Erik Weisz, universally known as The Great Harry Houdini, masterfully staged his escape from his mother’s womb on March 24, 1874, shouting in excitement: “Vualá!”.
Born in a small apartment in Budapest, Hungary, to a Jewish family, Houdini is one the most famous illusionists and stunt performers that ever lived. He is celebrated for his sensational escape acts that earned him the title “Harry Handcuffs Houdini”. As an illusionist, Houdini first attracted public attention while touring through Europe and performing as an exquisite escape artist, challenging police officers to detain him as overtures to his escapes.
Attached to his highly developed professional standards, he was always ready to expose fraudulent artists and quick to sue anyone who imitated his stunts. Later in life, he became President of the Society of American Magicians.
But it wasn’t always sweets and honey in his life. Houdini began his magic career at the age of 17, in 1891, but with little to no success. He found himself scraping by, in jobs that nobody else wanted, for many years at various infamous museums and shady circuses. But even in the times when the work was unsatisfying and disrespectful of his aspirations, his desire to study and master the world of magic kept growing.
Initially, he focused on traditional card tricks and was intent on mastering them and becoming the “King of Cards”. With a strong belief in fate, he was convinced that they would be his stepping stone. And as is turned out, they were. It was not long after that Houdini’s big break arrived.
In 1899, while experimenting with escape acts, he was spotted by manager Martin Beck in St. Paul, Minnesota. Impressed by one of his handcuff acts, Martin went to meet him, encouraging him to concentrate solely on the escapology acts. Soon after that, the two came to an agreement, and he booked Houdini for the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Within months, Houdini found himself performing for the elite, at the top vaudeville houses in the country.
His manager Beck booked him a tour in Europe in 1900 in order to try his luck there. First destination, London.
After one or two unsuccessful interviews in the city, his British agent, Harry Day, arranged an interview with C. Dundas Slater, who at the time was managing the Alhambra Theatre.