How Harry Houdini Debunked Fake Mediums And Got Cursed To Death In The Process

By | October 23, 2019

test article image
Harry Houdini. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

The famous magician Harry Houdini is known for his escapes that defied logic, but he also happened to be one of the most strident skeptics of spiritual mediums.

Harry Houdini was born in 1874 in Hungary as Erik Weisz, and as a child immigrated to the United States. In the 1890s, he became famous as an escape artist under the stage name "Harry Houdini" and became known as the “handcuff king.” He particularly was known for his “Chinese Water Torture Cell” escape in which a shackled upside down Houdini is immersed into a locked tank of water, but also escaped from boxes thrown into rivers, chains, shackles, and even the corpse of a whale.

test article image
Harry Houdini about to jump off a bridge. Source: (Library of Congress)

For all of these death-defying escapes, Houdini openly admitted that everything he did was a trick either through optical illusion or specially engineered equipment. He viewed his stunts as entertainment only and anybody who contended that they had supernatural abilities was a fraud. That is why Houdini had a special loathing for spiritual mediums

Spiritualism, a quasi-religious movement was in vogue in the early 20th century. One of the key aspects of spiritualism was that so-called spiritual mediums had the ability to communicate with the dead. In pitch-black rooms mediums led seances where participants would hear bumps, see flashes of light, and other strange phenomena that convinced people that it was possible to talk to the dead.