DETROIT -- Sixty years after his Halloween death, dabblers in the occult are still trying to contact the world beyond for a word with Harry Houdini, a master magician and escape artist who repudiated mummery, mediums or miracles.
Two magicians were to attempt to communicate with Houdini's spirit in an airplane stunt over Grand Rapids today, but the curator of the American Museum of Magic in Marshall said he knows of no special plans to commemorate the anniversary of Houdini's death.
'There will probably be six to a dozen seances held around the country as there are every year, most of them with tongue in cheek or to publicize some local magician or local organization,' currator Bob Lund said 'But I don't know of anything special that's being held. Magic does not appeal to everyone.'
Houdini himself was not given to exercises in the occult, Lund said. In fact, the master magician spent his later years exposing fraudulent spiritualists and mediums by using coventional legerdemain to duplicate their feats.
Houdini died at 52 at the old Grace Hospital in Detroit on Halloween of 1926, but Lund said there is no evidence to show that the man born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874, saw anything wry about a Halloween death. Nevertheless, he might have savored the publicity value.
Houdini's one-time friend Arthur Conan Doyle described him as 'the world's greatest press agent.'
Houdini relied on physical ability and a well-trained mind to perform his stunning escape feats, his most famous perhaps being during the winter of 1906 when he jumped, bound and manacled, off a bridge through a hole in the partially frozen Detroit River.
By his account, Houdini spent eight minutes under the ice and freed himself as he worked his way to a boat awaiting him back at the opening.