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Houdini imitators

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Houdini's rivals and imitators starting appearing as soon as his handcuff escapes started to became successful.

Houdini inspired many, men and women. Some duplicated his escapes and others during the height of his fame were just trying to capitalize on his name. Houdini often ruthlessly defended his domain by challenging these imitators, advertising that his act was "patented" with threats to sue them, exposing them, or training someone of his own liking (including his brother Hardeen). [1]

The following were Houdini rival escape artists and imitators during his career:

  • Jacques Boudini - Was challenged by Houdini on September 20, 1905 in New York City, with Houdini anointed the winner. [2][3] Patrick Cullition posted photographs of Leonard Hicks on his website, the man he believes played the role of "Boudini" for Harry.[4]
  • Leo Houdeen, early stage name of Henry Barton Turner who later became "Deville, the Wizard of the Army".
  • Oudini, obviously a Houdini imitator, during the early 1900s in the Boston area. He wrote a book called The Great Mysteries in 1909 in which he exposed some escapes.
  • Brindamour, an escape artist possibly doing handcuff escapes before Houdini who was billed as "The Original Jail Breaker and Handcuff King".
  • The Cirnocs - Two brothers who billed themselves as the "Handcuff Kings" in 1900. There advertisements stated hey were "Masters of Locks" since 1872.[5]. The younger of the two, P.H. Cirnoc (Ernest Nurthen), would do the escape while the other narrated. The were Houdini's earliest competitors in England.[6]
  • John Clempert, a professional wrestler turned escape artist
  • Cunning the Jail Breaker, later a mentalist known as Doc Cunning, was an escape artist at the turn of the century. Some experts say that, in some respects, he surpassed Houdini.
  • Darring - was escaping from handcuffs around Glasgow in 1904[7]
  • Paul Freeman, card manipulator and escape artist made a sensation with his Mail Bag escape around 1914.[8]
  • Frank Hilbert, who had tried with little success to sell himself as an escape artist, became an exposer with an act called "The Burst Bubble - How Handcuff Tricks are Done." In 1905, Houdini disguised himself to disrupt Hilbert's performance at the Cardiff Empire Theater.[9]
  • Kolar, started his preforming in vaudeville doing magic, escapes, juggling and slack wire walking. His catch phrase was "Give my regards to the Chief of Police!"
  • Professor Maharajah - possibly used the term "escape artist" prior to Houdini and some say he may have taught Houdini his first handcuff escapes in 1895 while they were both performing at a dime museum in Boston. During the 1920's, he was performing the from the milk can escape as a finale.
  • Minerva, a German female escape artist at the beginning of the 1900s. She performed in America, Canada, Cuba, Germany, France, Hungary and Great Britain as the "American Queen of Mystery". Was also married to Guy Jarrett.
  • Postman James Day - A postman from Birmingham who wrote "The Secrets of the Handcuff Act" and did an act entitled "Mystery in a Post Office" which contained his "Post Office Pillar Box Mystery" and "The Postman's Bride" illusions in 1904. [10]
  • Pitroff, who once billed himself as the "Only rival to Houdini" in 1916, was doing the straight jacket escape hanging by his feet as early as 1910.
  • Maurice Raymond - Had one act known as "Mytempsicosis — fastest trunk escape in the world", performed with his wife, Lipzka. Raymond was sponsored into the S.A.M. by Houdini in 1921.
  • Victor Alexander - Confessions of a "Handcuff King" in Popular Mechanics, June 1910.
  • Empress, "The Female Houdini", performed in English theaters in the early 1900s.
  • Bros Zachs - consisted of George Zachs, the escape artist, assisted by his brother.
  • Steens (1881-1939) a French escape artist.
  • Miss Undina, Houdini took her to German court in 1913 to stopped her from presenting her copy of the Upside-Down Water Torture Cell.
  • Carl Mysto - Houdini's rival in Salford, Manchester. In 1904, Houdini exposed Mysto's "coffin escape" and then performed his own.[11]
  • Professor Haeman
  • Spink
  • Ted Clifton (Edward Mead) performed escapes in English music halls from 1905 to 1907. Stanley Collins produced his act. Clifton decided the work was too hard and later became a comedian.[12]
  • Torrini
  • Charles K. Tripp did jail cell and handcuff escapes in 1906.
  • Martini-Szeny [13]
  • Russell B. Grose [14]
  • Bernardi, a Swedish escape artist started preforming after Houdini's death. His wife "Miss Hilden" (Hildegard Neureiter) also perform escapes.
  • Engleberto Kleppini, who Houdini personally challenged.
  • Hardini, a name used by several magicians
  • Excello
  • Harry Kardoc [15]
  • Prof. A. Karlemann
  • Jarah Ho Tyahma (J.H. Trudel)
  • Kilby
  • Howdini
  • Thohma Hoedini


  1. The secret life of Houdini: the making of America's first superhero By William Kalush, Larry Sloman (2006)
  2. Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman (2006)
  5. Mahatma, December 1901
  6. Magical Nights at the Theatre by Charles Waller (1980)
  7. Sphinx, November, 1904
  8. Tops, September 1983, page 6
  9. Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman (2006)
  10. Cover, Goldston's Magician Monthly, March 1905
  11. Houdini The Untold Story by Milbourne Christopher (1969)
  12. THE LITERATURE ESCAPE by David Meyer, Magicol February 2001
  15. THE LITERATURE ESCAPE by David Meyer, Magicol February 2001