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xMiSsCrOfTx
29-10-06, 22:15
Harry Houdini Was a Spy, Biography Claims

http://cdn.news.aol.com/aolnews_photos/01/01/20061029094909990004

NEW YORK (Oct. 28) - Eighty years after his death, the name Harry Houdini remains synonymous with escape under the most dire circumstances. But Houdini, the immigrants' son whose death-defying career made him one of the world's biggest stars, was more than a mere entertainer.

A new biography of the legendary performer, who was born to a Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874, suggests that Houdini worked as a spy for Scotland Yard, monitored Russian anarchists and chased counterfeiters for the U.S. Secret Service - all before he was possibly murdered.

"The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero" will be released on Halloween, Oct. 31 - the anniversary of Houdini's untimely death at age 52. Chasing new information on the elusive superstar eventually led authors William Kalush and Larry Sloman to create a database of more than 700,000 pages.

"There's no way in the world we could have done this book without it," said Sloman of the huge electronic index. "It would have taken 30 years - maybe."

The biography lays out a scenario where Houdini, using his career as cover, managed to travel the United States and the world while collecting information for law enforcement. The authors made the link after reviewing a journal belonging to William Melville, a British spy master who mentioned Houdini several times.

Melville, while at Scotland Yard in the early 20th century, helped launch Houdini's European career by allowing the performer to demonstrate his escape skills. Houdini, at a demonstration arranged by Melville, slipped free from a pair of Scotland Yard handcuffs as an audition for a London theater owner.

The book suggests that Melville's compliance was part of a quid pro quo in which Houdini worked as a spy. A similar situation occurred in Chicago, where Houdini's career took off after a publicity stunt aided by a local police lieutenant, the book said.

"Finding the Melville diary - we knew there was a connection, we knew there was something there," said Kalush. "But finding that diary solidified a lot of other things."

No less a Houdini enthusiast than Teller - the mute half of Penn and Teller, and one of the legendary performer's spiritual descendants - felt the link between the escape artist and the authorities was no leap.

"Law enforcement is about bureaucracy and cronyism," Teller said. "So they're going to let some entertainer walk in and escape from their jail cells? That suggests to me that (the authors) are on the right track."

Houdini was a relentless self-promoter in the style of P.T. Barnum, although he didn't play his audience for suckers. The biography recounts one 1902 escape, in Blackburn, England, where Houdini refused to surrender despite the use of plugged locks that made his freedom almost impossible.

The book suggests that Melville's compliance was part of a quid pro quo in which Houdini worked as a spy. A similar situation occurred in Chicago, where Houdini's career took off after a publicity stunt aided by a local police lieutenant, the book said.

"I like the way that Houdini comes off as a real tough guy, which is no doubt true," said Teller. "He's not afraid to show up at somebody else's performance and scream, `This is my act you're doing. Why don't you try this trick?'

"That's a rough and tumble thing you'll never see a modern magician do."

The authors recount a pair of October 1926 incidents in which Houdini was viciously punched in the stomach, once by a college student in his dressing room and later by a stranger in a hotel lobby.

Houdini - the book suggests the Spiritualists may have arranged the attacks - died days later in Room 401 at Grace Hospital in Detroit. His aura of invincibility seemed over. But as the authors discovered, it still lives on today.

"He's compelling because of that myth, that he could not be restrained by anything," said Sloman. "The more successful he was, the more he became a symbol of the lone man resisting authority."

SOURCE (http://articles.news.aol.com/news/_a/harry-houdini-was-a-spy-biography/20061029133209990003)

Legends
29-10-06, 22:19
Nice! :D

jarhead
29-10-06, 22:22
Brilliant :tmb:

I wonder how many magicians are starting to worry