Houdini’s main Michigan connection is that he gave his last performance and died in Detroit, but that’s a story for another day. In their Rearview Mirror, the Detroit News tells the story of Houdini’s first visit to Detroit:
In November 1906, Houdini came to Detroit for a two-week engagement at the Temple Theater. Houdini regularly performed publicity stunts to fill the theaters he was playing, and Detroit was no exception.
Handcuff King Jumps Manacled From Bridge
Handcuff King Houdini Performs Remarkable Feat and Comes Out Safely, Had a Rope Tied Around his Waist and Tied to Bridge to Safeguard Against Accidents
Tied to a lifeline a hundred and thirteen feet long, handcuffed with two of the best and latest model handcuffs in the possession of the Detroit police department, nerved by the confidence of a lion in his own powers … Houdini, the wonder worker at the Temple Theater, leaped from the draw span of the Belle Isle Bridge at 1 o’clock this afternoon, freed himself from the handcuffs while under water, then swam to a waiting lifeboat, passed over the unlocked and open cuffs and clambered aboard.
This story was wildly embellished by Houdini and turned into an 8 minute scene under the ice of the Detroit River in the Tony Curtis movie about Houdini.
You can learn more about Houdini and see some of his equipment and playbills in the collections of the American Museum of Magic in Marshall. The museum is home to the largest collection of magic open to the public, with thousands of artifacts that tell the tales of Houdini, Blackstone, Thurston and other greats of magic.