Houdini Declines Comment, but Not for Want of Trying

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Harry Houdini is still dead and still not talking. Efforts to reach him yesterday failed.

The expectations were not terribly high at an annual séance held on Halloween, the day on which Houdini died in 1926. Teller, the quieter half of Penn and Teller, showed up, saying, “I’d be stunned if Houdini showed up, and so would he.”

So the question was whether Houdini — the master escape artist, the man who could slip out of handcuffs and arise from tomblike burials — would escape the afterlife.

There was an empty chair waiting for him on the stage in the auditorium at the Center for Jewish History, on West 16th Street in Manhattan. The chair was a hard wooden one provided by Anna Crankshaw, the great-granddaughter of the Boston medium known as Margery. Houdini had tangled with Margery. Maybe he would prefer one of the more comfortable padded seats in the audience.

But why would someone who was as famous as a movie star sit there? And what’s with that “famous as a” line? He was a movie star. And he appealed to women, no matter how carefully his earliest biographers airbrushed the record.

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