Occultism, child trafficking and Harry Houdini’s personal fight against both

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Harry Houdini, noted for his sensational escape acts and possibly the most famous magician of all time, is also one of the least appreciated heroes of recent history.

Not only did he use his personal secret service for the cause of debunking fraudulent mediums but also for exposing child trafficking operations operating between London and the USA.

And considering the many death threats Houdini received from powerful spiritualists from England to the USA and considering his powerful disruption of a desired new occult revival in the USA, it is likely that the story of Houdini’s accidental death at the age of 52 is more myth than reality.

In the following essay, Matthew Ehret details the not-so-public life and times of Harry Houdini.

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By Matthew Ehret

In the last chapter of the series ‘Occult Tesla’, you were introduced to the figure of Sir William Crookes, Tesla’s mentor, Rosicrucian high priest and populariser of occultism who rose to the ranks of most powerful scientist of the British Empire when he was elected President of the British Royal Society in 1913.

In that location, the peculiar relationship between science and a global occult revival was examined and coordinated by the British Society for Psychical Research, which Crookes also led as President. Not only did this occult revival drive a re-organisation of the decaying British Empire, but aspired to establish a new world religion premised on demonology, spirit channelling, and a hybrid of Western gnosticism/hermeticism fused with Eastern mysticism as outlined by the Theosophist movement.

In this instalment, we will be introduced to the efforts to expose this new false world religion by analysing the life and efforts of one of the least appreciated heroes of recent history … Harry Houdini.

Who was the Real Houdini?

Born in Hungary in 1874, Erich Weiss and his family moved to the USA when he was only four years old and soon found himself inspired by the craft of stage magic, studying everything he could get his hands on. Erich and his brother showed immense skill at the craft and quickly rose in popularity, getting their first big break performing at the 1893 World Fair in Chicago.

Harry Houdini and his wife Bess

By this time, he had changed his stage name to ‘Harry Houdini’ as a homage to a famous French illusionist named Robert Houdin whose work inspired Weiss.

In the groundbreaking 2006 biography ‘The Secret Life of Houdini’, which will be cited extensively throughout this essay, researchers William Kalush and Larry Sloman demonstrate that Houdini was recruited to the US Secret Service in around 1899 as he began touring the world with invitations to perform for presidents, royals and diplomats in courts across Europe and Russia.

In 1900, Houdini met with London spymaster William Melville (then head of Scotland Yard) who would become the co-founder of Britain’s MI6 in 1909. Starting at this time, Houdini began working with police, military leaders and detectives across the USA giving seminars on escaping from handcuffs, lock picking and other tricks used by criminals, and intelligence agents alike.

Magicians and Intelligence Operations

We know that magicians have wielded great influence since ancient times, and often through the use of scientific knowledge kept secret, these magi, priests and hierophants have managed to wield vast influence over superstitious elites and masses alike. This shouldn’t surprise any informed reader, as the art of managing perceptions – making the false appear true – has been the master key to all power dynamics in all times, so why should our “scientific” modern age be any different?

In Elizabethan England, John Dee – using the moniker agent “007″ – carried out espionage alongside his channeler Edward Kelley and set the stage for the Rosicrucian transformation of England from a nation to a global empire. Followers of Dee and occultist Sir Francis Bacon had established the British Royal Society which dealt principally in black magic rituals and alchemy even while Sir Isaac Newton played with numerology on behalf of ‘the Invisible College’ of sorcerers (see Part 1 of this series).

As we saw in Part 2 of this series, even the British Satanist Aleister Crowley worked for British intelligence and believed himself to be the reincarnation of John Dee’s skryer Edward Kelley – a demonologist, necromancer and alchemist. During World War 1, Crowley worked closely with William Wiseman, British Chief of the New York branch of MI5, as well as George Sylvester Viereck, Tesla’s friend and human vampire.

During World War II, Crowley worked closely with MI6’s own Sir Ian Fleming (whose James Bond was a composite of John Dee, and British occultist Sidney Reilley). Fleming’s character M (Bond’s handler) was modelled on the same William Melville who collaborated with Houdini after 1900.

In his 1917 book ‘Moonchild’, Crowley noted the fusion of intelligence operations and magic stating: “Investigation of spiritualism makes a capital training ground for secret service work, one soon gets up to all the tricks.”

