Escaped attention: An unknown, unique collection of Houdini letters, including one by his wife, on his death

Houdini, H.

Collection of letters. Including a vivid description of his death by his wife, Beatrice in a letter to a friend.

Published 1925-1927
Item ID 72572

excl. VAT

New York, NY, [Harry Houdini], [United States of America (various places) and Germany], 1925-1927. 19 letters by Harry Houdini, two by his wife Beatrice, and 25 letters and postcards by various Houdini correspondents (dated up to 1929).

A fine and highly interesting collection of, mainly, letters - in particular on exposing fraudulent mediums, and some gossip - by the great illusionist and stunt performer Harry Houdini (24 March 1874 - 31 October, 1926), to a German fellow sceptical enquirer, Carl Ludwig Friedrich Otto Graf von Klinckowstroem (1884-1969). Houdini writes a lot about American psychics, their methods and their croonies, to which von Klinckowstroem added information on their European counterparts. Fellow sceptics formed the subject of more, sometimes anecdotal, information. This collection contains a few ephemerata too; notably a brochure about Houdini and his work, a printed cartoon depicting Houdini (apparently additional to Houdini's books when sold as Christmas gifts) and a photograph of Graf Carl von Klinckowstroem, as well as some correspondence of the latter, partly deakling with Houdini and his methods and legacy. The following letters form nearly half the total. Descriptions of the other letters can be received on request. (NB: all Houdini letters with the printed letter head "Houdini/278 West 113th Street/New York, N. Y.", and written there except when noted otherwise; all with two punch holes in the left side, unless stated otherwise): 1. A typed letter, signed in pencil by Houdini, to Herr Graf Karl von Klinckowstroem, dated May 15, 1925, in which Houdini reports that Remigius Weiss is still alive "He is not an old medium, he is an old investigator of mediums". Houdini "...bought the collection of Remigius Albus of Philadelphia, who obtained the great spiritualist collection of Dr R. H. Pease from the heirs" ( Weiss died in 1941 at the age of 89. 2. A copy of a typed letter [from Houdini], dated June 29, 1925, to President A. Lawrence Lowell of Harvard University, in which Houdini states "I am afraid that the prestige of Harvard University is being used for a purpose unworthy of the institution - I refer to the seances being conducted at Emerson Hall at which Mrs Crandon, better known as "Margery" is being tested. I have no hesitancy in saying that in my opinion ... Mrs Crandon ... is a physical trickster". Further he offered " forfeit $ 10,000 if I am permitted to attend three of her seances and if I do not ... prove that all [seances] were performed by natural means and by no supernormal powers whatsoever." 3. A typed letter on two sheets, the second signed in ink by Houdini, to von Klinckowstroem, dated July 8, 1925, in which Houdini discusses several cases, and stated "Have obtained about five hundred letters of the brand of spirit medium. In fact I have the largest library in the world on this subject". 4. A typed letter, signed in ink by Houdini, to von Klinckowstroem, dated July 10, 1925, in which Houdini asks for von Klinckowstroem's Der physikalische Mediumismus, and Psychische Studien. Houdini also reports on a recent investigation, rejects the notion of a Dr v. Schrenck-Notzing that he (Houdini) is a "Gaukler", and complains about the sloppy editing at Harper Brothers "there are a number of names and words misspelled in my book but that is no fault of mine". read more
5. A copy of a typed letter, with ink paragraph of Houdini, to Miss Ada Bessinet, Toledo OH, dated July 13, 1925, in which Houdini he wrote "...having sent you a copy of a letter of introduction given to me by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ... I hereby challenge you $10,000, the money to be given to charity, if you will permit me at three of your seances and if I do not detect you in every manifestation present", and "if I do not hear from you in forty-eight hours on the above, I will publicly issue my challenge". 6. A copy of a typed letter, signed by Houdini in ink, to the Toledo Blade, Toledo, OH, dated July 31, 1925, in which Houdini elaborates on his July 13th letter to Mrs Bessinet (enclosed), granting the newspaper full permission to publish the letter or challenge. In a postscript Houdini writes "This investigation has cost me thousands of dollars but I would be amply repaid should Fate decree that I am the first one to find a genuine medium, that is one, who would stand the test of a qualified committee". 7. A copy of a typed letter by Houdini (but signed/authenticated by him) to F. M. Heller, editor of the Toledo News Bee, dated August 1, 1925. In this letter, Houdini corrected an anonymous ("H. L. B.") writer who falsely claimed that the exposure of Margery, the Boston Medium, was indeed corroborated by four other members of the investigating committee. 