I would guess when many of you read the title of this post you would think that I was going to unveil the secrets of Houdini’s magic and escapes. This couldn’t be farther away from the direction I will be going here. What I’m asking is how did he mentally and physically maintain such a vigorous and strenuous lifestyle for over 25 years.
Let’s take for an example the program above as a for instance. When Houdini was performing at the Sate Lake theater he was 48 years old. Sometime before or as soon as Houdini started his run for the week in town, he would perform an outdoor escape to help promote the show. This would be a straitjacket escape as Houdini would hang from office building, an escape from a locked packing crate after being thrown into a river, or a manacled bridge jump etc. I’m sure many of the rivers that Houdini was cast into weren’t the healthiest places to be.
During this run, Houdini would perform four times a day. He probably made his first appearance of the day at 1PM and his final performance was most-likely around 9:30 that evening. What kind of magic and escapes did Houdini do? Well, over the course of 25 years, it could have been the “Water Torture Cell” and the “East Indian Needle Trick”; you can add or subtract “The Milk Can”, the “Metamorphosis”, and escapes from straitjackets, handcuffs or ropes. The act could expand or contract as needed. For the most part, the act was a physically demanding one.
Now for the middle of the week, how about a challenge? Challenges were performed to renew interest in the show or to maintain a steady stream of customers at the box office. Either way, it was added to Houdini’s workload for the week.
All of the above brings us back to, “How did Houdini do it all?” In a 25-30 year career, how many times did he escape from a straitjacket, either on stage or hanging upside down outside of a building? How many times did Houdini perform the “Milk Can”, the”Water Torture Cell”, the “Metamorphosis”, escapes and challenges etc.? My thoughts are that the count would in the multiple thousands. I don’t think ten thousand for a grand total of these escapes would be out of the question.
I would have to say Houdini’s fortitude has been overlooked, but must be added to the equation to what made him into a legend in his own lifetime. Most of us have some kind of fortitude, Houdini had so much more so.