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This question group is public and is used in 19 tests.

Author: Lovinmuzic
No. Questions: 4
Created: Mar 31, 2011
Last Modified: 13 years ago


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The Magic of Harry

1 Harry Houdini was a man who astonished and enthralled many people during his life.
Whether he was escaping from a padlocked box or making things disappear and
reappear, he definitely was entertaining. People thought that he must truly have some
supernatural powers, but in fact, what Harry really had was drive.

2 Harry was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874. His real name was Ehrich Weiss and
he was the third of five children. His family moved to Wisconsin not long after he was
born and by the time he was nine, he was tying ropes all over his backyard and learning
amazing trapeze tricks to show his friends and neighbors. He visited the local locksmith, and when he had reached his teens he could pick almost any lock that was made. He also learned how to do card tricks. He and his brother, Theo, would often entertain at local parties and clubs for extra money.

3 When Ehrich was 16, he came across a book that would literally change his life: the
biography of France's greatest magician, Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. It showed Ehrich
that his hobby of magic and tricks could also be a career. Immediately, he changed his
name to Harry Houdini. He and Theo headed out to make a living as magicians.

4 In 1893, they were at the Chicago World's Fair, and after that they traveled around giving magic shows for anyone willing to listen and pay. Theo grew restless, however, as the jobs became scarce, so he left. His timing was perfect since Harry had just fallen in love with a lovely woman named Bess who was just the right size for slipping in and out of the trunk they used in their magic tricks. They married immediately and then off they went, traveling with circuses and other road shows. Harry learned more and more tricks and spent much of his time reading and studying all kinds of locks, especially handcuffs. However, no matter what tricks they did or how hard they tried, Bess and Harry were not doing well. They tried to sell their shows for seven years and finally, in desperation, they went to Europe.

5 It was the right move. Harry's persistence and constant practice were about to pay off. To get people's attention, he walked into police stations and offered to be handcuffed by all the policemen. They were shocked when he was loose only seconds later. Soon, everyone in Europe was talking about Houdini's astounding feats. He was in high demand and found himself doing more and more dangerous acts. He escaped from a straitjacket hanging upside down over the street; he escaped from locked boxes of all kinds; and, of course, he got out of any kind of handcuffs put on him.

6 After several years in Europe, Bess and Harry returned to the United States in triumph. Harry was doing such amazing tricks that people felt he must have special powers. However, few realized how much time he spent practicing and studying. He would do special exercises to keep his body strong, and he would do tricks with his fingers to keep them nimble and flexible. He would spend large amounts of time tying and untying knots?with his toes! For his underwater tricks, he would get in the bathtub and practice holding his breath for longer and longer times. Since many of his tricks involved being plunged into icy water, he would pour buckets of ice in the tub to get accustomed to working in the cold.

7 The reason that Harry Houdini was such a success was that he practiced and prepared for whatever might happen. When a college student punched him in the abdomen in 1926, however, he wasn't prepared. The punch did internal damage that not even this magician could get out of. Harry died in 1926 at 52 years of age, a master of his trade and a true legend.
Grade 8 Reading Strategies CCSS: CCRA.R.8, RI.8.8
The author supports the argument that Houdini was a hard worker by describing...
  1. how he prepared
  2. his famous tricks
  3. his childhood
  4. how he became popular
Grade 8 Reading Strategies CCSS: CCRA.R.3, RI.8.3
Houdini decided to become a magician after:
  1. he read a book about a famous magician
  2. he learned to pick a lock
  3. he started entertaining at local parties
  4. he learned to do card tricks