Wednesday, December 17, 2003


How did Harry Houdini die? I always thought that Houdini died of a ruptured appendix performing his famous Water Torture Cell trick. After all, this is how he did in the Houdini movie. I just finished reading a history of magic and it turns out that this was just a myth that got incorporated into the Houdini movie, because it is more dramatic than him dying after ailing for a few weeks in a hospital. The ruptured appendix part was right. The appendix is believed to have been damaged in Montreal after he was sucker-punched in the stomach by a McGill graduate student who wanted to debunk his famed abnominal muscles. Ah, the lengths graduate students will go to rectify a perceived epistemological injustice.

I can't decide if I was naive to think that Houdini had really died performing an escape. Briefly: I'm reminded of this time that I was told in third grade by a classmate whose father was blind that he had gone blind watching someone weld. I kept this in my mind as a piece of knowledge all the way until I was in high school, until I repeated it confidently to another friend's mother (who had gone to high school the guy). She looked at me like I was the biggest moron on the planet, and then said, "He didn't go blind from watching somebody weld. He went blind because he had diabetes and wouldn't stop drinking." At that moment, I felt very naive. So what I can't decide is whether thinking Houdini had died in his Water Torture Cell is like thinking somebody went blind from watching somebody weld.

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