Houdini's Secrets

In Cecil’s article about Houdini’s secret http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_041.html
he states that secrets such as escaping out of a sealed envelope without tearing it were unknown. Actually, this one is simple to do. Two envelopes, one you’re sealed in and one that’s sealed without you. Put a screen in front of the envelope you’re sealed in, rip your way out of the envelope, replace it with the untorn envelope and ta-da! Magic, right?

Most magic is this simple. If there’s an easy way to do this, then that’s the way it was done. You just didn’t see that.

However, his lockpicking abilities were not magic. He often used slight-of-hand to hide his lockpicks during searches and even hid them on the searchers themselves without their knowledge. A most talented man in these arts.


Apparently, he was also capable of swalling and regurgitating a key, when necessary.

Cecil’s assesment that Houdini was “able to milk a few basic techniques of stage magic” doesn’t give the man full credit. There was also a lot of physical strength and agility involved in many of his escapes. Simply “knowing how it was done” would not enable others to recreate his routines; it would take a lot of training and dedication.


Cecil said that Houdini’s tricks could probably be duplicated but not his performances. He must have been a consummate showman.

Are there any film records of any of his performances? If so, are any of them available on video?

There are some films of his escapes. One I recall was Houdini hanging upside down in a straight jacket off the top of a building.

Whether or not you can purchase these films, I recommend checking Amazon.com or some similar outfit that sells videos.