From Dec. 2 -Dec. 5, 1923, the Great Houdini performed on the stage of the Orpheum theater in Oklahoma City.
Houdini was the famous magician who made a habit of escaping from handcuffs, straight jackets, jails, prisons, belts and bars. He would often accept challenges from local law enforcement agencies to escape from their facilities.
An advertisement for the Orpheum announced that “The engagement of Houdini is the most notable vaudeville booking that this house has ever presented to its patrons.” The self-termed escapeologist was touted as “vaudeville’s greatest individual act.”
In The Oklahoman for Dec. 4, 1923, the headline reads “Houdini Turns Down Good Chance to Do Some Extra ‘Stuff’ in Cell of City Jail.” The chief of police Ray Frazier offered Houdini the chance to break out of the city jail. The magician stated he was too busy doing three shows a day and was “ accepting no challenges from the police.” He also seemed to be grumbling a bit when comparing his pay. “They only pay 25 and 50 cents to see me, but in Chicago and New York they pay $2,” he said.
In 1923, the Oklahoma City police believed in their jail, quoting one policeman who said, “I’ve got a month’s salary that says that he can’t get out if he let’s me search him and turn the key on him.”
A review from the evening newspaper, the Oklahoma City Times said ”Although Houdini is as mystifying as ever and is still the undisputed king of the mystery branch of his profession, we found Frank DeVoe and Eddie Willis far more entertaining at The Orpheum Sunday. Houdini’s feats left us filled with wonder, his escape from the torture chamber being especially baffling but DeVoe found far greater favor with the audience with his songs.”
What might the papers had said if Houdini had escaped from the city jail?