The article kicks off with Houdini saying: "If we expect to have the health of the nation, we will have to make some radical changes in our present mode of civilization." He then describes his own health rituals.
"I believe that I owe my tremendous strength, health and success to 'CLEAN LIVING.' I have never used tobacco, alcohol, or liquors of any kind in my life. I drink all the water I can possibly take, and particularly in the morning upon arising and at night upon retiring. I have never eaten salt or pepper, and I have always considered it a matter of common sense that condiments of all kinds would irritate the delicate membrane and tissues inside the body. I always eat whole grain bread, never white, and I have found that the eating of raw bran is especially fine for the bowels. I never eat white bread or drink coffee and a large part of my diet consists of fruits of all kinds. I always carry oranges when traveling and for my lunch in rush hours I eat bananas. I find that raw foods give me greater strength than cooked foods.
In my home in New York, which is a four story building, I have my library and office on the top floor. I am quite a book-worm, and I do a great deal of studying. I have to walk down the four flights for my meals, and that gives me exercise which strengthens the muscles in my limbs and keeps my wind in shape. In fact I never use and elevator when I can use the stairway. I have my desk built high so that I am obliged to stand while using it, and this prevents me from becoming stiff and sluggish from sitting down too much. I take a great deal of exercise in the form of hikes and swimming, and I am especially fond of tennis. When I am on the road I always try and secure a room on the top floor, whenever possible, for the air is fresher and purer and I get away from the smoke and dirt. When sleeping, my windows are always wide open and I open them when I go out in order to ventilate the room while I'm away."
After expressing his belief that all children should be taught to swim (by law) and be trained to be ambidextrous (as he claims he is), Houdini turns his attention to health and architecture.
"Our present-day architecture is all wrong from a health standpoint. Most of the homes today get very little, if any, sunlight. The landlords of today build their houses in such a manner as to utilize every inch of space, making most, if not all rooms inside, so as to squeeze all the rent out of their tenants and the sunshine, air and health as well. If we are to have real health, we must make radical changes in the building of our homes. I am building an eight-room house for myself in the country near New York. It will be two stories, and the top of the house will be built so that it revolves, every room getting two hours of sunlight each day. The closets will be built in the center of the house on the first floor, making all rooms outside rooms. Sunlight kills microbes and germs. The Aborigines, or prehistoric savages, lived within the natural forces. They made their cures through nature's remedies--sunlight, air, water and foods in their natural state as God grew them, and I believe those things we must use if we hope to have health, strength, and I might add happiness, for one cannot be happy if he is in ill-health. When I have finished the building of my health house, I will be happy to have any of the Back To Nature readers come and see it, and if they like, pattern one after it for themselves."
There's so much to love here!
First, I've never heard anything about this "health house" before. I suspect it only existed in Houdini's mind. I've also seen many references to Houdini drinking coffee. His rejection of condiments seems a little wacky. But his swearing off of white bread in favor of whole grains is downright modern. So too his belief in the benefits of fruit and raw foods. One wonders how radical these ideas were back then?
But I do think Houdini is playing a bit to his audience here. In a 1907 letter to Bess, he describes a meal in Chicago that hardly sounds like the diet of a health nut:
"Had spaghetti dinner, roast beef and mashed potatoes, washed down with excellent coffee and lady fingers inserted in cream."
Thanks to Arthur Moses for sharing this healthy find.