Crowley and Houdini Go to the Movies

In 1917, as both Houdini and Crowley were operating in New York, we even find strange parallels as both men were creating film serials with the same director on the topic of magic. Of course, the treatment of the topic of magic was very different with Crowley promoting supernatural occultism in The ‘Mysteries of Myra’, while Houdini was exposing international conspiracies to suppress new inventions in The Master Mystery’ series. [1]

In Houdini’s Master Mystery, a Justice Department agent named Quentin Locke (played by Houdini) infiltrates a corporation called ‘International Patents Inc’ run by powerful industrialists who use their vast fortunes to purchase inventions to keep them off the market and keep society locked into a dependency on out-dated (and monopolised) technologies. Within this 1918 film, Houdini created the first demonstration of an automaton robot used by villains.

The Master Mystery films were such a hit that Houdini was inspired to create his own production company called ‘The Houdini Picture Corporation’ in 1921 where he produced the 1921 film ‘The Man From the Beyond and the 1923 film Haldane of the Secret Service.

In Haldane of the Secret Service, Houdini created a composite character based on the very real Viscount Richard Burdon Haldane (1856-1928), a leading figure of the British Empire, Secretary of State under Lord Balfour’s government and the co-founder of Britain’s MI5 and MI6 in 1909 (along with William Melville). The main character of the film (played by Houdini) was a secret agent who infiltrates an organisation which murdered his father leading him to a satanic criminal headquarters masquerading as a Catholic monastery in the South of France.

Viscount Richard Burdon Haldane

Describing one of the main characters representing “the chief of the secret government police” for the film ‘The Marvelous Adventures of Harry Houdini’ (unfortunately never made), Houdini wrote: “such a man as would be selected by the brain force of a great nation, to have complete control of the secret service, in fact, a prototype of Flynn-suave, polished, a gentleman and silent as the Sphinx.” [2]

William James Flynn and the Patriotic Tradition of US Intelligence

Here Houdini was referring to the figure of William James Flynn (1867-1928), chief of New York’s Secret Service from 1912-1917, and director of the young Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) from 1917-1919 who led the anti-corruption purge of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) detective bureau from 1910-1911. [2.5]

William James Flynn

In 1915, Flynn was responsible for locating the German agents operating in the USA around the figures of Crowley and Viereck, and it was Flynn who followed German diplomat Dr. Heinrich Albert and George Sylvester Viereck and acquired the evidence of Germany’s $25 million spent buying up spy networks across the USA during the war.

Historian Helibert von Felitzer notes of this sting operation:

As noted in Part 2 of this series, Viereck’s pro-German propaganda magazine ‘The Fatherland’ was edited by none other than Aleister Crowley.

Flowing from the success of this operation, Flynn tracked down the wireless radio communications station based in Long Island that had been transmitting signals to German intelligence – such as information leading to the sinking of the Lucitannia in 1915. Flynn’s interception of messages to the German high command provided the legal justification for the US government’s seizure and destruction of Tesla’s Long Island towers – both the Wardenclyff tower and the Telefunken Wireless Station in Sayville, Long Island, NY – during the war (see Part 2 for that story).

When Flynn’s operatives, working alongside Franklin Roosevelt’s agents in US Naval Intelligence dismantled this Anglo-German network in New York, Tesla’s funding dried up and the wizard was forced into a short-term bankruptcy, although he continued living in five-star hotels without any trouble until his death.

The Sleepy Hollow Club

As Richard B. Spence notes in ‘Secret Agent 666’, one of Crowley’s leading contacts and paymasters in New York was a figure named John Quinn, an Anglo-American agent of a new private intelligence agency centred in the elite Sleepy Hollow Club of New York. The Sleepy Hollow Club was owned by William Rockefeller and featured the upper crust of America’s Brahmin families including the Vanderbilts, Morgans, Cabots, Lodges and Lowells, to name a few.

Senator Nelson Aldrich (father-in-law of John D. Rockefeller) was another leading member, as was President Wilson’s handler Edward Mandel House- both of whom played a key role in setting up both the Federal Reserve and Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) in 1913.

