Harry Houdini died on Halloween Day October 31st, 1926 at 1:26 pm. Although there is a great deal of information about his life, there seems to be a lot of misinformation about his death. In this article, we seek to clarify the details of Houdini’s death.
Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born escape artist. He immigrated to the United States on July 3rd, 1878. His real name was Erik Weisz. Young Erik Weisz was in excellent physical condition. In fact, he was a champion cross-country runner. At the age of nine, Erik began performing as a trapeze artist.
At some point, Erik became interested in magic and by the time he was seventeen he had begun performing magic professionally. He took the stage name “Houdini” in homage to the French magician Robert-Houdin.
To demonstrate his physical prowess, Houdini often invited strongmen to deliver their best punch to his stomach. He would absorb the blow to the astonishment of the crowd and appear unscathed.
On October 22nd, 1926 Houdini was confronted by Jocelyn Gordon Whitehead while relaxing in his dressing room. Whitehead asked Houdini if he “believed in the miracles of the Bible” and if it was true that punches in the stomach did not hurt him. Whitehead then attacked Houdini striking him several times in the abdomen while he was still reclining. This incident may have contributed significantly to Houdini’s death.
A few days later Houdini came down with appendicitis. No one knows for sure if the punches to the stomach could have caused this or perhaps aggravated a pre-existing condition. What we do know is that Houdini refused immediate surgery for the condition, as recommended by his doctor. Instead, he insisted on performing a show at the Gerrick Theater in Detroit.
The Show Must Go On
On October 24th, 1926 Houdini performed his act at the theater even though he had a fever of 104°F. He had been in severe pain for several days and was unable to sleep. During his performance, he collapsed on stage. This was after completing his Water Torture Chest escape. Many people falsely claim that Houdini died performing this difficult escape. In reality, he completed the escape. He also went on to finish his act after being revived.
After what would be his final show, Houdini was admitted to Grace Hospital. He was in the hospital for seven days. During this time his appendix ruptured leading to peritonitis, or inflammation of the abdomen. This would prove fatal to Houdini. “I’m tired of fighting. I do not want to fight anymore.” were his final words.
Hopefully, this clears up the details of Houdini’s final days. We can take many lessons from his extraordinary life.