Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 06-09-2004, 05:21 PM
Bromley Bromley is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: London, UK.
Posts: 580
Houdini couldn't escape from an unlocked safe?

I've managed to get myself onto the get-rich-quick mailing lists. Yay!

The one that I'm just about to bin has the following as it's intro paragraph. I suspect it's about as likely as his "110,174 in 24 Hours" claim . Still, can anyone confirm or deny it?

Harry Houdini once failed to escape from a safe - even though the safe door was unlocked! In fact, the VERY reason he stayed trapped is because all he knew about were locked doors . . .
Old 06-09-2004, 06:10 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Dogpatch/Middle TN.
Posts: 30,733
I seriously doubt it.

Sounds like hype to me.
"True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written, in writing what deserves to be read."
~~~ Pliny the Elder
Old 06-09-2004, 06:22 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
Posts: 29,814
There is indeed a story that Houdini was placed in a jail cell, used all his lockpicks on the lock, and got out only when he gave up and just leaned on the door, at which point it opened, never having been locked in the first place.

Many Houdini stories cannot be verified because he was a showman who manipulated the truth at every opportunity, so I don't know if this is one he told on himself or was invented about him, and I don't have time to flip through my Houdini biographies to try to find it. But the way it is told, he did indeed get out; it wasn't a safe but a jail cell; and he was never trapped in the end.
Old 06-09-2004, 06:55 PM
ianzin ianzin is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Near London, UK.
Posts: 4,202
As usually told, the story goes that Houdini, while visiting England, would regularly escape from jails as a publicity stunt. He toured many major towns and cities, and managed to escape from the town or city jail in every case. There was one exception: a police jail cell in Preston, Lancashire. Houdini tried and failed to escape. Why did he fail? Because the cell had never actually been locked in the first place! Hence he was trying to 'unlock' a lock which wasn't locked!

I can verify that this story has been around for a long time. I first heard it over 25 years ago, and it was old then. It is oft-recycled among those of us in the magic and deceptive trades.

I don't think anyone is in a position to definitively declare it to be either true or false. HH was a great publicist, and garnered a lot of publicity and press coverage in his time. Trying to sot out fact from fiction, hype, anecdote, rumour and old 'urban legends' would be nigh impossible in this case.

For what it's worth, I have met at least two people who could fairly be described as experts on the life and career of HH, and both said they reckoned the story was true. Also, given the method that HH usually used for his jail escapes, which I'm obviously not going to give away, the story is not implausible.
Old 06-10-2004, 05:08 AM
Bromley Bromley is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: London, UK.
Posts: 580
Ah, go on .

No? Well, thanks to both of you for answering my original question.


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:19 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017