Harvard Bridge Houdini Plaque

Boston, Massachusetts
In 1908, Harry Houdini put on a public show for the city of Boston when he jumped off the Harvard Bridge in handcuffs and escaped underwater.
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Among the pantheon of magicians, illusionists, and escape artists, none shines brighter than the legendary Harry Houdini. His death-defying feats enthralled audiences, none more so than his renowned act of escaping from handcuffs and shackles in daring scenarios. One such remarkable performance occurred on the Harvard Bridge spanning the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts.

In the spring of 1908, Houdini graced Boston with his presence, aiming to drum up excitement for an upcoming performance. On May 1st of that year, amidst a crowd of approximately 20,000 spectators, including dignitaries such as the mayors of Boston and Cambridge, Houdini executed his audacious stunt. Handcuffed and shackled, he stood on the precipice of the Harvard Bridge, his body encased in locks and chains. With a Boston patrolman securing the restraints, Houdini leaped into the icy waters below. The crowd held its breath as seconds ticked by, only to erupt into jubilation as Houdini emerged, triumphant, chains in hand.

Eighty-six years later, on May 1, 1994, the local chapter of the Society of American Magicians immortalized this historic event with a plaque on the Harvard Bridge. This commemoration, situated on the eastern side of the bridge, pays homage to Houdini’s daring feat and serves as a pilgrimage site for enthusiasts of the great magician.

The plaque, a tribute to Houdini, was a labor of love by the Boston chapter of the Society of American Magicians, an organization once presided over by Houdini himself. While the plaque erroneously marks the jump date as May 1st, the event actually occurred on April 30th, a minor detail in the grandeur of Houdini’s legacy.

For Houdini, such daring acts were more than mere publicity stunts; they were his preferred method of public relations. Boston was but a stop on his tour, with the Keith’s Theatre on Washington Street hosting his performances. Though the theatre no longer stands, the granite piers of the Harvard Bridge stand as silent witnesses to his daring exploits.

Photographic evidence preserves the intensity of the moment: Houdini poised on the bridge, his wife watching anxiously; the mid-air descent, chains already under scrutiny; and the triumphant emergence from the frigid waters, surrounded by admirers eager to witness his next astonishing feat.

While Houdini’s final act played out in Detroit, it is on the Harvard Bridge that his spirit lives on, immortalized in bronze and etched into the annals of magical history.

Location

Address: 2186 Harvard Bridge, Boston, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 42.352083, -71.089944
Parking GPS Coordinates: 42.352083, -71.089944
Parking Notes: The plaque is located at the southern start of the Harvard Bridge. It is best to park in Back Bay and then walk to see the plaque. While much of the street parking is for permit holders, there are some public spaces. Additionally, there are garages and lots nearby too.

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