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Houdini was a true legend in every sense of the word and, like all legends, it is often difficult to distinguish fact from fiction in his life story. He was born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest Hungary on March 24th 1874, the son of a Rabbi. The family emigrated to the USA in about 1878 living in Appleton Wisconsin.
Houdini ran away from home at the age of 12 and within two years his father died. This was to cement the extremely close relationship with his mother which would only grow stronger with time. Houdini spent years trying to perfect his magic act. But in 1899 a decision was made which would change his life and make him a household name. On advice from Martin Beck a famous impressario of the time Houdini decided to concentrate his act on escapology. The bookings soon began to roll in.
Billing himself as the "King of Handcuffs" Houdini soon hit the big time and in 1900 left for a tour of Europe. Through enthusiastic self promotion he returned as a truly international star. With his reputation firmly established, Houdini turned his attention to writing and began to take an interest in spiritualism. By the early 1920's he was devoting much of his time to exposing fraudulent mediums.
Houdini's death in 1926 was as shrouded in myth and legend as his life was. All we can say with certainty is that his demise was due to peritonitis. Whether a punch in the stomach during a previous act hastened his end is still open to debate.