Houdini Essay, Research Paper
Kendall, Lace Houdini Master of Escape Philadelphia: Macrae Smith Company, 1960, 187
“Ladies and gentlemen, you can see there isn’t anything up my sleeve.”1 Erich
Weiss states at the beginning of the book. Even as a child Erich Weiss, a.k.a. Harry
Houdini, knows that his goal in life is to become a world famous illusionist. It was
difficult for Erich’s family being pilgrims from Europe. His father worked hard, but being
from Germany and not knowing English made it difficult. “Promise me you will always
look after your mother and see to it that she is never in want.”2 Erich promises his father
that he will look after his mother and other brothers. At the age of thirteen he decides to
leave and join the circus. He journeys to Texas performing small, road-side shows on the
way, but only gets half-way when he turns around. Erich realizes it’s not his time.
At the age of fifteen he moves with his family to New York. That is when he
acquires his name, Harry Houdini. He dubs himself Houdini after the famous French
magician Robert Houdin. In one of his small shows in New York he spills acid on the
audience member’s dress. Little did he know how much that would change his life. He
offer to have his mother make a new dress for Miss Beatrice “Bess” Rahner. It was love
at first sight. He and Bess are married at Coney Island the day he gives her the new dress.
Often when I here of Houdini I think, and even have been told, that he died in an
escape accident. That is not only untrue it is nowhere near his true means of death.
During a performance one night he broke an ankle. That is when it all started. He began
feeling worse everyday. He had stomach pains. He waited to late. He had a ruptured
appendix and gangrene had set in. The doctors told him that he would not survive more
that twelve hours. However he fought for seven days. He died at the age of fifty-two on
October 31, 1926, Halloween.
This book was like a time machine in that it let me see into the past. I not only got
to live along with Mr. Harry Houdini, I got to visit the places he did through the words of
Lace Kendall. The place I enjoyed most was New York City. Surprisingly it was as big in
the early 1900’s as it is today. Kendall gave an accurate description of the lights and the
busy streets of New York. I felt as though I was there in New York with Houdini. The
time was not fully described, but the values of the family have definitely changed
throughout the ages. Boys were expected to work at the young age of twelve in this time.
When the father of a family died, the oldest son assumed the responsibility of taking care
of the family. Houdini was not given a direct description, but through his ways you can
tell that he was hard working man that cared as much for the art of entertainment as he did
for his family.
The best parts of the book were the accurate descriptions of the tricks that
Houdini performed. I learned tricks such as sword swallowing, vanishing acts, and the
ever famous sawing a woman in half. I also enjoyed seeing into Houdini’s past. It’s not
often that we get to see a great artist as a child.
The book did have its own weaknesses, however. Kendall didn’t go into Houdini’s life
after marriage as much as possible. I’m sure that it was because he had achieved his goal
and worked the same shows. This would provide for a boring book. Kendall did us a
favor by not telling every detail of his life. All in all this was an excellent book and would
recommend it to anyone who wants a to learn the life of a famous entertainer.