The Bizarre Celebrity Deaths of the 1920’s: Harry Houdini 1874-1926
Harry Houdini was the word’s most famous magician, known especially for his amazing escape acts. Houdini performed tricks for audiences from 1891 until his untimely death at the age of 52 in 1926. The official cause of death was recorded as peritonitis from a ruptured appendix, which many believed to be the fault of J. Gordon Whitehead, a student who surprised Houdini by punching him in the stomach several times after a performance.
Whitehead reportedly asked Houdini if it was true that he could he could take any blow in the stomach, which Houdini replied that he indeed could, not expecting his claim to be tested. Thought Houdini was in pain, he continued to travel for several days until he could not take it anymore. He passed away in a Detroit Hospital.
Martha Mansfield 1899-1923
Martha Mansfield began acting at 18 and quickly rose to prominence, even performing with the Ziegfeld Follies for a time before she moved to the West Coast to pursue a Hollywood career. She held roles in several successful films, including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which starred John Barrymore.
Mansfield was on location in San Antonio, Texas on the film The Warrens of Virginia, when her fellow cast member happened to toss a match which caught her enormous dress of hoop-skirts and layers of fabric on fire. Though the fire was doused before the flames reached her face and neck, she was rushed to the local hospital where she died less than 24-hours later. Mansfield was only 24 years old.