Houdini’s true birthplace: Wisconsin

March 7, 2018

Being an Englishman, the only thing I know about Wisconsin is its status as a perpetual punchline. According to the terrible American comedies upon which I base my entire world view, Wisconsin is home only to the boring, the pedestrian and the chronically unloved. Wisconsin, I am told, is where romance goes to be euthanized. Yet, Harry Houdini, a strong contender for the most interesting man ever to walk to the earth, was known to proudly claim Appleton, Wisconsin as his honorary birthplace.

And Wisconsin loves him back, according an interesting piece on Culture Trip called “A Historical Guide to Houdini’s Wisconsin.” Appleton’s Houdini Plaza is an obvious tribute to the legendary escapologist. Unfortunately the beautiful, abstract sculpture “Metamorphosis” depicting his signature feat of the same name was removed from its base in the plaza by the city council in 2010 and has been left on its side outside of the Appleton Parks and recreation facility.

The Houdini Club of Wisconsin has been hosting events to promote Houdini’s life and work since 1938. More recent tributes include the Houdini 10k, an annual run that starts with “Houdini-esque” entertainment and ends with pints and song at the Houdini’s Escape Gastropub.

For a less commercial take on Houdini’s life and work, check out the AKA Houdini exhibit at the History Museum at the Castle, formally known as The Houdini Historic Center. The museum is known for its collection of relics from Houdini’s life, but has drawn criticism for revealing the secrets behind his signature tricks. If you’re a Houdini nut, I strongly suggest you start at Coney Island and then work your way back to Wisconsin. Maybe try some of the beer too.