Harry Houdini swallowed and
regurgitated solid ivory balls etc.
Bÿ: Alexandra Nagel
Excerpt from Houdini: The
Untold Story by
Milbourne Christopher, London: Cassell, 1969, p.
"In the spring [of 1895] Harry
[Houdini] signed with the Welsh Brothers Circus in
Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For twenty-six weeks the Houdinis
toured under canvas. Harry manipulated playing cards,
produced an egg from a red felt bag, changed the color of
silk handkerchiefs by pushing them through a paper tube,
yanked two knotted pieces of braid through his neck, and
shot a borrowed watch to the center of a target. He also
worked a Punch-and-Judy routine. Bess sang and danced.
Together they presented a second-sight number. Harry, as he
walked through the audience, cued the blindfolded Bess with
code words so that se could identify the various objects
spectators took from their pockets or handbags.
"Metamorphosis," always their most applauded feat, closed
An old Japanese gentleman, a member of the San Kitchy
Akimoto balancing troupe, was so bored that he sometimes
dozed off as he supported one of the younger acrobats on a
swaying pole. Between performances he taught Harry how to
swallow an ivory ball, show his mouth empty, then bring the
ball back. Houdini practiced the regurgitation stunt with a
small peeled potato on the end of a string. If the string
didn't permit the student swallower to retrieve the potato
while he was developing the muscles in his throat, there was
no danger. The potato would slide down into his stomach
where it could be digested. A few weeks of practice and
Harry could handle solid ivory balls almost as well as his
instructor. Later the resourceful Houdini was to use the
regurgitation technique to baffle committeemen who searched
him for concealed tools during his handcuff act."