Book Reviews Reviews

Book review: The Great Houdini

Written by Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi|Published June 22, 2019

You may all know that Harry Houdini was the greatest escape artist ever, but what we don’t know is the story behind the creation of Harry Houdini. Born Ehrich Weiss, how he became Harry Houdini and why he chose to become an escape artist is what this book, The Great Houdini, tells you.

It explains a lot about the youngster who was in love with acrobats as well as knew how to open locks at an early age, and how he used his talent to impress the world!

Author Monica Kulling points out the reasons why ‘Ehrie’ became ‘Harry’ in an America where foreigners weren’t greeted as graciously as they are today. It had more to do with his idol Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin than anything else, because by adding an ‘I’ to the magician’s name, Ehrich Weiss became Harry Houdini.

At first, he wasn’t so popular and had to do a tour of Europe, where he was more appreciated, to become ‘world famous’. Who wouldn’t be impressed by a magician who baffled the Scotland Yard to make his point, right?

In the beginning, life was hard for Houdini. He had to quit school to help his family and took up odd jobs, with one such job giving him access to locks, all kind of locks. It was there that he studied locks and decided to become the greatest magician of all time, performing tricks that no one dared to.

This book and the accompanying illustrations give accurate details of what were Houdini’s tricks and how he was able to escape without damaging his body in the process. There was a trick where he could escape from a straitjacket and one where he was locked in a box, with his hands handcuffed, yet he came out as if it was a piece of cake for him.

In his attempt to become a great performer, Houdini practiced day and night, giving sleepless nights to others. Through this Step 4 book, you get to read about his genius in the simplest of ways, with the help of images, as if someone is explaining it as you read along.

You may have heard a lot of stories about Houdini regarding his escapes, magic tricks and disappearance, and all are true except the last one. He didn’t disappear in his final act, but died because of his reputation as someone who was strong. During one of his shows, two students punched him hard before he could prepare himself, damaging his appendix and thus sending him towards his death.

Despite taking the secrets of his tricks to his grave, Houdini remains alive due to his legacy and the many magicians who continue to emulate him.

Published in Dawn, Young World, June 22nd, 2019

About the author

Omair Alavi