Yes, that Harry Houdini. There’s a bunch of mystery surrounding the death of the famous magician but did Albany, NY have something to do with it?
Quick backstory on my personal hobbies, I’m one of those people who love to watch true crime and mysteries. It’s me, it calms me, it interests me, and honestly, I don’t know why either. I was checking out the Smithsonian Channel and found “The Curious Life and Death Of…” The premise is that this doctor/author dives into famous mysterious deaths to further explain them. I watched the episode on Harry Houdini and to my surprise Albany, NY came up as a suspect in the death of the magician.
In October 1926, Houdini broke his ankle while performing the famous Chinese Water Torture Cell at the Capitol Theater. The Capitol Theater was at 57 Chapel Street, Albany. It was opened prior to 1926 and operated until 1950. It has since been demolished, according to Cinema Treasures. It is generally believed that this injury led to the chain of events that caused the death of Houdini, according to Wild About Houdini.
According to the History Channel, “While being shackled into his Chinese Water Torture Cell during a performance in Albany, New York, the conjurer was struck on the leg by a piece of faulty equipment. He hobbled his way through the rest of the show, but was later found to have sustained a fractured left ankle.” Against doctor’s orders, Houdini continued the tour at McGill University.
Then, at McGill University, Houdini’s ankle was still bothering him so he sat on the couch while a group of students visited him in his dressing room. At some point, a student, J. Gordon Whitehead, asked Houdini if it was true that he could resist hard punches to his abdomen. According to a witness, it was then that Whitehead quickly punched Houdini in the abdomen forcibly 4-5 times. Still being reclined on the couch, Houdini had no chance to brace himself for the punches.
At the time, Houdini brushed it off. Later on in the night, Houdini complained of stomach pain and cramps. Then, his condition worsened to what a doctor labeled appendicitis. Instead of going to the hospital, Houdini performed again. He collapsed before the final curtain.
Houdini was taken to the hospital where they quickly removed his ruptured appendix but it had already poisoned his insides. He died on October 31. At the time, doctor’s believed the reason for his death was the forceful punches to his abdomen. The punches he would probably have been better braced for if he wasn’t resting a broken ankle he got IN ALBANY! Is it a stretch? Maybe. Is it a part of history we really don’t want to be attributed to us? Probably. Either way, it’s interesting, right?