This kind of post is what happens when I’m not doing engineering work and I’m too lazy to do something artistic: I end up with too much time on my hands. Here are five examples of how the great Harry Houdini and I are exactly alike, along with a confession that, before this post, only my parents and I knew…

Five ways Houdini and I are exactly alike

1. Neither of us was born here.

I was not born in Maryland, although I live here. Houdini was not born in Appleton, Wisconsin (he was born in Hungary), although he lived there. Eerie. You can say wow out loud if you want.

2. We share the same first name: Harry.

The iconic magician and escape artist gave himself the stage name of Harry Houdini, but his birth name was Erik Weisz. Although my first name is really Harry, I go by my middle name of Todd.

What?

Nothing. It was just me typing out loud.

Sorry.

3. Both Houdini and I shared a love of magic and death-defying stunts as kids.

Houdini made a career out of combining magic with dangerous stunts. When Houdini was starting out, he and his wife lived on rabbits. They even had to borrow 25 cents to buy a rabbit for dinner. At the height of Houdini’s career, he was making what would be about $3 million a year in today’s money. In comparison, I’ve also borrowed quarters, and I’ve also fed rabbits their dinner. They belonged to a neighbor. At the height of my career so far, I’ve wished for a lot of money about three million times, also in today’s calculations.  

4. As young boys, both Houdini and I practiced tight rope walking, and we both eventually stopped.

I practiced tight rope walking along the top of my swing set. I’m not stupid, I started out by walking an imaginary line on the ground. Once I perfected walking on the ground, I simply climbed to the top of my swing set, mentally projected that same imaginary line along the length of the horizontal metal pipe at the top of my swing set, and began walking. It was that easy.

I stopped practicing after I fell eight feet and hit non-imaginary objects below. You know how a swing set is designed with upside-down Vs at each end of the long horizontal bar that holds up the swings? I fell about eight feet from the horizontal bar – I mean from the imaginary line on the horizontal bar – and bounced off one of the legs of the upside down V. Luckily, that rigid metal bar was there to break my fall, because if not for it, I would have landed in a soft pile of sand below. I think that’s why we have body parts like appendices (or is it appendixes?). I’m convinced that Houdini must have suffered a similar setback as a boy. I don’t even need to confirm it. I refuse to allow facts to cloud my judgement.

5. Houdini and I both suffered what was thought to be appendicitis after “performing”.

It is believed that Houdini died as a result of being punched by a college student after one of his magic shows. To demonstrate his amazing physical abilities, Houdini often challenged the strongest spectators to punch his stomach as hard as they could. After one of his shows, a college student punched him in the stomach before Houdini was prepared for the blow.

Normally, Houdini would prepare himself for a punch by tightening his well-developed stomach muscles. On that fateful night, the magician’s relaxed state allowed the punch to do internal damage. It ruptured his appendix, and Houdini died about a week later. Some think Houdini was already suffering from appendicitis at that time, and had refused repeated pleas from his wife to visit a doctor.

I’ve never been punched by a well-meaning spectator (or an non-well-meaning one), but when I fell, my side hit pretty hard against that metal leg, and I was pretty much as unprepared for a blow to my appendix as Houdini was to his. I could add a number 6: Both Houdini and I suffered pain, but that would make the two of us just like everyone else, and that’s the opposite purpose of this post.

I didn’t tell my parents about the fall, because that would have led to a discussion about the incredible pain in my side, which would have led to an explanation of how it all happened, which would have resulted in yet another one of their, “How many times have we told you, do not tight rope walk on the top of your swing set,” speeches. Enough already.

The pain persisted for a few days, and I began to complain of pain in my side. Once Mom and Dad saw the area of the pain, the possibility of appendicitis came up, and with it, talks of having my appendix surgically removed. That’s when I spilled my guts, in a manner of speaking.

I could not tell a lie, unless data suggests a relatively good chance of getting away with something, or if the truth means avoiding hospitals. They took me anyway. The doctor wanted to operate, but Mom got a second opinion after hearing rumors of that doctor being, “knife-happy”. Funny how you remember those things only after exploring another seemingly unrelated memory first.

That’s where Harry Houdini and I deviated career paths. He became a legendary magician, showman and escape artist. I became anti-legendary at something between an engineer and artist. History is filled with evidence of Houdini’s successful escapes. My only successful escape remains inside me.

My appendix is still ticking…

A ticking appendix is a magical trick indeed!

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