The Club’s permanent resident was a British agent named Claude Dansey who was tasked with establishing this parallel security agency outside of the influence of the US government.

As Anton Chaitkin points out in ‘Hoover’s FBI and Anglo-American Dictatorship’, Dansey ran the agency from 1911-1914 from the Sleepy Hollow Club and Claude Dansey’s protege Ralph van Deman set up a shadowy military intelligence agency called ‘The Black Chamber’ in 1918 (which later became known as ‘The National Security Agency’ in 1930).

After World War I, Van Deman recommended Dansey for a Distinguished Service Medal “for guiding, planning and implementation of an American intelligence service.”

In 1909, Dansey, who had risen to prominence in the Boer War (working closely with Lord Milner and Churchill), became a founding deputy director of Britain’s new spy agency MI5 alongside Viscount Richard Burdon Haldane and William Melville.

The fact that Dansey created at least two American secret intelligence agencies while also serving as Deputy Director of the new British Secret Service (later to be known as MI5) should cause any thinking person to question who exactly has been running the USA over the past century.

During World War II, Dansey would be assigned to create another secretive agency dubbed “The Z organisation” that interfaced between British occult intelligence, Nazi occult networks, and once again included both Crowley and George Sylvester Viereck as active members. In the 1988 book ‘All the King’s Men’ historian Robert Marshall demonstrated that Dansey’s pseudo-private intelligence apparatus was behind the sabotage of several networks of French and Dutch anti-Nazi resistance fighters who believed they could trust British intelligence contacts.

The manager of the Sleepy Hollow Club was a powerful financier named Thomas Fortune Ryan who joined J.P. Morgan in financing Nikola Tesla’s towers before the war was launched.

Crowley, Viereck, Wardenclyffe Tower and Nikola Tesla

It is interesting to note that William J. Flynn took the position of Director of the fledgling FBI from 1917-1919, where he found himself at odds with Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s tyrannical crackdown on civil liberties dubbed “the Palmer Raids.”

By 1920, Flynn, who had worked with Houdini on numerous occasions, was forced into early retirement, whereby the intelligence chief became a film producer of movies that exposed fraudulent mediums!

Where Does Houdini Fit In?

We know that Harry Houdini had close relations with both American, British and Russian patriots as well as dark forces in all three countries at the same time, so it is worth asking: what side of history did Houdini ultimately side with?

To piece together this important mystery, let’s begin with Houdini’s observations of magic itself.

In his 1920 expose ‘Miracle Mongers and their Methods’, Houdini stated:

In his 1924 book ‘ A Magician Among Spirits’ he noted the power which the high priests and magi wielded over superstitious victims stating:

Houdini’s decision to devote himself entirely to exposing the emergence of a new pagan spiritualism during the final six years of his life was extremely important considering Houdini had risen to the position of the world’s most famous magician and was also president of the Society of American Magicians (from 1917-1926).

As has been already stated in Part 10 of this series, the British Society for Psychical Research and especially the figure of its President Sir William Crookes (member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn alongside Crowley) represented the nerve centre organising a new post-Christian religion dubbed “spiritualism” based upon demonology, magic and all things paranormal.

In 1924, Harry Houdini took note of Sir Crooke’s strange incapacity to discern reality from fraud saying:

In his 1924 book and throughout his active years as a debunker of paranormal fraudsters which he began in earnest in 1921 and continued until his untimely 1926 death, Houdini directly confronted leading figures of the British Empire’s occult underground including all leading figures running the British (and American) Societies for Psychical Research, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Hereward Carrington, Sir Oliver Lodge and many more.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Frenemy of Harry Houdini

By the end of World War I, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) had become a controller of America’s spiritualist movement and worked closely with Sir Lodge and William Crookes as manager of the British Society for Psychical Research. Like Sir Crookes, Doyle was also an intimate collaborator of Bram Stoker (vampire populariser, and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) with whom he co-authored several short stories.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini

Sir Doyle had become enamoured with Theosophy and spiritualism in the 1880s, becoming a leading propagandist for the British Empire where he wrote for the Pall Mall Gazette alongside such leading lights of the empire as Lord Milner, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, Henry Cust, Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant.

