I've written about the great magician Harry Houdini before; but here I go again, with some extra info and more photos.

It was on Halloween 1926 when Harry Houdini passed away. He vowed to return from the grave and make his presence known. No one has any proof that Houdini ever carried out his promise.

Houdini performed his last tricks in Michigan and was ultimately killed - by mistake - by a college student named J. Gordon Whitehead. On October 22, 1926, Houdini was backstage preparing for a performance in Montreal and was relaxing in his dressing room when Whitehead and a college buddy knocked on the door. They mentioned they were huge fans and brought up Houdini's claim that he could withstand any punch.

“Is that true?” they asked.
“Yes, I suppose it is” answered Houdini.
He agreed to let them have a try at it and started to get up. Before Houdini could get on his feet, Whitehead – who was also a boxer – sucker-punched him before he could brace his body. Not one, but a few punches. Houdini, in great pain, told him to stop. The kids left – and unbeknownst at the time, more damage was done to Houdini's insides than he realized.

Get our free mobile app

Houdini went on stage as planned and finished his performance in excruciating pain. Afterward, he was on his way to Detroit to perform at the Garrick Theatre. Still in great pain and with a temperature of 104, he went through with the Detroit show on October 24 and afterward was taken to Grace Hospital. There it was discovered that sucker punch had punctured his appendix and peritonitis had set in.

Houdini passed away six days later, on Halloween, October 31, 1926, at the age of 52. His remains were shipped to and buried in Queens, New York.

Houdini still has fans – even after almost 100 years after his death – who try to contact him through seances. It's ironic, since Houdini spent much of his free time trying to debunk fake mediums and spiritualists. so why should he want to appear at someone's seance? Probably not.

So whatever happened to the man who punched Houdini and brought on his death, J. Gordon Whitehead? He was not charged for murder or manslaughter, but he did have to sign an affidavit so widow Beatrice Houdini could collect on the life insurance. Probably not well-liked at the time (as Houdini had admirers all over the world), Whitehead disappeared from the public eye, living in obscurity. In 1954 he was found dead from malnutrition.

But was it really the punch or appendicitis that killed Houdini? If only he would come back from the spirit world and tell us, like he promised - we would know for sure.

Maybe this Halloween...?

Harry Houdini

Grand Ledge Spiritualist Camp, 1895-1910

Dog Lady Island

13 Ingham County Hauntings

The Ghost Town of Pioneer

20 of Michigan's Greatest Urban Legends