as Erik Weisz, the son of a Hungarian rabbi. In 1878 immigration to the U.S. transformed Erik Weisz into Ehrich Weiss. It was the first of many transformations for the man who would become the first international superstar.
Inescapable, curated by local performer and magician David London, tells the story of how Ehrich Weiss became Harry Houdini and investigates the technologies, marketing prowess and entertainment trends that transformed him into a superstar. On one level, the exhibit is pure fun – incorporating magic, escapes, seances, films, rare artifacts and hands-on illusions. On a deeper level, the exhibit pulls back the curtain, revealing the story of the man behind the image.
In addition to the exploration of his early life, visitors will find sections illuminating stages of his life and career:
- Setting the Stage describing the struggles of Houdini’s early life and the difficulties faced by his father, artifacts include a Hebrew bible that belonged to Rabbi Weiss.
- The Self Liberator featuring a spectacular display of reproduction posters, photos and press clippings, as well as original apparatus, including a straitjacket and milk can that he used in his performances.
- On the Cutting Edge investigates his exploration of new technologies and also features clips from his film career and a chance to listen to a rare recording of his voice.
- Houdini’s Third Act: Exposing Frauds showcases his crusade against deceptive spiritual mediums.
- The Final Bow/Curtain Call sets the record straight on the events that led to his death and explores the séances to contact him by his wife, Bess.
- Houdini in Maryland shines a spotlight on his appearances in the state where he performed close to 100 shows during his career. This section also features Houdini’s personal diary from 1898 turned to the page recording his first tour of Maryland (before his success) where he where he repeatedly reports “no dinner,” as he could not afford to eat.
Throughout the exhibit, visitors also will have the opportunity to try out some of Houdini’s magic tricks, including the world’s smallest version of Houdini’s biggest illusion – making a five-ton elephant “vanish.”
The museum has also revealed a slate of related public programs, one of which features yours truly:
Speaker David Saltman
Sunday, July 15th at 1pm
Mrs. Houdini: The Woman Behind the Magician
Speaker: Victoria Kelly
Sunday, July 29th at 1pm
Street Show, Sideshow, Stage Show
Speaker: James Taylor
Sunday, October 7th at 1pm
Speaker: Ken Trombly
Sunday, October 21st at 1pm
Houdini in Hollywood
Speaker: John Cox
Sunday, November 4th at 1pm
Film Screening: The Grim Game
Sunday, November 4th at 2pm
Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini runs June 24, 2018 to January 21, 2019. For more information visit the Jewish Museum of Maryland website.