Thursday, January 5, 2012

Decoding Decoded


Harry and Bess Houdini were thoroughly slimed last night on an episode of Brad Meltzer's Decoded called "Houdini: Murdered?". There literally wasn't a minute of this hour long show that didn't include some kind of exaggeration, glaring inaccuracy, or out-and-out falsehood. Of course, people will dismiss this as "just TV" (like that's a small thing), but it made me feel sick, especially the conclusion from one of the show's "detectives" that Bess Houdini murdered her husband.

The show revived and super-sized all the hokum that surrounded the release of 2006's The Secret Life of Houdini, with the show stars uncovering "evidence" that Houdini worked as a spy and was possibly murdered, maybe even by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle! The whole spy malarkey (which I thought had gone away) received a surprising amount of play in the show, with Brad Meltzer doing all he could to prove that Houdini was the 007 of his day. It's sexy, but silly, and especially ridiculous to suggest, as Meltzer does, that Houdini's "spy work" may have "cost him his life".

One bit of sanity came from former deputy CIA director John McLoughlin, who said while it's plausible Houdini reported back to William Melville ("M") of Scotland Yard about what he saw in Germany and Russia, "it's a little too much to say, based on the evidence that we have, that Houdini was a spy" and it's "a stretch to say he was providing secrets that would have been so sensitive as to provoke someone into doing him harm." Bravo Mr. McLoughlin!

It's a shame this sensible assessment of Secret Life's controversial theory didn't come from one of the several Houdini experts interviewed, who by and large played into the sensationalist tone of the show, or were at least edited to appear they were doing so. I felt that Lance Burton was particularly sandbagged here.

Curiously cut from the show was an interview with Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton, who had provided provocative new information about the dressing room assault. According to Dorothy and Dick, Houdini's lawyer, Bernard Ernst, manipulated the affidavits of eyewitnesses Jack Price and Sam Smiley to make the incident seem more accidental than it really was. This was to ensure Bess received a double indemnity payment from Houdini's life insurance policy. They also say Bess paid Price and Smiley $200 for their efforts (!). You can read their notes here.

Instead, this information came via an interview with magician (and escape artist?) Joshua Jay. While at first I suspected that the show had passed Dorothy and Dick's research to Jay to "reveal" in his own interview (which wouldn't surprise me considering the slippery ethics on display in this show), it appears some of this info can be found in published sources, so maybe Jay came up with it on his own. However, the veracity of all this is still highly questionable, and nowhere is this tied to any kind of a "murder" plot. But accurate sourcing and the truth certainly didn't seem to burden the Decoded crew, and for Scott Rolle, a former DA and now one of the Decoded "detectives", this was the smoking gun.

During the show's wrap-up (filmed at The Magic Castle), Rolle concluded that Bess must have murdered Houdini. Yes, you heard me right. Bess murdered her husband of 33 years. His "evidence" was the affidavit monkey business ("She paid people to lie about what happened that night") and the fact that Houdini had an affair with Charmain London (he failed to mention that it happened 10 years earlier). The show helped support his theory with the completely fabricated claim that Bess was a "rising star" when Houdini met her, but that he snuffed her career. Said Rolle, "If I was a prosecutor in the case, I would open a case on Bess."

Wow. And this guy was a DA? If this was seriously his conclusion, maybe we need to look back at some of his real cases! But I suspect Rolle was just reciting his script. But, again, where are the ethics in all this, History Channel?


While the Bessie claim was tempered by the other detectives concluding that Houdini wasn't murdered (Buddy Levy, in the end, was given the task of articulating the obvious), I was sad to see all this garbage added to the soup of Houdini mythology that I'm now going to have to deal with, well, forever. As we've all learned, these things don't go away easily (how many people still think Houdini died in the Water Torture Cell because of a movie made in 1953?). Also, I would hope that the Blood family (Bessie's family) would have some legal recourse against this show and The History Channel for claiming their relative was a murderer. But I'm sure in the great tabloid tradition, Brad Meltzer's Decoded is protected from its own tidal-waves of slanderous misinformation.

Houdini collector and expert Arthur Moses (not interviewed), shot me this email after the show, saying, "I thought I was going to be ill after just the first five minutes...but I forced myself to watch it through to the end for the comedic value. Best novelistic agenda I've seen since viewing Disney's 101 Dalmatians. Where did they come up with these ideas??? The only premise held true the entire program was Houdini's own story-telling technique of never let a good story be told by including the facts."

All in all, I thought this was a shameful defamation of Bess Houdini, a sleazy and irresponsible piece of exploitation on the part of Brad Meltzer and The History Channel, and a real embarrassment for Houdini buffs. Brad Meltzer's Decoded slimed us all.

66 comments:

  1. First of all, this a very good review John. You put a lot time and effort into, which I can really appreciate.

    We have to remember that there are a couple of agendas going on here. One was to hype the show so it would fall into the series format. The other agenda was to push the Houdini "Spy" book back into the light again.

    At least John McLoughlin, who wrote the foreword for the "Spy" book, put the kibosh on Houdini as a spy angle.

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  2. Thanks, Kevin. Appreciate the comment.

    So there's an agenda here to push the Spy book, eh? You know, the last time that happened they tried to dig up Harry. This time they decided to bury Bess.

    :p

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  3. I'll have to check the Bell book when I get home, but I think that if Houdini's survivors shaded the truth to get the insurance payout, it would be to downplay the possibility that he already had appendicitis before he was struck. If you die of a disease, it isn't an accidental death, which pays double. So the issue wouldn't be was it murder or accident, but was it illness or accident.

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  4. Yep, I think that's right, Eric. I think that's the premise of D&D's theory... which this show scrambled for it's own purposes into a murder cover-up.

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  5. My question is, why would ANYONE take all this "WAMO" "ZOWEE" info that's come out in recent years with ANYTHING but a grain of salt, if THAT?! Sure we have better technology now, but come on. Give me a break! Don't you think at least SOME of this "newly discovered" info would have been found out a little CLOSER to the time of his death?? As for the kalish book, i laughed at that thing as soon as i read their hype of having compiled info after reading "millions" of pages of documentation etc. Any idea how long it would take to actually READ several million pages??? I read some, but it read like a book written by someone trying to make a buck. & as for Bess being that upset that he supposedly ended her "career", She sure took long enough to tell him so. LOL! Nope, after reading all i have on them, in days of less sensationalism & more fact, i totally refuse to believe all the recent junk {too nice to use the word that FIRST came into my head}. And now, you know why i don't watch tv :) Great job on this post. Thanks. But i'm also afraid i have less respect for a few people now maybe too for doing this to Houdini. Bill Smith

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  6. Thank you for this very well spoken and well done Revelation of all the B.S. on that show. It made me sad that people would profiteer off of Bessie's troubles, even after all these years. Doesn't Meltzer have to answer to someone on his taking ideas and claiming them to be facts? This is national enquirer level stuff packaged to look like Newsweek.

