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Why was Harry Houdini Skeptical of Spiritualists?

Harry Houdini rose to popularity as one of the world’s most famous magicians. This is thanks to his grand illusions and daring, spectacular escape acts. But did you know that this great magician was highly skeptical of those who performed miracles?

Harry Houdini was highly suspicious of anything mystical and was enraged by miracle workers, spiritualists, and mediums who preyed on the people who were vulnerable to their cons.

Who Is Harry Houdini?

Harry Houdini, was fascinated by magic from a young age. He began performing professionally in 1891 but had little success. People only started giving him attention for his daring feats of escape. In 1893, he married Wilhelmina Rahner, who would later become his onstage partner. He continued performing escape acts until his death, on October 31, 1926, in Detroit, Michigan. (Source: Biography )

Beatrice or Bess Houdini was born Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner in Brooklyn, New York, on January 23, 1876. Bess came from a large German-speaking immigrant family like her husband

She was bitten by the showbiz bug while in her teens and enjoyed her spot in the limelight. (Source: Wild About Houdini)

The Skeptical Harry Houdini

When Harry was a child, he observed his father, Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz, deliver his sermons and formed his distrust of anything mystical. He could see why Jews might be drawn to the art of magic. After all, Jews have been performing since Moses and Aaron, when their mystical acts enthralled vast crowds.

Houdini’s illusions in front of crowds were directly influenced by his rage toward miracle workers, spiritualists, and mediums who preyed on the innocent.  As part of his presentation, he frequently exposed the techniques and lies of such mediums.

His mission to expose the charlatans caused anti-Semitic ire to follow, the spiritualists and mediums he exposed used his faith against him. His adversaries called taunted him and claimed his Jewish roots made him un-American. But that did not affect Houdini, as he was proudly Jewish throughout his entire life. He even made it clear that he was the son of a rabbi.

At that point, Harry Houdini was unstoppable, even in the face of death. Even after his passing on October 31st, 1926, he continued to discredit mediums through his widow, Bess Houdini.

A séance was held on the tenth anniversary of Harry’s death in 1936 to bring him back to life so Bess could communicate with him. Bess Remarked:

“The message has never been received.”

Bess Houdini

Bess never went to another séance after that. (Source: The Librarians)

The Death of Harry Houdini

Though the cause of Houdini’s death has been disputed, it is likely he died of acute appendicitis. It’s unclear whether his death was caused by a McGill University student testing his willpower by striking him in the stomach with permission or poison administered by a gang of enraged Spiritualists. 

He died in Detroit, Michigan, on October 31, 1926, at the age of 52, from peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix.
Houdini’s props and paraphernalia were passed on to his brother Theodore Hardeen after his death. They were then sold to a magician and collector, Sidney H. Radner. Radner auctioned it off in 2004. The rest of the collection was displayed at the Houdini Museum in Appleton, Wisconsin. Magician David Copperfield received the most coveted items, including the Water Torture Cell. (Source: Biography)

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