Born Ehrich Weisz in Budapest, Harry Houdini was a Jewish immigrant to the United States. His first escape was with his family, when he was four, fleeing anti-Semitism in Central Europe and settling in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The young Weisz quickly found the bright lights of the stage more appealing than the dim synagogue of his father's rabbinic profession.
After running away to join the circus, he made his debut as trapeze artist "Ehrich, Prince of the Air" at age nine. The metaphor of escape is essential to Houdini's phenomenal success: resisting the title of magician, he favored "escape artist." At the height of his fame, Harry Houdini was a living icon.