The family of legendary magician and escapologist Harry Houdini have announced plans to exhume his body, to clarify whether he died from natural causes as originally thought, or whether he was in fact murdered. The family, and others, now believe he may have been poisoned by ‘spiritualists’ whom he accused of fraud – one of whom was Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
A 2006 biography, ‘The Secret Life of Houdini’, renewed interest in the theory that he was poisoned by a group known as The Spiritualists, whose members included Arthur Conan Doyle. The illusionist used his stage shows to expose the group’s fraudulent seances, which he regularly attended in disguise, accompanied by a reporter and a police officer.
The authors William Kalush and Larry Sloman detail a letter by Conan Doyle from November 1924 in which he says Houdini will “get his just desserts very exactly meted out … I think there is a general payday coming soon.” Two years later, Houdini was dead.
Mr Kalush and Mr Sloman say that “the spiritualist underworld’s modus operandi in cases like this was often poisoning” – possibly by arsenic, which could still be detected decades later.
Not sure if I’ve ever heard of a ‘spiritualist underworld’ (excusing any puns), let alone their ‘modus operandi‘ of poisoning people. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.