After creating his character Sherlock Holmes in 1887, Sir Doyle worked closely with Winston Churchill, Claude Dansey and Lord Alfred Milner in South Africa during the Boer War, where Doyle won his knighthood in 1902 for his defense of the British Empire’s genocidal foreign policy. Doyle’s fellow imperial writer Sir Rudyard Kipling also won his knighthood at the same time and for the same reasons. The Pall Mall Gazette, founded in 1865, became the principal mouthpiece for the Cecil Rhodes/Arthur Balfour roundtable group and interfaced closely with the Fabian Society starting in 1885.

In 1912, Sir Doyle found himself deploying trickery to service the “new imperial science” by overseeing an operation that included a Jesuit priest named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin centred in Piltdown, England which professed to “discover” the remains of a proto-human skeleton dubbed “The Piltdown Man.” Proven years later to have been a hoax (fusing a dyed human skull with a monkey jaw and carved teeth), the aim of this operation was to fill in the non-existent missing link in fossil records which had embarrassed Darwinists since Thomas Huxley launched the X Club in 1865.

Before and during World War 1, both Doyle and Kipling once again joined H.G. Wells and Henry Cust in the powerful War Propaganda Bureau overseen by Lords Northcliff and Beaverbrook, where the team of imperial creatives put their talents to work generating propaganda to build support for war among British subjects while transforming the image of Germans from cultured neighbours into baby-killing huns.

The British Propaganda Bureau deployed a myriad of techniques of psychological warfare in order to manipulate the minds of the masses towards geopolitical ends desired by the Empire.

After watching Houdini perform a sequence of magic tricks, including mind reading, aparitionism, and levitation, Doyle became enthralled with the magician, believing Houdini to be a practitioner of the dark arts. Despite Houdini’s consistent admissions that every magic trick he performed could be explained using reason, Doyle continued to promote his belief that Houdini was secretly working with spirits.

Don’t Believe Your Senses

Like Sir Crookes, Doyle was a true believer who seemed immune from any attempts to use reason to cast doubt on any paranormal claims, especially photographic evidence of fairies.

At one point, Harry Houdini had asked Doyle to see his collection of spirit photographs (a practice popularised by Sir Crookes in the 1850s), to which Doyle responded:

Doyle was so inspired by those fairy pictures, that he even wrote a book called ‘The Coming of the Fairies’ in 1922 promoting these incredible pieces of evidence of a spirit realm beyond.

Arthur Conan Doyle and demonstrations of spirit photographs of fairies

When the 18-year-old girl who took the fairy pictures (Elsie Wright) admitted to making them using a cutout of a fairy from a popular British children’s book (featuring some of Doyle’s own stories), it created a major embarrassment for Sir Arthur’s credibility and the study of “spirit photographs” more generally.

In ‘A Magician Among Spirits’, Houdini outlined many techniques used by spirit photographers promoted by Doyle saying: 

Houdini was renowned for not only debunking fraudsters, but reproducing every single trick including spirit photography, which Houdini mastered in a short time, including his own spirit photographs, telepathy, and aparitionism (making objects appear out of thin air- a technique used by Madame Blavatsky and defended by theosophists to this day).

Houdini and two of his many spirit photographs

Using a variety of techniques built up over decades, Houdini not only exposed frauds more quickly than anyone, but also using his own private intelligence network of informants, as well as collaborators among law enforcement, Houdini would be able to replicate any séance or mind reading trick on the market. Houdini’s inventions included cutting edge electronic devices and a vast array of gadgets.

Houdini the Medium

In one famous instance, Houdini replicated a famous telepathy trick developed by a British Society for Psychical Research member named Gilbert Murray.

Gilbert Murray was a close confidante of Sir Doyle and Arthur Balfour who became famous for correctly guessing obscure thoughts in the minds of targets invited into his home.

Houdini made headlines when he invited reporters to his own house where a panel made up of a committee of supporters of Murray were convened to see if Houdini could replicate the famous medium’s results. Among the committee were Wall Street millionaire Bernard Baruch, Gilbert Murray himself and American Fabian leader Walter Lippmann who were invited to have their minds read.