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  7. Well said, Cliff and Bill.

    I enjoy watching the History Channel, but it's not until you see a show on a topic that you know a little something about that you realize just how far this channel has sunk into the tabloid trash bin.

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  8. Little confused here.....when I read the Houdini museum article by Dorothy that the dressing room incident was made up that's not actually true correct? Whitehead still punched Houdini ...it's just that Whiteheads motive possibly has been uncovered.....right? No biggy in my mind since speculation was always abound as to why he hit Houdini. Plus the efforts of the Lawyer to paint the incident as an accident which still does not change what actually happened. Whitehead punched Houdini and the incident happened as reported. Houdini not dying directly from the blows has been speculated for decades. The blows aggravated an existing condition. Or am I missing something here?

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  9. You got it. I think the only confusion comes when shows like this attempt to fit a murder plot into the dressing room incident.

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  10. Yes...the tv show was garbage. But just looking at the new info Dorothy has put forth....I don't see anything here that alters the events in Houdinis dressing room. Whitehead punched Houdini as always reported. Hold on though.....if the new info is true this may indicate that ...perhaps....that Houdini never had the conversation regarding his ability to withstand blows to the body with Whitehead before the blows were struck. The new info if true implies that Whitehead attacked Houdini. Yes? No?

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  11. Another subject that always has stuck in my head. I remember Larry Lewis a 105 year old guy from San Fran. He made a name for himself back in the early 70's. He was on the Carson show and had articles in the NY times (one of which I still have someplace). He ran everyday 6miles....and I mean he ran not jogged. Anyway he insisted that he was a Houdini assistant and claimed that Houdini died in his arms. The one point he made was that he died November 1st not October 31st. Anyway he died the next year and I never heard anyone press him for details. Anyone know if a more detailed interview of him exists?

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  12. I can believe that the events in the dressing room are completely different from what has come down to us. Marie Blood told me it was an attack -- she said Whitehead "just came in and Wham!" And I can believe Bess and Ernst tried to spin the story to get more money out of the insurance company. Bessie needed the money and that's what lawyers do. But it's odd Smiley would not have told the real story after Bessie died.

    I don't think Lewis was ever interviewed. He wasn't taken seriously back in the day because no-one had ever heard of him. But Pat Culliton uncovered evidence that he really was an assistant. But by then, Lewis was gone.

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  13. Well, I missed it, I was on the road when it aired. I've sure enjoyed the commentary though and John's analysis of the show which I have no doubt is spot on. I knew something was up when I received 9 emails about this today.

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  14. Larry Lewis--no connection can be found between Larry Lewis and Houdini. Walter Gibson thought he was actually Lewis Goldstein--who was a Houdini assistant known as George Brooks. I helped spread that falsehood. So did Milbourne Christopher. Anyway, if Larry Lewis did have a Houdini connection, it has yet to be found. I've been trying to stuff that genii back in the bottle for some time.
    As to Bernard Ernst manipulating the testimony of the eyewitnesses (not to mention the doctors) that is very old news. The battle to collect double indemnity was covered in the press at the time. Bessie explained she gave the boys a bit of money by way of thanks for their help. It was vital that Houdini's death be ruled an accident--as opposed to being caused by a physical ailment--in order to collect on the double indemnity clause in Houdini's several life insurance policies. Ernst was just doing his job.
    As I recall, one of the insurance companies never would pay double (claiming the punch and the appendicitis had nothing to do with each other). It was a fight, but, rightly or wrongly Ernst got most of the companies to cough up and pay the double indemnity.
    Marie Blood wasn't in the room. The story Kalush repeats about someone slugging Houdini in a hotel lobby a couple of days before sounds to me like someone repeating the dressing room story and getting everything wrong. I have read all the statements presented to the insurance company and I still believe Whitehead was just an insecure, awkward fan who thought Houdini told him--in so many words--to "punch me in the stomach."
    Houdini's own words to Max and Ozzie Malini were, "I let a college kid punch me in the stomach, and he caught me wrong and it's killing me."

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  15. Having calmed down (somewhat), it might not be as bad as I made it sound. Joe Fox did point out that is was very pro-Houdini, and that's true. They were respectful of him and I liked when one of the detectives at the beginning shouted out, "I love Houdini!" And, as Kevin Connolly pointed out, it was nice to see interviews with some new faces. And in the end the main detective did lay out the true facts of his death, which became the last word. Also maybe I shouldn't have gone off on Joshua Jay without really knowing the facts.

    But...mess with my Bessie and it's on! Wrong or right, I'm gonna bust up the place. ;)

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  16. Dick Brookz here.

    We were misled. We were told the show thee was going to be "How Houdini Really Died!" Not a show about Houdini being murdered.

    When asked if we thought Conan Doyle killed Houdini we said on camera, "No Way!" They used none of what we shot but gave snip-its of what we said to others to say.

    John Cox said
    "Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz inform me that the information about the affidavit manipulation and the payoffs from Bess can be found in The Man Who Killed Houdini by Don Bell."

    To make this clear, the Don Bell book does not use the word manipulation. Don Bell does not come to this conclusion. One has to read everything about Houdini as well as this entire book and to read between the lines to figure that Ernst was manipulating or pushing the story in such a way to get the money. That in many ways is a lawyers job. It is done every day.

    In a completely different unconnected part of the book Don Bell mentions the money Bess sent, but in an almost innocent manner and does not call it a "payoff."

    When we did the show we never had given them any of this information ahead of time. When we did at the shoot they said it was new information, exciting, that they had never heard before. It was, as no one has ever in 85 years come up with this theory till we did this past year. All of a sudden they use it, but twisted to their own wacky purposes.

    In some ways we are glad we were not connected with this show they way it went down.

    When they first interviewed us for the show, we warned them that any magic person they ask "if they know about Houdini", they will say yes just to be on the show and to be careful. That is what happened. AND they had their own agenda.

    Dick Brooks
    Houdini Museum
    Scranton, PA
    Houdini.org

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  17. Thanks for chiming on this, Dick (and Patrick). I've gone back in and reworked the two paragraphs concerning the use of your info and Joshua Jay. I didn't have my facts right. And who the heck knows how these types of shows spin their webs behind the scenes.

