The Grunge, a blog that claims “It’s just like reading books…but exciting!” might try reading books for research rather than copying incorrect information from the internet perpetuating historical myths and misnomers. Let’s look at some of this “Reading Rubbish”.
Their latest blog about Houdini’s life starts with a headlining picture which is not even Houdini!!! It’s a picture of an unknown escape artist hanging upside down in a straitjacket. I would love to know who this escape artists is so if you know please leave a comment.
I’ve listed the mistakes the Grunge makes in italics and “” quotes below.
Houdini was “Born into complete poverty and obscurity”. NOT TRUE! The Weiss family fell into poverty after Houdini’s father Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weiss lost his position at the Appleton Synagogue. The family moved to Milwaukee, where they lived in poverty.
“Somewhere along the way, young Ehrich also acquired a few street grifting side hustles” and “at 6-years-old he could run the three cup scam well enough to fool passersby out of a few coins.”, NOT TRUE! Houdini worked shining shoes and as a messenger boy and earned an honest dollar or Nickel back then. On one account he bought a flower for a Nickel, sold it for a Dime, bought two more and sold them until he made up the $2.00 which his brother Theo had lost earlier that day. He didn’t need to “Grift” to make an honest dollar, he just needed his wits.
“He got himself incarcerated.” NOT TRUE! Harry was never arrested however on several occasions during his prison cell escapes the police would threaten to leave him locked up all night if he didn’t escape, however he always escaped. In Russia when Houdini attempted his escape from a prison transport cell they told him if he failed to escape, he would have to travel 21 days to Sackolin near Siberia where the only key that unlocked the door was kept. He got out!
The Grunge makes the common mistakes with the various versions of his name. They say he was called “Weisz” at age 15 and mixed things up with “Ehrich Weisz”. The truth is he was born Erik Weisz, that’s on his birth certificate, then they changed his name to Ehrich Weiss (German spelling) at age 4 in America and it remained Ehrich Weiss for the rest of his life!
“He’d also become (or perhaps always was) bow-legged. Some magicians speculate his unusual legs allowed Houdini to slip rope ties that would completely immobilize a regular body shape.” While Houdini was slightly bow legged, I am not familiar with this theory that it aided in his rope escapes. I’ll have to research this one but it sounds like a Houdini Myth to me.
The whopper! The Grunge claims Houdini’s accomplishment of being the first man to fly a powered aircraft in Australia was stripped from him. NOT TRUE! They write “He had a custom craft shipped there and in 1910, Houdini successfully got it off the ground for a grand total of three minutes. The news coverage of the day wasn’t exactly glowing, but the papers dutifully acknowledged his achievement and everyone got on with their lives. But Houdini’s achievement was stripped from him months later, when a rival aviator conclusively proved he’d achieved the deed months earlier than the magician. Houdini was despondent as his career as an aviation pioneer came to an abrupt end.” What happened was a man claimed to have flown a day before Houdini’s flight. The flight was witnessed by only one man, his sponsor, who years later admitted the flight was made up. Houdini is recognized as the first man to fly in Australia end of story.
For reference I used the following sources: Wild About Harry, and these Books: Houdini The Career of Ehrich Weiss by Kenneth Silverman. Houdini the Untold Story by Milbourne Christopher.