Can You Hear Me Now?

Houdini Headline

June 18, 1927
Los Angeles

Hamid BeyEgyptian mystic Hamid Bey claims to have received a message from deceased illusionist Harry Houdini – but Hardeen, Houdini’s surviving brother, doesn’t believe that Bey’s claim is any more genuine than many others made since the magician’s death last Halloween.

Hardeen would love to hear from his brother Harry, and has offered $10,000 ($119,510.92 USD 2007) to anyone who can name only one or two words of a secret code which he devised with Houdini, and another deceased brother, William. The brothers entered into the pact prior to William’s death last year in order to prove that the dead cannot communicate with the living. They agreed that the code would be the preamble to any communication from beyond the grave. Hardeen said that he and Houdini never heard from William following his death.

Bey has spent most of this year on the vaudeville circuit performing feats such as being buried alive and then revived. Mr. Bey asserts his powers are divine gifts, and he had intended to challenge Houdini’s well documented skepticism of spiritualists. Throughout his life Houdini had scorned spiritualists and had often stated that he could duplicate, by mechanical means, any of the stunts performed by a medium. Unfortunately Houdini died before the two could meet.

Prior to his current stint in vaudeville, Bey spent a few years traveling around the world publicly demonstrating powers had he learned at a Coptic Temple in Egypt. While in Brindisi, Italy, he had a near death experience. He had announced that he was going to induce a state of suspended animation, and allow himself to be buried alive for three days. His plan to fast prior to his entombment was foiled by the residents of Brindisi when they prepared a sumptuous banquet in his honor, and pressed him to eat several large plates of spaghetti.

When he awakened from his trance he was buried and unable to breathe – he then pulled the emergency cord which rang a bell above ground to summon help to his gravesite. Bey later stated that his trance had been disrupted by the spaghetti he had consumed.

Were cosmic forces responsible for interrupting Hamid’s trance, or were a bad case of indigestion and a subconscious desire not to remain buried under six feet of Italian soil the reasons for his premature resurrection? It is a shame that fate intervened and denied us the outcome of a confrontation between Hamid Bey and Harry Houdini.

Houdini’s wife Bess held a séance on Halloween every year through 1936 when she declared that “ten years is long enough to wait for any man.” No authentic message from Houdini has ever been received.

Houdini’s Widow to Receive Settlement

June 13, 1927
New York

houdiniFamed illusionist Harry Houdini died October 31, 1926, but until today, his widow, Bess, didn’t know whether she’d see any of the insurance money.  After months of investigation, the New York Life Insurance Company decided to accept the claim that Houdini died as the result of a blow struck by J. Gordon Whitehead, a McGill University student.  Bess Houdini would receive a settlement of $25,000 ($296,962 USD 2007).

Of course, New York Life had good reason to be confused.  Even today, Houdini’s death is surrounded by uncertainty.  Some accounts say that Whitehead challenged Houdini to take the punch fair and square, while others claim that he and his buddies lambasted the illusionist while he reclined on a sofa.  According to some, the blow to the abdomen could have ruptured Houdini’s appendix, while others today say that this would only have aggravated a pre-existing condition.  Still others speculate that he was actually poisoned by the angry Spiritualists he’d discredited.  As recently as March of this year, Harry’s descendents were seeking to have the body exhumed, while Bess’s sought to block it, claiming that the whole thing reeked of a book promotion stunt.

What’s a humble claims adjuster to do?