This Colorized Photo Will Change How You Look At Harry Houdini

In the world of magicians, illusionists, and escape artists, Harry Houdini's skills are legendary. An enigma from the very beginning, there is still debate over Houdini's very birthplace. According to Britannica, there have been conflicting claims that he was born in Budapest, Hungary, and Appleton, Wisconsin. A copy of his birth certificate, which did not emerge until after his death, reportedly gives his birthplace as Budapest and his birthday as March 24, 1874, seemingly ending the debate.

It's only fitting that Houdini, born Eric Weisz, would be a source of such mystery right from the moment of his birth. He rose from humble beginnings, having emigrated from Hungary to Wisconsin, and at first failed to make a name for himself as a performer in either country. As the New York Museum Of Illusions states, he was just 9 years old when he started performing as a self-titled "Prince of the Air."

It wasn't until the dawn of the twentieth century that he started to find fame as an escape artist, and he was soon a star. He performed some of the most stunning stunts of all time, including seemingly impossible escapes from straitjackets (while hanging upside down for good measure), his iconic water torture escapes (from a sort of submerged cell), and much more. The more famous Houdini became, the more elaborate and sensational his act became.

No illusion was too big or small for Harry Houdini

This colorized photograph of Harry Houdini, however, tells a slightly unknown part of the story. Per Wikipedia, the original image is from The New York Times photo archives and dates back to 1918. It shows the entertainer demonstrating how he could slip out of handcuffs, an act he would perform countless times throughout his life. This new color perspective shows a man dedicated to his unorthodox craft, serious about the smallest and largest aspects of illusion, and committed to delighting the world with the full range.

Escaping from handcuffs may seem a little small-time for a great talent at the peak of his fame, but that was Houdini all over: he could and would do it all. According to the Library of Congress, the same year that the iconic photograph was taken, Houdini appeared at New York's prestigious Hippodrome, performing one of the most incredible illusions in his repertoire: he made an elephant vanish on stage. The great beast, a majestic specimen named Jennie that weighed 10,000 pounds, vanished on his command to the delight of the crowd.