Houdini, Harry

Houdini, Harry

Houdini, Harry, 1874-1926, American magician and writer, b. Budapest, Hungary. His real name was Erich Weiss; he took his stage name after the French magician Houdin. He was famed for his escapes from bonds of every sort—locks, handcuffs, straitjackets, and sealed chests underwater. While his stage magic skills were limited, Houdini was famously the originator (1918) of the celebrated Vanishing Elephant illusion. He performed in silent films and was also noted for his exposure of fraudulent spiritualist mediums and their phenomena (see spiritism). He left to the Library of Congress his library of magic, one of the most complete and valuable in the world. Among his writings are The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin (1908), Miracle Mongers and Their Methods (1920), and A Magician among the Spirits (1924).

See Houdini's Magic (ed. from his notebooks, 1932); biographies by H. Kellock (1928), W. L. Gresham (1959), and K. Silverman (1996); W. B. Gibson, Houdini's Escapes (1930); R. FitzSimons, Death and the Magician: The Mystery of Houdini (1985); J. Steinmeyer, Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear (2003).

Batman/Houdini: The Devil's Workshop is a 1993 Elseworlds one-shot, written by Howard Chaykin and John Francis Moore, with full-painted art by Mark Chiarello.

The story recounts the encounter between Batman and Houdini in early 20th century Gotham.



In the Winter of 1907 children are going missing from the poorest part of Gotham, known as the Devil's Workshop. The culprit is a grinning white-faced ghoul named Jack Schadenfreude. Meanwhile Houdini is in town for a performance and mingles with Gotham's elite. Amongst them is Bruce Wayne, from an Old Money background, and Elijah Montenegro, the nouveau riche, self-styled Beef Baron. Also in town are other notables specifically Tom Mix and Leonora Reinhardt. All the high society events are being documented for the "Gotham Globe" by Victoria Vale.

Vale and Wayne attend Reinhardt’s performance as the lead in Medea, where they meet the Baron again. They are then invited to a séance to be held by Reinhardt. An invitation also extended to Houdini, who has an interest in the paranormal. The séance is apparently a success, leading the three to conclude something genuinely supernatural is going on.

The abductions are traced to Montenegro’s meat factory and it soon becomes apparent that everything is somehow connected.

The story is narrated by Houdini. He contrasts his own poor upbringing with that of Bruce Wayne. It also highlights Batman's comparatively poor lock picking and escapological skills, as he learned a number of his skills from studying Houdini's work.


The story was published as a 64 page, prestige format one-shot by DC Comics (ISBN 1563891131)


The usual fictional newspaper in the comics is the Gotham Gazette. The Globe was Viki Vale's employer in the 1989 Batman film.

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