Psychic Gilbert Murray, and the emblem of the Society for Psychical Research

Houdini’s success embarrassed the spiritualist movement, and it was only years later that it was revealed that Houdini had every room of his house wired with hidden dictaphones and transmitted by an operator concealed in a basement to any desired room in the house that Houdini happened to be stationed in. The electronics were impressive with electron induction wires and coils serving the magician (and all leading psychics) well.

The lesson here is that the success of those magical illusions that appear to defy all natural explanations always involve a mixture of a network of cooperative agents or plants to acquire information of targets, fused with an array of technological devices unknown to a superstitious audience (and a wily intention to deceive).

On top of electronic tools, Kalush and Sloman noted the vast private intelligence-sharing network built up by members of the new spiritualist religion in America writing: 

Doyle’s Pythian Priestess: Margery Crandon

In a 29 October 1924 article, Houdini called out Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s charlatanry by saying: “Doyle thinks he is a Messiah who has come to save mankind by instructing them in the mysteries of occultism, but instead of that he is misleading the public and his teachings are a menace to sanity and health.”

Doyle was in constant communication with leading occultists in the USA who by the 1920s had gained deep penetration into the White House and many branches of the US deep state. Sir Arthur was convinced that a woman named Margery Crandon (wife of Boston oligarch Dr. Le Roi Goddard Crandon) would serve the role of his new high priestess in a new age religion that he believed would emerge in the wake of a major world calamity that his own spirit guide persuaded him would soon turn the world upside down.[4]

Kalush and Sloman astutely identified the character of Margery Crandon’s ancient precedent writing: “As a medium, Margery was a descendent of Eurycles of Greece, the most famous of the pre-Delphic oracles, who had a ‘demon’ voice that emanated from his chest and made oracular predictions”.[5]

Describing the role which the Crandons would be expected to play in the new religious order, Lady Doyle wrote to the Crandons on 11 September 1926 saying: 

Margery Crandon deployed several tricks ranging from exoplasm oozing out of her bodily orifices, to levitation, speaking to the dead and channelling her primary spirit named Walter (her brother who had died years earlier).

In 1924, Houdini famously debunked Margery Crandon as a scam artist, finding himself in the position as the leading member of a six-person panel sponsored by Scientific American devoted to investigating the claims of Crandon’s mediumship. One of the members of the panel was an assistant of British occultist and spy Aleister Crowley named Hereward Carrington (1880-1958).

Hereward Carrington’s Fraud

Carrington was a member of the Society for Psychical Research and assistant to James Hysop, an American psychiatrist, para-psychologist and Treasurer of the American Society for Psychical Research.

Hereward Carrington

Although sold as a critic of spiritualism, Carrington was a rampant accomplice of fraudulent mediums having been caught assisting the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino in carrying out her table levitation, glowing hand shows and aparationism in 1908. Carrington even became her manager and co-authored a “scientific study” produced by a team of three experts dubbed ‘The Fielding Report’ in 1909.

It is ironic that the three committee members – Everard Fielding, W.W. Baggally and Carrington – acknowledged Palladino’s rampant fakery, yet also wrote that “some genuine supernatural phenomena” had absolutely occurred. It was Carrington who popularised the line that “97% of all spiritualist claims were hoaxes, but 3% were true supernatural phenomena.” {FN}

Eusapia Palladino and a photo of one of her seances

Analysing the Fielding Report’s lazy analysis, American scientist Charles Sanders Peirce later wrote:

After Houdini had won over all other members of the Crandon Committee to the conclusion that Marge Crandon was committing fraud, Carrington was the only holdout defending her claims of supernatural powers. Did Carrington stubbornly resist siding with Houdini due to his principles or was something more illicit at play?

Margery Crandon covered in exoplasm (left) and channelling her dead brother Walter (right)

In later years, Carrington’s personal assistant Henry Gilroy later noted that a sexual relationship had much to do with this anomaly writing:

Left to right: O.D. Munn, J. Malcolm Bird, Medium Margery (Mina) Crandon and Harry Houdini

The New York Herald Tribune wrote of Houdini’s role in exposing Crandon on 7 February 1925:

Spirits in Government

Houdini’s exposure seriously disrupted Doyle’s hopes for a new centre for an American gnostic religion but he also led in exposing the vast penetration of mediums advising every leading member of President Coolidge’s White House during the 1926 Congressional investigations.[8]

President Calvin Coolidge

Not only was the White House – and much of the Congress – penetrated by psychic mediums during the “roaring 20s,” but the Canadian government under Prime Minister William Lyon McKenzie King was no exception.

