David Merlini

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David Merlini
David Merlini President - The House of Houdini Budapest
Budapest, Hungary
Occupation(s)escape artist, Director
Years active1993–present

David Merlini is a Hungarian-Italian escape artist, and World Record holder, described by Expo 2015 as the world's most famous escapologist,[1] currently serving as Director of The House of Houdini, the only Houdini museum in Europe.[2]

Merlini's signature performances had been broadcast live in some of the most relevant television networks worldwide.[3][4][5]

Early life and career[edit]

His mother is Hungarian and his father is Italian.[6] He was raised in Italy, where he moved with his family from Hungary at the age of 4.[6]

Around the age of 4, Merlini became interested in locks and handcuffs. As a child, he was given a magic trick, which founded his career. Around 13, Merlini attended night school at Turin's Circolo Amici della Magia, an illusionist school. When he was 17, he returned to Hungary, the country he regards as his homeland.[6] Merlini cited Harry Houdini, who had also been born in Hungary, as a major source of inspiration.[7]

Milestones of his career[edit]


At Sziget'95 (now called the Sziget Festival), Merlini was strapped in a straitjacket, and was tied to a flaming rope by his feet. His aim was to escape from the rope and descend 20 meters to the platform below with a safety line.[8]


Merlini was locked and in a perforated steel box, after being chained and padlocked. The box was lowered into the Danube from the Chain Bridge.[9]


Attempts to recreate Houdini's famed Chinese Water Torture Cell, Handcuffed by five sets of regulation police handcuffs, locked with 60 pounds of chains, and padlocked in a metal cage, Merlini was lowered into a transparent tank of water, live at eurovision television programme Jeux Sans Frontieres.[10]


Handcuffed to the steering wheel of a Mercedes 500, doors are welded shut, the car is set on fire and lifted up to a height of 100 ft. before being released free fall.[11]


Strapped in a regulations straitjacket on the main stage of Sziget Festival, he is lifted upside down several hundred feet in the air, before proceeding to escape.[12]

David Merlini in 1999


Strapped in a special underwater straitjacket, Merlini's ankles are secured by handcuffs, padlocks and massive lead weights. He jumps into the giant transparent tank of water along with six tiger sharks, spending a total of 2 minutes and 30 seconds at a depth of 5 meters.[13]

The New Generation Performances[edit]


The stunt named Hyberna sees Merlini strapped in a regulation straitjacket, welded in a steel reinforced glass container filled with water, and set to freeze in a refrigeration cell on Heroe's Square, in Budapest. At the end of the 33 hours process, the one ton ice block is melted with flame throwers.[14] The show is witnessed live by a crowd of more than 10,000 and on live television broadcast.

David Merlini frozen in a block of solid ice on Heroes Square, Budapest, Hungary, on the 29th of September 2001


As part of a live segment for MTV show The Fridge.[15] Strapped in a regulation straitjacket, his ankles are padlocked and handcuffed to lead weights, before jumping in the Baltic Sea in --Karlskrona, Sweden.[16]


Handcuffed to a metal cross, Merlini is lowered upside down in a tank of water set on fire,[17] as part of a segment for MTV show The Fridge.[15]


As part of the performance named "The Breakthrough", viewed by two million people on live television, and a large crowd on the banks of the river, Merlini was buried up to his neck in 3.5 tons of freshly set concrete after which the concrete cube was lowered by crane to the bottom of the Danube river.[3][18][19][20]


Merlini is locked in a capsule on top of the largest non governmental, non military missile ever built, and launched to an altitude of 6,000 feet from the Shipyard Island (Hajógyári Island), as part of the stunt named The Countdown, witnessed live by a crowd of thousands, and broadcast live by Viasat.[21]


Publishes his first autobiographic book titled "Szabadíts ki!' (Free me!)[22]


Merlini received the "Best Escape Artist" award at the 2007 World Magic Awards in Los Angeles.[23]


Merlini set the breath-holding world record in Cannes, France, at the annual trade show MIPCOM after holding his breath for 20 minutes and 39 seconds. He received a certificate from Guinness World Records for "The record for the longest time that someone has held their breath underwater".[24][25][26]

David Merlini (HUN) breaks his own record for holding breath underwater with a time of 21 minutes and 29 seconds.Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday 26 April 2009. Photo courtesy of Sutton Images


Breaks the world record for the longest time underwater on the starting grid of the Formula 1 World Championship in Bahrain, before the start of the race. The event was covered live worldwide. The new world record stands at 21 minutes and 29 seconds.[27]


Merlini is on tour. Performing on 17 different venues, presenting his signature escapes.


