The Houdini Code: Genius from the cradle to the tomb… and beyond!

Harry Houdini’s is one of those names which need no presentation at all. Master of escapism, portentous illusionist and pioneer of this unique art –and, above all, of its introduction into the show business–, the Hungarian Erik Weisz (his birth name, back in 1874) is one of the most well-known (and recognized) figures worldwide, up to the point that his surname became synonymous with impossible escapes and success leaving behind tricky situations; avoid danger when everything seems lost. A true show-wise genius. However, the one who had begun as a comical and smiling magician increasingly adopted a mysterious, transcendent tone. It is believed, actually, that Houdini was initiated into escapism after attending several séances, in which some seers carried out a little performance in order to avoid fraud suspicions: they would tie themselves with ropes and pretended to get released aided by spirits… Our Hungarian friend noticed this trick and immediately realized that this staging could become the core idea of a whole new artistic modality. Still, what not everyone knows is that Houdini had a final resource in mind so as to escape from his very own death…

Harry Houdini and his wife Bess back in 1913

Although he was always quite skeptical about it, Harry Houdini had had a close relationship with the world of spiritism and the hereafter, mostly contrary to the arguments of those who believed in supernatural powers, as in the case of famous writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a good friend of him and a regular participant at shared gatherings. Just because this, and to make sure that no medium took advantage of his fame once pushing up daisies, the magician came up with a secret code to share with his wife, Bess Rahner, to prove as false any ghost testimony or alleged contact with his spirit after he died. This message, which only they both knew about, was never revealed, although shortly after the artist’s death, in 1926, his widow undertook a great public campaign, including a reward of $10,000, aimed to anyone who could prove that he had contacted her deceased husband. As a matter of fact, Rahner kept a lit candle next to a picture of his beloved Harry for more than 10 years, waiting for a message that never came…

Houdini had written, before he passed out, that, if there were any way to contact the world of the living, he would eventually find it. With this code he ended up making clear that, as he always said, this route was completely impossible. Or, at least, that he was not able to find it anyway… Much has been speculated about the veracity of this final trick of the Hungarian genius; in any case, what decades have shown us is that his figure has crossed space and time, although it was not literally…