Travis Laurence Naught

Historically Bound: From One Escape Artist to over 19 Million

Houdini was a renowned escape artist, but what about the feat of 19 million refugees successfully escaping myriad hardships? Travis Laurence Naught examines those who suffer circumstances that only offer them two options: leave, or die.


Houdini was a pretty good magician. He put himself in all sorts of dangerous scenarios only to masterfully make his way out, frequently just in the nick of time. He boasted physical prowess and was one day forced to face his mortality via a surprise fist to the gut while drinking. Some “escape artist” he turned out to be.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 19 million people worldwide have performed more successful disappearing acts, and were still alive in 2014. These are not people who challenged J. Gordon Whitehead with posturing or passive attempts at prideful living. Most of these people suffered circumstances that afforded two options: leave, or die.

Near-death experiences can be exhilarating. It’s entirely possible Harry Houdini was an adrenaline junkie. People don’t have themselves strapped into straitjackets, hung upside down while shackled, or risk drowning while handcuffed if all they need is to pay the bills.

I’m sure the rafts, trains, and overland armies who have fled their dedicated livelihoods would have given anything for a curtain to draw so they could instantly appear in a safe and welcoming location. TA-DA! City staffs at their arrival points would cheer riotously and provide them with housing, food, healthcare, education. But, that is not the case.

So many who take flight are penniless. There is no way to bring any sort of valuable possessions from where they left. Imagine the family histories that have been erased.

It’s a Wonderful Life would have played more like Schindler’s List. The bank is a pretty obvious metaphor for Nazi Germany. George is the perfect film reincarnation of Schindler. His children, the Jews in the factory.

If only some of the assholes who are forcing people into rash, cut-and-run decisions would realize the only ending to a movie like that is for good to prevail.

But genocide goes on and has gone on for centuries. For the love of Christ, it has happened. For the love of money, it has happened. For the love of a monochromatic street scene, it has happened. Other reasons for its happening must also exist, but I am uncomfortable plying even these three ideas, let alone trying to come up with more.

Part of Houdini’s life work was to showcase fraud committed by mediums. What started out as initial hope within him to contact his dead mother led to the eventual publication of a book titled A Magician Among the Spirits. His disillusionment fell short of actual disbelief, however. Before his own death, a secret code was set up with his wife promising her an attempt at contact from the great beyond. Reports differ as to its success.

Reports also differ when it comes to the role refugees of each ethnicity play on history. Shining examples of those who went on to immigrate into various countries are at peak highlight during the 1930s and ’40s. Many Jewish scientists were lucky enough to make it out of Germany and went on to do great things. Don’t believe me? Ask Albert Einstein.

On the negative side of things, some poor bastards who were not able to hold jobs before more qualified immigrants sought rescue became spiteful. I feel relatively confident that racism was originally founded by someone looking for a scapegoat as to why they got fired from the local wheel outlet, sometime prior to the fall of Babel. Making room for someone to stay alive might present an inconvenience at times, but so fucking what?

Erik Weisz was born in Hungary, 1874. His parents were not happy with their living situation. I do not know that they were refugees, but they came to America. A couple of name changes later and Ehrich would become the world-famous, historically dominant performer known as Harry Houdini. Not everything he did in life worked out in his best interest, but they were all his decisions. It would be nice if every refugee was granted as much.


Travis Laurence Naught

Travis Laurence Naught is an author who happens to be a quadriplegic wheelchair user. Individual poems, stories, and various other material by Travis have been published online (Section 8 Magazine, Empty Sink Publishing, Damfino Press, and others) and in print (Gold Man Review, Lost Coast Review, Empirical Magazine, and more). His first book of poetry, The Virgin Journals (ASD Publishing, 2012), is currently out of print, but copies can still be found. Check out for more information and original writing by Travis.

Related posts

One Comment;

  1. Pingback: Congratulations, America: You Wanted Trump, You Got Him - The Big Smoke