Remembering Harry Houdini's Halloween death in Detroit 92 years later

Posted at 6:55 AM, Oct 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-30 06:55:15-04

Halloween is on Wednesday but it also marks the 92nd death anniversary of one of the most famous magicians ever. You may not have known, but Harry Houdini performed his last show in downtown Detroit before dying at a Detroit hospital in 1926.

Days before his show in Detroit, he was performing in Montreal when someone asked to punch him in the stomach. Houdini was known to be a strong man with powerful abs.

"Legend has it, he wasn't ready for the punch and they hit him pretty good," Jeff Horner, a senior lecturer at Wayne State said.

Horner, who is an urban planner and calls himself an amateur historian, said Houdini wasn't feeling well on the train ride down to Detroit. 

Houdini gave his last performance at the Garrick Theater, which stood near the corner of Griswold and Michigan Ave. in downtown Detroit.

"He was supposedly in great pain during the performance but gave folks their money's worth," Horner said.

Detroit was roaring in the 1920s and it was the place to be and be seen. Horner said it's no surprise Houdini continued with is last performance. Years before, he performed an underwater escape off the bridge connecting Belle Isle.

But after his 1926 performance at the Garrick, Houdini couldn't recover. He died at Grace Hospital, which is near the current DMC Campus. According to the Reuther Library at Wayne State, he died in room 401. The original Grace Hospital was demolished in 1979, according to the library.

According to Horner, people led seances in the hospital room Houdini died in for years to come in hopes to make contact with Houdini.

"The ultimate trick of any illusionist is to come back from the dead," Horner said.