Harry Houdini (24 March 1874 – 31 October 1926) was a Hungarian-born American stage magician, escapologist, stunt performer, actor, film producer and investigator of spiritualist claims; born Erik Weisz he used the name Ehrich Weiss until legally changing his name to "Harry Houdini" in 1913.
- Disloyalty in trusted servants is one of the most disheartening things that can happen to a public performer. But it must not be thought that I say this out of personal experience: for in the many years that I have been before the public my secret methods have been steadily shielded by the strict integrity of my assistants, most of whom have been with me for years. Only one man ever betrayed my confidence, and that only in a minor matter. But then, so far as I know, I am the only performer who ever pledged his assistant to secrecy, honor and allegiance under a notarial oath.
- Rosabelle — answer — tell — pray, answer — look — tell — answer, answer — tell.
- The secret message devised with his wife to test spiritualist séances should he or she die. In their secret stage-code it spells out the word: "BELIEVE". Quoted in Death and the Magician : The Mystery of Houdini (1981) by Raymund Fitzsimons, p. 166
- I'm tired of fighting, Dash. I guess this thing is going to get me.
- Last words, to his brother Theo, in Grace Hospital of Detroit, Michigan (30 October 1926), quoted in Houdini, The Man Who Walked Through Walls (1959) by William Lindsay Gresham, p. 286, and in Final Séance : The Strange Friendship between Houdini and Conan Doyle (2001) by Massimo Polidoro, p. 204
- I knew, as everyone knows, that the easiest way to attract a crowd is to let it be known that at a given time and a given place some one is going to attempt something that in the event of failure will mean sudden death. That's what attracts us to the man who paints the flagstaff on the tall building, or to the 'human fly' who scales the walls of the same building.
- As quoted in The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini (1993) by Ruth Brandon, p. 153
Quotes about Houdini
- Alphabetized by author
- The effects produced at some of Houdini's "seances" were brilliant, and had he claimed the possession of genuine psychic powers he would have made a fortune.
- John Clucas Cannell, The Secrets of Houdini (1973), page 17
- He had the essential masculine quality of courage to a supreme degree. Nobody has ever done and nobody in all human probability will ever do such reckless feats of daring. His whole life was one long succession of them.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in The Strand Magazine (August 1927) Vol. 74, p. 134
- Houdini, the great transitional figure between "magical" acts and ingenious tricks, was at pains to explain that everything he did was a trick; he offered rewards, never collected, for any "supernatural" act he could not explain. The Amazing Randi carries on in the same tradition, bending spoons as easily as Uri Geller. And yet in Houdini's time, there were those who insisted he was doing real magic; how else could his effects be achieved?
Daniel Mark Epstein wrote about the Houdini believers in a 1986 issue of the New Criterion, which I read as I read everything I can get my hands on about Houdini. The thing was, Houdini really did free himself from those fetters and chains and sealed trunks dropped into the river, and survived the Chinese Water Torture (an effect used prominently in The Prestige night after night). But there were those who argued his tricks were physically impossible, and thus must be supernatural.
- People either didn't believe Houdini when he said that his tricks on film were real, or they didn't care. Illusion became big bigness, and the magicians were out of work.
- John Leonard, in "Books of the Times" in The New York Times (6 July 1981)