The Houdini problem

Harry Houdini is an interesting character in magic history. Of course even if you don’t know anything about magic you know the name Houdini and whether you like him or hate him (my apprentice is definitely not a fan) you have to give him credit for one thing at least: Public Relations.

There is no doubt about it, he knew how to advertise himself. So much so that even now, 86 years after his death everyone knows who he is and that he was “the greatest escape artist” of all time.

A lot of magicians strive to be the one most closely associated with some particular thing in magic; the performer whose act absolutely epitomizes some specific skills or presentation. And when it comes to escapes Houdini is “the man.” He’s the one everyone else who does escapes is compared to or measured against.

“He’s a modern day Houdini.” Yeah, yeah.

Here’s my Houdini problem.

I’m trying to do research into escapology prior to Houdini. Ideally I’d like to see what I can find out about escapology in medieval history. I’m sure there is some there, but the research is thin on the ground so far. Looking up any combination of “history”, “escapes”, “Magic” or “Entertainment” (and variations on those words) results in tons of links that start with Houdini and proceed from there as if no one ever thought of tieing someone up prior to that. (You people with your Inquisition Fetishes not withstanding…. *GRIN*)

So that’s my problem. How do I tease out the historical evidence prior to Houdini? This is going to take some work I’m sure. The right combination of search terms until I can find some decent clues to follow and then likely off to the library for me.

But until now I liked Houdini. Now, I’m starting to have some problems with him.

Here are a couple things I’ve found that are at least interesting if not that helpful:


About santiagosgrimoire

Magician, Entertainer, Actor, Cook, Leather Worker, Artist and generally very busy.

Posted on August 23, 2012, in Carnival, Magic - Historical and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I was curious about your research as well and I stumbled across a citation for a 16th century Eastern European escapist by the name of Kolornus.

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