Monday, September 10, 2007

Houdini and the Princess

The legendary Princess Theatre, where in 1926 Harry Houdini took the backstage sucker punch that killed him nine days later, has finally shut its doors. Any offers?

It's on St. Catherine Street, just east of Phillips Square. You may have known it by some other name. In its later days, it hosted the first Montreal Film Fest and later became a discount cinema that showed not-in-English movies. Guess it just couldn't wriggle out of its own demise. (Click the little picture to see plans for the food-courty interior).

Here's a few borrowed inches about Houdini and the Princess:

On October 22, 1926, Houdini was performing in Montreal at the Princess Theater. Before the show, Harry was in his dressing room laying on the couch. While relaxing backstage, a young athlete from McGill University asked Houdini if he really could withstand punches to the stomach, as he had heard. Houdini said yes and would prove it to the boy. But before he could tighten his stomach, the student started punching Houdini. Harry didn't realize it, but his appendix had ruptured. After Houdini performed in Montreal, he headed to Detroit. He did only one performance there and then collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Harry Houdini did not die in a stunt, nor did he drown, as most people believe. The greatest magician of all time died on October 31, 1926, of peritonitis. He was only 52 years old at the time. -- Courtesy of
   And here is the now-long-gone Prince of Wales Hotel on McGill College St., where Houdini was a guest during his stay. He was also punched in the gut here, while reading newspapers in the lobby.


Anonymous said...

There's some notion that the punch didn't kill Houdini at all. He apparently had this problem before even coming to Montreal. Google it, there's an alternate explanation floating around somewhere.

J.D. said...

Sure, I'll punch it in.

Anonymous said...

that is not were the princess theater was located, its on st.laurent street people.. i work there and have been in the room were this fatal " punch " was. get youre facts straight.

Gilles Larin said...

The Princess Theatre was located exactly on Ste-Catherine St. as mentioned! My grandfather owned the Prince of Wales Hotel and Houdini was a fellow Mason and friend and stayed there. He was punched in the hotel lobby by a patron of the Pig 'N Whistle Tavern (in the back of the hotel) who was coming out through the lobby where Houdini was waiting for transport to the train station. All of this is documented in Don Bell's book. - Gil Larin