The Metamorphosis or Substitution Trunk was Houdini's first major illusion. He first performed it with his early partners, Jacob Hyman and his brother Theo. When he married Bess Rahner in 1894, they performed the trick as a husband and wife act, The Houdinis.

In Metamorphosis, Houdini would have his hands tied, be roped into a sack, and then locked in a trunk. The trunk would be pushed into a curtain cabinet by Bess who would draw the curtains and clap her hands three times. Houdini would immediately appear free, and when the truck was opened, it would be Bess now sealed and tied in the sack. A coat borrowed from an audience member was also sometimes used, being placed on Houdini and then ending up on Bess.

Houdini and Bess performed Metamorphosis as their feature effect from 1894 to 1905, when it was replaced by the ill-fated Prison Cell & Barrel Mystery. But Houdini continued to perform it sporadically throughout his career, with notable revivals in 1914 and 1925-26.

The Metamorphosis is considered a classic of magic. It is still performed today with innovations that now make the exchange seem almost instantaneous.

When Bess got stuck in the Metamorphosis trunk.

Photos of Houdini's original Metamorphosis trunk.