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Police Magician
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My interest in Houdini stems from his debunking fraudulent mediums of his time. I have a picture of him teaching a class of NYC Detectives the mediums tricks of the trade. Regardless of his talent, Houdini made a name for himself and his name is associated with magic by many non magicians.

Another famous name debunking frauds nowadays is Todd Robbins. Wish I could get a video of your Dark Deceptions and Carnival Knowledge.

Glenn
Glenn Hester

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silverking
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Some of the best writers on magic history have described Houdini as a poor magician.

His magic and sleights are never spoken of as being of a high calibre, in fact they are routinely spoken about as being poor to passable.

He's never spoken poorly about in regards to his escapes, and this is really what people today remember him for.

Very few people outside magic will say anything other than escape artist if you ask them about Houdini.
I'm not sure why the documentation which speaks to Houdini being a poor magician causes distress, it's really just part of who he was......it doesn't take anything away from his place in history.
ChristianR
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Houdini was a great escape artist. By the way, he started his success in Minnesota! Woo!

Houdini at least had the courage to perform a magic show.
Tarbell!
Father Photius
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What's the old saying, "When the legend is bigger than the truth, print the legend and when the truth is bigger than the legend, print the legend"? Something like that. Houdini knew how to get press, and in showbusiness keeping your name in front of the public is what it is all about. A lot of hype goes into most showbusiness "legends" I know Uncle Harry (not houdini) was not above a bit of Hype and probably played he rivalries with both Thurston and Houdini for all he could get out of them publicity wise.
Let's face it, the people who kept the Houdini legend alive the most have been magicians. Why? because the legend and name still sells tickets to magic shows today. Claiming to beat Houdini's record, or to do his escape is a sure crowd attractor. The real difference between a top earning professional and an also ran pro is how well they market themselves. So if we can't copy Houdini's marketing technique, we can sure market ourselves using his name.
"Now here's the man with the 25 cent hands, that two bit magician..."
silverking
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Houdini has been dead for decades and his name is still the first one laymen think of when they think of magicians and escape artists.

There's a lot more at play here than "magicians keeping Houdini's legend alive"

He's embeded in the public mind so deeply that nobody has to work to keep him there.

Until Doug Henning came along, Houdini was the only magician most of America could actually name. Although we here on the Café are wise to many names, most of America to this day still can't name any other name than Houdini if asked to name a magician.

In the case of Houdini, the legend is the truth.
Steven True
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My question is will the names of Vernon,Blackstone,Dante,Copperfield be remembered in 80 years? What really makes a legend? Long ago I saw a Blackstone Jr. show and thought I had seen one of the best there was. Same as with Copperfield. But as great as they are, or were, will we be talking about them in 80 years, I do hope so. Mr Houdini is and will always be the legend that we all know, and I am happy with that. Just my 2 cents.

Thanks
Steven
silverking
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They'll be remembered by magicians, but even today there are young kids who have no idea who David Copperfield is because he's on television far less now than he was at the start of his career.
Because he'll not return to two TV specials a year before he retires, these kids probably won't ever know his name.

Houdini is learned about through osmosis in Grade 2-3-4-5 because his name "means" magic or escape, or feats of strength.....his name is embeded into the national identity.

If you were to ask folks over 45 to name two magicians, they would probably say "Houdini" and "Doug Henning". Henning was the first magician since Houdini that most of the country could actually name.
If you were to ask that same question in twenty years however, you'd probably just hear "Houdini"

What's really interesting is if the question was asked in a hundred years, "Houdini" would most likely still be the first name mentioned.
whizzomagic
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Harry Houdini was definitely the most innovative escape artist of all time given what he had to work with and the times in which he lived. Some of his effects can still be used today to wow audiences 80 years after his demise.

What I find most interesting about Houdini's legend is how he is world reknowned and revered for his escapism and yet his spectacular card work has been forgotten. He was touted as "The King of Cards" before his escape act took off.

You have to give the man credit though, he is still the worlds most famous and most recognized magician, and the man died in 1926!!!
silverking
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There are many books which point out that Houdini actually touted himself as "The King of Cards"....and that in reality, he was nothing of the sort.

Houdini's magic and card work was pretty basic by all accounts, but I say that not to take anyting away from him, just because most of the hard facts in book form indicate that to be the truth.

What he did by sheer force of will with escape, magic, and masterful PR is simply amazing......that it sort or worked all over again for DB indicates the power of combining escape and magic with publicity grabbing stunts.

But I totally agree with whizzomagic, 1926 was a long time ago, and Houdini's name always has been, still is, and will be for the forseeable future....at the very top of the list of magicians laypeople of any age can actually name.
magicusb
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To those in this post who call Houdini a non magician, please note, there are films of him doing split fans and other card sleights. Can all of you who disparage him do split fans as well?

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"The truth shall make you free, but first it will make you angry." -Robert Ingersoll-Atheist (on the mind of Houdini when he died.)

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MagiClyde
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First of all, to set one thing straight, Einstein had little to do with aero-space engineering. Warner Von-Braun, on the other hand, did. He's the one who made the trip to the moon possible. Where Einstein did contribute was to the idea of splitting the atom and pushing FDR to start development on the atomic bomb.

One thing I find interesting as a tie between Einstein and Houdini is that their names are now synonymous with genius and the ability to extricate oneself from a sticky situation.

The only reason no present day magician will ever be able to be "better than Houdini" is not because their escapes aren't as good (they probably are), but because it is very nearly impossible to knock someone off their pedestal when they've achieved legend status.
Magic! The quicker picker-upper!
magicjack1977
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Louisville, KY
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I don't believe Houdini to be the best magician ever, but I do believe him to be the best showman ever. He knew what audiences wanted to see and he knew how to hold their attention. He also knew how to get them wanting to come back for more. He raised the art of self promotion to a higher art form. He had audiences in towns all over the country anticipating his performances weeks and even months in advance which was not a common thing in those times.

This being said, for those who think that he was merely an escapist and not a true magician, then you are sadly mistaken and need to do more homework on the man. Houdini may have not been the most skilled prestidigitator of his time (I think that this honor should go to Dai Vernon), he was still a very skilled cardician, sleight of hand artist, and illusionist. His metamorphasis illusion is still being performed in some form today.
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