March 24: Harry Houdini's Birthday

Harry Houdini was born on this day in 1874, and he went on to become a famous magician and escapologist. In the 1920s, he became interested in exposing frauds, specifically those relating to claims of supernatural powers -- but apparently not the frauds of magic or escapology. Anyway, these are some of my favorite Houdini escapes.

1. The Handcuff Challenge: One of his most famous escapes. He was handcuffed with a lock a specialist took years to make. It took Houdini about an hour, but he finally escaped -- except he spent most of the time behind a screen, and his wife came on stage and kissed him in the mouth. I like this one because it proves Houdini did whatever he wanted and didn't give a crap how unmagical or trampy it made him seem. Or how long a locksmith spent slaving away over a lock you were just going to break anyway.

2. The Milk Can Mystery: Houdini was sealed inside a giant milk can filled with water. Again, his fans allowed him to do this all behind a screen, but I mostly like it because what the hell is a milk can?

3. The City Diner Escape: Harry locked himself in the bathroom at City Diner and then got out. This may not seem like a lot, but the lock there is really confusing.

4. The invisible hand: Houdini had both hands bound and his whole body tied in a sack, but he was able to untie himself -- his fans attribute this to a mysterious third hand. Is it true? We may never know. What am I, a doctor?

5. Germany, 1944: Harry is in a POW camp with other prisoners experienced at escaping. After numerous failed attempts, and after one guy spends a lot of time in solitary confinement bouncing a baseball, they all make a great escape. Via a tunnel. I think. And somehow they all got civilian clothes, and Steve McQueen got a motorcycle. I missed a bunch because I was trapped in a stall in the movie theater bathroom. I'm telling you, locks are not easy!

6. The Calorie Escape: Houdini went to Hot & Crusty and asked for a giant sprinkle cookie. As they handed it to him, he had a thought. "And a giant peanut-butter one too," he quickly added, after making sure there was no one he knew around. Then he ate both and didn't get fat. Mysterious!

Houdini died on October 31st, 1926. Some say his escape from a world full of things we cannot control, a world full of an ever-expanding number of unhappy souls was his greatest escape. But I'm still pretty sure it was the Milk Can Mystery.