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Harry Houdini (1874-1926) performance poster. "Do spirits return? Houdini says no - and proves it. 3 shows in one: magic, illusions, escapes, fraud mediums exposed. Lyceum Theatre, Paterson, Thurs., Fri., Sat., Sept. 2-3-4, matinee Saturday." Ghostbuster. Harry Houdini (March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926, born Erik Weisz later spelled Ehrich Weiss) was a Hungarian American magician and escapologist, stunt performer, actor and film producer. He was also a skeptic who set out to expose frauds purporting to be supernatural phenomena. Harry Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary in a Jewish family. A copy of his birth certificate was found and published in The Houdini Birth Research Committee's Report. (1972). As to his birth date, from 1907 onwards, Houdini claimed in interviews to have been born in Appleton, Wisconsin, on April 6, 1874. He was really born on March 24, 1874. Harry Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary in a Jewish family. A copy of his birth certificate was found and published in The Houdini Birth Research Committee's Report. (1972). As to his birth date, from 1907 onwards, Houdini claimed in interviews to have been born in Appleton, Wisconsin, on April 6, 1874. He was really born on March 24, 1874.
Houdini's father was Rabbi Mayer (Mayo) Samuel Weiss (1829–1892), and his mother was Cecilia Steiner (1841–1913). Ehrich had six siblings: Herman M. (1863-1885); Nathan J. Weiss (1870–1927); Gottfried William Weiss (1872–1925); Theodore "Dash" Weiss (1876–1945); Leopold D. Weiss (1879–1962); and Gladys Carrie Weiss (1882-?).
He immigrated with his family to the United States on July 3, 1878, at the age of four, on the SS Fresia with his mother (who was pregnant) and his four brothers. Houdini's name was listed as Ehrich Weiss. Friends called him "Ehrie" or "Harry." In 1918 he registered for selective service as Harry Handcuff Houdini. From 1907 and throughout the 1910s, Houdini performed with great success in the United States. He would free himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in plain sight of street audiences. Because of imitators and a dwindling audience, on January 25, 1908, Houdini put his "handcuff act" behind him and began escaping from a locked, water-filled milk can. The possibility of failure and death thrilled his audiences. Houdini also expanded his challenge escape act - in which he invited the public to devise contraptions to hold him - to include nailed packing crates (sometimes lowered into the water), riveted boilers, wet-sheets, mailbags, and even the belly of a Whale that washed ashore in Boston. Brewers challenged Houdini to escape from his milk can after they filled it with beer. Many of these challenges were prearranged with local merchants in what is certainly one of the first uses of mass tie-in marketing. Rather than promote the idea that he was assisted by spirits, as did the Davenport Brothers and others, Houdini's advertisements showed him making his escapes via dematerializing, although Houdini himself never claimed to have supernatural powers. In the 1920s, after the death of his mother, Cecilia, he turned his energies toward debunking self-proclaimed psychics and mediums, a pursuit that would inspire and be followed by later-day conjurers. Houdini's training in magic allowed him to expose frauds who had successfully fooled many scientists and academics. He was a member of a Scientific American committee that offered a cash prize to any medium who could successfully demonstrate supernatural abilities. None was able to do so, and the prize was never collected. The first to be tested was medium George Valentine of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. As his fame as a "ghostbuster" grew, Houdini took to attending séances in disguise, accompanied by a reporter and police officer. Possibly the most famous medium whom he debunked was the Boston medium Mina Crandon, also known as "Margery". Houdini chronicled his debunking exploits in his book, A Magician Among the Spirits.
These activities cost Houdini the friendship of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle, a firm believer in Spiritualism during his later years, refused to believe any of Houdini's exposés. Conan Doyle came to believe that Houdini was a powerful spiritualist medium, had performed many of his stunts by means of paranormal abilities and was using these abilities to block those of other mediums that he was 'debunking' (see Conan Doyle's The Edge of The Unknown, published in 1931, after Houdini's death). This disagreement led to the two men becoming public antagonists. Description Source Wikipedia