    I think you have a good point that being cut from the show might have been a good thing.

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  18. Lucky there wasn't a crusading district attorney like Scott Rolle around back then to railroad Bessie for murder.
    I am certain he didn't mean a word of it. No one could be that stupid. And I liked the guy. He said that for ratings.
    On the other hand, the day doesn't go by that some guy that's done twenty years gets found innocent and freed.
    Some crusading D.A.'s railroaded them.

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  19. Ok John. First you are mad as a wet hen about the show & tell us all about how mean & nasty everyone was about the houdini's, & now you say it wasn't so bad after all???????????????? A bit contradicting, no?????????? Guess you CAN'T balieve what you read. ANYWHERE! :(

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  20. Sorry Anon. After ranting for 12 hours straight (here, on forums, and in email), I was exhausted and I guess I went soft. I didn't take anything back, I just tried to see and say what was positive about the show.

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  21. "One of these things is not like the other...."
    {Both by John Cox, owner of this site}

    Dr. Jeckle:
    "Harry and Bess Houdini were thoroughly slimed last night on an episode of Brad Meltzer's Decoded called "Houdini: Murdered?". There literally wasn't a minute of this hour long show that didn't include some kind of exaggeration, glaring inaccuracy, or out-and-out falsehood. Of course, people will dismiss this as "just TV" (like that's a small thing), but it made me feel sick, especially the conclusion from one of the show's "detectives" that Bess Houdini murdered her husband."

    Mr. Hyde:
    "Having calmed down (somewhat), it might not be as bad as I made it sound. Joe Fox did point out that is was very pro-Houdini, and that's true. They were respectful of him and I liked when one of the detectives at the beginning shouted out, "I love Houdini!" And, as Kevin Connolly pointed out, it was nice to see interviews with some new faces. And in the end the main detective did lay out the true facts of his death, which became the last word. Also maybe I shouldn't have gone off on Joshua Jay without really knowing the facts........"

    I didn't see the show as i don't have cable, but i'm sure confused here!

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  22. How can someone totally "slime" someone & be "respectful" of them at the same time Sir??!!

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  23. Wait, shouldn't that be the other way around? Jekyll is the peacemaker. Hyde is the killer.

    The show will actually post to the Decoded website in a few days, so you'll be able to watch it there and see who was right, Jekyll or Hyde. ;)

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  24. Ok. My appologies to mr. jekyll & mr. hyde for the un-intended role reversal. I'll watch the show, but i think i'll be able to make my mind up about it ONCE, not twice {maybe more, depending on what you said elsewhere}. 'scuse me now. I have to go hit a certain site's unlike or leave this group button. :)

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  25. According to Dorothy and Dick, Houdini's lawyer, Bernard Ernst, manipulated the affidavits of eyewitnesses Jack Price and Sam Smiley to make the incident seem more accidental than it really was. This was to ensure Bess received a double indemnity payment from Houdini's life insurance policy.

    Sid Radner emphasized this double indemnity fraud to me during the meeting I recounted in my obit of him in The Mandala. So Culliton's right: that's more of an "open secret" than a revelation.

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  26. The first paragraph of the preceding remark ("According to... insurance policy.") is a quote from the article above. The html tag was stripped out by the blog software!

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  27. Yeah, you're right about that. I hadn't heard that, or at least it didn't stick in my head. It seemed like new news to me, but I see now it's been around for a while.

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  28. So let's paint a scenario, potentially of what really occurred......the three students do indeed visit Houdini in his dressing room. whitehead comes by a bit later from what I recently read. Houdini more than likely is laying on the couch as he is being sketched. Whitehead comes in the room, sits with his fellow classmates and all of a sudden walks up to Houdini as he is laying there and starts pounding him in the stomach. Question I would have is why would he just hit him in the torso? You would think if he really was intent on beating up on Harry he would not be concentrating on his stomach area. I always thought the original story rang untrue since I never read that Houdini went around telling his audience that he could withstand anyone's body blows. Wondered where a young College kid would ever hear about this sort of thing. Based on this new info he never did. He was just intent on putting a hurting on Houdini that day and ended up eventually killing him.....or at least excelerating his time of death.

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  29. When I give lectures and am asked how Houdini died, I tell them this: "Houdini died from being stubborn". Regardless of the precise details or reasons - who was in the dressing room, why they were there, any agenda or just a coincidence of timing...if he would have gone to the hospital he would have been treated before the condition killed him. His personality and conviction that he could face down any challenge would not let him cancel any of his performance dates. It's not his body that let him down; it was his mental being of never failing...never to let down. You have to understand his thoughts - not ours. It was Vaudville - the show must go on. And for Houdini that was the one and only time he lost his bet. That's what killed him. It's easy in hindsite to conjecture all these wild scenarios but they are just hogwash (can I say that on the Internet) for modern day theorists to grab their moment on Houdini's back. He died - done. (and now I have a hobby of being a collector and historian)

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  30. Well.....yes and no. The objective of any good historian is to put all the pieces together to determine how a historical event occurred and unfolded. If the new evidence as well as passed down word from those involved indicate that HH never gave his ok for those punches to be delivered and instead he was out and out assaulted this is news that changes a known historical event. Also yes if Houdini was diagnosed and operated upon prior to his appendix bursting he would have been saved. However dying from poisoning due to a burst appendix was not uncommon in that day. Similar thing happened to Valentino that same year as an example. Is there any indication as to when his appendix burst? Possibly on the train ride to Detroit? Perhaps before?

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  31. First off, Bill Kalush is mad at me for getting him involved and I don't blame him.
    Second, Bill doesn't believe Houdini was murdered. He believes there were people who would've liked to see him dead and people who would've benefited if he were dead.
    I absolutely believe that Houdini did secret work--I think the very different passport applications within 3 months is the smoking gun.
    The size of Houdini's appendix (Dr. Kennedy, the surgeon, called it "a great long affair") is a very solid indication that Houdini's appendix was diseased. But, the history is that there were no symptoms prior to the punch--at least that's how everyone told it.
    Sam Smilovitch later became a lawyer. He gave, I think, his honest observation of the incident. Ernst had the job of presenting the eyewitnesses testimonies in a way that was consistent and credible.
    Dr. Kennedy testified that since there were no symptoms before the punch (we can never know that) and all the symptoms occurred progressively from the time of the punch, that he had to conclude that the punch caused the appendicitis.
    Who knows, Houdini might have sailed through the whole coast to coast tour with his appendix in the state it was--if he hadn't been punched.
    And the punch didn't burst the appendix. The appendix burst two days later. I'll bet the punch made it mad.

