The headline "HOUDINI WILL NOT ESCAPE, O’BRIEN VOWS," splashed across the page in The San Francisco Examiner (Sat. March 17, 1923). The story was accompanied by a photo of the Chief "testing the ribs" of Houdini. It is a photo I had not seen before.
The newspaper article relates the conversation between Houdini and O'Brien...
"How big is your chest contraction?" asked Chief of Police Dan O'Brien yesterday of Harry Houdini, as he felt the ribs of the "handcuff king and prison breaker."
"What's the idea?" asked the jail-breaking wizard.
"Well, you'll need all you have after I cinch you up in that strait-jacket on Monday," said the chief. And Captain W. J. Quinn echoed his sentiments.
For they're (sic) hanging- Harry Houdini – high by his feet, over crowded Market street from the seventh floor of 'The Examiner" building at noon next Monday. He will be triced in a straitjacket, and he says he'll get out of it, right in mid-air.
Chief of police O’Brien thinks he will not. Time will tell."
All San Francisco will be there to watch the test. Houdini, on a platform high enough for all to see, will be strait-jacketed in full view. Then he will be hoisted by bis feet. The rest is up to him. And meanwhile he is preparing to open a week's engagement at the Orpheum tomorrow, unconcerned as to Monday's diversion.
"The word "fail" never appeared but once in the bright lexicon of my career, he modestly told Chief O’Brien yesterday. "It was some years ago, in a town in Ireland. I had guaranteed to get out of a triple-locked steel jail cell. They stripped me, and searched me, and then delegated a big husky sergeant to lock me In. I heard the door bang, and I went to work. But I couldn't move the bolts. I tried every way to pet those bolts back, as I had done hundreds of times. Outside in the corridor waited the doubting officials all but the sergeant. He stood in front of the cell. Suddenly the door swung open, and he whispered:
"What’s the matter with ye? I was sorry for ye and so I didn’t lock the door.'
"And there I was trying to pull bolts that hadn't been set." But there’ll be no "sympathy" next Monday, says O'Brien. And Houdini says he doesn't want any. The tighter they tie him, the better.
Will he do it?
Of course, Houdini did escape, and the story became another entry in the saga of the master mystifier.