Today in History: Oct. 22

The International Meridian Conference of 1884 established on this date that year the Greenwich Meridian as an international standard for zero degrees longitude so that time zones around the globe could be established.

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Harry Houdini (above) broke his ankle while performing his famous Water-Torture Escape in Albany, New York, in October 1926, but he did not allow this injury to keep him from an engagement he had scheduled in Montreal, Canada.

Ninety years ago today, some art students from McGill University met with Houdini backstage so that one of the students could draw a sketch of the magician and the students and he could discuss one of his lecture topics: exposing frauds, especially fraudulent spiritualists.

One of the young men chatting with Houdini, Joselyn Gordon Whitehead, fell into a conversation about Houdini’s physical strength. While Houdini was reclining on a sofa, Whitehead punched him several times in the abdomen. Houdini stopped him, but did not complain.

Houdini died ten days later of peritonitis. At the time, it was believed that the punches contributed to or even led to the ruptured appendix; Whitehead was required to submit a sworn affidavit describing his lack of intent to harm Houdini.

Medical historians speculate now that even if Whitehead’s blows did not cause the appendix to rupture, Houdini’s delays in getting medical attention after appendicitis was diagnosed—he performed several shows in two cities with a terrible fever (104 °F)—did far more to accelerate his decline and death.

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Franz Liszt was born on this date in 1811. Doris Lessing was born on this date in 1919. Robert Rauschenberg was born in 1925 on this date.

* * * *
Christopher Lloyd is 78 today. Sir Derek Jacobi is 78 today. Tony Roberts is 77 today. Catherine Deneuve is 73 today. Paul Zukofsky is 73. Lee Meredith is 69. Jeff Goldblum is 64. Marc Shaiman is 57. Spike Jonze is 47. Ichiro Suzuki is 43 today. Robinson Canó is 34. Jonathan Lipnicki is 26 today. (The film Lipnicki debuted in, Jerry Maguire, was released 20 years ago this December.)

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2 comments

  1. Relax... · October 22

    Is Houdini’s signed picture for someone in your family?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · October 22

      No. A friend of mine reminded me today that we planned (two decades ago) to visit the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA (an hour+ from here). Why it is in Scranton was something I wanted to write 20 years ago. I no longer drive, so my powers of persuasion concerning places to drive are needed for more important destinations. Nothing against Scranton, of course … 😉

      Liked by 1 person

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

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