The defining moment in which Houdini decided he would become a magician has never been pinpointed to a single, proven event. Most biographies on Houdini attribute this moment to his first reading of The Memories of Robert-Houdin in 1891. However, John Cox of Wild About Harry reports that according to Sixty Years of Physical Research written by Joseph F. Rinn in 1950, Houdini had been mentored and given “semi-professional magic performances” a whole two years before he read Robert-Houdin.
John Cox writes:
“Rinn’s recollections begin on page 65:
[In 1886] I joined the Pastime Athletic Club, which had grounds at Sixty-seventh Street and the East River, where I quickly developed as a runner. I became captain of the club and was its champion sprint runner in 1889, when a new member joined by the name of Ehrich Weiss, who later became famous as Harry Houdini, the magician and escape artist.
As Weiss was ambitious to win a running prize, he turned to me as captain for advice, and under my instruction he trained and won his first prize…”
Read more here.