Ninety years after his death, the secrets of the world’s greatest escape artist, Harry Houdini, have been unlocked in a recently opened Hungarian museum devoted to the Budapest-born illusionist.
Set high in the capital’s lofty Castle district, the House of Houdini lifts the veil on the box of tricks used by the famous magician, who lived most of his life in the United States.
Amid gleaming chandeliers and old Chesterfield seats, the red-painted rooms showcase handcuffs and padlocks used by Houdini in performances.
Visitors can also see props from a recent television production on him such as a box from an illusion where a woman appears to be cut in half.
There’s even a stage where budding magicians charm visitors with card tricks.
“I had an urge to pay tribute to Houdini,” said museum owner and fellow escapologist David Merlini who has dedicated his life to collecting the items on display.
“We are all Houdinis. Everyone has a secret desire sometimes to get out of a certain situation, to be somewhere else, in a different pair of shoes, that is his enduring universal appeal,” he said.
At the start of December, the museum pulled a new rarity out of its hat — a bible once owned by Houdini.
The book, which he signed as a 19-year-old, was delivered to the museum by its previous owner, New York-based jazz-blues singer Tara O’Grady.
“I feel like it has come home,” said Ms. O’Grady, whose family had owned the book since the late 1970s.
The bible had been gifted by Houdini’s brother to a nurse in the 1960s who then gave it to her Irish immigrant neighbour, Ms. O’Grady’s mother.
Little attention was paid to the book, until a friend’s recent interest alerted Ms. O’Grady to its potential value.
When Mr. Merlini first heard about the bible’s re-emergence on a Houdini historian’s website, “Wild about Harry”, he knew he had to have “this special collector’s item”.
“My friends tell me I spend too much on these artefacts but what is of real value today? Real estate? A diamond ring or a nice car? I believe it is what makes you happy,” he said. — AFP