Houdini appears at the Skirball
There is a box that exists, with two round holes cut in the top of it barely big enough to fit a man's foot through. This wooden box with glass in the front can be filled with water. It is unfathomable to imagine anyone getting into such a box with no air and dangling upside down. But long ago, someone did. Known for taking on any challenge and mystifying audiences, Harry Houdini once performed in a Chinese Water Torture Cell similar to the one being described.
Each and every time, Houdini was able to escape flawlessly and drenched to the bone. He continuously charmed audiences with his originality and mystifying illusions.
The original Water Torture Cell no longer exists. It was destroyed during a 1995 fire at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada. However, a very intricate replica designed by illusion builder John Gaughan can be found at the Skirball Cultural Center's latest exhibit, Houdini: Art and Magic.
Famed magician, escapist, and illusionist, Harry Houdini may have passed away on Halloween of 1926, but his legacy has persisted throughout the years.
The Skirball's exhibit brings to life the mysterious Houdini through memorabilia, rare artifacts, and modern art.
"We hope one and all will come to appreciate the impact Jewish magicians made on entertainment history and on American and European culture, lifestyle, and traditions," said Erin Clancy, the exhibit's curator.
Houdini: Art and Magic made its way to the Skirball from New York's Jewish Museum.
Clancy, stated how it was originally organized by the New York Jewish Museum and spoke of the exhibit as a combination of Houdini and Contemporary Art.
The Hungarian-born Jewish, Houdini, whose original name was Erich Weiss, immigrated to America with his family in 1878.
One of the rooms in the Skirball's exhibit plays tribute to some of Houdini's earliest works. Nicknamed ‘Prince Erich of the Air,' the young Houdini made his entrance into the world of magic while performing for the circus at the age of nine.
Houdini frequently dared people to bring him handcuffs to escape from, with the claim that he could escape from any pair of handcuffs, no matter what. He never failed to come through on his claim.
Cases of handcuffs that Houdini escaped from are another piece of memorabilia showcased in the exhibit.
‘The Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age' exhibit, shines a spotlight on magicians who were prevalent from 1875 until 1948.
Richard Hatch, a professional magician and magic historian, was one of approximately eighteen advisors for Masters of Illusion. A second edition of the book "The Discovery of Witchcraft," which was published in 1584 and even used by Shakespeare as a sourcebook for works such as "Macbeth," is one of the many artifacts that can be found on display.
When referring to the book's importance, Hatch, who was in attendance during a press tour of the exhibit, said the book is one of the oldest published books on magic.
Vintage children's magic sets sit in a glass case within the exhibit, as well as information on renowned Golden-Age magicians such as Jacob Meyer, Robert Houdin, Carl Herrmann and the Bamberg Family.
"The Skirball warmly invites visitors to experience Houdini: Art and Magic and Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age," Clancy said with enthusiasm.
Throughout the exhibits' stay at the Skirball, there will be special guest appearances by prominent figures in the world of magic. There will even be magic-themed events geared towards the whole family, and even an excursion to the Magic Castle in Hollywood, an exclusive private club dedicated to all things magical.