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Harry Houdini is an unseen character in the first season of Boardwalk Empire. Houdini is a world famous magician and escape artist and elder brother to supporting character Theodore Hardeen.



Harry Houdini was born Erik Weisz in a Jewish family of Budapest, Hungary on March 24 1874, and grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he went by the name Ehrich Weiss before moving to New York City in 1887. After short careers as a trapeze artist and a cross country running champion he became a magician and adopted the name Harry Houdini in honor of his two idols, American magician Harry Kellar (1849-1922) and French magician Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805-1871). He performed initially with his brother Theodore as "The Brothers Houdini" before the two parted ways.

Season 1[]

Houdini's brother, Hardeen, tours Atlantic City for several months in 1920. One of his performances is attended in September by town boss Nucky Thompson, his paramour Margaret Schroeder and their friends Harry Prince and Annabelle. Hardeen's attempt to free himself from a straightjacket while being suspended from the feet takes over six and a half minutes, earning him sarcastic comments from the public to call his brother in. Nucky also schedules a private act for them and ward bosses Fleming and Boyd, during which Hardeen performs card tricks and transfers Margaret's bracelet to Annabelle with none of the women rea dismisses it saying that doing it at 50 feet is the same as doing it at 5. He also claims that Houdini used to do the escape hidden from the audience before Hardeen came with the idea of doing it in the open, as he did with the act of escaping from a milk can. ("Paris Green")

Nucky later has a discussion with Margaret concerning the death of her husband, Hans Schroeder. Nucky tells about it to his brother Eli during a visit to his home, and the talk soon devolves into yet another discussion between the two brothers over the suitability of Nucky's relationship with Margaret, Eli's concern over the possibility of his involvement in the death of Hans being made public by her and finally Eli's criticizing Nucky's way of interacting with other people and the consequences it brings to them, such as when he got shot at Lolly's Casino. Nucky responds by sarcastically comparing Eli to Hardeen, an entertaining magician, he thinks, but only worth because of his family connection to Houdini. ("Paris Green")

Memorable Quotes[]

  • "Erik... Houdini as you know him... used to do that escape behind the ghost box where no one could see him. Playing it out in the open was my idea." (Theodore Hardeen)
  • "It's an entertaining act. But if [Hardeen] wasn't Houdini's brother, nobody'd give a fuck." (Nucky Thompson)