07 February 2009

The greatest sensational mystery

Harry Houdini, born Erich Weiss, is perhaps the most well-known of all magicians. He is, without a doubt, known instantaneously by name for his skill at escape acts. Successful escapes came from not only handcuffs and shackles, but also straightjackets, prisons, ropes, and chains. It was not uncommon for him to be stripped naked and searched for his performances. It is no wonder that during a thriving tour in Europe that Houdini became known as “The Handcuff King,” much like the early name he had billed himself as, “King of Cards.” To distances himself from handcuff imitators Houdini began more dangerous stunts, such as the Chinese Water Torture Cell, which pulled in audiences with its death-defying nature.

By now, you might be asking yourself what all of this has to do with Walt Disney World. As it so happens, Houdini appears in several locations around property.

In Magic Masters, the magic shop located in Downtown Disney’s West Side, is a small case on a bookshelf displaying several models of handcuffs that Harry Houdini used in his various escapes.

Outside of Magic Masters is a small encased room with promotional posters for Harry Houdini’s stunts and notable tricks. Metamorphosis and the Chinese Water Torture Cell are two posters among the collection.

A smaller version of the Metamorphosis poster can be found in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In The Great Gonzo’s locker and living quarters (homage to the Muppets’ residence during The Muppets Take Manhattan), located inside of the Studio 1 store, several pieces of Houdini history along with some cards are visible.

It looks like The Handcuff King has a well-stocked place in Walt Disney World. Perhaps this is fitting, after all, with all of the visual magic and illusion that takes place within the boundaries of Walt Disney World one would expect great magicians, such as Harry Houdini and Walt Disney, to be given their appropriate nods.

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