Friday, November 23, 2018

Houdini's first police station challenge?

I shared this to my Twitter yesterday, but I thought it was worth a share here as well. This is the earliest police station challenge that I've been able to find. Was it the first? This comes from the November 22, 1895 Gloucester Daily Times.

As you can see, this is when Houdini and Bess where traveling with the ill-fated American Gaiety Girls burlesque show. Houdini was part owner of the troupe, and it appears his police station challenge was his attempt to drum up publicity for the show. It worked! Houdini would follow-up with similar tests in Woonsocket (Nov. 27), Springfield (Nov. 28), Holyoke (Dec. 1), and Fall River (Dec. 9). The rest is history.

UPDATE: The amazing Bill Mullins has found a police station escape a week earlier in Worcester.



  1. It's also clear Harry took a reporter with him to record the event and write up that article in the Gloucester Daily Times. It was 1895 and he was already perfecting the art of getting free publicity in the papers.

  2. Didn't MacNab write that this was the first one?

    1. Did he? Probably. We're both looking in the same place (HH's first scrapbook). It's the earliest known, but hard to conclude that it's THE first. Might have just been the first to make the papers.

  3. Page 66 of MacNab. He doesn't claim it's the first. Probably the first printed as you said.

  4. John--did you get that police station clipping from HH's first scrapbook?

  5. The year was 1895. At which point in time did Houdini learn to do the handcuff escape? I read in "New Ideas in Magic" by W.H.J. Shaw, the trick was done by other magicians at least a few years before this stunt.

    In fact, Shaw goes on to state that handcuff trick was first introduced by Joe Godfrey, followed by Louis Paul. I know that Samri Baldwin also did the handcuff escape. Did Houdini learn it from him? Or was it from another source?