Breaks the breath-holding world record in Baofeng lake, Hunan, China.[28]


Plays chess upside down with chess World Champion Susan Polgár, after successfully escaping a regulation straitjacket.[29]


Merlini consulted for the Houdini miniseries as magical and escape advisor, training actor Adrien Brody, who played the role of Houdini, how to escape from handcuffs while holding his breath.[30]


Merlini was set on fire during his "Witch trial" stunt. Tied at the stake with ropes, and soaked with flammable material, he had to escape before the protective coating on his skin would volatilize.[31]


Merlini presented "Houdini in Milano", a live theatrical show featuring real escapes, for the closing ceremony of Expo 2015 at the Auditorium in Milan, Italy.[32][33][34]


Merlini opened The House of Houdini, presenting the largest permanent collection of original Houdini artifacts in Europe.[18][30] Its artifacts were previewed at Budapest's National Széchényi Library.[35][36][37] The museum's collection includes original Houdini memorabilia: e.g., handcuffs, personal correspondence, and "precious artifacts." A bible one owned by Houdini is part of the collection.[38][39][40] It also includes original props from the latest "HOUDINI" film – Oxygen (1999), which featured Adrien Brody, an Oscar winner, and the later miniseries.[41][42]

Accidents and injuries[edit]

In 2008 During a World Record attempt in Cannes, France, Merlini's assistants smash the giant water tank in order to rescue him, resulting in an injured arm caused by broken glass .

In 2014 he presents Hyberna, the ice escape in Italy on Canale 5. During the escape, the 1 ton ice block breaks, causing a fracture of Merlini's tibia and fibula. Merlini calmly thanks the audience for the support, before being rushed to the hospital.[43] Few weeks later, he performs a new underwater escape, the "upper body escape", where only his head and torso is submerged underwater, due to the cast on his leg.[44]


