“Police! Police! Look there!” The crowd which had been spending a leisurely sunny afternoon on the River Seine was now in a panic, gesturing wildly towards the roof of the morgue. “He’s mad!” Gendarmes jumped from their slumber behind Notre Dame when they heard the commotion and ran towards the scene. A mysterious black car sped away across the bridge with two men inside who minutes before had roughly handcuffed the lunatic and wrapped his arms with rope.
The four panting policemen arrived at the base of the building and looked up at the curious sight. The small man was wearing only his underwear and was now pacing nervously back and forth, raising his bound arms into the air. Every few seconds he approached the edge, curling his toes over the granite lip, and looked down into the murky water below. “He’s going to jump!” one of the officers shouted.
And then he did. His head-first suicidal dive etched into the minds of those who witnessed it. “He’s a goner, for sure.”
A small boat launched from the opposite shore and sped to the splash-site. Two of the onlookers and one of the policemen dove into the river, hoping to rescue the poor victim when he bobbed up. The body surfaced – but its arms were no longer bound; they were propelling the little man towards the boat. He was lifted in and ferried to the shoreline where the black car was waiting. He dove into an open door and was hastily spirited away.
The evening edition of April 1, 1913 carried news of the day’s events. It described the shock and confusion of the incident and mentioned that the police had filed papers for the prosecution of Harry Houdini under the laws of indecent exposure and swimming during restricted hours.