Of Human Interest: News-lite

PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW, United Press International


This Halloween marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Harry Houdini.


And as in previous years, a group of Houdini experts will gather to conduct a séance to try to contact the magician. This year's Official Houdini Seance at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., will be open to the public --- something that rarely happens.

"Ever since Houdini's death, seances have been held to attempt to contact him," said seance organizer Sid Radner, a protégé of Houdini's brother, Hardeen. "Our seance carries on this tradition. If it were possible to return, Houdini believed he could find a way."

The Houdini experts who'll take part also include Marie Blood, Houdini's niece; Jim Auer, president of the Houdini Club of Wisconsin; Dr. Morris Young, Houdini author and expert; and representatives of the American Museum of Magic and the Houdini Historical Center.

The Rev. Ray Fraser, a spirit medium will conduct the actual seance assisted by his daughter Wendy Fraser-Bailey.

In addition to their collective knowledge, the group will bring mementos and items Houdini used during his lifetime. Among these are the "seance handcuffs."

"Houdini told his brother that if he were ever able to return in a material way, he would open these cuffs. The pair is unique in the world and has a mechanism that is extremely complicated. If (the cuffs open), I'd be convinced of his presence," said Radner.


Houdini died Oct. 31, 1926, in Detroit of complications caused by a ruptured appendix.

(Ticket sales will go to the Clear Channel Relief Fund benefiting the families of firefighters and police officers of New York City.)

(Web site:


Record numbers of commuters are rediscovering New York City's waterways in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that hobbled subway and tunnel routes into lower Manhattan.

The number of people utilizing private-run ferries has doubled its pre-Sept. 11 daily average of 30,000. As a a result, both private and public ferry operators are scrambling to add extra boats and routes, as well as rehabilitate existing piers and open new ones, to connect Manhattan with Brooklyn, Staten Island and New Jersey.

"It's really sparked new interest in local ferry service," said Arthur E. Imperatore, Jr., president of the biggest private ferry operator, NY Waterway. "The whole region is finally seeing the value of what we do."

A variety of mass transit disruptions are driving the increase in ferry passengers. The PATH station under the World Trade Center was destroyed in the terrorist attacks, forcing an estimated 60,000 commuters from New Jersey to find alternate routes. The station for the 1 and 9 subway lines near the World Trade Center, which reached a daily volume of more than 100,000 commuters, was also badly damaged, and nearby N and R lines were also adversely affected but are expected back up in six months. Traffic restrictions on downtown streets and main intercity arteries like the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel have wreaked havoc for motor vehicles, especially single-passenger cars.



A California geologist studying earthquake-prone fault lines has discovered what appears to be a submerged island.

The island is located between the Santa Barbara Harbor and one of the existing Santa Barbara Channel islands in California. It's about 31 miles long, 3 miles wide and projects 660 feet above the channel floor.

"We came across this while we were studying earthquake hazards," said Edward Keller of the University of California at Santa Barbara. "All of the indications suggest it is an island located about 100 meters below the surface."

Keller has named it Isla Calafia, which comes from a Spanish romance novel written around 1500. Calafia was a mythical place ruled by a beautiful female warrior and could have been where the name California comes from, he said.

Calafia probably sank beneath the waves about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, meaning people probably never saw it.


THURSDAY: Today through Oct. 31 is Chicken Soup For The Laughing Soul Treat Week. (Web site:

It's also Peace, Friendship and Goodwill Week.

This is Cartoonists Against Crime Day.

Today is Sourest Day, a time emphasizing the balance of things in nature.


Hong Kong celebrates the Chung Yeung Festival. An old story tells of a man who was advised by a soothsayer to take his family to a high place on the ninth day of the ninth month to avoid disaster. When the man returned the next day, all living things had died in his absence. Part of the festival's celebration is climbing to high places.

And this is Retrocession Day in Taiwan, commemorating the restoration of Taiwan to Chinese rule in 1945 after half-a-century of Japanese occupation.

(Thanks to Chase's 2001 Calendar of Events)


The Roman Catholic Church is the largest single Christian denomination in the United States. What's the largest single Protestant denomination?

The Baptist family of churches, which includes the Southern Baptist Convention, is the largest U.S. Protestant denomination.

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