By Tom Dare
INCREDIBLE IMAGES SHOWING world-famous stage performer Harry Houdini performing a series of death-defying stunts have emerged on the anniversary of his last ever stage performance before his death.
Pictures show Houdini with his hands chained as he prepares to jump off the Harvard Bridge in Massachusetts into the Charles river, while another shows him preparing to be sealed inside a wooden crate before it is lowered into New York harbour.
Further images show the menu from the 20th anniversary dinner of Houdini and his wife, Beatrice, with others showing Houdini smiling as he poses for a photo with his wife and mother.
The world-famous magician and stuntman, who toured the world performing for people from all walks of life, was an avid student of magic and spiritualism, working tirelessly on his craft to become the best in the world at what he did. He was once quoted as saying:
“My chief task has been to conquer fear. The public sees only the thrill of the accomplished trick; they have no conception of the tortuous preliminary self-training that was necessary to conquer fear.
“No one except myself can appreciate how I have to work at this job every single day, never letting up for a moment. I always have on my mind the thought that next year I must do something greater, something more wonderful.”
Houdini can also be seen here performing one of his own stunts in the hit film Terror Island, about an inventor who has to rescue his girlfriend from a group of cannibals who have her hostage. Terror Island was one of many he starred in during a glittering career in Hollywood.
The material has resurfaced on the 91st anniversary of the last live show Houdini ever performed at the Garrick Theatre in Detroit, Michigan in 1926. He passed away just a week later at the age of 52 at Detroit’s Grace Hospital from a ruptured appendix, with rumour rife surrounding the cause of his death.
It was said that Houdini performed his final play at the Garrick in agonising pain, passing out and having to be revived at least once during his performance, and reportedly running a temperature of 104 degrees.
Houdini finished the show, but in the days following his untimely death reports began to emerge that the showman had not simply been the victim of unfortunate circumstances. Eyewitnesses working on the Garrick show with Houdini had reported that they thought his death had been caused in some way by a student who had wanted to test Houdini’s abdominal strength ahead of his show.
The student had heard that Houdini did not feel punches in the stomach and, upon asking him about it, proceeded to rein several blows down on Houdini, with the performer stopping him midway through. Eyewitnesses to the incident reported that Houdini had winced with every blow, and had complained after stopping the punches that he had not had time to prepare for them.
Houdini collapsed soon after the show, but even in the days immediately after the incident he reportedly remained in good spirits right until the end. A funeral procession was held in New York City on November 4 1926, with around 2,000 people filling the streets to see the performer’s final farewell.