“Anyone who believes in magic is a fool” – Harry Houdini
Yes, you read the title right this actually happened…
The audacious escape – no flat out strange – was made possible by the challenge he had accepted after a group of dolts dared him to give it a shot.
In this blog, I’ll give you all the information you need to know in order to truly appreciate Houdini’s belly of a beast escape.
The process of escaping a mammoth sea monster:
Let’s go back over 100 years ago to find out exactly what happened in this crazily impressive performance. Picture this:
The drama of this performance was insane.
Newspapers considered it Houdini’s most difficult test.
Houdini’s family was against the act.
Who’s family wouldn’t?
The procession started on the Long Wharf of Boston Harbour and continued through the winding streets to Keith’s Theatre.
Crowds of people followed the bizarre parade, others just stood on the sidewalk and watched in awe as Houdini’s next great challenge was publicly displayed.
“It” was a giant 1,600-pound sea monster that had been fished out of the ocean, a “what is it ” that locals had identified as a cross between a whale and an octopus.
Ten prominent Boston businessmen had challenged Houdini to be fettered with handcuffs and leg irons and escape from the hollowed-out belly of the beast.
‘The scene on stage on September 26, 1911, was unbelievable.
It took a dozen stagehands to carry out the “turtle-tortoise-fish or whatever it is,” and turn it on its back in the center of the stage. Its abdomen had been sliced open, affixed with metal eyelets, which held a long thread of steel chain.
Before the escape was attempted, Houdini was forced to sign a document that would release the owners of this monster from any liability should Houdini fail the test.
Then the steel chain was slackened, and Houdini crawled into the carcass, pausing to spray some strong perfume where his head would lie.
He gave a signal, and handcuffs and leg irons were fastened to him.
Then the committee went to work.
Smiling through their labor, they tightened the chain, passed it around the creature’s back, and secured it with locks.
The beast was sewn up with Houdini left inside, in the arsenic fumes, and shackled uptight.
The cabinet was then placed around the beast and the orchestra struck up.
What Houdini was doing was so audacious, so bizarre and so freaking dangerous he had the crowd’s rapt attention.
5 minutes passed.
No sign of the Handcuff King.
10 minutes passed. Still no sign.
After fifteen minutes, the screens of the cabinet were thrown open, and there was Houdini, “grease-covered, pallid and perspiring,” holding the handcuffs and leg irons aloft in triumph.
On examination, the beast was as securely locked as it had been before.
Houdini was not unscathed.
His first words were to the stagehands, requesting them to open the windows and give him some air. Houdini had underestimated the toxicity of the arsenic solution that the taxidermist had used to preserve the sea monster, and, locked inside, he had been adversely affected by the fumes.
So yeah he nearly suffocated to death.
Here’s the bit I find hilarious…
The next day the papers delighted in pointing out that Houdini had bested Jonah himself — “[Houdini] took only 15 minutes to gain freedom while it took the old sailor of the Bible three days to get free.”
As a matter of fact, I have no idea how he performed the escape. I’ve heard you can find the answer in Patrick Culliton’s book called Houdini The Key. Want to learn more. Click Here:
Let me know if you learn the secret behind this amazing trick in the comments.
Hope you enjoyed learning a little more about The Belly of a Whale Escape.