Born in America in 1874, Erich Weiss became one of the most famous magicians who ever lived. He took the stage name, Harry Houdini, in honour of Robert Houdini, a French conjurer and magician who died in 1871. Houdini was renowned most of all for his escapes from bonds of every kind - locks, handcuffs, strait-jackets and sealed chests under water. We refer nowadays to people who escape from impossible situations as "Houdinis".
One of Houdini's greatest tricks on stage was called "The Vanishing Elephant". An elephant was led into a cabinet with curtains at the front and doors at the back. The curtains were closed and then opened. The cabinet was empty and the elephant had vanished! The audience could see all round and below the cabinet, but they could not see the secret compartment on one side where the elephant was hidden.