Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Did Houdini contact his wife after he died?

Matthew Alice:

Every year...at HALLOWEEN...media reports that the famed magician HOUDINI did not contact his wife AFTER he died. Not true!! This letter is on page 75 of Nothing So Strange -- the biography of ARTHUR FORD -- who conducted a seance in which the SECRET MESSAGE was received! IS IT TRUE OR FALSE? (P.S.: People ask, "Was Colonel Sanders real?" Hell, yes!)

-- Walt Kay, San Diego

Every year...at HALLOWEEN...Walt sends in this very question. In frustration, perhaps, this year he submitted it twice. One mailing included a copy of a congratulatory letter to Walt (apparently a crackerjack salesman) from his boss, fried-chicken pharaoh Colonel Harland Sanders. I'm a little hazy on the Sanders-Houdini connection. Voices from the grave maybe? On Harland's letter, Walt's penned a note saying, "People ask, 'Was he real?' Hell, yes!" So maybe it's just a bribe; he's revealed a chicken secret, now it's time for us to come across about Mrs. Houdini's seance.

Rumor has it that postal rates are going up, and so Walt won't have to take out a second mortgage to get my attention next year, here's the answer. The whole Houdini message-from-the-beyond stuff is extra-crispy baloney, of course.

Harry Houdini (Erik Weisz or Erich Weiss) -- escape artist, body builder, author, magazine publisher, film star, megalomaniac, and mama's boy -- had no love for spirit mediums, although he briefly toured as a "mind reader" before he perfected his lock-picking skills. Mediums were all the rage at the turn of the century, but Houdini resented their sleazy trickery when he and his magician colleagues were offering the public real, honest trickery. (Houdini sometimes performed his handcuff-and-chains escapes in the nude to prove he used no hidden devices. I guess you can't have anything up your sleeve if you don't have any sleeves.) He spent many years gleefully unmasking table-tilting frauds, even testifying at a U.S. Senate hearing during an attempt to outlaw seances and crystal-ball gazing. Some say Houdini was inspired in his campaign by a medium who channeled a message from his mother. Unfortunately, the late Mama Weiss's words were in English, a language she barely knew and one she never would have used with her dear little Erich. His family was from Hungary.

According to at least one Houdini researcher, British writer Frank Koval, Harry and his wife, Bess, agreed that whoever died first would attempt to contact the other with an agreed-upon code, perhaps as a sort of test of his hypothesis. (While Houdini believed that death probably shut our mouths for the moment, he was quite certain we would be reincarnated.) Harry made the final escape almost 20 years before Bess, succumbing to peritonitis from a ruptured appendix on Halloween in 1926. Mediums set about dialing up Houdini's spirit to hear the coded message, which Bess said was supposed to translate into, "Rosabelle, Believe." One who claimed success was spiritualist Arthur Ford. He offered up a string of code words, which just happened to be based on an old system Bess and Harry had used when they were plying their "mind-reading" trade. Bess said the whole thing was hogwash, since the code system had been published years before, and "Rosabelle, Believe" was a red herring she and Harry had devised to sort out the charlatans. None of this deterred Ford, who was still claiming into the 1970s that he spoke to Houdini. Bess died in 1943 without ever hearing from her husband.

So, Walt, that's the best I can do for you. Could Ford have had a self-serving motive in writing his autobiography? Could he have (gasp!) made up Bess's letter?

It would have been simpler to say that nobody's ever proved they've talked to any dead person, Arthur Ford included. But I suspect you wouldn't buy that. Hey, if the Colonel checks in, can you let us know what he thinks of this "KFC" business? The fact that he's been reduced to a tap-dancing cartoon character?

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

North Park – the prime quartier

30th Street parking, Georgia Street bridge, PSA crash, water tower, North Park Main Street
Next Article

Thai Joints rule in the Heights

Pick up or delivery, Thai fans have it good on Adams Avenue

Matthew Alice:

Every year...at HALLOWEEN...media reports that the famed magician HOUDINI did not contact his wife AFTER he died. Not true!! This letter is on page 75 of Nothing So Strange -- the biography of ARTHUR FORD -- who conducted a seance in which the SECRET MESSAGE was received! IS IT TRUE OR FALSE? (P.S.: People ask, "Was Colonel Sanders real?" Hell, yes!)

-- Walt Kay, San Diego

Every year...at HALLOWEEN...Walt sends in this very question. In frustration, perhaps, this year he submitted it twice. One mailing included a copy of a congratulatory letter to Walt (apparently a crackerjack salesman) from his boss, fried-chicken pharaoh Colonel Harland Sanders. I'm a little hazy on the Sanders-Houdini connection. Voices from the grave maybe? On Harland's letter, Walt's penned a note saying, "People ask, 'Was he real?' Hell, yes!" So maybe it's just a bribe; he's revealed a chicken secret, now it's time for us to come across about Mrs. Houdini's seance.

Rumor has it that postal rates are going up, and so Walt won't have to take out a second mortgage to get my attention next year, here's the answer. The whole Houdini message-from-the-beyond stuff is extra-crispy baloney, of course.

Harry Houdini (Erik Weisz or Erich Weiss) -- escape artist, body builder, author, magazine publisher, film star, megalomaniac, and mama's boy -- had no love for spirit mediums, although he briefly toured as a "mind reader" before he perfected his lock-picking skills. Mediums were all the rage at the turn of the century, but Houdini resented their sleazy trickery when he and his magician colleagues were offering the public real, honest trickery. (Houdini sometimes performed his handcuff-and-chains escapes in the nude to prove he used no hidden devices. I guess you can't have anything up your sleeve if you don't have any sleeves.) He spent many years gleefully unmasking table-tilting frauds, even testifying at a U.S. Senate hearing during an attempt to outlaw seances and crystal-ball gazing. Some say Houdini was inspired in his campaign by a medium who channeled a message from his mother. Unfortunately, the late Mama Weiss's words were in English, a language she barely knew and one she never would have used with her dear little Erich. His family was from Hungary.

According to at least one Houdini researcher, British writer Frank Koval, Harry and his wife, Bess, agreed that whoever died first would attempt to contact the other with an agreed-upon code, perhaps as a sort of test of his hypothesis. (While Houdini believed that death probably shut our mouths for the moment, he was quite certain we would be reincarnated.) Harry made the final escape almost 20 years before Bess, succumbing to peritonitis from a ruptured appendix on Halloween in 1926. Mediums set about dialing up Houdini's spirit to hear the coded message, which Bess said was supposed to translate into, "Rosabelle, Believe." One who claimed success was spiritualist Arthur Ford. He offered up a string of code words, which just happened to be based on an old system Bess and Harry had used when they were plying their "mind-reading" trade. Bess said the whole thing was hogwash, since the code system had been published years before, and "Rosabelle, Believe" was a red herring she and Harry had devised to sort out the charlatans. None of this deterred Ford, who was still claiming into the 1970s that he spoke to Houdini. Bess died in 1943 without ever hearing from her husband.

So, Walt, that's the best I can do for you. Could Ford have had a self-serving motive in writing his autobiography? Could he have (gasp!) made up Bess's letter?

It would have been simpler to say that nobody's ever proved they've talked to any dead person, Arthur Ford included. But I suspect you wouldn't buy that. Hey, if the Colonel checks in, can you let us know what he thinks of this "KFC" business? The fact that he's been reduced to a tap-dancing cartoon character?

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Native Americans who rocked the world

Stevie Salas, FreeMartin, City Windows, Charles Burton Blues Band, Army of Love
Next Article

Black Lives Matter offshoot chooses street outside Police Headquarters for street mural

Placing the BLAME
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close