JULY 2002 NZSCC stamp news on line
July Daytime Meeting
To be held on Wednesday, 3 July at 1.00pm to 3.30pm in the Philatelic Centre, 67 Mandeville Street, Riccarton. Please ring your friends to remind them about it.
Buy, sell or swapBring your spare stamps or money. Don Walker is bringing the Exchange books.
RafflesDon will have some items to raffle.
June Evening Meeting
Church Hall, Corner Papanui Rd & Rugby St, Merivale.
9:30am to 1:00pm on Saturdays 6 & 20 July 2002.
Harry Houdinis motto was My brain is the key that sets me free. As a renowned magician and arguably the worlds greatest escape artist, he always emphasized that he had no occult powers and that all his tricks were done by natural means. While other escape artists might have the same physical abilities, it was Houdinis mind that made him the master of any restraint system.
Houdini, the son of a rabbi, was born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hungary, 24 March 1874. His family moved to America when he was 4 years old. He was raised in Appleton, Wisconsin, and often told people that he was born there. Houdinis family was large and poor, so he left home at age 12 to ease the burden on his parents. He once said, The greatest escape that I ever made was when I left Appleton, Wisconsin. Eventually Houdinis family moved to New York City, and he rejoined them there where he worked as a photographer, messenger, garment cutter and locksmiths apprentice.
As a teenager, he read two books that changed his life. The first was Revelations of a Spirit Medium by A. Medium. This book was an inside expose of the tricks and charlatanry of mediums and spiritualists. The second was The Memoirs of Robert-Houdin, an autobiography of Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin, considered the greatest magician of his day. Houdini began his career as a stage magician, billing himself as Erik the Great. He changed his name to Houdini in honour of Robert-Houdin. Ironically, Houdini later became disillusioned with Robert-Houdin and wrote a book exposing him as a charlatan. Building on his early locksmith experience, Houdini began to use handcuffs and perform different types of escapes in his act. He co-opted his brother Theo into the act. They were billed as the Houdini Brothers when they appeared at the Columbian Exposition Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893. In 1894 Houdini met and fell in love with Wilhemina Beatrice Rahner, a singer and dancer working at Coney Island amusement park. He was 19; she was 17. They were secretly married in a civil ceremony two weeks after they met, and she immediately replaced Theo in an act that was now called the Houdinis.
In 1899 Houdini was booked on a premier American vaudeville circuit. He toured Europe from 1900 to 1904. As his stage presence matured, escapes became more and more the focus of Houdinis act. Houdini progressed from escapes from simple handcuffs to leg irons, straitjackets, jail cells, mail pouches, milk cans and coffins. He invented the escape challenge, which was performed free and publicly for the publicity it generated. He would challenge police or prison officials to bind and restrain him in any manner they chose. Despite chains, leg irons, handcuffs and prison locks, he always escaped. No escape seemed too dangerous or difficult for Houdini. He jumped off a bridge into San Francisco Bay handcuffed with a 75-pound ball and chain shackled to his ankles. He was buried alive and once spent 90 minutes underwater in a lead coffin before escaping. He would swallow needles and thread separately, then pull them back out of his mouth with the needles threaded. Houdinis most famous escape act was probably the Chinese Water Torture Chamber. In this escape, Houdini was chained and suspended upside down inside a padlocked, water-filled glass cabinet.
Houdini was an aviation pioneer and bought his own airplane. In 1910, he became the first person to fly an airplane in Australia. Shortly thereafter he disposed of his plane and never flew again.
In 1919 Houdini launched a successful movie career. He starred in six movies, the last made in 1923, and he became one of the first people to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At least two of these movies survive and are available on videotape.
Houdini tried to expose gambling cheats and psychic and spiritualist frauds. He wrote several books on the subject and often went to sťances incognito to expose the medium as a charlatan. In 1926, Houdini was invited to speak about debunking false spiritualism at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He followed up with an appearance at the Princess Theatre in Montreal. Several athletes from McGill came to see him backstage after the show. They asked if he could really sustain blows to his abdomen without ill effect, something he often did by tensing his abdominal muscles before receiving the blows. One of the athletes, J Gordon Whitehead, unexpectedly struck him three times in rapid succession before Houdini could tense his muscles. Whiteheads unexpected blows supposedly ruptured Houdinis appendix. (Some medical experts maintain that the appendix cannot be ruptured in this manner and that the timing of the blows with the rupture of Houdinis appendix was purely coincidental). Houdini gave several more shows in Montreal after the incident. He gave his final performance in Detroit, collapsing after the show. On 31 October 1926, at Grace Hospital, Detroit, Houdini died of peritonitis from his ruptured appendix.
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