Profile: Harry Houdini


After I inherited the chronicles of Vera Van Slyke’s ghost hunts from my great-grandaunt — the tales now published in Help for the Haunted — I researched some of the names found there. Cook County Coroner Peter Hoffman, sea captain Henry Thorn Lord, cryptozoologist Geoffrey Wallace Livingstone Adams have all proven to be real people.

Needless to say, I didn’t have to research the client spotlighted in the chronicle “Houdini Slept Here.”

Harry Houdini as he appeared in 1905, the year the events chronicled in “Houdini Slept Here” occurred.

Still, it is interesting how this case, set in 1905, accords with facts of Houdini’s life at that time. He had recently returned from a European tour that had made him a celebrity — check! He owned a mansion in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and a retreat in Connecticut — check! He indulged in extramarital affairs — well, that’s speculation, but there is reason to believe he did.

An especially intriguing tidbit found in “Houdini Slept Here” is my great-grandaunt’s suggestion that the escape artist’s famous campaign against Spiritualist mediums was sparked by his encounter with Vera Van Slyke!

By the way, I’m still editing my great-grandaunt’s record of a case she shared with Vera that’s long enough to fill a book. It’s tentatively titled Guilt Is a Ghost. Until that is available, I encourage readers to visit my introduction to the great, if quirky, ghost hunter: The Life and Ghosts of Vera Van Slyke.


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