King had been won over to the cause of spiritualism while working as a union negotiator for John D. Rockefeller in 1914 when he began receiving spirit readings which helped him “discover” the solution to resolve the problem of striking workers and abusive oligarchs wishing to crush striking workers. Instead of murdering the workers by using strike busters or corrupt police attacks, Rockefeller’s mediums “helped” King come to the solution of “company unions” that would be controlled by Rockefeller while professing to represent the workers.

William Lyon Mackenzie King and John D. Rockefeller

By 1935, William Lyon McKenzie King was receiving regular messages from his dead mother and dog about what policies should shape Canada while also becoming a full member of the American Psychical Institute (under the name W.K. Venice). The American Psychical Institute was founded by Hereward Carrington in 1921.

As stated earlier in this report, in ‘The Secret Life of Houdini’ Kalush and Sloman prove that Houdini was recruited into counter-intelligence using his skills as an illusionist to gain access to the courts and inner clubs of the world, including Germany, England, France and Russia, where Czar Nicholas II asked the illusionist to become his advisor on three occasions.

Always interfacing with patriotic elements of American military intelligence that had exposed the Crowley-Viereck operation during World War I, Houdini used his fortunes to build up his own personal intelligence agency with a vast array of agents across the USA debunking thousands of fraudulent mediums.

Describing his incredible creation of a vast intelligence organisation, Kalush and Sloman wrote: 

Houdini’s niece Julia Sawyer (left) and wife Bess (right), would often perform with the magician and also infiltrate fake spirit mediums as part of Houdini’s personal intelligence operation

Not only were the delphic oracles exploiting the masses and the high officials in government exposed but even the most powerful oligarchs of America’s deep state. On top of the Crandons, Kalush and Sloman write:

Child Trafficking Rings and Spiritualists

Interestingly, Kalush and Sloman also demonstrate that Houdini not only used his personal secret service for the cause of debunking fraudulent mediums but also for exposing child trafficking operations operating between London and the USA – involving not only spiritualists such as the Crandons but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

This under-appreciated aspect of the story involved an interesting British Member of Parliament named Harry Day.

Left to right: Theodore Hardeen with his son, Joe Hyman, Harry Day, Lord Northcliffe and C. Dundas Slater

In 1900, Harry Day became Houdini’s British agent during the magician’s first international tour. Among Harry Day’s first acts on the job involved arranging a special programme with William Melville, the first chief of Britain’s Secret Service Bureau, who didn’t believe the claim that Houdini could escape from his Scotland Yard prison. When Houdini accomplished the task, Melville offered his endorsement to the American magician and Houdini’s salary rose to the highest of all magicians in the world.

Melville was known under the alias “M” which was why MI6’s own Ian Fleming developed the character of the same name as the boss of James Bond after World War II. The character Bond himself was loosely based on Melville’s star agent Sidney Reilly.

As Houdini and Harry Day discovered, over the course of several years, Doyle’s American networks had been trafficking children from London orphanages using the elite White Star Line without anyone asking questions. One of the control centres in the USA was none other than Crandon’s occult circle where a body of a homeless boy had recently been found on one of his New York properties.

Writing to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on 4 August 1925 of this troublesome investigation in America, Crandon asked:

That’s right, Le Roi Goddard Crandon, controller of the most influential medium whom Sir Doyle foresaw as the high priestess of a new religion in America and controlling force behind the American Society for Psychical Research, was directly asking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to figure out who was behind the investigations into missing children affiliated with Crandon’s spiritual circle.

Doyle later discovered that the Member of Parliament in question was none other than Harry Day, who had been an intimate friend of Harry Houdini’s for over 20 years.

Kalush and Sloman wrote of Houdini’s involvement into the investigation writing:

Kalush and Sloman continue: 

Houdini’s Washington

The fact that Houdini’s strange death occurred during the same period that this investigation was ongoing and while federal legislation banning fraudulent channelers – which had been spearheaded by Houdini himself – may be more than coincidental.

