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How Harry Houdini might have pulled off his most daring trick



When it comes to the greatest fears of most people, it is alive to be buried there. But master mage Harry Houdini was no stranger to making other people sweat. In 1915, he performed a trick in Santa Ana, California, where he was buried under two feet of earth. However, it did not go away without incident: He clawed out, but it almost killed him.

Stunt expert Steve Wolf considers Hudini's most daring trick to be the buried vivid illusion. "The room to maneuver is zero," says Wolf Mental Floss. Wolf is one of the stars of the new Science Channel show Houdini's Last Secrets along with Houdini's great-nephew George Hardeen and the magician Lee Terbosic. In each episode, the trio examines how the notoriously secretive Houdini performed his most famous tricks, as well as some of the many secrets of his life ̵

1; including whether the magician served as a spy and whether his sad death fell on Halloween 1926 was truly one Accident.

Wolf, who has served as a special effects coordinator for several films and television series, is a science pedagogue for children, and runs his own amusement park in Texas, called Stunt Ranch, about how illusions arise and how people perceive reality through visual cues. He explains that when Houdini played his buried stunt (there is some controversy over whether and how often the trick was done), Houdini saw the audience watch Houdini entering a coffin, watching the coffin locked in a crypt, and then The crypt was buried in several thousand pounds of sand or earth.

"A curtain would go up and the audience would wonder if it was suffocating," Wolf explains. "And after a long period of time, Houdini would appear unscathed."

That was the theory anyway. In 1915, the trick was not quite as planned, and there are reports that Houdini had become unconscious after being partially arrested and had to be rescued by assistants. But Houdini seemed to have planned a more complicated and hopefully safer version of the tricks towards the end of his life.

For Houdini's Last Secrets Wolf had to find out a version of Houdini's deception as similar as possible to that in which Houdini later worked. Most importantly, Terbosic needed to be sure of the performance. It was not an easy feat, Wolf explains, "If he's in the coffin and there's really 3,000 pounds of dirt on him and the casket implodes, it could cause serious injury, it could crush his lungs, crush his heart." could suffocate.

As with many Houdinis stunts, there is no surviving documentation, let alone Houdini's how-to notes, which meant that Wolf and his team had to rely on problem solving, technique, and advice to figure out how the magician did that One theory they considered was that Houdini might have used sand instead of soil.

"Houdini had a roadshow on the road, and sand would be easy to transport or locally procure," explains Wolf Wolf's team explored a process called sand liquefaction, where air pumped through sand from below makes sand look like a liquid, meaning that anything lighter than sand can actually float. 19659002] "Houdini had a background that works with compressed air," says Wolf, "and if he had experimented with it, he would have known that you were actually removing the coffin from the bottom Float the crypt and float silently on the sand, using only compressed air to liquefy the sand. We do not know, that's how he did it … but that's one of the theories we explore.

The other option, which is performed in a big stunt on the show, is trap doors, the first step was to put together the ingredients: in this case, a clear coffin and a crypt so that the audience can see what happens Houdini's last secrets would be used with clear Plexiglas, which is less likely to shatter, while Houdini's glass would be used to see and see Terbosic in the coffin with a straitjacket how the thousand pounds of earth are poured on him.

"It is no illusion that he is in the coffin and you see the coffin being buried. This really happens, "explains Wolf.

The secret lies in how the coffin and crypt are built, each with a trapdoor – or what Wolf calls" an inconspicuous way to leave the coffin. "He explains Lifting the coffin lid against thousands of pounds of dirt would be nearly impossible The best way to leave the coffin is through the sides or ends. "And if this end were very close to a second trap door, [the magician] could come out of the tomb , Ideally, you would open the trapdoor at one end of the coffin and then apply direct pressure [on a second trap door] and then something would give way, and you could come out of the tomb, "he explains.

The team also used a staircase that made it easy The staircase helped Terbosic escape as well – that is, after he had pulled himself out of the straitjacket, he also had to turn his whole body, as his head was peeling off the trap doors Finally, he landed safely in the staircase, from which he came out easily, rubbed some dirt against himself (to make him look like he had scratched the floor), and waited for the applause.

According to Wolf a The key to making the trapdoors was fake welds. "One of the most interesting things about the trapdoors was that they created illusions. The people on stage were able to examine the props and not figure out where the trap doors were, "says Wolf." One of the techniques used by Houdini was fake rivets and counterfeit screws to make you think something was fixed, not what it was Case was. And we may have experimented with false welds, "he remarks shyly," but anyone who visually inspected the props would think they were mechanically fine to keep someone in them. "

Even if you know It's exciting to see how the trick was done on the show, but historians and enthusiasts who try to understand Houdini's illusions and his life are unlikely to be reassured.

"I think that Most [Houdini’s illusions] are still a mystery, "says Wolf." There are probably only a handful of ways in which most of them are possible. Through simple diagnosis and experimentation, you could find out which methods are safest and most repeatable. But we do not know exactly how he did her. "

That is, the myths – and the legend – of Houdini are unlikely to be buried soon.

The episode" Buried Alive "by Houdinis Last Secrets on January 27


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