Beyond The Grave: Contacting Houdini

Houdini fan Sid Radner i i

hide captionNinety-year-old Sid Radner has had a lifelong fascination with Harry Houdini and tries to contact the escape artist and magician every year on Halloween at the Official Houdini Seance.

StoryCorps
Houdini fan Sid Radner

Ninety-year-old Sid Radner has had a lifelong fascination with Harry Houdini and tries to contact the escape artist and magician every year on Halloween at the Official Houdini Seance.

StoryCorps

Ninety-year-old Sid Radner has had a lifelong fascination with Harry Houdini, the legendary escape artist and magician who died on Halloween.

And every year on the anniversary of Houdini's death, Radner tries to contact his hero at the Official Houdini Seance.

"Houdini died in '26," Radner says, "and his wife tried to contact him on the anniversary of his death for 10 years."

Houdini, himself, debunked mediums and proved most were frauds. He promised his wife, Bess, that if it were possible to communicate with the dead, he would come back to her, should he die first. And he gave her a code to help prove it.

But after 10 years with no success, Bess stopped trying to contact her husband. "At that point she said, 'Ten years was long enough to wait for any man,'" Radner says.

Radner, however, continued where Houdini's wife left off.

"I started doing seances in the '30s," he says. "And as a matter of fact, I own the trademark, the name 'Official Houdini Seance.'"

The 1948 Official Houdini Seance i i

hide captionGuests try to communicate with Houdini at theĀ 1948 Official Houdini Seance.

Courtesy of Sid Radner
The 1948 Official Houdini Seance

Guests try to communicate with Houdini at theĀ 1948 Official Houdini Seance.

Courtesy of Sid Radner

Radner describes the seances as a group of eight to 12 people sitting and holding hands while trying to contact Houdini.

"One time the medium asked for Houdini to make his presence known, and a gal standing around, her beads broke and fell on the floor," he says. "Another time, a book fell down off a shelf. We had some strange things happen."

Radner also owns the largest collection of Houdini artifacts, which were given to him by Houdini's brother, Theodore Hardeen.

Radner met Hardeen at a magic conference and eventually became his protege. Later, Radner would translate his magic skills into exposing crooked gamblers.

His enthusiasm for contacting Houdini has not waned after all these years.

"If I can't contact Houdini, and I've been trying for many, many years, maybe it can't be done," Radner says. "But if it does come, I want to be there, believe me."

Produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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