DETROIT –
Belle Isle Bridge

Detroit, Michigan was the scene of one of the most famous Houdini myths. It involved a trick called the "Overboard Packing Box Escape." For the escape, Houdini was tied-up and handcuffed in a wood box. The box was then nailed and tied shut. Finally, with Houdini inside, the crate was lowered into a river. Houdini had but seconds to escape from the restraints and the box. The story was told – and still is being told (but less so in recent years with the internet) – of Houdini performing this particular escape off The Douglas MacArthur Bridge, better known as the Belle Isle Bridge, in Detroit. Legend goes that Houdini performed the escape on a bitter winter day, when the Detroit River was frozen over. A hole was cut in the ice on the River and the box lowered through the hole. Then, the current, trapped Houdini under an unforeseen, dangerous icy layer, and pulled the box downstream. Houdini claimed that he escaped his restraints and the box and then managed to find a sliver of air between the top of the water and the bottom of the ice, receiving just enough oxygen, until he could work his way back to the hole in the ice and climb out. This dramatic, icy escape never happened. Houdini’s Packing Box Escape off the Belle Isle Bridge did occur, but the date was November 27, 1906. As the Detroit newspapers reported the following day, the river was not frozen over and Houdini had a 113-foot lifeline around his waist. That day, Houdini escaped from two sets of handcuffs and the packing box, but no ice. After a successful escape, a boat that had been on standby the entire time he was in the water picked him up. The account grew over the years to make a better story. In the early twentieth century, it was harder to fact check such a claim. The story now documents Houdini’s remarkable flair for storytelling and marketing.

 




Other Cities of Interest

Ann Arbor – Short Run Capital
Colon – Magic Get Together
Colon – Lakeside Cemetary
Detroit – Belle Isle Bridge
Detroit – The Death of Harry Houdini
Detroit –  Houdini, Ford and John Wilkes Booth
Marshall –  American Museum of Magic

 

A challenge for Houdini's crate escape that took place in Washington D.C.

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