Harry Houdini Was A Well-Known Escape Artist, But What Led To His Death?

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding Houdini’s career and performances but the thing that intrigues us most is his death.

Credit Credit

While we will never know how he escaped and survived during many of his famous stunts, we know little to nothing of how he died. I suppose that is the way he would have wanted it to be, shrouded in mystery like the man himself. After defying death with his antics many times during his career, the Hungarian-born American finally met his fate on, of all days, Halloween in 1926.

Again, his death almost appears as contrived as his performances, dying on Halloween. The most common understanding is that his death was the result of complications resulting from a ruptured appendix. Of course, with a legend such as Houdini was, there are a variety of alternate theories including him being murders by psychics or the fairly common belief that he died when a stunt went wrong.

Houdini kept audiences spell bound with extravagant last minute escapes and a range of truly death defying stunts. For more than 30 year he performed seemingly impossible feats by squeezing out of water filled milk cans, bridge jumps with leg shackles and handcuffs and all manner of bizarre escape acts. The name Houdini is now synonymous with anyone capable of any form of great escape.

Houdini Showing How To Escape Handcuffs Credit

Many times in his career he came very close to death including one particular stunt where he was chained and shackled before being buried, literally six feet under. He escaped that one but came very close to suffocating. Of course, dramas such as these only increased his fame and popularity. A few weeks prior to his untimely death he was injured while performing his famous Chinese Water Torture Cell escape trick when a broken piece of equipment hit him in the leg, fracturing his left ankle.

Despite doctors advising against it, the showman continued his tour. Still suffering from a painful ankle, Houdini relaxed on a couch in Montreal where he was talking to a group of students from McGill University that had attended his earlier lecture. A student by the name of J. Gordon Whitehead asked Houdini if the rumours of him being able to withstand punches to his abdomen were true, to which Houdini replied that they were. Without allowing him any time to prepare, the student promptly proceeded to punch Houdini 4 to 5 times.

The sudden and powerful blows apparently left Houdini looking as if he was in severe pain. Still Houdini insisted on continuing his tour and proceeded to Detroit where is performed his show with a temperature of 104 degrees. As the curtain closed on the show he collapsed. He was rushed to hospital and his appendix was removed but he died on 31 October. So, like much of his life and his shows, we will never know the full story of Houdini’s tragic and untimely death.