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Title Page

Copyright Page



1 The Great Mancini

2 The Freedom Tunnel

3 The Box

4 You Could Have Escaped

5 The Great Mystery

6 A Piece of Junk

7 Life Is Short. Death Is Forever

8 Friends and Enemies

9 Metamorphosis

10 Misdirection

11 Metamorphosis, Part II

12 Get a Life

13 Back on Track

14 Going Home

Facts & Fictions

About the Author

Copyright © 2021 by Dan Gutman

All Rights Reserved

HOLIDAY HOUSE is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Printed and bound in November 2020 at Maple Press, York, PA, USA.


First Edition

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Gutman, Dan, author.

Title: Houdini and me / Dan Gutman.

Description: New York City : Holiday House, 2021. | Audience: Ages 8-12. | Audience: Grades 4-6. | Summary: Eleven-year-old Harry Mancini lives in the house where Houdini spent his final years, so he has always been interested in the famous magician, and has even learned a few simple magic tricks; he just never expected Houdini to contact him from beyond the grave—and what Houdini wants him to do could well cost Harry his own life.

Identifiers: LCCN 2019049888 | ISBN 9780823445158 (hardcover)

Subjects: LCSH: Houdini, Harry, 1874–1926—Juvenile fiction. | Escape artists—Juvenile fiction. | Near-death experiences—Juvenile fiction. | Identity (Psychology)—Juvenile fiction. | Paranormal fiction. | CYAC: Houdini, Harry, 1874–1926—Fiction. | Escape artists—Fiction. | Near-death experiences—Fiction. | Identity—Fiction. | Supernatural—Fiction. | LCGFT: Paranormal fiction.

Classification: LCC PZ7.G9846 Hr 2021 | DDC 813.54 [Fic]—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019049888

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4515-8 (hardcover)

Thanks to: Amy Toth, Dr. Scott Kolander, Elizabeth Law, Eryn Levine, Howard Wolf, John Simko, Lauren Nicole, Lisa Lee, Nina Wallace, Peter Lerangis, Ray Dimetrosky, and the Houdini Museum in New York City.

“I am perfectly willing to believe, my mind is wide open.”

—Harry Houdini


I was born in Harry Houdini’s house.

I didn’t just say that so you’d keep reading. I said it because it’s true.

You don’t have to believe me. If I wasn’t me, I wouldn’t believe me either. But it’s true, I swear. Look, I took this picture of the plaque outside my front door.

I live on West 113th Street in New York City. If you don’t know New York that well, 113th Street is just three blocks from the most famous park in the world—Central Park. My house is right at the beginning of Harlem.

Anyway, this is where I was born and where I’ve lived all my eleven years. That’s right, I wasn’t born in a hospital. It’s a long story that I won’t bore you with, but my parents weren’t able to get to the hospital in time, so I was born right here on 113th Street. I wonder if my folks saved money on hospital bills.

A century ago, this was Harry Houdini’s house. He lived here for the last twenty-two years of his life.

Most likely, you know Houdini’s name, but you probably don’t know all that much about him. He was a famous magician and illusionist, but he was most famous for being an escape artist. They would lock him up in handcuffs, in a jail cell, a rolltop desk, a giant milk can, and a mailbag. He was even locked inside a hot-water heater!

He’d always find a way to get out. A Chicago envelope company once sealed him inside the world’s largest envelope. He escaped. Houdini even escaped from inside a giant football.

They could lock him up in just about anything and he would find a way to get out. There was nobody else like him. A century ago, Harry Houdini was one of the most famous people in the world.

When I walk up the stairs in my house, it’s cool to think that Houdini walked up those same stairs. When I go down to the basement, it’s the same basement where Houdini practiced his escapes. When I go to sleep at night, I’m sleeping in a room where Harry Houdini might have slept. When I get up in the morning, I step on a floorboard next to my bed that makes a loud creaking sound that Houdini might have heard when he lived in the house a hundred years ago.

Living in the house once owned by this famous guy, I naturally became curious about him. I’ve read a bunch of biographies and learned a lot. To be completely honest, I’m sort of obsessed with Houdini, and with magic.

People walking past my house are always stopping to take pictures of the plaque on the wall and asking me questions about Houdini. It makes me feel like I’m a little famous too. I like that.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. The funny thing is, my name is Harry too. My parents didn’t name me after Houdini. They just liked the name. And my last name is Mancini, which sounds a lot like Houdini. Mancini is an Italian name. Houdini wasn’t Italian. In fact, he wasn’t even born with the name Houdini.

Harry Houdini’s real name was Erik Weisz. He was a Jewish kid who was born in Budapest, Hungary. His family came to America and lived in Wisconsin before they moved to New York City when Erik was a teenager.

Growing up, Erik’s idol was a French magician named Robert-Houdin. Harry just added an “i” to the end of “Houdin” and called himself “Houdini” for the rest of his life. I don’t know why he changed his name from Erik to Harry. I guess he thought “Harry Houdini” sounded better than “Erik Houdini.”

Lots of kids from school have seen the plaque on the wall, of course, so everybody knows I live in Houdini’s house. Sometimes they ask me to do magic tricks, so I learned a few.

You know how grown-ups always say, “Don’t try this at home, kids”? Well here’s a really simple magic trick you can try at home to impress your friends. All you need is a raw egg, a little salt, and a smooth, level table.

First, challenge your friends to try

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