The Magic of Houdini

The name Houdini and the word magic mean almost the same thing. When famous magicians are discussed, the name of Harry Houdini is almost always mentioned. He was known worldwide for his famous escapes. He was chained. He was handcuffed. He was placed into straitjackets. He was hung upside down in water. He was always able to escape his bonds. What he did was powerful magic to those who watched. Houdini knew that there was no magic involved. But he never let on.

Harry Houdini maintained that he was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, in April of 1874. Why he would say that no one is quite sure. The truth is he was born in Budapest, Hungary, in March of 1874. His name at birth was Erik Weisz. Erik's father was a teacher of religion in Hungary. Times were tough for the Weisz family. Mayer Weisz, Erik's father, decided that his family would have a better chance if they went to America. He left Hungary first to establish a home in the United States. He found a job as a rabbi to a small Jewish temple in Appleton. His salary was a mere $750 a year.

Mayer changed the spelling of the family name to Weiss so that it would appear to be more American. "Erik" was changed to "Ehrich." In 1876, Mayer had saved enough to send for his family. Ehrich was just a small boy when he reached his new home in Wisconsin. Mayer had a hard time keeping his job. His religious rules brought from Europe were much stricter than the people of Wisconsin wanted to follow. Mayer moved his family to Milwaukee when Ehrich was just eight. The family was struggling. Ehrich had to get his own jobs just to help the family out. He sold newspapers and shined shoes on the streets of Milwaukee.

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