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  32. Didn't Houdini say he was not feeling well or were there individuals who thought he did not look well prior to the punches? Is it reasonable medically that an appendix could go from exhibiting no symptoms to becoming inflamed and bursting in two days? Seems pretty quick. I don't think HH was murdered but to me it's a revelation that perhaps Whitehead never mentioned the idea of punching him to test his ability to withstand blows to the body. Instead, perhaps, he was indeed assaulted. Is this what we are saying here? What is your opinion as to what happened in that dressing room that day?

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  33. That's not what has been handed down. Smilovitch drew a sketch of Whitehead leaning over Houdini. He said they had been talking and that Whitehead had returned some books to Houdini. The other boys jumped up to stop Whitehead when he started punching Houdini, but, no one wrote that it was an "assault."
    What was in Whitehead's mind we really will never know.
    Ozzie Malini told me Houdini told him and his father, Max Malini, "I let a college kid punch me in the stomach. . ."
    That fits what Whitehead said which was that Houdini told him he could test his stomach muscles. I think Houdini was going to get on his feet, but, with a broken ankle didn't move fast enough.

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  34. Smiley's sketch can be seen here:

    http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2011/08/eyewitness-smileys-sketch.html

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  35. So how do the new revelations change in any way the story we all know? If Whitehead just walked into the dressing room and started punching Houdini that's an assault. If Whitehead indeed asked Houdini if he could test his ability to take body blows and was given the ok to do so that's an accident. If it was an assault that' changes the story we all know. Exactly what do you feel was embellished by Bess lawyers to make this incident appear to be more so an accident?

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  36. Dick Brookz here again.

    I have a few more comments and thoughts on the show but it will have to wait till after the weekend as I have several shows to run through.

    Also you can fill in on more detailed info on this on three pages I put up just before the show aired at http://houdii.org/houdinimurdered.html

    I guess I had a hunch they were not looking to tell the true story, which I also relayed to John Cox, before it aired, a small bit of my problems with the show as well.
    Dick Brookz
    Houdini Museum
    Scraton PA

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  37. You know, I'm starting to think we're caught up in a gigantic game of telephone re the dressing room/affidavits/Bess whatnot. From 1927 newspapers to Norm Bigelow to Don Bell to Bill Kalush to Norm Bigelow again to Dorothy and Dick to Joshua Jay to Brad Meltzer to the hanging DA to me to here.

    Now, I have no freaking idea what we're even saying anymore! :)

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  38. Having watched the show several times now, I think it's provocative but still generally within bounds until it breaks into the whole "spy" business, and then it just starts piling on too much spin. I'm also once again suspicious that the show handed Dorothy and Dick's theory to Joshua Jay to parrot. If not, I'd like to know where he got it. And then the Bessie thing in the end is just shameful.

    On the upside, I liked when the picture fell over in the case. I think that could have been Harry saying, "Enough!"

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  39. I still haven't seen it (and at $25USD a pop, I'm very unlikely to).

    Given what I've now read, I'm going from the premise that the show was never intended to add anything of substance to Houdini scholarship. If only they had declared that at the outset instead of leading everyone up the garden path.

    It definitely shouldn't be on the History Channel. I'm sure there's a spot not occupied by a Kardashian on an entertainment channel that would be perfect for it.

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  40. You can watch it free here for a limited time:

    http://www.history.com/shows/brad-meltzers-decoded/videos/brad-meltzers-decoded-houdini-murdered#brad-meltzers-decoded-houdini-murdered

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  41. AS PROMISED. THIS IS THE FIRST IN ABOUT 3 UPCOMING FIRST TIME EXCLUSIVE POSTS TO JOHN COX ABOUT OUR SHOOT FOR HOUDINI MURDERED!

    I beg to differ with Pat Culliton when he says this is all old news.

    Pat (who is a great guy that we like very much) says; "As to Bernard Ernst manipulating the testimony of the eyewitnesses (not to mention the doctors) that is very old news."

    I disagree..

    None of the following books (26, including Culliton's), which are all the main ones about Houdini until 2004, mention our following points (among other things), that we have compiled by us for the first time to put together our new theory on why we believe what really happened in the dressing room was never exactly told, and the concept that Whitehead stalking Houdini, and was possibly a fellow traveler of the Spiritualists. The incidents were never connected, as well, in any of these works. ( More of this is and will be covered on our website including this, with a few references in the following books)

    1) That Bess was originally denied the double indemnity claim.  (See New York Times stories on our website)
    2) That importance of the fact that the only telling of what happened in the dressing room comes from Bess Houdini's lawyer, Bernard Ernst, and they both had a vested interest in how the story was told.
    3) That they had the affidavits changed at Ernst's or Bess'  request.
    4) That Ernst went back to the 3 witnesses to make changes or "improvements" on their stories.
    5) That both Price and Smiley's affidavits had much identical wording.
    6)  The fact that Gordon Whitehead had to have an "accident" story that fit in, or face possible murder charges.
    7) That Ernst attacked Whitehead after he would not change his affidavit.  (probably to better match the other two.)
    8) That Bess paid the boys money for their help in the case after she got the double indemnity.

    1) Harold Kellock, (with Beatrice Houdini), Houdini His Life Story. This book by the way is dedicated to Bernard Ernst, "HOUDINI'S DEAREST FRIEND AND ADVISER".  It is capitalized that way in the dedication. Beatrice (Kellock) explains it differently than most.  "Houdini, absorbed in a letter, was not paying attention and gave an absent-minded reply, which the boy interpreted as a consent."  
    2) J. C. Cannell,  The Secrets of Houdini
    3)Walter B. Gibson (all his books)
    Houdini's Magic
    Houdini's Escapes
    HOUDINI'S AMAZING ESCAPES
    Original Houdini Scrapbook
    Houdini On Magic
    4) Gibson and Young, Houdini's Fabulous Magic
    5) William Lindsay Gresham, Houdini, The Man Who Walked Through Walls.
    6) Milbourne Christophe, Houdini, The Untold Story, Houdini (Including the 1976 edition where he added about 35 extra pages), A Pictorial Life, The Illustrated History of Magic.(all his books)
    7)Norman Bigelow, Death Blow (Early or first to claim Houdini was murdered on purpose)
    8) Bernard C. Meyer, Houdini, A MIND IN CHAINS
    9) Doug Henning with Charles Reyonlds, Houdini, Hs Legend and His Magic
    10) James Randi and Burt Sugar, Houdini
    11) Raymund Fitzsimons, Death & The Magician, The Mystery of Houdini.
    12) Kenneth Silverman, Houdini, The Career of Ehrich Weiss,  and Notes to Houdini
    13) Ruth Brandon, The Life and Many Deaths of Houdini
    14) Patrick Culliton, The Secret Confessions of Houdini, The Tao Of Houdini, The Key (mostly a remake), (all books, these were the most difficult to check up on in a hurry since they have no index like most of the other books. )
    15) Williiam V. Ruascher, The Houdini Code Mystery
    16) Henry Gordon, "World of Magic"  (This has the sketch)
    17) Kalush & Sloman, THE SECRET LIFE of HOUDINI

    Not to mention dozens of magazine and newspapers stories from that time to the present.

