Soothing the Savage Magician

The life of a professional magician isn’t always easy. There’s the death-defying, the hair’s breadth escapes, the daring what ordinary mortals would not. And then there’s the problem of skin care.

Harry Houdini toured Australia in 1910. A tireless self-promoter, he embarked on a series of stunts to publicise his performances, including being wrapped in chains and hurling himself from Melbourne’s Princes Bridge into the Yarra River. Various members of the public set challenges as well, with fiendishly difficult rope entanglements, hand-built coffins and manacles of devilish devise.

With all this, it’s no wonder that Houdini appreciated a ‘healing embrocation’, especially for those wrists chafed during his handcuff escapes. An obvious aficionado of soft and supple skin, Houdini penned a testimonial to the makers of Zam-Buk, an ointment which promised to heal ‘cuts, bruises, scalds, burns, eczema, pimples, psoriasis, piles, bad legs and other affections of the skin and tissues’.

It’s good to know that even masters of mysteries like Houdini need to take care of life’s niceties.