"he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini"

Harry Houdini
Public DomainHarry Houdini - Credit: Famous Players - Lasky Corporation
 Harry Houdini was born Erik Weisz on 24 March 1874, in Budapest, Hungary.  His family moved to the United States in 1878, living first in Wisconsin and then New York. Erik made his public début as a 9-year-old trapeze artist. He later became a professional magician, and adopted the name Harry Houdini.  His early speciality was card tricks, but he won fame with his increasingly daring escape acts.  In 1893, he met fellow performer Bess Rahner, whom he married. For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess worked as his stage assistant. 

From 1899 Houdini began to attract considerable fame, first in America and then in Europe.  He would free himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in plain sight. In 1908, he introduced an escape from a locked, water-filled milk can to his act. He invited the public to devise contraptions to hold him - on one famous occasion he escaped from a set of handcuffs with a Brahma lock, that had apparently been crafted over a period of five years and was meant to be 'unpickable.' In 1912, he introduced the Chinese Water Torture Cell to his act, which saw him suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet overflowing with water. The act required him to hold his breath for more than three minutes. He also performed non-escape illusions, including the vanishing of a full-grown elephant from stage. Houdini made his last stage appearance in Detroit in October 1926, while suffering from acute appendicitis.  He died a week later, from complications of a ruptured appendix.  He was 52.  More than 2000 people attended his funeral in New York.