Monday, December 4, 2023

Houdini's Denver dives

On October 13, 1907, Houdini leapt manacled from the roof of the band pavilion at Denver's City Lake Park. The stunt was similar to his leap just a few weeks earlier in Los Angeles. But it wasn't advertised. Houdini did this jump primarily for newspapermen and photographers on the day he arrived in the city. This resulted in terrific coverage, as seen below.

The Denver Post, Oct. 14, 1907

The photos taken that day by Daily News staff photographer Ralph Baird were enlarged and displayed in the lobby of the Denver Orpheum. (Including the image at the top of this post, which I'm excited to confirm is Denver.) But The News felt the public would like to see Houdini perform the feat for themselves, so they arranged for him to repeat the stunt on Sunday, Oct. 20. It was unusual for Houdini to repeat an outdoor stunt during the same engagement, but he agreed to do so.

The Daily News, Oct. 17, 1907

It's interesting to see that Houdini wanted a ladder placed atop the pavilion this time so he could make a higher jump. During the first jump, he had hit the bottom of the lake. However, at the last moment, Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer objected to the stunt.

The Daily News, Oct. 20, 1907

Houdini stayed out of the controversy, but The News took the mayor to task for what it saw as his hypocrisy. In an Oct. 31st editorial called "Awake at Last," the paper sarcastically congratulated the mayor for suddenly waking up to the city's blue laws and how he would now, no doubt, close down the saloons and gambling halls that line his pockets. They conclude:

And there are any number of other things for the mayor to do, now that he has taken this high moral resolve. And it thrills us with joy to know that we were the unwilling instruments bringing this great good to the city. [...] Why, oh, why didn't we think of the Houdini jump sooner, and get the mayor's conscience waked up two years ago, in time to keep him from helping steal the franchises? But it's awake now; that's one comfort. There should be notable doings in the city pretty quick.

Mayor Spreer

Mayor Spreer survived the scandal and became the only Denver mayor elected to three terms. However, he didn't survive the 1918 flu pandemic and passed away during his third term.

The site of Houdini's Denver leap still exists today. While the pavilion has been rebuilt, it is, presumably, still in the same spot. A terrific Denver Houdini location. Maybe the current mayor, Mike Johnson, can put a historical plaque in the pavilion commemorating Houdini's October 13, 1907 leap and make up for his predecessor denying the citizens of Denver that second jump? Just an idea!

Want more? You can view or download an assortment of newspaper clippings from Houdini's 1907 Denver appearance as a "Scholar" member of my Patreon below. Thanks to my patrons for supporting content like this.

Photo at the top of this post from the McCord-Stewart Museum.


  1. HH in his preferred white Bermuda shorts for jumping. I've seen photos of him jumping from a riverboat, bridges, and a rowboat in his white trunks. The full body bathing suit was a year away.

    Interesting that Mayor Spreer was getting a cut from the saloons, and gambling joints. A percentage of the take?

    1. Good observation about the bathing trunks. I can't think of an appearance of the one-piece until Boston in '08.

    2. Yes the Harvard Bridge jump April 30, 1908 in the one-piece red bathing suit. We see him in the full body bathing suit again in Australia.

  2. So fascinated by him.i wish there was more interest in his amazing feats.npthing could ever compare