House of Houdini, Budapest

John Field


I think that I have the distinction of being the first UK magician to visit the House of Houdini in Budapest. I read about the opening of the museum on Duncan Trillo’s excellent MagicWeek and made a note of the address.

We visited on Saturday 2nd July as we were staying in the city at the end of a Danube Cruise. I also made a note of the address of Houdini’s birth place but we did not go there and on reflection I am glad that we made that decision. Houdini was born at Rakosarok Utca 1sz, but that street has been renamed Csengery Utca. Many people take pictures of number 1 believing it to be Harry’s birthplace but the buildings have also been renumbered. Harry’s birthplace now has a different number in that street and the building is in fact an Inland Revenue building!

The House of Houdini is in fact a museum at 11 Disz Square, H-1014 Budapest and is on the Buda side of the town close to the Hungarian National Gallery and Matthais Church, just a few minutes’ walk from the top of the Funicular. It is run by Hungarian Escapologist David Merlini. He has spent over €2,000,000 on the project and it is like a smaller version of Davenports’ Magic Kingdom in Norfolk but dedicated to one magician. In the entrance is a Water Torture Cell without the front panel, containing 52 roses one for each year of Harry’s life, which is really a shrine to the great man.

In the foyer is a moving bookcase that gives access to David’s office which he was delighted to show us. Visitors are then confronted with a full size safe which only opens when a fairly simple question is answered. This gives access to a room featuring wall texts about Harry’s life. A glass fronted piano is used to great effect to exhibit various contemporaneous books and leaflets by and about Houdini.

There are many keys and cuffs exhibited and reproduction posters. One of the keys came from the Houdini Hall of Fame in Niagara and (along with original Houdini memorabilia) is hermetically sealed in a display case. A full size replica of the box that Margery was tested and exposed in was also on display. There is a small theatre which is ideal for Close-Up and Parlour performances and David is keen to allow budding Hungarian magicians to perform to the public.

Finally visitors can have their photo taken when the spirit of Harry manifests himself in the picture.

It is a great memorial to a great man and David will be pleased to show you around. Make yourself known to him when you visit.


© John Field, July 2016