278 for many years. We know that her voice is contained on one of the unreleased Houdini wax cylinder recordings. But aside from this, we know almost nothing about Carrie Gladys Weiss, Houdini's sister and the youngest Weiss sibling. We don't even know exactly when she died.
Now, professional writer and historian, Ann Etheridge, has sent me an email with what could be a major discovery. Did Houdini's sister live to age 100 and die in 1982?
Ann uncovered evidence of Gladys' long life on Ancestry.com (here's the link for those who are members). The listing shows her as being born in Wisconsin in 1882 (check), living in New York City in 1900 at age 18 (check), residing in "Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York" in 1910 at age 28 (?), and dying at age 100 in 1982. There is no citation for her death, but Ann has sent an email to the person who provided the Ancestry entry asking about the date and the proof.
If this is accurate, it would be remarkable, but also perplexing. If Gladys Weiss was alive into the 1980s, how is it the major Houdini historians of the day, such as Sidney Radner, Milbourne Christopher, or Manny Weltman never tracked her down and interviewed her?
Dean Carnegie of Carnegie: Magic Detective also did a little digging on Ancestry and says he's turned up several profiles listing Carrie Gladys Weiss; two show her dying in 1982 and one in 1943 (same year as Bessie's death). None have documentation for the death date. In his self published book Benjilini on Houdini (1994), author The Great Benjilini, who takes a keen interest in Houdini's family and Jewish heritage, says Gladys died in 1958, but gives no source for the information and notes it with a question mark.
The real answer may lie in Bernard C. Meyer's Houdini A Mind in Chains (1976), a controversial book with provocative theories, but one that I find a remarkable source of information. On page 5 Meyer says Gladys suffered her "final illness" in January 1959. He cites hospital records in which Gladys, via dictation, says she was born in France (!) and that her profession was "ghost-writer". Meyer says the truth was Gladys had been supported by her brother Leopold for many years.
I'm prone to believe this 1959 date, not only because I respect Meyer's research, but also due to the fact that Gladys is buried in the family plot at Machpelah Cemetery. (Her undated headstone, along with Leopold's, were removed after they were damaged by vandalism and have yet to be restored.) While Gladys herself could have remained hidden from Houdini buffs for all these years, I don't think anyone would have missed a fresh interment at the Machpelah plot in 1982! Also, Gladys' headstone is very much in the same style as Leopold's, who took his own life on October 6, 1962.
Still, the idea of Gladys living undiscovered until in 1982...pretty cool.
Gladys photo from 'Houdini His Legend and His Magic' (1977) by Doug Henning and Charles Reynolds.
UPDATE: Patrick Culliton in Houdini The Key lists Gladys' death as October 1972. He got his info from the New York State death index. This should have been included in the above and was a huge omission on my part. Sorry, Patrick.
UPDATE 2: Our friend Tom Interval has solved the mystery of Gladys' death date. Looks like Meyer had it right. She died in mid January 1959. Check out Houdini Museum for the details. Thanks Tom!
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- Houdini His Life Story (1928)
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- Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss (1997)
- The Secret Life of Houdini (2006)
- The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini (2012)
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