THE great escapologist Harry Houdini, whenever he went on tour, would receive public challenges from people convinced they could beat him. In June 1920 he played several nights at the Glasgow Pavilion (above) during his Farewell Visit to Scotland. In a Pavilion advertisement Leckie Graham & Co, a leather-goods manufacturer, challenged him to escape from a straitjacket it had devised, styled on a now-obsolete “Punishment Suit Restraint which holds the murderous insane from the neck down to and including the feet.” Furthermore, his ankles would be bound by a sash chord that would be nailed to the stage. Houdini accepted the challenge, and overcame it.

A group of shipwrights at Lithgow, in Port Glasgow, said Houdini had been denied official permission to be lowered into the Clyde in a box. “Naturally, you, not being super-human, must admit that the box is of your own construction.” Would he be prepared to try a heavy wooden packing case, which they had made, and which would be lowered into a tank of water on stage? Challenge accepted.

Whatever the challenge, Houdini always emerged triumphant.

In 1900 he had been given a six-month engagement at London’s Alhambra Theatre after demonstrating showing his skill by escaping from handcuffs at Scotland Yard, and thus began a series of high-profile British tours that would continue over the next two decades.

Houdini died in 1926 at the age of 52, a mere six years after his final tour of Scotland.