Harry Houdini

Living History Performance

Harry Houdini wasn’t born. He was invented. The world’s most famous magician began life as Erik Weisz, the son of a Hungarian rabbi. in 1878 immigration to the U.S. transformed Erik Weisz to Erich Weiss. It was the first of many transformations for the man who would become the first international superstar.

The living history performance tells the story of how Erich Weiss became Harry Houdini and investigates the technologies, marketing prowess, and entertainment trends that transformed him into a superstar.

Harry Houdini is performed by professional magician/performer David London.


Harry Houdini was born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary in 1874. His father, Meyer Samuel Weisz was a Rabbi who left for America in 1876. Two years later, Rabbi Weisz brought the rest of the family to Appleton, Wisconsin where he became the Rabbi of a synagogue there. After passing through the immigration center at Castle Gardens, Erik Weisz became Ehrich Weiss.

As a teenager, Ehrich worked as a messenger boy in New York and later in a necktie factory. He performed small magic acts and card tricks for extra money and eventually quit his job at the necktie factory and changed his name to Houdini.

In the 1890’s, Houdini performed his act on Coney Island where he met his wife, Bess Rahner. Houdini performed with Bess for decades, traveling across the country many times. He became internationally known for his sensational handcuff and straitjacket escapes. In the 1920’s, with the rise in popularity of spiritualism, Houdini dedicated himself to exposing frauds who claimed to be psychics, fortune tellers or mediums who can talk to the dead. Harry Houdini died on Halloween, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan from peritonitis.


JMM presents its newest living history character and exhibit Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini.

Performed by professional magician/performer David London, the performance lasts for 40 minutes. Following the performance, audience members will have the opportunity to meet and ask questions with “Harry Houdini” and then with David London.

Living History Program performances are available for schools, public and private events and can take place at the Museum or outside venues.

Learn about booking the performance for an adult group here.

Learn about booking the performance for a school group here.

The living history performance of Harry Houdini is made possible through the support of The Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.