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Hodgson ran a "School of Physical Culture" in Blackburn in 1902 and 1903.

In 1902 he squared up to Houdini.

The following notices appeared in the Northern Daily Telegraph (24 and 25 October 1902 respectively).

Challenge To The "Handcuff King" At Blackburn

Hodgson V. Houdini

Interest in the visit of Houdini, the handcuff magician, to the Palace Theatre, Blackburn, this week is intensified by the acceptance of his challenge by Mr. W. H. Hodgson, of the School of Physical Culture, Blackburn. Letters have passed between the parties to the following effect:

The School of Physical Culture. Ainsworth Street. Blackburn

Mr. Harry Houdini


Being interested in your apparently anatomically impossible handcuff feat, I have decided to take up your challenge to-night (Friday) on the following conditions:

  • 1st. — I bring and use my own irons (so look out).
  • 2nd. — I iron you myself.
  • 3rd. — If you are unable to free yourself, the £25 to be given to the Blackburn Infirmary.

Should you succeed, I shall be the first one to offer congratulations. If not, then the infirmary will benefit.

W. Hope Hodgson


P.S. — Naturally, if your challenge is bona-fide, I shall expect the money to be deposited. W.H.H.

Houdini's Reply:

I, Harry Houdini, accept the above challenge, and will deposit the £25 at the "Telegraph" Office. Match to take place to-night (Friday).

H. Houdini.

Handcuff King's Big Task

An Exciting Performance At Blackburn

The Challenge And Its Results

Harry Houdini before an escape act.At the Palace Theatre, Blackburn, last night, before a "house" packed from pit to gallery, Mr. W. H. Hodgson, principal of the Blackburn School of Physical Culture, took up the challenge issued by Houdini, the "Handcuff King" who engaged to forfeit £25 to the infirmary if he failed to free himself from any irons placed upon him. The challenge and its acceptance aroused intense interest. At the outset Houdini protested that the irons which Mr. Hodgson proposed to use had been tampered with, his challenge stipulating that they should be "regulation" irons. Mr. Hodgson replied that one of the conditions of the challenge entitled him to use his own irons, and at length Houdini consented to this. His wrists, arms and legs were then locked in a number of fetters and bars of various designs, and he retired to his curtained cabinet on the stage to commence the operation of escaping. At the expiration of half an hour Houdini asked that his hands should be freed for a moment, so that the circulation might be restored. Mr. Hodgson, however, would not consent to this, and although appeals were made to him by Houdini's brother, he was obdurate, despite the fact that Dr. Bradley, who was called to the stage, stated that it was cruelty to go on with the performance. Mr. Hodgson several times essayed to speak, but the house would not give him a hearing. He was then heard to say, however, "If Houdini is beaten then let him give in." When Houdini had been bound about three-quarters of an hour he announced to the audience, amidst loud cheering, that his hands were free and he would take a rest of ten minutes or a quarter of an hour to get the circulation back. He continued, and after a prolonged and evidently terrible struggle he freed himself entirely. Addressing the audience, he said he had performed fourteen years, and had never been so brutally treated. He alleged that some of the irons were plugged. Mr. Hodgson left the theatre before Houdini had freed himself, being ordered out by a police sergeant, who feared a disturbance. Seen after the performance, he denied that the irons used were plugged. He holds that he acted fairly in not with-drawing from the contest, which, he says, was not a love match. It was 12.15. this morning when the great crowd left the theatre.

originally published in "William Hope Hodgson, NIGHT PIRATE" by R Alain Everts