This section is from the book "The Adventurous Life Of A Versatile Artist: Houdini", by Harry Houdini. Also available from Amazon: The Adventurous Life of a Versatile Artist; Houdini.
Harry Houdini, The American Handcuff King, Sues The Cologne Police For Libel, And Wins!!!
A Condensed History of the Lawsuit Against the Cologne Police!
The police of Germany are very strict in matters of false billing or misrepresenting exhibitions to the public, and the case of the well-known Dr. Slade, also a well-known American "thaumaturgic" performer, as also an equally familiar "magnetic " woman, and several others who have clashed with the German police will probably also call in mind the latest case of the flower medium, Mrs. Rothe, who was sentenced to two years in prison and 500 marks fine.
What for ? Well, she deceived the public in telling them that she could obtain communications from the spirit world.
This the police claim was obtaining money under false pretense, and there you are. •
The Cologne police claimed that Houdini was also traveling about misrepresenting, and that all he did was "swindle." The chief one was Schutzmann Werner Graff, who openly published a false story in the RheiriiscJie Zcitung,. which put Houdini in a very bad light, and, as a man of honor, Houdini could not overlook the insult.
He claimed that he had been slandered, and asked an apology, also a retraction of the false stories, which all the press of Germany had copied ; but was simply laughed at for his trouble.
Engaging" the best lawyer of Cologne, Herr Rechtsantwalt Dr. Schreiber, Louisen-strasse 17, this able lawyer defended Houdini in all three instances.
The first trial occurred in Cologne, Feb. 19, 1902; in this trial Houdini charged the Schutzman Werner Graff for publicly slandering-him, whereupon, as answer, Herr Graff told the judge and jury that he was willing to prove that Houdini was misrepresenting, that he could chain Houdini so that he could not release himself. Houdini permitted himself to be chained by Herr Transport Police Lott, and to show how easy it was he wilfully showed to the judge and jury how he opened the chain and lock.
After a four days' trial, Houdini won the lawsuit, and the Cologne police were fined, and were to publicly apologize to Houdini, "In the Name of the Kaiser."
Instead of so doing, they took it to the higher court, " Straf-kammer." At this trial they had specially manufactured a lock, which was made by Master Mechanic Kroch, a lock that when once locked nothing would open it; even the key could not open the lock.
The police asked that Houdini should show his ability by opening this lock after it had once been locked.
Houdini, as Chained and Handcuffed Before the Judges in the First Trial of His Action Against the Royal Police of Cologne.
The following is a free translation of what the press had to say at the second trial.
In the highest court (Strafkammer zu Koln Yuli 26, 1902) Police Officer Werner Graff was found guilty of slandering karry Houdini, heavily fined, he must pay all costs, and insert an advertisement in all of the Cologne newspapers, proclaiming his punishment, at the same time, " IN THE NAME OF THE KINQ,n Openly apologize to Houdini for insulting him.
This open apology is the severest pun^ ishment that can be given to a royal official, and as the lawsuit has been running over a year, the costs will run into the thousands of marks.
The case was first tried in the Schoffen^ gericht Koln, Feb, 19, 1902, and Werner Graff was found guilty, but he took it to the highest court, and again Houdini won.
The Cologne police claimed that all Houdini advertised tq do was misrepresentation (this was the cause of the lawsuit) \ for the trial they had a special lock made that, after it was once: locked, no key zvould open it.
This lock they challenged Houdini to open, to prove that he was not misrepresenting.
Houdini accepts the challenge, ivalks into the rooin selected by the jttry where he could work unhindered. In four minutes, with a quiet smile, reenters the court room, and hands the judges the prepared lock opened.
Houdini as Handcuffed and Manacled by the San Francisco Police, July, 1899.
Houdini as Handcuffed and Manacled by the Dresden (Germany) Police, September, 1900.
Houdini as Handcuffed, Elbow-Ironed, and Thumbscrewed by the Berlin Police, October, 1900.
Among the thirty police officials that testified against Houdini were some of the highest officials of Cologne, but Houdini won; in fact, he was "one " too many for them.
It being a disgrace for Schutzman Werner Graff to have this punishment on him, with the assistance of the police, he took it to the highest court in Germany, " Oberlandesgerieht, " and there the learned judges again gave Houdini the verdict from which there is no appeal.
Below is a free translation of the apology as printed in the German papers: