It’s almost Halloween. Allhallows Eve. Samhain. The perfect time for a scary story. So bolt your doors, lower the lights and gather ’round children, for a chilling tale of unearthly apparitions conjured by those who seek to undermine the dominion of Death himself. Read on… if you dare…Mwahahahahahahaha!!!!!! Maniacal laughter and so forth!!!!!
A long time ago (today, actually), Our Hero (me) was writing a screenplay, audaciously Dreaming of Cinematic Glories. It was (is, for now) called From Beyond (working title), inspired by real historical events about the world’s greatest magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, and his quest to conjure spirits and commune with the souls of the dead. After the death of his beloved mother, Harry was drawn into the mysterious, cultish world of the Spiritualist movement by his friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes, among other accomplishments). Houdini and his friends swore a solemn oath to return from beyond the grave to visit one another. Harry and his wife Beatrice (Bess) even devised a secret code known only to the two of them, so that they would know for certain that the visitation was authentic.
Houdini died on October 31, 1926 under bizarre and suspicious circumstances. And, for ten years after his passing in 1926, Bess held seances on Halloween night in an attempt to summon the ghost of her dear husband. In 1936, she held her final, unsuccessful Houdini seance (according to her, “ten years is long enough to wait for any man”), but Harry’s brother and other devotees picked up the torch. Every Halloween night, a seance is held in hopes the famous prestidigitator might make one final curtain call, and perform the greatest magic trick of all: escaping death long enough to contact the living.
If anyone could do it, it would be Houdini, a man possessing abilities some considered to be unnatural. He specialized in cheating Death, by emerging from the infamous Chinese Water Torture Cell, by surviving live burial, by escaping from a locked trunk dropped into the Hudson River. He made magic cool, and enabled teenage nerds like David Copperfield, Doug Henning, and David Blaine to get to second base with actual girls. Since I get to second base on the regular, I would settle for escaping from my cubicle. I’m hoping the renowned illusionist Harry Houdini can help me.
Halloween seances? Raising the dead? Phantom encounters? Shadowy cults? Anybody else getting goosebumps? At least I hope those are goosebumps, and not, say, scabies.
In honor of the man who defied Death for our entertainment, we offer this audio clip, the final Houdini seance that Bess ever held and attended, on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles.
If the ending seems disappointing and anti-climactic, it’s because this recording doesn’t tell the full story. For, as the crowd dispersed without a written message or manifestation to satisfy their paranormal appetites, lightning crashed and a biblical storm erupted and drenched the attendees. Witnesses recounted that the deluge only hit the Knickerbocker Hotel itself, and did not affect the surrounding area. Perhaps this was Harry, reaching out, communicating from beyond. Keeping his solemn oath…
Happy Halloween, Heroes. And pleasant dreams.
Mwaaahahahahahahahaha!!!!! Nefarious laughter!!!!!!!