Michigan February 06, 2017
History Has Forgotten This Bizarre Michigan Event From 90 Years Ago
You don’t have to be a magic expert to know the name Harry Houdini. This legendary illusionist and actor was a visionary in his day and remains an icon in the world of magicians. What you might not know, however, is that Houdini’s legacy maintains a dark and strange connection to our beloved Great Lakes State — and you’ll wonder why you hadn’t heard this story before.
In October of 1926, Harry Houdini traveled to Toronto, where he was scheduled to perform one of his absolutely fascinating magic shows. At age 52, he had enjoyed a long and storied career, which made him a highly demanded act across the globe.
Houdini was known for his superhuman feats. He regularly impressed audiences with everything from great escapes to disappearing acts, along with all sorts of illusions that made him seem superhuman.
On the evening of October 22nd, 1926, two McGill University students approached Houdini in his Toronto dressing room and asked if it was true that he could withstand a punch to the stomach, no matter how forceful. Before Houdini could answer, one of the students delivered four intense abdominal blows to the magician, apparently under the impression that Houdini had braced himself.
Houdini continued with his Toronto show despite extreme stomach pain and fever as a result of the students’ unexpected assault. A doctor quickly diagnosed him with appendicitis and a dangerously high temperature. But in true superhuman fashion, Houdini still insisted upon performing the next night at Detroit’s Garrick Theater.
Audience members stated that Houdini collapsed on stage during his Detroit performance, only to return and perform the remainder of the show in its entirety. By the time he completed the set, he was deeply exhausted and in extreme physical pain. He was rushed to the Motor City’s Grace Hospital for emergency treatment with his wife at his side.
On Halloween night, 1926, Harry Houdini died in his Detroit hospital bed. His last words were reportedly, “I’m tired of fighting.” In an eerie twist, his body was actually transported from Michigan to New York in the casket he often used while being "buried alive" during his stunts.
While history fondly remembers Houdini and his mind-boggling illusions, many people aren’t aware of the sad circumstances surrounding his last days and eventual demise. This legendary magician performed his final show and ultimately lost his toughest battle right here in the Great Lakes State.
What are some other bizarre, spooky, or otherwise unique historical events from Michigan’s past that textbooks seem to have forgotten? We’d love to hear your stories in the comment section.