8. A typed letter, on two leaves, signed by Houdini in ink on the second, to von Klinckowstroem, dated August 3, 1925, in which Houdini showed a trick, used by the fraudulent medium Rev. Dr Frederick A. Wiggin, before a Grand Jury: "He used a pair of black silk eye glasses...I showed exactly how you could read any message with those blinding (?) glasses attached to your eyes". He continued listing the number of arrests of mediums in the last twelve years: seventy in Los Angeles, two dozen in San Francisco, twenty-five in Cleveland... Houdini continued with describing several recent cases. 9. A typed letter, signed in ink by Houdini, to von Klinckowstroem, dated August 15, 1925, in which Houdini thanked him for sending his book and "looking for a German to translate the "Studien" so I can reply." 10. A typed letter, signed in pencil by Houdini, to von Klinckowstroem, dated August 24, 1925, and a copy of a letter, by Houdini, to the editor of the Neues Wiener Journal, bearing the same date. In his letter to von Klinckowstroem, Houdini writes "Enclosed you will find a copy of a letter I am sending to the Neues Wiener Journal. I am having it translated into German here and send it direct". The letter in copy refers to an earlier incident, in which fraudsters assumed Houdini's identity, using a former address. Houdini approached them, a fight ensued after Houdini was locked in a room and was told to get "a trip to the hospital". However, Houdini won, beating four assailants, and after the police was called, Houdini was not arrested. In the letter to von Klinckowstroem, Houdini explains the American practice of beatings by hired thugs "We call them 'gorillas' and paid gun men do exist". 11. A handwritten letter of three leaves on special "Harry Houdini" paper (i.e. leaves with a preprinted portrait of Harry Houdini, after a photograph, and black edges), by Houdini's widow (and his former stage assistant) Wilhelmina Beatrice "Bess" Rahner (1876-1943), signed Beatrice, and dated November 9th 1926, to Graf. C. Klinckowstroem, replying to the latter's letter of condolence, after Houdini's death on the 31st of October "at 1.26" of that year. "...the shock of his untimely end, a severe blow to me, consequently I became, and are still very ill...." She continued with providing von Klinckowstroem with some background information about her late husband "...he never had a serious illness in his life...", and a detailed description of how and why he died, describing the whole event. Further, she mentions his collection of books, pamphlets and memorabilia, about which von Klinckowstroem apparently had inquired, naming the beneficiary institutions, and noting that she kept a collection herself of "things ... too valuable to get into the hands of people who would not understand the proper use", announcing she would be glad to hand these over to von Klinckowstroem, excusing herself for being able to speak but not write in German, ending with "Forgive this long letter but it is so wonderfull [sic] to write to one, who will fight his battle for him". 12. One postcard and eight letters (seven typed, one handwritten, sent between November 13th 1926 and August 23rd 1927) by Walter Franklin Price, founder of the Boston Society for Psychical Research, to von Klinckowstroem, occasionally referring to Houdini (e.g. "If a case was a fraudulent, particularly in the physical field, he [Houdini] would almost certainly find it out, but I do not think that his methods were adapted in all cases to isolate and recognize a genuine case of mental description...and like all enthusiasts [he] went too far and thought everyone was a fraud"). 13. Sixteen letters by Harry Price of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research in Kensington, London, send to von Klinckowstroem between 17 September 1928 and 14 June 1929 - all typed and signed in ink, except two that are entirely handwritten. Harry Price (1881-1948) no relative of Walter Franklin Price, was a British psychic researcher and author, a friend of Houdini and fellow debunker of fraudulent spiritualist mediums. In one of these letters, Price states: "Houdini's library was dispersed. Most of it went to the Congress Library, but I have many items, ... I have just finished my card index of my library ---- 6,050 titles". Much Houdini material is dispersed indeed. There are a few larger collections. According to Wikipedia, "In 1934, the bulk of Houdini's collection of American and British theatrical material, along with a significant portion of his business and personal papers, and some of his collections of other magicians were sold to pay off estate debts ... A large portion of Houdini's estate holdings and memorabilia was willed to his fellow magician and friend, John Mulholland (1898-1970). In 1991, illusionist and television performer David Copperfield purchased all of Mulholland's Houdini holdings from Mulholland's estate. These are now archived and preserved in Copperfield's ... headquarters in Las Vegas. It contains the world's largest collection of Houdini memorabilia." [A more detailed description is available on request]. read less

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