Historical Events  People

It's recorded today that Houdini died as a result of a freak incident where he was struck in the stomach as a strength test, but this burst his appendix, causing his demise a few days later. Some are saying they remember it differently, and instead he drowned during one of his stage acts. Are they experiencing a Mass Memory Discrepancy Effect?

There might be a straight forward explanation for this one.

He couldn't escape death - but just how did he die?

In 1953, Tony Curtis starred in a popular movie of Houdini's life, and critics have consistently pointed out several factual errors in the film. It shows him dying on stage in the arms of his wife after nearly drowning in a water tank escape trick.

As time went by, it could just be that more people first encountered Houdini the way they saw him in the movie, so the blame for this one lies at the door of Hollywood's artistic license.


Born in Budapest in 1874, Erc Wiesz arrive in the US when he was 4 in 1978 and is family changed their Jewish name to Weiss because it sounded more German. Five years later, "Ehrich, the Prince of the Air" made his first public appearance as the 9 year old trapeze artist Eric Wiess. In 1891, Wiess began his magic career under the name Harry Houdini, Eric having taken the name of a French magician, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin  and added an "i" at the end thinking this meant "similar" in French.

Houdini's career as a magician wasn't much of a success. He married in 1984 and his wife, Bess, became part of his act that lasted the rest of his career. He began trying out extra ventures with his acts, including escaping from various contraptions. He perfected these but still didn't get any real exposure, until one fateful day in 1899 when he was spotted by a professional talent manager, Martin Beck. Beck told Houdini to drp everything and concentrate on the escape routines. and booked him into some top shows. He became world famous within a year.


Houdini is recorded as dying on October 31st, 1926 at 1:26pm. The cause of death was peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix. His last words were "I'm tired of fighting. I do not want to fight anymore.". The circumstances are tragic. Word was out Houdini could withstand blows to the stomach, and he was lying on a couch having broken his ankle when a student suddenly started thumping him in the stomach. Houdini claimed he hadn't had the chance to prepare, and in particular couldn't stand because of his ankle. Expecting to recover, he actually performed that night but was in great pain. The pain continued for days, but Houdini continued performing and did not seek medical advice. On his last stage show, he passed out but continued after he was revived. This incident might have contributed to the notion he actually died whilst on stage.