Harry escapes!Today, March 24, is Harry Houdini’s birthday. I have an interest in all stage magic, and Houdini looms large in the history of this fascinating mode of performance. He had a wonderful combination of swaggery, showmanship, self-promotion and cleverness. He thought carefully about his potentially lethal escapes and practised relentlessly. He loved using the popular press and the power of motion pictures to further his career. He was a celebrity in an age of celebrity.

And – little known fact time – he was also the first person to fly an aeroplane in Australia.
I know this last because to break a long road trip one day and I actually pulled off the road at one of those ubiquitous historical markers. The details took me some time to assimilate. Harry Houdini? Powered flight? What the?
For more on this remarkable feat, go here.

I also like the way Houdini went on to expose spiritualists and mediums, showing how simple sleight of hand was responsible for seemingly impressive ‘apparitions’. He was a rationalist, a humanist and a fascinating all round character.