Oh ye of little faith. Here you thought the great magician, Harry Houdini, has long been dead and buried, when he’s very much alive and well at the Houdini Museum of New York, a virtual treasure trove of “Houdiniana” at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan.
Our host, John Bukowski, a magician himself, cast a spell on us from the start with Houdini history, from the time Harry was young until he became the Master of Daring Escapes. This made him the world’s most famous magician and the highest paid performer in American vaudeville.
Houdini was born Eric Weisz in 1874, the son of a Hungarian rabbi. When he was a child, the family moved from Hungary to Wisconsin and then to New York City. By age 20, Houdini not only became a locksmith but he also launched his career as a professional magician, naming himself after the great French magician, Houdin. As part of his act, Houdini would offer $5000.00 to anyone with a device that could stop him from escaping. He never paid a cent.
The museum itself is a hoot! Eleven years old, it is filled to the brim with some of the rarest pieces used by Houdini: handcuffs, picks and tools, a “punishment suit” (far more binding than a strait jacket), chests and chains, even a life-sized guillotine! A live, pet-able rabbit named Tricksie enchanted us, as did the magic tricks that John performed.
From picking our card choice, the 7 of Hearts, out of an entire deck, to planting a silver coin in the pocket of one of our Greeters (who swears he wasn’t in on it) we were stunned. The museum also hosts birthday parties for kids aged five through twelve, with pizza and cake, magic tricks, and levitating the birthday child!
Astonishingly (and appropriately), Houdini died on Halloween in 1926. But he clearly lives on through this entertaining museum. As for his last feat, the museum is free!
To schedule a visit, go to HoudiniMuseumNY.org or call 212-244-3633. For children’s birthday parties, visit www.mymagicalbirthdayparty.com