Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini


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.

About the Exhibit

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.

Houdini’s Career

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 and includes his father’s Rabbinical Ordination certificate.
  • The Self Liberator features a spectacular display of reproduction posters, photos and press clippings, as well as original handcuffs and lockpicking tools that Houdini used in his performances.
  • On the Cutting Edge investigates his exploration of new technologies, 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.

Exhibit Features

“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.

Haunted MKE: A Forest Home Cemetery Tour
Sunday, October 13, 2:00 – 3:30 PM at Forest Home Cemetery

Linking Houdini: A Halloween Séance
Thursday, October 31, 7:00 – 9:00 pm

The American Dream: A Century of Eastern European Immigration
Thursday, November 14, 7:00 – 8:30 PM

Houdini Hocus-Pocus with Glen Gerard
Sunday, December 1, 3:00 – 4:00 pm

Houdini and the Cult of Celebrity
Thursday, December 5, 7:00 – 8:30 PM

Annual Christmas Cinema: Houdini
Wednesday, December 25, 12:00 – 4:00 pm

Anonymous Fund*, Anonymous Individual, Suzy B. Ettinger*, Gerald & Louise Stein Family*, Sam & Peggy Dickman, Dorothy Inbusch Foundation, Inc, Neena & Rick Florsheim, Linda & Eli Frank, Ralph & Margaret Hollmon, Elana & Aaron Karan Charitable Fund*, Felicia & Jamie Miller, Ketten/Miringoff Family*,  Annalee Sosman, Dr. and Mrs. Bernard Staller, and the Young Leadership Division of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation

*Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation)

Media Sponsor: Shepherd Express and Wisconsin Public Radio

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, Gert & Izzy Freedman.

ABOUT JEWISH MUSEUM MILWAUKEE: The Jewish Museum Milwaukee is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of the Jewish people in southeastern Wisconsin and celebrating the continuum of Jewish heritage and culture. The history of American Jews is rooted in thousands of years of searching for freedom and equality. We are committed to sharing this story and the life lessons it brings with it, so that we may enhance the public’s awareness and appreciation of Jewish life and culture. We are committed to building bridges between diverse groups through shared history and to exploring contemporary issues through the lens of Jewish history, culture and values.

Get Updates From the Museum


Mon - Thurs 10AM - 5PM
Friday 10AM - 3PM
Saturday CLOSED
Sunday 12PM - 4PM



1360 N Prospect Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202

(414) 390-5730

Contact Us

Jewish Museum Milwaukee