Name: Micah Delo
Title of Book: The Great Houdini; Magician Extraordinary
Author: Beryl Williams and Samuel Epstein
Publisher: Julian Messner
Where Published: New York
When Published: 1966
Number of pages: 178

1. Who is the subject of the book? The subject of my book is Ehrich Weiss,
also known as the “Great Houdini”.

2. What aspects of the book made it enjoyable? Well I really liked some of his tricks and famous escapes. I also liked the way he and his wife never quit trying to find a circus or act to play at. They never got down on themselves for not getting an act to play at.

3. State the subject’s most outstanding personality trait. Cite evidence from the book to support your statement. Houdini’s most outstanding personality trait was his perseverence. Once, when Ehrich was desperately trying to promote the act he called The Houdini Brothers, which was most unsuccessful. His failures were particularly discouraging with the death of his father, shortly after the new career was launched. He was left with increased sense of responsibility for his family and especially for his mother. He refused to give up. Another time he got an act at Tony Pastor’s show. Just about the best show around. He performed better than he ever had. When he asked Mr. Pastor for an endorsement the man pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote, “Satisfactory and interesting”. He took Mr. Pastor’s statement to a dozen agents, but the agents just nodded and handed it back. He didn’t give up, and several weeks later he got an invitation to perform with Welsh Brothers’ Circus. Finally, he didn’t even get down on himself for having to run errands at a supermarket for most of his early life to get money to eat and pay the rent.

4. Give frank criticism of the story including reasons for your statements. In some parts of the book the sentences ran on forever. When I reached the end of them, I found them to be pointless.

5. Write a summary of the book. Highlight the person’s successes and failures.

Ehrich Weiss was born on April 6, 1874. Just a few months before the Weiss family had moved to the United States from Hungary. They settled in Appleton, Wisconsin. In Hungary his father was a highly respected teacher; but here in Appleton it was different. Here he was a stranger and ignorant of many things they themselves took for granted.

Ehrich took his professional surname from that of the French magician Jean Eugene Robert- Houdin. Houdini began his career in 1882 as a trapeze performer. Later he became famous for his performances of feats of magic. He showed great ability in extricating himself from handcuffs, ropes, locked trucks, and bonds of any sort. At one time he had himself tied and them locked in a packing case, which was bound with steel tape and dropped into the harbor off the Battery in New York City. Houdini appeared on the surface of the water in 59 seconds.

Houdini attributed all his feats of magic to natural, physical effects. He also explained how many of his tricks were performed. He exposed the tricks of fraudulent spiritualistic mediums, often producing “spiritualistic” phenomena himself that he explained in nonmystical, physical terms. Before he died, Houdini arranged a definitive test of spiritualism. He devised a ten-word code that he would communicate to his wife, if possible, within ten years after his death. After he died, various mediums maintained that they were able to establish contact with him, but none was able to transmit to his wife the prearranged code. He left his library of magic, one of the most valuable in the world, to the Library of Congress. Among his writings are The Unmasking of Robert- Houdin, Miracle Mongers and their Methods, and A Magician Among the Spirits. A selection of his writings, Houdini on Magic, appeared posthumously in 1954. He performed until his death in 1926.