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Secrets of Houdini's life revealed

New museum dedicated to Harry Houdini features props he used

BUDAPEST: Ninety years after his death, the secrets of the world's greatest escape artist, Harry Houdini, are now on showcase in a recently-opened Hungarian museum.

Set high in the capital's Castle District, The House of Houdini lifts the veil on the box of tricks used by theBudapest-born illusionist, who lived most of his life in the United States.

The red-painted rooms showcase handcuffs and padlocks used by Houdini in performances, AFP reported. Visitors can also see props from a recent television production on him, such as a box from an illusion where a woman appears to be cut in half.

"I had an urge to pay tribute to Houdini," said museum owner and fellow escapologist David Merlini, who has dedicated his life to collecting the items on display.

"We are all Houdinis. Everyone has a secret desire sometimes to get out of a certain situation, to be somewhere else, in a different pair of shoes - that is his enduring universal appeal."

Earlier this month, the museum pulled a new rarity out of its hat - a Bible once owned by Houdini.

GIFT

The Bible, which Houdini had signed when he was 19, was given to the museum by jazz-blues singer Tara O'Grady.

"I feel like it has come home," O'Grady, whose family had owned the Bible since the late 1970s, told AFP.

It was gifted by Houdini's brother to a nurse in the 1960s, who then gave it to her Irish immigrant neighbour - Tara's mother.

Like his hero, Mr Merlini has made an art out of getting himself first into and then out of trouble. The Hungarian-Italian daredevil has performed stunts around the world, escaping from the inside of blocks of ice, quick-setting concrete and blazing cars.

He has held his breath underwater for a world record of about 21 minutes, and coached Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody on the 2014 Houdini television miniseries, which were filmed in Budapest.

Mr Merlini said he shares Houdini's "fetish of locks, safes and the art of escape". Instead of playing with Lego, Mr Merlini collected padlocks as a child.

"Escapism is not just about unlocking padlocks. It is the desire to get rid of things that are binding our freedom in a world with so many rules and regulations," said Mr Merlini, who was born on Oct 31 - the same day Houdini died.

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