Calling All Mediums!


Los Angeles
June 19, 1927

The magician Hardeen has issued a $10,000 challenge to the local spiritualist community: all they need to do is produce a single genuine message from his brother, Harry Houdini, the internationally renowned exposer of fake mediums who passed away last October 31st. Hardeen, who appears this week at the Hillstreet Theatre, told reporters that about a year ago he and Houdini made a pact with a third brother, William, as the latter lay dying. Four secret words (or six; today’s reports varied) would be communicated from the beyond by the first brother to cross over the great divide. Thereafter nary a peep was heard from William, and while Houdini’s great and mysterious powers might have been expected to aid him in drawing back the curtain between life and death, no message from him has yet been received. This contradicts a recent claim by the Egyptian fakir Hamid Bey; apparently this message contained none of the secret words agreed upon by the brothers. Indeed, Hardeen says he will award the $10,000 to anyone who can produce a communiqué containing only one or two of these. Not that Hardeen is expecting to hear from either Houdini or William any time soon: "None of us believe[d] in spiritualism," he confided.

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.

Don’t Cross A Fargo Man

August 10, 1907
Los Angeles 

Brockway and Brown, conman and his captor

It was three years ago this week that dapper "Edward K. Earle," clairvoyant medium, tricked J.D. Brown, now 78, into handing over $1000 which he had earmarked for purchasing property at the Devil’s Lake Indian Reservation. "Earle" advised against the investment, but blessed the sum and told Brown he must wear it close to his breast for a full day. But the envelope was neatly switched, and when it was opened, the $1000 was gone.  After Brown’s money took a walk, he came to his senses and insisted he must have been hypnotized to have so foolishly placed his money in a stranger’s hands.

But "Earle" miscalculated when he robbed Brown, for the man had means and nothing better do with his days than to follow the trail of the sneaky psychic. Brown has personally traveled 4,000 miles and detectives have logged another 6,000 in the search. Along the way, Brown fell in love with the Los Angeles climate, and moved his family here–all the while continuing his pursuit as detectives shared the latest sightings of the slippery "Earle," whose true name they reported as Charles Brockway.

But so much time had passed without success that Brown’s ardor for the hunt was dimming… until, that is, his daughter Zoe M. May met a familiar-looking fellow on Spring Street in June ’06. With this news old J.D. eagerly gathered a list of every medium in Los Angeles, then staked out their premises. And one marvelous day he was rewarded with a glimpse of his nemesis as the man, now called "Edward Fay," left his suite in the Hammond Block, 120 1-2 South Spring Street.

A friend back in Fargo found the old warrant drawn on "Earle," and Brown provided a sum sufficient to extradite the con artist. A month passed and papers arrived with local authorities, who promptly arrested the man. He vows to fight extradition, and hopes to return to his business, answering three questions for the princely sum of $1 (and, if past experience is anything to go by, obtaining handsome tips from his more credulous customers before changing his name and fleeing).

Cincinnati Heirs Claim Spiritualist Influence On Dead Brother

April 8, 1907
Los Angeles

R. Crawford Smith, a wealthy Cincinnati bachelor who died in February, aged 61, spent the past several years living amongst strangers in Los Angeles. For a long while, he called the Hotel Melrose on Grand Avenue his home, and more recently had lived with familes on McClintock Avenue and South Olive Street.

His two brothers, William E. and A. Denniston Smith, have come from the east after Crawford’s death to inquire how it is that his will, which was to have split his $100,000 fortune equally between them and two sisters, acquired late codiciles leaving $17,000 to three females, rumored to be practictioners of Spiritualism, all residents of this city. The Smiths have hired Attorney Charles Cassat Davis to handle the challenge.

E.Z. Barrett, husband of the woman willed $10,000, says his wife Dora befriended a sad old man, and was repaid for her kindness with the posthumous gift. Mediumship had nought to do with it–though Dora is a popular lecturer on the subject, who has been known to give public demonstrations of her ability to commune with those who have “passed over.” Mr. Barrett stresses however that Dora is not a medium of the typical type.

Pasadena high school teacher Miss Lottie Livingston was willed $5000 from the Smith coffers, and Mrs. Lola Swilling, whose husband is said to be an Army officer stationed in Cuba, has a $2000 gift promised her.

Smith’s few local friends recall him as a lonesome, ill and melancholy man, a believer in Spiritualism who sought out Mrs. Barrett and frequently visited her home in his last days, apologizing for being a burden but saying how much he appreciated being among friends.

The late man’s estate was largely held in property, including a hotel at the southeast corner of Hope and Sixth Streets here.


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