- Historic Sites
Houdini’s High-flying Hoax
April 1972 | Volume 23, Issue 3
By an extraordinary piece of luck the two planes separated about 1,200 feet above the ground, and both pilots somehow managed to glide to crash landings. Kennedy, still dangling at the end of the rope with his eyes closed, was slapped roughly into the earth of a newly plowed bean field. Apparently the angle and the speed were not too severe, for he was able to cling to the rope for a considerable distance although dragged along the ground. Except for bruises and scratches, he got up intact. Thompson’s plane flipped over, but he, too, was basically unhurt. Soon other members of the movie crew came driving up, and everybody posed happily for pictures. Everybody, that is, except Houdini, who was busy elsewhere.
Willat saw to it that the movie script was rewritten to take in the collision, and The Grim Game was finished accordingly. It was a box-office success in 1919, and Houdini made a point of offering a thousand dollars to “anyone who can prove the aeroplane crash in the movie is not genuine!” Nobody ever collected the thousand, although it has sometimes occurred to Robert Kennedy, who now lives in Anaheim, that maybe he was entitled to it.