Is Hardeen Full of Ice?

Like Houdini, his brother Hardeen has a story about Ice.

Police and Hardeen Prior to Ohio River Bridge Jump

Police and Hardeen Prior to Ohio River Bridge Jump
[Photo: Life and History of Hardeen]

On September 26th, 1907, Hardeen allowed the Chief Police officials of Louisville, Kentucky, to securely fasten heavy handcuffs and leg irons on him. These weighed almost thirty-five pounds. So shackled, before a crowd of 15,000, he jumped into the Ohio River from the 18th Street Bridge which was 60 feet above the water. It looked like sure death but Hardeen released himself from the handcuffs as he sunk in the water about fifty feet below the Bridge, and made his triumphant re-appearance holding the cuffs high in the air.

Hardeen jumping from bridge into Ohio River
[Photo: Life and History of Hardeen]

He later repeated this feat many times, but on February 10th, 1908, he almost met death when he jumped into the Elizabeth River at Norfolk, Virginia, when the stream was full of ice.

As he hit the water he was working to release himself from his handcuffs according to his version, so did not note that they were two large pieces of ice floating down the water as he jumped.   He hit one and was practically knocked unconscious, fell underneath the second one and when he tried to get to the surface of the river for air, still working to free himself, he came up under the ice.  Not knowing the size of it, he sunk down and tried to reach the surface again.  On his second attempt, he was successful, completed the escape and swam to shore.  He had a large lump at the top of his head where he hit the ice when coming up, and one of his legs was badly cut from the piece of ice which he had originally hit.


  • Life and History of Hardeen by Hardeen 1914
  • Hardeen Memorial Issue Conjurer’s Magazine July 1945

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2 thoughts on “Is Hardeen Full of Ice?

  1. That has curious parallels to Harry’s story about the Detroit River. Could he have “borrowed” Hardeen’s tale for his own use? They shared the act, so why not stories connected to the act?

    • Indeed. Hardeen seemed to have borrowed from Houdini and vice versa. Houdini’s Detroit River Ice tale goes back to November 27, 1906. But, also notice that Hardeen’s story on February 10th, 1908 has some similarities with Houdini’s Pittsburgh bridge jump on March 13, 1908.

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