A Hands-On Houdini Day

While the museum is closed the JMM team is coming together to bring some of our favorite activities from our recent family programs direct to your homes. Each collection of materials will be inspired by either one of our exhibits, Jewish History, or a Jewish holiday. All of the activities we share will be designed for families to complete together and only require supplies you are likely to already have in your home. The activities we offer will be varied from crafts, activities, games, scavenger hunts, and online story times. You can check out previous activity packs here!

~The JMM Programs Team

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini

In 2018 the JMM opened one of our most successful ever exhibits, Inescapable: the Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. Today’s family activities are inspired by that exhibit and the truly astounding story of Harry Houdini. Erik Weisz was born in Budapest, Hungary on March 24, 1874. Seventeen years later, he transformed himself into Harry Houdini and became the most famous magician and escape artist of all time.

During his short lifetime (Houdini died on Halloween night, 1926) he saw radical changes in the world, from the invention of the lightbulb, film, automobiles, the telephone, radio, skyscrapers, and airplanes, to the fast-paced urbanization of America and radical shifts in public taste for entertainment. Houdini was able to recognize the importance and potential of these rapid technological advancements and used them to make himself America’s first true superstar.

Try the activities shared here and think about how Houdini used changing technology and an audience hungry for new entertainment to create such an amazing career that we still celebrate today!

Don’t forget to share photos of you enjoying our crafts and activities on our FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Tumblr pages and use #MuseumFromHome.

Download the full Hands-On Houdini activity packet as a single pdf here.

Design a Houdini Poster 

Self-promotion was key to Houdini’s success. He made special use of bright, exciting posters to draw attention to his shows and share his latest magical triumphs, feats of endurance and miraculous escapes.

Supplies needed:

A large sheet of paper



Optional – Print out of poster elements

Download Instructions to Design a Houdini Poster

Early Animation


Harry and Beatrice Houdini on location with the production crew for “The Man from Beyond.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

One major technological advancement during Houdini’s life was movies – both live action filming and animation. Houdini starred in numerous films, often doing his own stunts (and even buying his own production studio). Becoming a film star helped Houdini reach bigger audiences in a new way, sending his moving image across the world.

In this activity, create your own thaumatrope (a special toy that creates an animated picture) as a building block to the science of animation.

Supplies needed:

Thaumatrope printable




Download Instructions to Build a Thaumatrope

Paper Airplanes

Houdini in his Voisin bi-plane cockpit. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Another technology that Houdini took a special interest in was air travel – particularly the invention of the airplane. Houdini himself became a pilot, performing filmed stunts in the air.

Use the activity below to create your own paper airplanes! You can also learn more about the science of airplane flight here:

Supplies needed:

Paper airplane printable

Download Instructions to Build a Paper Airplane

Disappearing Penny 

Houdini wasn’t know just for his dangerous stunts and mysterious escapes – he was a practiced stage magician. Houdini knew that the most important step to becoming a successful entertainer was practice, practice, practice.

In this activity, learn how to make a penny disappear – and then practice until you are as good as Houdini!

Supplies needed:

Square of fabric or handkerchief

Double sided tape


Download Instructions for the Disappearing Penny

Keep Discovering

 Want to know more about Harry Houdini and the world during his lifetime? We’ve put some resources below to help you learn even more about this fascinating man!

Follow along with this reading of A Picture Book of Harry Houdini and learn about Houdini’s early life and his rise to become a famous magician:

Gain an inside look at one of Houdini’s most famous acts: escaping from a straitjacket, here.

Feeling inspired to learn more magic tricks? Take some of the ideas here plus your Disappearing Penny trick and turn it into a whole show to impress your friends and family!


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