  1. ^ "David Merlini, the New Houdini: A Great Show of Illusionism At Expo Milano 2015 on Thursday, October 29 | Expo Milano 2015". Expo2015.org. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  2. ^ "No escape from the genius of Harry Houdini". Euronews.com. 2016-10-28. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  3. ^ a b "Illúzió vagy titkos tudomány?" [Illusion or secret science?]. Hetek (in Hungarian). 2004-09-03. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  4. ^ "Extreme Escapes Cast and Characters". TVGuide.com. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  5. ^ "Italian man refreshes Guiness World Record for underwater breath holding - People's Daily Online". En.people.cn. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  6. ^ a b c Balázs, Eszter (2004-12-02). "Escaping his dreams". The Budapest Sun. Archived from the original on 2016-09-11. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  7. ^ "New Houdini wannabe escapes from burning car". Deseret News. 1998-10-30. Archived from the original on 2016-09-11. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  8. ^ "Kultúra: Ha egyszer Houdini elszabadul". NOL.hu. 2016-02-20. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  9. ^ "Mai Nap 1996-08-26 : Laura : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Archive.org. 22 January 2017. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  10. ^ "Nemzeti Audiovizuális Archívum". Nava.hu. 1997-07-27. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  11. ^ "MagicTimes News Archives - Week Of November 23-29, 1998". Magictimes.com. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  12. ^ "David Merlini Népszabadságtv 200408 : Laura : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Archive.org. January 2017. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  13. ^ "David Merlini - Találkozások Magazin cover : Laura : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Archive.org. 22 January 2017. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  14. ^ "Premier". Terasz.hu. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  15. ^ a b "The Fridge : TV Series (2001–2003)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  16. ^ "David Merlini in Sweden Blekinge 20021009 : Laura : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". Archive.org. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  17. ^ a b Walker, Jennifer (August 26, 2016). "Inside the Budapest Escape Room That Started the Worldwide Craze: Why Hungarians are so good at puzzles—from Houdini and Rubik's Cubes to escape rooms". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  18. ^ "In a concrete cube, Hungarian escape art Pictures". Getty Images. 2004-08-31. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  19. ^ "Merlini: Nem volt trükk A nagy áttörés". Blikk.hu. 2015-10-21. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  20. ^ "iafrica.com Escape artist breaks world record". Lifestyle.iafrica.com. 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  21. ^ |url=[1].moly.hu 2006
  22. ^ László, Szabó G. (2015-09-20). "Külföldre viszi mutatványait David Merlini" [David Merlini abroad takes mutatványait]. Új Szó (in Hungarian). Archived from the original on 2016-09-11. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  23. ^ Hache, Valery (2008-10-14). "Hungarian artist David Merlini presents his world record certificate". Getty Images. Archived from the original on 2016-09-27. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  24. ^ |url=[2]. hollywooodreporter.com October 13, 2008
  25. ^ |url=[3]. hollywoodreporter.com October 13, 2008
  26. ^ |url=[4]. boston.com. May 5, 2009
  27. ^ F_129. "Italian man refreshes Guinness World Record for underwater breath holding - People's Daily Online". en.people.cn. Retrieved 2016-09-03.
  28. ^ |url=[5]. globalchessfestival.com. November 27, 2012
  29. ^ a b "Meet Houdini's technical advisor: David Merlini". October 23, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2017. David Merlini is serving as technical advisor on the Houdini miniseries currently shooting in Budapest.
  30. ^ |url=[6]. tvtango.com. November 29, 2014
  31. ^ |url=[7]. hestetika.it October 29, 2015
  32. ^ Cox, John (October 3, 2015). "Houdini in Milano, October 22–29". Wild About Harry. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  33. ^ Cox, John (November 11, 2015). "Photos from "Houdini in Milano" Escape artist". Retrieved January 23, 2017. David Merlini shares with us today photos from the recent Houdini in Milano exhibition at the Expo Milano 2015. The display was presented by David and the General Commissioner of Hungary and marked the first major Houdini exhibition in Europe.
  34. ^ Cox, John (March 29, 2016). "New Houdini Museum Rises in Budapest". Wild About Harry. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  35. ^ Fenyo, Krisztina; Than, Krisztina; Williams, Alison (Editor); Szabo, Bernadette (Photographer) (December 20, 2016). "Budapest museum lifts lid on Houdini's magic, Hungarian roots". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved January 23, 2016. {{cite news}}: |first3= has generic name (help)
  36. ^ Murphy, Peter (December 8, 2016). "'Handcuff king' Houdini's secrets unlocked in Hungary". France24. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2017. Set high in the capital's lofty Castle district, the House of Houdini lifts the veil on the box of tricks used by the famous magician, who lived most of his life in the United States.
  37. ^ Compeer (December 13, 2016). "House of Houdini Opens in Hungary". The Magic Compass. Society of American Magicians. Retrieved January 23, 2017. It's true, the American illusionist was Hungarian, born in Budapest in 1874, the son of a rabbi and part of a large family with seven children.
  38. ^ Zalman, Jonathon (December 9, 2016). "The Scroll: Museum Dedicated to Harry Houdini Opens in Budapest". Tablet. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  39. ^ "Legendary 'handcuff king' Houdini's secrets unlocked in Hungary". Malay Mail. December 6, 2016. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  40. ^ Cox, John (June 16, 2016). "The House of Houdini opens today in Budapest". Wild About Harry. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  41. ^ "House of Houdini Official website". The House of Houdini. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  42. ^ |url=[8]. tvblog.it. November 15, 2014
  43. ^ |url=[9]. expo2015.org. November 29, 2014

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