    I AM OFF TO A SHOW, MORE TO FOLLOW!

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  42. Several points. First I have read in the past that Whitehead asked concerning Houdinis ability to take blows and that HH gave an absent minded response as he was reading his mail. So specific to this point nothing new here. Secondly I am sure in cases such as this where double payment is in the insurance policy that a good lawyer would go back and forth with witnesses to ensure wording leaves no doubt of any other interpretation other that an accident. So again nothing special going on here unless there is strong evidence that indicates Whitehead never asked Houdini and just started hitting him. Finally exactly what bottom line are you saying went on in Houdinis dressing room that day?

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  43. I admit I'm pretty lost. The information is very fragmentary and I'm not ready to accept any conclusions based on what we have here. Certainly none this lends any credence to any kind of a murder plot.

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  44. Okay, I've just read Dick and Dorothy's couple of pages on what they call "the punching accident myth."
    They are entirely to blame for the stupid vilification of Bessie Houdni on that idiotic History Channel show. They quote two articles about the argument about the punch.
    I've read at least a hundred articles on this subject, many of which were in a clipping scrapbook Joe Hayman put together that began with Houdini's final illness and went straight through to Hardeen's death.
    From the time Houdini was hospitalized, the story that he had been punched by a student was being mentioned in the press.
    Initially, it was assumed that the punching incident had taken place at McGill College and the McGill people were quick to deny any such thing happened. The insurance company leapt on this.
    It thereupon became Bernard Ernst's job to demonstrate that: there was a punching incident, and that it had led to Houdini's fatal illness.
    Dick and Dorothy tell us to follow the money. Well, the money leads to Bessie and Bernard Ernst, who was one of Houdini's very best friends and most trusted advisors.
    So, nothing out of the 12 hours Dick and Dorothy shot for Meltzer's piece of tabloid sh*t made it into the show. No publicity for Scranton. But their whacko theory did make it onto the history channel thanks to attorney(?), soldier(?), actor(?) Chris Rolle.
    Chris Rolle made himself look really bad.
    Put it like this: Hey, Hey, Chris Rolle, How Many Widows Did You Sandbag Today?
    Chris Rolle could not possibly conclude murder with the fact he had. No case. So, as lawyers will, he lied.
    As to Marie Blood telling John Cox that Whitehead barged in and started throwing punches (or something like that)--nonsense. At least one of the assistants, Jimmy Collins was in the theatre at the time. Had Houdini been attacked, Collins wouldn't have let Whitehead get away with it. He'd have taken him down and called the cops.
    Silverman apparently told Dick and Dorothy that Houdini had no history of letting people punch him in the stomach. Well, that tells me that Ken never spoke with Ozzie Malini, who saw Houdini's final performance in Montreal. Houdini's statement to Ozzie and Max Malini: "I let a college kid punch me in the stomach and he caught me wrong and it's killing me," tells me it was something Houdini might do.
    The case Ernst prepared to force the insurance companies to do the job and pay on an "accidental death" was careful and entirely legal and I think he would have been guilty of malpractice if he had done anything less. He'd have sold out his client to those guys in the big buildings.
    Speaking of malpractice, I think we should look at Scott Rolle's cases as a prosecutor, a military judge advocate, and in private practice. I mean, this guy will say anything about anybody. Hey, hey, Scott Rolle--how many widows did you railroad today?

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  45. Don't forget that Joshua Jay is the one who articulated this entire theory on the show. Shouldn't he be also held responsible for sending Rolle down this road?

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  46. IT IS LATE, BUT I WANT TO QUICKLY ANSWER PAT'S ATTACK. HIS COMMENTS WILL BE IN QUOTES...

    "Okay, I've just read Dick and Dorothy's couple of pages on what they call "the punching accident myth."
    WE STILL STAND BY THIS AS WE WILL EXPLAIN IN OUR UPCOMING POSTS.

    "They quote two articles about the argument about the punch.
    I've read at least a hundred articles on this subject, many of which were in a clipping scrapbook Joe Hayman put together that began with Houdini's final illness and went straight through to Hardeen's death. From the time Houdini was hospitalized, the story that he had been punched by a student was being mentioned in the press."
    THERE IS NO DOUBT HOUDINI WAS PUNCHED. WE NEVER SAID DIFFERENT.

    "It thereupon became Bernard Ernst's job to demonstrate that: there was a punching incident, and that it had led to Houdini's fatal illness."
    DOCTORS, EVEN TO THIS DAY WILL TELL YOU PUNCHING WILL NOT CAUSE THIS. HOUDINI WAS PROBABLY SICK ALREADY

    "So, nothing out of the 12 hours Dick and Dorothy shot for Meltzer's piece of tabloid sh*t made it into the show. No publicity for Scranton."
    WE WERE NOT ON THE SHOW BECAUSE WE DID NOT LIKE THE WAY THE SHOW WAS GOING AND INFORMED THEM IN WRITING SEVERAL TIMES, THAT WE DID NOT LIKE THE WAY THEY WERE PROCEEDING AND THAT WE HAD OUR BRAND AND PRISTINE REPUTATION TO PROTECT. WE BECAME A SQUEAKY WHEEL, SO THEY DID NOT USE US. NOT SURE HOW OTHERS WHO DID GET ON THE SHOW FELT IF THEY GOT WIND OF THIS.

    But their whacko theory did make it onto the history channel thanks to attorney(?), soldier(?), actor(?) Chris Rolle.
    IT IS CLEAR FROM WHAT YOU SAY HERE, YOU ARE NOT IN ANY WAY AWARE WHAT OUR THEORY IS.
    ALSO HIS NAME IS NOT CHRIS ROLLE , BUT SCOTT ROLLE. (PAT CHANGES THIS LATER ON)

    Chris Rolle made himself look really bad.
    Put it like this: Hey, Hey, Chris Rolle, How Many Widows Did You Sandbag Today?
    Chris Rolle could not possibly conclude murder with the fact he had. No case. So, as lawyers will, he lied.
    CAREFUL, BERNARD ERNST WAS A LAWYER... A GOOD ONE.

