Wednesday, 25. September 2019, Jewish Museum Milwaukee, Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini

from 25. September 2019 - 10:00 till 17:00

Jewish Museum Milwaukee

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Event description

September 26, 2019 – January 5, 2020 

Harry Houdini wasn’t born. He was invented.  

The world’s most famous magician began life as Erik Weisz, the son of a Hungarian rabbi. In 1878 immigration to the U.S. transformed Erik Weisz into Ehrich Weiss. It was the first of many transformations for the man who would become the first international superstar.  

Inescapable, curated by performer and magician David London, tells the story of how Ehrich Weiss became Harry Houdini and investigates the technologies, marketing prowess and entertainment trends that transformed him into a superstar. On one level, the exhibit is pure fun – incorporating magic, escapes, séances, films, rare artifacts and hands-on illusions.  On a deeper level, the exhibit pulls back the curtain, revealing the story of the man behind the image.  

In addition to the exploration of his early life, visitors will find sections illuminating stages of his life and career:  – Setting the Stage describing the struggles of Houdini’s early life and the difficulties faced by his father. – The Self Liberator features a spectacular display of reproduction posters, photos and press clippings, as well as original apparatus, including a straitjacket and milk can that he used in his performances.  – On the Cutting Edge investigates his exploration of new technologies and also features clips from his film career and a chance to listen to a rare recording of his voice.  – Houdini’s Third Act: Exposes Frauds showcases his crusade against deceptive spiritual mediums.  – The Final Bow/Curtain Call sets the record straight on the events that led to his death and explores the séances to contact him by his wife, Bess.  

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“Houdini in Wisconsin” shines a spotlight on his time in Milwaukee, how it impacted his myth-creation, and the many times he returned to perform in the state. 

Throughout the exhibit, visitors also will have the opportunity to try out some of Houdini’s magic tricks, including the Milk Can Escape and Metamorphosis. 

ESCAPE ROOM CHALLENGE by Breakout Games Inspired by Houdini’s great escapes and stunts, search for clues and solve puzzles to see if you can escape from our Escape Room before time runs out! The Escape Room Challenge gives you 10 minutes to find your way out of handcuffs like the great Harry “Handcuff” Houdini. The Challenge runs every hour on the hour but you must reserve the room to make sure it is available during your visit. Click here or use the calendar below to schedule your escape! 

Thank you to our generous exhibit sponsors:   Anonymous Fund*, Anonymous Individual, Suzy B. Ettinger*, Elana & Aaron Karan Charitable Fund*, Linda & Eli Frank, Neena & Rick Florsheim, Ketten/Miringoff Family*, Eileen & Bernard Staller, and Annalee Sosman (*Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation) / Media Sponsor: Shepherd Express 

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini was created by the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and is made possible, in part, by the generous support of: The Joseph & Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds; Larry Boltansky; Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education; PNC Greater Maryland; The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, creator of the Baker Artist Awards,  & Izzy Freedman. 


Opening Preview  Wednesday, September 25, 7:00 – 9:00 PM   Get a taste of the jaw-dropping magic that made Houdini famous with roving magicians, imbibe a signature Houdini cocktail from the mixologists at Central Standard Distillery, and break out of our specially curated escape room created by Breakout Games. Experience guided tours of Inescapable including information on Houdini's youth spent in Wisconsin.    

Haunted MKE: A Forest Home Cemetery Tour  Sunday, October 13, 2:00 – 3:30 PM  Forest Home Cemetery (2405 West Forest Home Avenue)  Join a Forest Home historian and JMM curator, Molly Dubin, for a haunted tour of Milwaukee’s priceless treasures. Meet Milwaukee's most important movers and shakers who lived during Houdini's time in Milwaukee. Learn about the forefathers and mothers on this Houdini-inspired walk in Milwaukee’s only garden cemetery.   

Linking Houdini: A Halloween Séance  Thursday, October 31, 7:00 – 9:00 pm Houdini died on Halloween of 1926. Every year since his death, a séance has been held to see if he could cross the veil and prove the spiritual afterlife existed. This year, Jewish Museum Milwaukee will try to connect with Houdini in the state where he learned the literal tricks of his trade, and perhaps he will once again make an appearance!  Compete for "Best-In-Show" and "Best Houdini Look-Alike" costumes as you learn your fortune from roving tarot card readers. Imbibe in a signature Houdini cocktail from the mixologists at Central Standard Distillery, get your ***** on with a moody museum tour, and, of course, conjure Houdini at the séance!  Prizes will be selected for "Best in Show" and "Best Houdini" costumes.  

The American Dream: A Century of Eastern European Immigration Thursday, November 14, 7:00 – 8:30 PM   Explore the odyssey of American Jews including the Weisz family (Houdini's family name) through the immigrant experience. Why did Jews like the Weisz family come to the U.S. in such large numbers? What kinds of challenges and barriers confronted them? How did America shape the Jews and how did they change the society around them?  

Houdini Hocus-Pocus with Glen Gerard Sunday, December 1, 3:00 – 4:00 pm   This combination magic show and history lesson is family-friendly and will feature some of Houdini's original magic tricks including Metamorphosis and the East Indian Needle *****. Be entertained by mystery, comedy and a great opportunity to discover things you never knew about the amazing life of legendary Milwaukee illusionist, Harry Houdini.    

Houdini and the Cult of Celebrity Thursday, December 5, 7:00 – 8:30 PM  This talk will explore the evolution of celebrity between Harry Houdini’s times and our own, paying close attention to how notions of fame have always been shaped by new media technologies and changing conceptions of the self.   

Annual Christmas Cinema: Houdini   Wednesday, December 25, 12:00 – 4:00 pm Looking for something fun to do Christmas Day? Come to Jewish Museum Milwaukee to enjoy Houdini, the 1953 biopic starring then husband-and-wife Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh as Harry and Bess Houdini. 

Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini , Jewish Museum Milwaukee event

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