During the congressional hearings on spiritualism, Houdini’s network of informants was frequently asked to testify which resulted in the embarrassing exposure that not only President Coolidge himself  – and most of Coolidge’s cabinet – but when it was revealed that even Senator Capper, the man in charge of the Senate version of the anti-spiritualist bill, was a frequent attendee of Washington seances, it was clear that the bill would not be permitted to pass into law.

Congressional records of the testimonies of Rose Mackenberg (Houdini’s star infiltrator of mediums) described her conversations with Washington medium Madame Marcia Coates saying:

Kalush and Sloman write of Crandon’s control over the American Society for Psychical Research stating: 

Additionally, considering the many death threats by powerful spiritualists from England to the USA and considering his powerful disruption of a desired new occult revival in the USA, it is likely that the story of Houdini’s accidental death at the age of 52 is more myth than reality.

Since there was never an autopsy and no shortage of threats on his life, Kalush and Sloman explained that it is entirely possible that Houdini was murdered writing: “If someone were hell bent on poisoning Houdini, it wouldn’t have been very difficult.”[14]

Threats to Houdini’s Life

By 1924, Houdini began to receive a vast number of death threats from powerful networks of occultists whom he had exposed. Even Sir Arthur himself thoroughly despised Houdini writing months before Houdini was killed: “[Houdini] will get his deserts very exactly meted out… I think there is a general pay-day coming soon that we can await it with equanimity.”[15]

Writing another letter to Dr. Crandon, Arthur Conan Doyle stated: 

Lady Doyle delivered a message to Sir Arthur – actually a channelled message from her spirit demon Pheneas – on 10 September 1926 threatening Houdini with death stating:

After exposing Margery Crandon’s fraudulent tactics during a seance, Margery’s channelled spirit (a ghost named Walter) raged at Houdini saying: “You God damned son of a bitch. You cad you … you won’t live forever Houdini, you’ve got to die. I put a curse on you now that will follow you every day for the rest of your short life.” [16]

In the Summer of 1926, the Crandons and Doyle were joined by William Elliott Hammond – an influential medium and spiritualist priest who wrote ‘Houdini Unmasked’ stating:

On 13 February 1926, Houdini’s mortality was weighing heavily on him as he sent his brother an unpublished article scheduled to be printed in Scientific American unmasking spirit fakers writing: “I want you to save this in case anything should happen to me as evidence that the press was stopped and these pages thrown out.”

On top of curses, and death threats, Houdini wrote:“I get letters from ardent believers in spiritualism who prophesy I am going to meet a violent death soon as a fitting punishment for my nefarious work.”

But these threats didn’t deter Houdini, who had resolved his fear of death and comfort in the immortality of his own soul long ago. This resolution of the terror of death was what gave him the creative edge to carry out miracles which almost anyone else could only dream of.

Recounting letters between his assistant Gertrude and Houdini, Sloman and Kalush write: 

SO, What Caused Houdini’s Death?

The official cause of Houdini’s death on 31 October 1926 was “diffuse streptococcus peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal cavity) induced by a ruptured appendix which was itself induced, in part, by repeated punches to the stomach”that was inflictedby a strange British student of McGill University in Montreal named Jocelyn Gordon Whitehead.

According to legend, on 22 October 1926, Whitehead – a 29-year-old theology student with a shady background – entered Houdini’s dressing room and challenged the magician to resist a punch to the abdomen. The student proceeded to deliver five sucker punches in rapid succession before being torn away by two other shocked students standing nearby.

Despite severe pain, Houdini decided to continue with his North American tour, doing two shows until his fever rose to 102 degrees before finally being taken to a Detroit hospital on 24 October. At the hospital, Houdini showed optimistic signs of improvement, until a strange homoeopath named Dr. George LeFevre was brought to the Detroit hospital from Montreal where he administered “a secret serum” which was never made public. Within a day, Houdini was dead.

In the Wake of Houdini’s Death

After his death, Max Malini a friend and colleague of Houdini stated the following: “He made a mistake in bucking up against men like Sir Oliver Lodge and Conan Doyle. Those men are not fakers. They believe in what they are doing. Harry thought they were like the bunco spiritualists he showed up so easily.”

