The Truth About Harry Houdini's Death

All told, Erik Weisz had a life that seemed better suited for golden age comic books than the real world. He left his home at a young age and reinvented himself in America, eventually taking on the colorful pseudonym Harry Houdini and performing acts of apparent superhuman strength and stamina. He dedicated a good chunk of his life to exposing evil, exposing psychics and mediums as con artists. His public persona became a part of the public consciousness, even if the standard man on the street never knew his real name. He was, in effect, the world's first superhero.

So how does a superhero die?

A Hou-dunnit

In a forward-thinking nod to roughly every third or fourth Superman story, the answer is, as it has always been, "by getting punched really hard a bunch of times."

According to History, Houdini was already in a bad way when he arrived in Montreal in October of 1926. The 52 year old showman had busted up his ankle during a performance a few days prior, so he was kicking back on a sofa when a group of college students stopped by for a meet and greet.

One of the students, named J. Gordon Whitehead, was reportedly extra curious about one of Houdini's tricks in particular. Harry was well known for his uncanny ability to withstand a blow to the stomach, and according to witnesses, Whitehead wanted to know if he was really impervious to gut punches, also asking if Houdini believed "in the miracles of the Bible," which is some Tarantino-level foreboding dialogue, before dropping "four or five terribly forcible, deliberate, well-directed blows" right into the unprepared escape artist's abdomen.

Nine days and a whole lot of ignoring his doctors' recommendations to stay in the hospital later, Harry Houdini died of peritonitis resulting from a ruptured appendix.

Or did he?

Or, we ask again, did he?

Yes, he did.

Since his death, rumors have made the rounds that Harry Houdini was actually murdered by angry spiritualists, seeking revenge for his anti-conman advocacy. If it were true, it would be a big win for whatever you call the dark flip side to crystal healing. It's not.

Still, the idea picked up some steam recently with the release of the book The Secret Life of Houdini, which proposed that Harry was poisoned by angry psychics. Who knows? Maybe there were evil forces at play far beyond the understanding of the average man. Maybe a conspiracy was perpetrated by unseen masterminds operating from the shadows of supernatural depravity.

Or maybe getting sucker punched in the tummy five times by a college student when you're 52 can rupture your appendix. Believe what you want to believe.