Tuesday, June 23, 2009

55. The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman - Audio

Harry Houdini was a fascinating man and this abridged audio of the book certainly makes him even more so. According to the authors, Houdini acted as a spy for the government before WWI and helped train American troops in the art of escape. It was interesting to learn how Houdini learned about locks which led him to train and develop muscle and breathing techniques that allowed him to survive while extricating himself from various predicaments. A great portion of the book deals with Harry's attempt to reach his mother on the other side. Because of his training in magic and sleight of hand, plus a stint of a medium early in his career, Harry was able to spot the tricks used by spiritualists of the day. He became an avid debunker of these frauds, costing him his friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was a strong supporter of the Spiritualists movement. According to the authors, Harry continued to search for a true medium but was always disappointed. The book also suggests that Houdini's death from peritonitis caused by acute appendicitus was caused by foul means. Apparently it was his custom to allow men to hit him in the stomache. On the final occasion, a student hit him many times in the abdomen without giving his a chance to tighten the muscles. The mysterious student seemed to be in the pay of the angry spiritualists who were known to do away with their detractors. One of the most fascinating things about the book is how they explain many of Houdini's feats. He never claimed to be supernatural and always testifed that his act was always performed by natural means. Even so he was quite extraordinary. It was a fun book to listen to while traveling to Salt Lake this weekend. Rating: 4


  1. Sounds very interesting. Did you get this from the library?

  2. I read this a while back and really enjoyed it. he had a very interesting life.

  3. That does sound cool. I like hearing the behind-the-scenes stories of famous people.