Magician hopes to replicate Houdini’s stunt in Pittsburgh

By MARYLYNNE PITZ

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH — Like his hero Harry Houdini, Lee Terbosic loves the show in show business.

At noon on Sunday, the 34-year-old magician aims to perform a stunt that famed escape artist Houdini executed a century ago to the very day, captivating a breathless lunchtime crowd that jammed the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Wood Street, Downtown.

While dangling upside down by his ankles from a crane, 70 feet in the air above that same intersection, Terbosic hopes to wriggle out of a straitjacket made of real canvas, straps, leather and buckles. The show will feature a stage, LED screen and master of ceremonies Rick Sebak, a filmmaker who has captured much of Pittsburgh’s colorful history.

The actual performance should take 7 minutes, he said.

“I have a very, very, very long checklist,” the Baldwin Borough resident said in a telephone interview. “I’ve always been a daredevil type of guy. I thrive on that adrenaline.”

The Pittsburgh native’s fascination with Houdini’s feat began in 2011 when his longtime mentor, magician Paul Gertner, gave him a 650-page book titled “MAGIC 1400-1950.” As Terbosic studied a particular picture, he spotted a Pittsburg Post newspaper sign on a building and realized that Houdini performed here on Nov. 6, 1916. Houdini repeated the straitjacket stunt in many U.S. cities, visiting a newspaper office to generate publicity and often using the newspaper’s building as a launching pad.

In 2013, Terbosic told some friends about his desire. How epic would it be, he wondered, if he could perform the straitjacket stunt on the 100th anniversary of Houdini’s appearance at the exact same location?

“Could I do it? Do I have the guts to put this all together?” Terbosic asked himself. “I have performed the straitjacket escape on two feet on stages around the country since I was about 15 or 16 years old. I’ve never done it hanging upside down. I’ve done all my homework and research. I’m working with a fantastic safety team that I trust dearly with my life.”