    As to Marie Blood telling John Cox that Whitehead barged in and started throwing punches (or something like that)--nonsense.
    I DO NOT THINK SHE HAD ANY WAY TO KNOW, BUT IT IS INTERESTING THAT THAT IS WHAT THE PEOPLE CLOSE TO BESS IN THE HOUDINI FAMILY FELT.

    At least one of the assistants, Jimmy Collins was in the theatre at the time. Had Houdini been attacked, Collins wouldn't have let Whitehead get away with it. He'd have taken him down and called the cops.
    HE WAS NOT IN THE ROOM, AND PROBABLY LEARNED ABOUT IT LATER.

    Silverman apparently told Dick and Dorothy that Houdini had no history of letting people punch him in the stomach.
    Well, that tells me that Ken never spoke with Ozzie Malini, who saw Houdini's final performance in Montreal. Houdini's statement to Ozzie and Max Malini: "I let a college kid punch me in the stomach and he caught me wrong and it's killing me," tells me it was something Houdini might do.
    BECAUSE HOUDINI LET THE KID PUNCH HIM, DOES NOT MEAN HE GAVE HIM PERMISSION TO DO SO. I REPEAT THEY IS NO HISTORY OF HOUDINI DOING THIS ON A REGULAR OR IRREGULAR BASIS. I BELIEVE THIS RUMOR WAS PROMOTED LATER MOSTLY BY SID RADNER. WHEN WE QUESTIONED SID ABOUT IT, HE SAID, ALONG WITH WALTER B. GIBSON, "HOUDINI WOULD HAVE LOVED IT. AS LONG AS WE SPELLED HIS NAME RIGHT.

    FOR THE RECORD,WHICH WE WILL SOON BEGIN TO PUT FORTH HERE, MUCH OF WHAT WE TOLD THEM WAS REPEATED BY THE LAST MEMBER, DRIVER BUDDY LEVY, WHO WAS IN ATTENDANCE AT OUR SHOOT.

    WE WILL PIECE IT ALL TOGETHER HERE IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS, BUT WANTED TO QUICKLY ANSWER THIS ATTACK BY PAT, WHO WE GENERALLY LIKE AND HAVE GREAT RESPECT FOR. IT IS 2 IN THE MORNING AND I HAVE TO GET TO BED. HAVE SHOWS TOMORROW. GOOD NIGHT.

    JUST LOOKED, BEFORE I GO TO BED I WILL POST ON JOSHUA JAY NEXT.

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  47. BACK AGAIN...
    In defense of Joshua Jay...

    As to Joshua Jay. How he became a Houdiniphile and escape artist, I do not know, but all he did was generally to tell the facts as he knew them.

    He does not seem to know about the reworking of the affidavits.

    He says simply, Bess stood to get more money if it was an accident.

    This is true.

    Bess did send the boy or boys money. Not Whitehead, who did not adjust his.

    Then in true tabloid fashion, Brad Meltzer raises it to...

    Bess engaged in suspicious behavior

    And then Brad Meltzer raises it again to...
    PAYING OFF witnesses to alter their affidavits

    Next Scott Rolle the lawyer raises it to...

    She paid people to lie.

    Till tomorrow, I hope!
    D&D

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  48. Okay, Scott Rolle, Scott Rolle, how many widows did you sandbag today.
    Every witness said Houdini was reclining. Joshua Jay sat down on a park bench and said, "Houdini was sitting. . ."
    Witness Price said the discussion went to physical conditioning and each of the three students felt his forearms and shoulders as Houdini flexed. The punches didn't come out of nowhere. If even one of those punches landed on Houdini's oversized appendix (witness Price said the punches landed below Houdini's beltline) the immediate onset of pain would be understandable. If the first blow caught Houdini by surprise, he would have tensed his muscles and done his best to "take" the remaining punch or punches (Whitehead said he struck twice, Price said there were four punches).
    All the evidence was on the side of traumatic appendicitis (Dr. Kennedy testified to that "rare as it is"). The state of the appendix before the blow wasn't known. All the symptoms began with the punching incident.
    Naturally, the insurance companies didn't want to pay (do they ever?). But they did. The evidence Ernst gathered beat them.
    Houdini would have been most proud of Bernard Ernst.
    Follow the money?

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  49. Hi all;
    May not get to finish our writing about this yet due to shows today, but here are a few pictures relating to this story. No titles or comments and it is not officially linked but thought I would put them up in the meantine. More pictures and a lot more info to come.

    http://houdini.org/houdinimurdered4.html

    Houdini Museum
    Scranton, PA

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  50. " So theres an agenda here to push The Spy Book. You know the last time that happened they tried to dig up Harry. This time they tried to bury Bess. John Cox

    There a quote for the History books. Perfect John. Norm

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  51. Can someone post the three witnesses testimony as to what happened that day? I am reading exerpes here but let's see side by side what each testified. I don't buy Houdini being murdered...you don't punch someone in the belly if you want to kill them. Either the story is as it's been told more or less or it was some sort of an assault for some yet to be determined reason. It's very easy to take bits and pieces of heresay and make something out of nothing so I'm not buying the new story. We need much more credible new info to change the story as it's been told.

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  52. The nurse, Sophie Rosenblatt, stated the following: "(Houdini) stated that it was the first time in his life that blows really hurt him and he twinged. He stated that he was lying down when the blows were struck and that he was not prepared for them ..."
    Houdini said this, apparently, the afternoon of Oct 22, after the three students had left the Princess.
    If you research traumatic appendicitis, you will find that, while rare, it happens. Furthermore, Houdini's case meets the criteria that legally defines the history and symptoms of traumatic appendicitis.
    All three students agreed that Whitehead asked if he could test Houdini's stomach muscles. All three agreed Houdini gave his consent. Jacques Price stated that Houdini seemed to brace himself to take the punch--which turned out to be three or four punches.
    Houdini remained good-natured and cordial with the three young men for the remainder of the visit.
    You know who agreed that the following criteria existed in the Houdini death case? The insurance company's own counsel who recommended paying the double indemnity.
    "There has been much debate as to whether acute appendicitis following trauma is coincidental or causal. For genuine cases, Fowler stated the following conditions must be met:
    1 No history of previous attacks of appendicitis.
    2 The cause of the trauma and mechanism of injury must create a force which is capable of reaching the appendix.
    3 The effects of the trauma must be experienced immediately, and merges into that of acute appendicitis.
    4 True traumatic lesions of the appendix must be operatively demonstrated.
    5 There must be a superimposed acute inflammation of the appendix."

