His real name was Erich Weiss; he took his stage name after the French magician Houdin. He was world-famed for his escapes from bonds of every sort—locks, handcuffs, straitjackets, and sealed chests under water. Houdini performed in silent films and was also noted for his exposure of fraudulent spiritualistic mediums and their phenomena. He left to the Library of Congress his library of magic, one of the most complete and valuable in the world. Among his writings are The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin (1908), Miracle Mongers and Their Methods (1920), and A Magician among the Spirits (1924).
See Houdini's Magic (ed. from his notebooks, 1932); biographies by Harold Kellock (1928) and W. L. Gresham (1959); W. B. Gibson, Houdini's Escapes (1930); Raymond FitzSimons, Death and the Magician: The Mystery of Houdini (1985).
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