DetroitIsIt 2

Harry Houdini Saw Detroit Beyond Death

The Famous Magician and Escape Artist Died in Detroit’s Grace Hospital. On Halloween.


Harry Houdini performed his final magic act on October 31st, 1926 when he escaped from this world. The scene: Detroit’s Grace Hospital.


A week earlier, on October 24th, the world-famous magician took the stage of the Garrick Theater for his final public performance. He had a fever of 104 degrees and chills. Days earlier a doctor diagnosed him with acute appendicitis and ordered emergency surgery.

Houdini declined and pushed forth with his Detroit performance.

That incident brought him to the doctor’s office. After an earlier performance in Montreal, a university student punched him in the gut as he sat on a couch with a broken ankle, unable to brace for the blows. Some will say this was his fatal moment. Others speculated he had been suffering from appendicitis.

Harry Houdini was born Erik Weisz in Budapest, into a Jewish family that emigrated into the states when he was a child. Over his life, Houdini would become many things: escape artist, actor, aviator, organizer of magicians, and a Freemason.

On Thanksgiving Day on the year of Houdini’s death, the dedication was made to open the world’s largest Masonic Temple, Detroit’s Masonic Temple

In 1926, the year of his death, all cars still looked like the Model T, the U.S. was in the throes of Prohibition and magic was in the air.


In a moment of newness during the World’s Fair, fraternal organizations like the Freemasons looked to ancient wisdom for clarity. As did the Spiritualist movement defined by their ability to connect to the dead. Houdini was known to publicly denounce fraudulent mediums and created The Society of American Magicians (S.A.M) in part to ensure a code of ethics and standards of practice for magicians.

At the time of his death, Houdini was the national President of S.A.M, an organization at the height of its popularity in 1926 with chapters across the country, including one in Detroit. 

And herein lies what might be a secret to many—a message from a living practitioner of magic, Alejandra of Geminey Tarot: 

“He asked his wife to attempt contact with him on the anniversary of his passing each year, to either validate or discredit his thoughts on communication with the dead. The man created magic through sheer force of intellect. 

Over a century later his work is still regarded as the top feats in illusion. He showed us magick is possible with critical thinking and intelligence. He taught us that no lock or chain can restrain a determined soul.” 

And with this message a request: Next time you think of Harry Houdini, Detroit, do not only of the fact that he died in Detroit, but take a moment to contemplate what connected him to Detroit. 

Take a moment to remember one of Detroit’s lost treasures, the Garrett Theatre. A theatre so grand it attracted the famous actress and director Jessie Bonstelle to leave New York and open the Bonstelle Theatre in Detroit.  

Think of the greatest of Detroit’s Masonic Temple.  

And think of all the people in the audience of Houdini’s final performance who came not only to see a man escape from chains, but to connect to something higher.