    Here's some information on:
    TRAUMATIC APPENDICITIS
    BY RICHARD J. BEHAN, M.D.
    The intra-lumenary appendicular pressure may be increased by any force which decreases the intra-abdominal space. This force, however, must be suddenly exerted, for instance, a squeeze of the abdomen not severe enough to bring about a rupture of a viscus or a sudden blow upon the abdomen (the blow not necessarily being over the area of the appendix). The force must be of sufficient violence to produce a rupture of the mucosa 'with resulting infiltration and inflammation. If the blow is over the appendix and the abdominal muscles are caught in a state of relaxation, even a bruising of the appendix might possibly occur. However, what most likely takes place is that by the blow, the abdominal muscles are thrown into a state of violent contraction and press forcibly upon the intestinal viscera. If the colon and caecum are filled with fecal matter or with gas, the lumen of the appendix is forced open and some of the contents of the caecum are pushed in. If there is a constriction of the lumen of the appendix, the mucosa is torn and if in addition an enterolith is present, the rebound of the fecal mass from the increased intra-lumenary pressure may close the opening entirely.

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  53. I've been looking back on the Don Bell book today, and he interviewed Sam Smiley as late as 1982 and reprints exactly the story as Smiley told it. He corroborates the accidental punch, although he clearly thought Whitehead was a creepy and annoying guy. I really think we can accept the dressing room story as it's come down as fact. If something else went down in that room, why wouldn't Smiley reveal the truth in 1982?

    Anyone who's really into this MUST read Bell.

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  54. Read the description of traumatic appendicitis and what happened becomes clear. Houdini had taken blows to the stomach before--he told Sophie Rosenblatt that after the three boys left. He told Julia Sawyer that he meant to get on his feet.
    Price said he seemed to brace himself for the blow. Sure he did--WHEN HE SAW THE PUNCH COMING--he had no idea that Whitehead was going to start punching.
    It sounds as if there were four punches. Whitehead gave a very limited affidavit-- very self protective and said he struck Houdini (as I recall) "two moderate blows." Price said three or four. Why would Whitehead keep punching? Because Houdini's stomach felt like an oak plank. He didn't think he was hurting him.
    The first punch caused Houdini more pain than he'd ever felt in his life. Had he been standing up, his body could have easily taken the punches. But on the couch, his body had no give, no space for the body to back up just a squidge and "take" the punch. and the first punch compressed the space in the peritoneal cavity and probably drove fecal matter into the appendix where it became trapped--which could cause the appendix to rapidly swell and quickly infect.
    Instant acute appendicitis.
    Houdini made a gesture with his hands and said "that'll do." He was doing his best not to show any distress at all. He had taken the punches. The boys and Houdini visited awhile longer, then, all three left.
    "I let a college kid punch me in the stomach, and he caught me wrong, and it's killing me."
    At the point that Houdini began to feel acute pain, the only possible cure was an appendectomy. An immediate appendectomy.
    It was his only chance, but, he had no idea he had appendicitis. A doctor would have told him in a minute, and the first doctor who saw him did.
    By that time, it was too late anyway. He was a dead man, but, he gave a final performance.
    Whitehead sounds a little nutty, but, like Houdini and Sam Smilovitch, he'd boxed. I think he was trying to make Houdini feel it--Whitehead seems to have had the male ego of an insecure, kind of goofy guy and these were boxers. They weren't moderate punches. He said he felt Houdini's stomach with his hand before he asked to "test" Houdini's stomach muscles and described it as "like a washboard"--which is to say, extremely muscular.
    Houdini died just the way the insurance companies concluded he did. Of an appendicitis caused by a punch. And the appendix itself would not have to have been struck for it to have happened. There is such a condition as traumatic appendicitis and Houdini is the most famous victim of it.
    Nobody ever described the incident as being something "criminal." No one reported that a deranged fan "attacked" Houdini.

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  55. PART 1
    We must break this in parts as our answer is too long to be accepted by this system.

    We will also shorten our answer.

    Please note, this is an open forum.  I will not answer questions put up by an anonymous writer.  If you have a good reason to do so like you are a famous writer, actor, President of the United States and send me an email as to why you should be anonymous I will reply.  magicu@comcast.net

    Some promised notes on the Decoded! show.
    They had an agenda when they shot the show they did not tell us.  In addition we were misled. They said the theme of the show was "How did Houdini really die?", not about Houdini being murdered.  In our segment It started to become blatantly apparent to us that they were off on some kind of tangent.  I guess I had a premonition that things might not be right with the show, so I put some of this information out on our website before the show aired. 

    We had expressed a few misgivings about their treatment and handling of all this and many other things in writing to them.  We realized with 12 hours of recording they could edit out pieces to make it look like we agreed on anything in creation.  So we told them we did not want to be linked with any other of the places they were shooting. I had told John Cox of a small part of this before the show aired. They decided to drop us as the loud squeaky wheel, and decided we might create problems later. Which is fine with us. We were not always willing to roll over and just play ball.  We felt we had our reputation and several of our brands to protect.   It appears they got people who were willing to say what they wanted whether they knew or cared anything about Houdini or Bess or not. We paid the price for standing our ground  would we do i again In a heart beat.  We once again on our tours will have to fend off such incorrect beliefs, wrongly stated on the show, that Houdini went around the world asking people to punch him in the stomach and that he expected to contact his mother in a seance, added now will be "did he work for the CIA?", "Did Bess plan to murder Houdini?",  etc., etc.

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  56. PART 2 OF 3
    Here's our theory in a quick nutshell. It's our story and belief and we'll stick to it. We will henceforth call it the Brookz-Dietrich Theory. There's enough material to take many more pages or a book.

    Through extensive research we've come to the following conclusions. This is copyrighted by us and not for any use, except here. It's being put together for future use in a book or manuscript.

    1) At least three people including Houdini attested to the fact that Houdini was already sick or feeling poorly before and when he arrived in Montreal. So much so he had a nurse traveling with him even before he was punched backstage. This includes a statement by Houdini.

    2) J. Gordon Whitehead was a kook, and oddball, off beat, malcontent, religious nut, and weirdo. (This was even told by one of the witnesses.) Whitehead was stalking Houdini the entire week Houdini was in Montreal.

    3) He was intent on challenging and hurting Houdini because of differences in their religious beliefs.

