Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Watch Houdini's L.A. Examiner straitjacket escape

Today I have another excerpt from 'High Lights in the Strenuous Career of Harry Houdini, Edited and Compiled by Houdini's Brother Hardeen'. This rare footage comes from the collection of escape artist Rick Maisel who has kindly granted me permission to share select clips here on WILD ABOUT HARRY.

There is no shortage of film showing Houdini's suspended straitjacket escapes. It's possible he filmed every one of these outdoor stunts, which by my current count numbers 67! Much of this film exists in unidentified fragments. But what we have here is something very special. Not a second of this film has ever been seen before, and the location is....well, I will let you watch and see if you recognize it for yourself.

Okay, so this is Houdini's famous suspended straitjacket escape from the Los Angeles Examiner building on April 4, 1923. Houdini was performing at the nearby Orpheum Theater at this time. This was his second suspended straitjacket escape in the city (the first being in 1915). And before someone puts it in the comments, yes, this is the Pawn Stars straitjacket he's using this day.

Front page coverage in the Los Angeles Examiner, April 5, 1923.

What makes this footage extra special is the Examiner building is still standing. In fact, the building has recently undergone a massive restoration and now houses its first new tenant (ASU). In preparation for this post, I visited the site on Sunday and and took a few few pics. It looks great and I'd say this is one of the best surviving Houdini stunt locations. And now we have film from that day!

Thanks to Brad Hansen of Retro Cars Forever for his editing assistance. A playlist of these clips can be found on the WILD ABOUT HARRY YouTube Channel. And there's more to come!



  1. Absolutely incredible to see. Thank you John, Rick and Brad for making this possible. Can't wait for more to be shared.

  2. I wonder why he did it at the Examiner rather than the Times. I guess it's marginally closer to the Orpheum. Or did Hearst give him more ink than the Otises?

    1. I think he knew the Examiner would offer better coverage. And he seems to have had relationship with the Hearst papers. He also did an Examiner escape in San Francisco.

    2. Hey John! Grab a Sharpie and let's connect some dots. A few weeks after this suspended straitjacket escape, HH will hit the Ambassador Hotel to perform his shackled escape from the diving board into the pool. He was busy that April in L.A.


    3. He also took that mysterious photo at the First Spiritualist Church in LA and gave his spiritualism lecture at the Hillstreet this month.