According to Kalush and Sloman, the strange figure of Jocelyn Whitehead is itself covered with mystery.

After debunking the lie that Whitehead was the son of a pool hall owner in British Columbia or that he graduated from Kelowna High School, it was revealed that Whitehead was in fact the son of a British Consul of Hong Kong and had an English university background before arriving in McGill University.

After Houdini’s death, Whitehead became a recluse meeting exclusively with one woman named Lady Marler, the rich heiress and wife of Sir Herbert Marler, an ally of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and Canadian Ambassador to Japan and the USA. What the wife of a leading Roundtable leader of Canada was doing meeting with an impoverished British-trained recluse and son of a leading British civil servant during the years following Houdini’s murder has never been addressed.

Left to right: Sir Herbert Marler, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and the only surviving photo of J. Gordon Whitehead

Also never addressed was the true cause of Houdini’s death itself as no autopsy was performed for a diagnosis (diffuse streptococcus peritonitis) that had never resulted in anyone’s death ever before or since. With the explosive revelations of Houdini’s secret life having come to light after the publication of Kalush and Sloman’s biography, Houdini’s great-nephew George Hardeen fought hard to have Houdini’s body exhumed for evidence of poisoning but was sadly blocked by the family of Houdini’s wife Bess.

Like spiritualist de-bunkers Friedrich Schiller, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe or Kristian Birkeland earlier, Houdini’s untimely death would go unsolved long after his passing. Despite a victory for those dark forces striving to keep society locked in the shadows of superstition, it is safe to say that these great men all understood that within the grand scheme of things, the pure light of truth can only be obscured by darkness for so long.

In our next segment, we will continue shedding light not only on the enigma that is Tesla but the dark forces surrounding Houdini’s death by pulling on a valuable thread taken from Houdini’s direct connection to his spiritual brother Edgar Allan Poe.

This direct connection takes the form of Houdini’s bold condemnation of Doyle’s plagiarism of Poe’s character C. Auguste Dupin (when Doyle’s Sherlock mystery lifted Poe’s motif from ‘The Purloined Letter’) and also Houdini’s 1925 acquisition of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing desk.


  • [1] Stedman, Eric (2010). The Mysteries of Myra. p. 8
  • [2] Secret Life of Houdini p. 354
  • [2.5] The Federal Secret Service was originally created by Abraham Lincoln on 14 April 1865 as his last act in office, hours before his assassination and served as America’s first official intelligence/counter-intelligence agency. Before 1908, the Secret Service was a largely patriotic entity with a full-spectrum mandate under the Department of Homeland Security designed to deal with counterfeiting, sabotage, espionage and assassination plots both domestically and internationally. After the FBI was created in 1908, its mandate was reduced, and with the creation of the IRS, CIA and DEA in the ensuing decades, its mandates were reduced even more.
  • [3] Secret life of Houdini p. 460
  • [4] Writing to Crandon and Margery, Doyle said that after the cataclysm, they “will be the centre of American hopes.”
  • [5] Secret Life of Houdini, p.432
  • [6] Justus Buchler. (2000). The Philosophy of Peirce: Selected Writings, Volume 2. Indiana University Press. pp. 166–167
  • [7] Lamar Keene. (1976). The Psychic Mafia. Prometheus Books. p. 135. ISBN 1-57392-161-0 “One researcher, Paul Tabori, reports as fact that Hereward Carrington, a noted investigator who brought in a favourable verdict on Margery’s medium-ship, had a sexual affair with her.”
  • [8] Secret Life of Houdini, p. 484
  • [9] Ibid. p.455
  • [10] Ibid. p.488
  • [11] Ibid. p. 472
  • [12] transcript cited in Kalush and Sloman p. 484
  • [13] Ibid. p. 524
  • [14] Ibid. p. 520
  • [15] Ibid. p. 521
  • [16] Ibid. p. 430
  • [17] Hammond, William Elliott. Houdini Unmasked. [Publisher Not Listed]. [1926]
  • [18] Ibid. p.496

You can read other articles in Matthew Ehret’s series ‘The Occult Tesla’ by following the links below:

Featured image taken from ‘The Occult Tesla Part 11’ by Matthew Ehret


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