The Death of Harry Houdini

Now there's an intense glare. 

It was in Detroit, Michigan on Halloween, in the year 1926 that legendary Hungarian-American escape artist, Harry Houdini, died of peritonitis (an acute inflammation of abdominal tissue caused by an internal rupture).  

As the story goes, Houdini was renowned for his ability to take a punch. Approximately a week before his death, two students from McGill University visited Houdini in his dressing room prior to a performance in Montreal, Canada. One of the students asked Houdini if it was indeed true that punches to the stomach did not hurt him. Houdini replied in the affirmative while reclining on a sofa, attempting to relieve the pressure on his ankle which had been broken earlier that week during a show. While Houdini lay in this semi-supine position, the student hauled off and delivered four "hammer" blows to the illusionist's stomach - reportedly before Houdini could adequately brace himself. Houdini, in obvious pain, stopped the student and protested that he wasn't properly prepared.  

Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey prepares to throw a mock punch at Harry Houdini.

The great stunt performer then went on stage that evening while in great discomfort and running a sudden fever of 102 degrees. Two days later on October 24th, with his insides burning and a fever that had risen to 104 degrees, Houdini again took the stage - this time in Michigan.  While struggling mightily through the performance, Houdini suddenly asked that the curtain be closed and then collapsed upon being hid from view. Although he stubbornly refused medical care, by the next morning the protestations of his wife, Beth, had won out, and Houdini admitted himself to a Detroit area hospital whereupon he was promptly diagnosed with an appendicitis.  Although his appendix were quickly removed, the peritonitis caused by the rupture was quite advanced, and doctors feared the worst. Houdini's condition deteriorated and while surrounded by his wife and brother, the once optimistic patient confided, "I'm tired of fighting." The 52-year-old legend died at 1:26 PM on October 31st, 1926.

Interestingly, it has never been substantiated that the dressing room slug-fest directly caused Houdini's deadly appendicitis; it's apparently quite uncommon for blunt force trauma to result in such a rupture.  So was it all just a terrible coincidence?

Whatever the case may be, if you're interested in visiting Houdini's final resting place, pay a visit to Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, NY - and as a general rule, don't let anyone punch you in the gut if you can avoid it.  If you'd like to learn more about the life of this fascinating American, watch the video below.