Houdini’s Great Escape
Would You Like a Side of Chills With Your Thrills?
In the mid-1900s, an imposing mansion was built in Jackson by a successful local magician named Roger Manville Strycher.
He was a master of sleight of hand, or prestidigitation, and children loved to see Strycher make coins disappear right before their eyes, only to have them reappear inside their coat pockets.
Approximately 50 years earlier, another magician had gained acclaim – a Hungarian-born illusionist named Harry Houdini. Houdini was best known for his sensational escape acts, finding his way out of chains, shackles, ropes, handcuffs and straitjackets right before people’s eyes. Strycher, believing he was indeed the greatest magician on Earth, vowed to outperform Houdini in anything he tried. In his library, he gathered and studied some of Houdini’s old props and illusions and practiced day and night for what he called the “world’s greatest feat.” If Houdini could make an elephant disappear, Strycher vowed to make it look like child’s play – he was going to levitate and rotate his mansion.
While no one knows exactly what Strycher was doing in the mansion, the townspeople reported hearing loud noises and wailing from inside. Strycher, now obsessed and despondent, canceled his European tour of 1952, instead toiling day and night on his illusion. One stormy night in October of 1956, 20 years after Houdini’s death, Jackson residents heard an unbelievably loud thunder crash followed by what sounded like a crashing freight train. The night had turned so stormy that no one dared venture outside for fear of being swept away by a possible tornado.
In the morning, they emerged from their homes and what they saw left them in utter disbelief. While the entire block looked untouched, exactly as the day before, Strycher’s house was completely upside down. His neighbors frantically looked for him and thought he might be crushed in the rubble somewhere, but his body was never found. The only items seemingly undisturbed were Houdini’s old illusions. The townspeople believed that it was Houdini’s spirit – not Strycher – who made the impossible happen. They whispered that Strycher had attempted to trap and contain Houdini’s spirit; but in death as was in life, nothing could hold him and Houdini made a great escape.
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