Stranger Than Fiction: The Amazing Harry Houdini

Houdini in Handcuffs 1918It was 86 years ago this week, Halloween, 1926, that legendary magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini died at Grace Hospital in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 52. Houdini’s death was the result of peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix. Houdini had once vowed that he would escape the spirit world, if it were possible, to contact his loved ones.

If anyone could escape the spirit world, Harry Houdini would be the man to do it.

Houdini became world famous, in the 1890s and early 20th century, as a magician but was known more for his mind boggling escapes. He had escaped from strait jackets while being suspended upside down from flag poles. He had escaped a locked trunk that had been dropped into a frozen river and he stunned the warden of Scotland Yard Prison by escaping the prison that many believed was escape proof. Nothing could hold the Great Houdini.

Shortly after his mother’s death, the grief stricken Houdini began consulting spiritualists and mediums in hopes of contacting his dearly departed mother. He quickly saw through the parlor tricks utilized by these con artists who frequently excelled at swindling grieving people out of their money.

Houdini began exposing these fraudulent mediums and attacking the spiritualism movement. He quickly made legions of enemies among the spiritualists. At the time he lived, the spiritualism movement was a rapidly growing belief attracting many. The religion was rooted in a philosophy of making contact with the dead through séances. Grieving family members seeking to contact their dead relatives eagerly handed over large sums of cash to the mediums in exchange for helping them make contact. Houdini, and others like him, exposed these phonies and the spiritualism movement suffered a demise of its own.

Houdini once told his wife, Bess, that when he died he would contact her if it were possible. The couple devised a coded message he would give Bess so that she would know she was in the company of her departed husband.

Following his death, Bess conducted séances each year in an effort to contact him in the spirit world. Each year for 10 years, Harry Houdini failed to make contact leaving Bess to conclude that her husband had slipped the surly bonds of this life and entered into a realm that even he could not escape.

Although, Bess ended her attempts to contact Houdini in 1937, séances continue to be held each year at various locations across the nation. Last year at 1:26 p.m., the exact moment Houdini died, a seance was held at the Houdini Museum in Scranton Pennsylvania.

Did Houdini return? According to Dorothy Deitrich, director of the Houdini Museum, during the seance, the candelabra that was used, suddenly began to burn brightly. After the seance ended and the attendees left the museum, a hawk was sighted sitting on the chimney outside the museum. Coincidentally. Houdini used a hawk in his show shortly before he died. Was this a sign from Houdini? If so, it wasn’t the first.

Dietrich recounted another instance that occurred on the fiftieth anniversary of Houdini’s death in a picture of Houdini performing his water torture trick fell from the wall. No one was near the picture when it fell.

Michael Williams has written a book entitled “Stranger than Fiction: The Lincoln Curse.” The book is a collection of 50 strange and unusual but true stories. The stories will leave the reader convinced that perhaps Mark Twain was right when he said “truth is stranger than fiction.”

The book is 187 pages in a softbound edition with numerous photos. The book can be purchased from for $19.95 plus shipping and handling or you can save shipping cost and save $2 on the purchase price by ordering a signed copy directly from the author. Send $17.95 to P.O. Box 6421 Sevierville, TN. 37864.

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Source: Michael Williams, Author of Stranger Than Fiction