Harry Houdini - Salem, Massachusetts

Courtesy: Salem Patch
Courtesy: Hawthorne Hotel
In April 1906, Harry Houdini visited Salem while on tour. For three consecutive nights he performed sold out shows at the Salem Theatre on Essex Street. During his stay, he was challenged by the skeptical chief of police to escape a locked cell in Salem’s police station, at the time located on Front Street. It is said that Houdini, stripped of his clothes, was placed in three sets of handcuffs and two pairs of leg irons, in the jail’s middle cell. In a reported 13 minutes, Houdini had freed himself and opened the neighboring cell, where his clothes were being held. He then proceeded to unlock all of the remaining cells and handcuffed himself to a fellow prisoner. Fully clothed, prisoner in-tow, he walked outside and mockingly stood in the window where the police chief was waiting.

Courtesy: Salem Memories II -
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.
Harry Houdini died in Detroit, Michigan on October 31, 1926 after days of suffering complications of a ruptured appendix. Following a large funeral of over 2,000 mourners, he was laid to rest in Queens, New York.
On October 30, 1990, a séance was held in the grand ballroom of Salem’s Hawthorne Hotel in the hopes of summonsing the spirit of Harry Houdini on the 64th anniversary of his death. Despite being unsuccessful, this séance helped lead to the introduction of the annual Halloween Party, which premiered in 1991.

*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

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