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The Great Houdini

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My Name is Harry Houdini, but my real name is Erik Weiss. I was born in Budapest, Hungary on March 24, 1874. My family and I migrated to the United States of America when I was only four years old. When I was very little, I always had an interest in the magic shows my father and I attended. When I was seventeen, I once read the name of a Robert-Houdin, a French magician of the 1800s. Houdin became my idol, and when a friend told me to add an "I" after Houdin, I later became known as my new Americanized name, Harry Houdini.

"One day I was hired to give an exhibition at a children's party in Brooklyn. At the close a little girl, about sixteen, said to me very bashfully, Ð''I think you are awfully clever,' and then, with a blush, Ð''I like you.' Ð''How much do you like me?' I said, Ð''enough to marry me?' We had never seen each other before. She nodded. And so, after talking the matter over, we were married."

That was the famous quote of my marriage, and I know it may not have been quite so sudden if I didn't read it from a magazine ad, but this was how I felt emotionally at the time. When I turned 19, I married the beautiful Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner (I usually called her Bess). It was July 22, 1894.

My career as an entertainer began slowly. My wife and me wandered from sideshow to dime museum, taking any engagement that we could get paid for. It was very rare for us to get paid over $60 a week between the two of us. But during these times, my magic shows did not draw crowds and we were left doing comedy shows or freak sideshow acts.

During my early years, my talents as an escape artist were rarely appreciated. One day in a small town in Rhode Island while I was touring with the Welsh Brothers' Circus, the entire troupe was arrested and locked in jail for breaking the Sunday law. That night after the sheriff's had gone home, I picked all of the locks and freed the entire Circus.

Still, my audiences seemed uninterested in watching me free myself from handcuffs. But when my lucked changed in 1895, while I was traveling with the American Gaiety Girls, I thought of a way to make my act more interesting. I made special performances involving to visit police stations with the challenge that I could escape from any pair of handcuffs. After I had been chained and escorted into another room, I would free myself in under a minute.

Finally, my acts started to gain attention in small cities, but that wasn't enough to bring my wife and I a steady job. Near the end of 1898, I arranged an escape act with the Chicago police. With many newspaper reporters present, Lieutenant of Detectives, My friend Andy Rohan, handcuffed me and locked me into a cell. A minute later, I walked back into the warden's office. However, the newspaper reporters, having heard that I had visited the jail on previous days, were skeptical and unimpressed. I then offered to be stripped naked, searched, handcuffed, and at my suggestion, is to have my mouth sealed with plaster. When they left me again in the cell, I appeared less than ten minutes as I walked back into Rohan's office, fully clothed.

This great act made me famous. I got my picture in the papers and within a week, I had offers to perform from the best vaudeville house in Chicago, to a large western theater chain. One evening, when I was approached by Martin Beck, the booker for the Orpheum Circuit, he sent to the stage a few pair of handcuffs which he had purchased, thinking that I couldn't escape them. But I did anyways.

And so my career as an escape artist continued, my wife and I performed at any chance that we

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