“Nearly Dying for a Living”

By Tom Interval

Hearst's, Dec. 1919

Hearst’s, Dec. 1919 (Click on the image to read the whole article in PDF.)

History’s Houdini two-part miniseries, which aired in the United States on Sept. 1 and 2, introduces a younger generation to one of the most enduring Houdini myths of all time: the legendary escapologist and illusionist almost drowning under an ice-covered river during an outdoor exhibition in Detroit. Or was that St. Louis? No, wait, I think it might have been Pittsburgh. It depends on who tells the story. And the first to tell the tale? Harry Houdini himself, of course. If you’re not yet familiar with the whole story, read the first six paragraphs of my review of the miniseries. Versions of the fib have appeared in several Houdini biographies over the years as well as in the 1953 and 2014 biopics. To read the story as Houdini writes it, check out the December 1919 issue of Hearst’s, p. 40, in an article titled Nearly Dying for a Living (click on the link or on the image to read it in PDF). I post the article here to show members of the younger generation that not everything they see on History is true, despite the misleading name of the channel. In fact, most of what was on that show, especially in Part 1, was either a gross distortion of reality or pure fiction. You might also like to read John Cox’s excellent fact-check on the Wild About Harry blog.


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