Houdini’s Diving Suit

I always thought that one of the hallmarks of professional magicians was extreme paranoia regarding how their illusions work. I have seen two whole movies where that was the premise, anyway. So I was surprised to learn that magicians used to patent their stuff all the time.

That said, I’m not actually sure whether this patent by Harry Houdini, selected for its excellent pictures, was intended for its utility or for use in his illusions:

A drawing of a human figure, bent over at the waist, taking off a diving suit. The top half of the diving suit is still on, while the lower half of the diving suit is bunched up at the person's ankles.
USP 1,370,316, FIG. 3

The invention is a diving suit that you can get out of quickly. The patent gives some examples of why one might want to do this, such as “in case of danger,” “to safely escape and reach the surface,” “to put on or take off the suit without requiring assistance,” to “prevent the diver when submerged from being crushed by the pressure of the surrounding water in case the air supply gives out,” “to go quickly down to a greater depth, and to readily rise therefrom.” I’m not a diver, but some of these purported uses seem ridiculously dangerous.

But knowing that Mr. Houdini was famous for escaping from ridiculous situations, we have to ask the question of whether this designed for one of his performances. According to this Houdini blog, it may have been used in at least one performance as well as in a Dutch film.

A drawing of a human figure wearing a diving suit, standing on a ladder. The person is holding a rope, which makes it look like they are giving us a thumbs-up.
USP 1,370,316, FIG. 1

It seems that few modern magicians file patents for their inventions. That makes sense, given that patents are published, which would give away how the trick is performed.

Also, Eid Mubarak to anyone celebrating! I tried to find some Eid patents, but no such luck.

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