Book paints escape-artist Houdini as spy

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Eighty years after his death, the name Harry Houdini remains synonymous with escape under the most dire circumstances. But Houdini, the immigrants' son whose death-defying career made him one of the world's biggest stars, was more than a mere entertainer.

A new biography of the legendary performer suggests that Houdini worked as a spy for Scotland Yard, monitored Russian anarchists and chased counterfeiters for the U.S. Secret Service — all before he was possibly murdered.

"The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero" will be released on Halloween — the anniversary of Houdini's untimely death at age 52. Chasing new information on the elusive superstar eventually led authors William Kalush and Larry Sloman to create a database of more than 700,000 pages.

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