Houdini’s Final Disappearing Act

Houdini's grave.

A Halloween Tale: Houdini’s Lonely Grave (New York Times Video Library)

Harry Houdini was quite a character. Not only was he one of the most heralded magicians of his generation, but the mystique surrounding the man grew exponentially when he died on October 31, 1926. Some believed Houdini to be a practitioner of the “dark arts” or at least that he possessed supernatural abilities. How else to explain some of the seemingly impossible tricks he performed? In fact, Houdini’s death was due to peritonitis brought on by a ruptured appendix. Certainly, dying on All Hallows Eve only added to the man, the myth and the legend.

Born Ehrich Weiss (variant spellings include Erik Weisz) in Budapest, Hungary, the self-named Houdini was not only a magician, but an actor, escape artist, film producer and skeptic. He was particularly interested in debunking so-called spiritualists of the day who claimed the ability to communicate with the dead. Apparently, his wife Bess did not share the same beliefs as her husband. For ten years after Houdini’s death, Bess held seances every Halloween, attempting to summon him from the great beyond.

Today, you can visit the grave of Harry Houdini at the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York. Although downtrodden and in disrepair, the cemetery still entices Houdini fans to visit and pay their respects. Interestingly, his wife Bess, who died in 1943, requested to buried next to him. But because she was not Jewish, was not allowed burial in Machpelah and was instead interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester, New York.

For further exploration of the life of Houdini, you may enjoy:

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloma

Houdini: The Movie Star — Three Disc DVD Collection

Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss by Kenneth Silverman

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