Lonely Planet Writer

Budapest-born Houdini now has a museum in the Hungarian capital

The House of Houdini, a new museum dedicated to the world-famous and Budapest-born escape artist, opened in the Hungarian capital’s Castle District on 10 June.

Castle Hill, Budapest, Hungary.
Castle Hill, Budapest, Hungary. Image by Dennis Jarvis / CC BY-SA 2.0

The man behind the House of Houdini is David Merlini, another renowned Hungarian-born escapologist, collector of Houdini memorabilia  and the technical advisor for the 2014 Houdini TV miniseries which was filmed in Budapest. The exhibits at the museum include Houdini’s personal belongings such as handcuffs, straitjackets, letters and books, and original props from the Houdini miniseries such as the Chinese Water Torture Cell. In order to enter the space housing the permanent collection, visitors have to solve the Entrance Arcane: once you decode the secret message on the entrance ticket, a secret passage will appear.

St Matthias Church, Budapest.
Matthias Church, Budapest. Image by Gary Bembridge / CC BY 2.0

Apart from the permanent exhibition, the museum will host interactive programmes and live magicians’ shows; young talented magicians will be able to show off their skills at the Orpheum mini theatre. The House of Houdini  is located within the walls of the Buda Castle and it’s very close to the Royal Palace and Matthias Church, so it’s expected to become another tourist attraction in the Hungarian capital.

The museum’s research unit will cooperate with the National Széchényi Library of Budapest in order to reconstruct Houdini’s history, in particular his early Hungarian years. Harry Houdini is considered the greatest-ever magician and escape artist. He was born in Budapest in 1874 as Erik Weisz;  the house in which he was born, in the Terézváros district, no longer exists.  His family emigrated to the USA when he was only four years old and he adopted the new name around 1890 before starting his escape-artist career. Some of his most famous acts were the suspended straitjacket escape, the Chinese water torture cell, the buried-alive stunt and the overboard-box escape.