The master magician, the great illusionist, the stellar escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926), was born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hungary. When he came to America and became an American citizen, he adopted his stage name, after Jean Eugene Robert Houdin (1805-1871), who had been considered the foremost French magician.
   Houdini became world-famous in 1900 after a performance in London at which he demonstrated an unusual talent of freeing himself from "impossible traps," such as handcuffs, locks, and straitjackets, even when suspended in the air or submerged in water. No lock could hold him, not even that of the condemned cell at the Washington jail. In October 1926, some students were invited by Houdini to his dressing room. Houdini sat on his couch to check his mail at which time a J. Gordon Whitehead, an amateur boxer, asked whether it was true that Houdini could withstand any body blow not below the belt or on his face. When Houdini agreed, Whitehead, while Houdini was rising from the couch, struck him three times on the stomach. Houdini had not tensed his muscles. He fell back on his couch, subsequently developing gangrene in his appendix and then peritonitis. In the 1920s that latter affliction was a virtual sentence of death.
   The cultlike adoration, almost worship, of necromancers followed him to his grave. Because he once said that if anyone can break the shackles of death, he can, his devotees hold an annual seance at his gravesite in the Machpelah Cemetery, in Glendale, Long Island. The Houdini Room in the Library of Congress houses the extensive library that Houdini donated.
   To "pull a Houdini" is to make an amazing escape, and a Houdini is anyone with seemingly magical powers in any field.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Houdini — escape artist or other ingenious person, 1923, from Harry Houdini, professional name of U.S. escapist Erich Weiss (1874 1926) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Houdini — (izg. houdȋni), Harry (1874 1926) DEFINICIJA američki mađioničar mađarskog podrijetla; svjetsku slavu stekao svojim spektakularnim predstavama oslobađanja iz raznih okova i smrtnih opasnosti …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Houdini — [ho͞o dē′nē] Harry (born Ehrich Weiss) 1874 1926; U.S. stage magician & escape artist …   English World dictionary

  • Houdini — Harry Houdini Houdini lässt einen Elefanten verschwinden (1918) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Houdini — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Houdini est un patronyme porté par plusieurs personnalités : Patronymie Harry Houdini, un célèbre prestidigitateur ; Cinéma / Télévision Houdini …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Houdini — Harry Houdini (real name Ehrich Weiss) America’s foremost escapologist magician …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Houdini — n. Harry Houdini (1874 1926, born Erich Weiss), Hungarian born American magician …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Houdini —    Voir Houdini, le grand magicien …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

  • Houdini — [hu: di:ni] noun a person skilled at escaping. Origin 1920s: from the name of Harry Houdini (Erik Weisz), American escape artist …   English new terms dictionary

  • Houdini — n. 1 an ingenious escape. 2 a person skilled at escaping. Etymology: H. Houdini, professional name of E. Weiss, American escapologist d. 1926 …   Useful english dictionary

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