    4) It's false that Houdini went around asking people to punch him in the stomach. There's no record of this in all Houdini History. We asked the best biographer on Houdini (Sorry Pat, you are also one of the greats) Ken Silverman and he agreed. It's a story made up by others. Mostly Sidney Radner. When we approached on this he said, "Houdini would have loved it! As long as we spelled his name right."
    Houdini was a very smart man and would not go around the world telling people to punch him. There is extensive research to bear his out.

    5) Whitehead challenged Houdini as to Houdini's beliefs of the Bible. Houdini brushed it aside. Houdini quipped to the effect, "what would people from then think of me with my miracles?" According to others Whitehead was upset, disgruntled and taken aback. Whitehead attacked Houdini violently, mostly without warning. Whitehead even continued violently attacking Houdini when others in the dressing room who were shocked at this action, implored him to stop. One was appalled that Whitehead showed no remorse for what he had done. Later Whitehead bragged about what he had done. Some of this was corroborated to us by Marie Blood. Beatrice lived in the same house with Marie Blood after Houdini died and Marie would have heard Beatrice's most inner and confidential thoughts on what really happened. Whitehead was not a boxer (I think this was said on the Decoded show) but a athlete, a member of the rowing team, and a construction worker. He was very powerful and Whitehead's own brother said if he punched you, you would know about it! Smiley was a boxer.

    6) Bess Houdini was initially turned down for the double indemnity claim on several insurance policies.

    7) The cast members rallied around Bess. Every one in the troupe were steeped in telling lies or stretching the truth. It was the Houdini way to success. Houdini even lied on his passport when he entered totalatarian countries like Germany and Russia, which I am sure was illegal. This was Houdini's way. Houdini also lied on his insurance applications. Nothing would surprise me when it come to false Houdini stories. I would not even be surprised if you told me Bess and Harry were never really married.

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  57. PART 3 OF 3
    8) Her lawyer went to work to have this reversed. A good lawyer, and Ernst was, do not ask clients directly to change. But the will say things like, "Could have it gone this way?" or "is it possible Whitehead did not hear Houdini's answer?", "Could you have not been paying close attention at the time"?, "How does this sound?". etc., etc, etc. as they try to lead their witness to a different telling of the same story. He could have also explained Bess' plight as well. As we know where large sums of money are concerned truth can go out the window or bent to meet the situation. I'm not saying Smiley lied but there are many ways to tell the same story.

    7) Three gave their statements. Ernst got affidavits from all three. When they did not match Ernst "accident" scenario, that would have brought home the "accident" money, Ernst asked them to modify their statements. They did. Much of the wording of Smiley and Price's affidavits are identical. What does that tell you? It would imply a single source, ie. Ernst.

    8) Loner, wierdo J. Gordon Whitehead would not change his to match the other two, so Ernst attacked him bitterly. There is much evidence that Whitehead was a religious nut, a malcontent, etc., in our files about this.

    9) When Bess was paid double indemnity she sent the boys $200.00 as thanks for their help in the matter. Not ALL the insurance companies agreed. Just one. The rest did not bother to investigate, but fell in line. At least one other who did look into it never paid the double indemnity. Remember with that money in those days would buy you 20 ounces of gold. To buy that amount today would be about $30,000. Put another way by the inflation index $200.00 would be the equivalent of about $2,488.93. It was not a payoff in any way as she gave the money after it was over, but she was certainly thankful. Smiley would have never changed his story even if it was a stretch as it could be considered perjury.


    That is the modified, very shortened version of the Brookz-Dietrich Houdini Theory.

    Both Dorothy and I agree, independently, that the wrap up at the very end that they gave to Buddy Levy who was at our shoot, where he says he does not believe it was a murder, sounds like a replay of many of the things he saw us say that day and pointed out above. We even said, as Buddy Levy did a bit differently, that in some ways Houdini killed himself by being able to with stand and ignore pain.

    It is HORRIBLE AND SO FALSE WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT BESS.

    No one till now has pointed out the fact that the ONLY telling of the dressing room sequence came through "adjusted" statements that came from Bess Houdini's lawyer who had an agenda. He had a vested interest in how the details of the story were told.

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  58. Dorothy and Dick,
    Nice try!
    The three eyewinesses each gave a sworn affidavit. Both Ernst and McKeon (the insurance attorney) wanted some points clarified and fleshed out. Smilovitch and Price each gave a second expanded statement. Whitehead did not. These second statements in no way are in conflict with the first. Furthermore, both Smilovitch and Price retold the story years later when all the main characters were dead and there was no conflict with their earlier statements.
    You're accusing Whitehead of a lot of things--murder being the big one. But, the facts aren't there.
    You talk about the company lying out of loyalty to Houdini.
    Would they not have tried in some way to get justice if Houdini was "murdered" or even deliberately harmed?
    Wouldn't Smilovitch or Price have reported a crime if they witnessed a crime?

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  59. Fantastic comments everyone. Thanks for making this blog all the more interesting. :)

    Two things. This story is about to drop off the main page, so you'll need to click to Page 2 to get back to it (or bookmark it). Also, looks like Blogger has added the ability to Reply to specific comments, which is kinda cool. That just happened today, so take advantage of that if you like.

    FREE BESSIE!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The offer of "Free Bessie" will continue only while supplies last. Not available in IN, OH, MD, or outside of the continental United States. Not applicable or available to relatives or employees of Weiss & White, Inc.

      Delete
  60. Dick Brookz & Dorothy Dietrich here.
    We have been busy answering Mr. Pat Culliton's comments on other threads that we neglected to answer his last comments here.

    Mr. Culliton says;
    "Dorothy and Dick, Nice try!"
    D&D reply
    Thanks for the compliment. We think? LOL

    Mr. Culliton says;
    "both Smilovitch and Price retold the story years later when all the main characters were dead and there was no conflict with their earlier statements."
    D&D reply;
    We never said they lied, besides to change stories if they were not careful, could be perjury.

    Mr. Culliton says;
    "You're accusing Whitehead of a lot of things--murder being the big one. But, the facts aren't there."
    D&D reply;
    Again you do what you do so well. Misquote us. We never said he wanted to murder Houdini.


    Mr. Culliton says;
    "You talk about the company lying out of loyalty to Houdini."
    D&D reply;
    Misquote. AGAIN, WE NEVER SAID THEY LIED!

    Mr. Culliton says;
    "Would they not have tried in some way to get justice if Houdini was "murdered" or even deliberately harmed? Wouldn't Smilovitch or Price have reported a crime if they witnessed a crime?"
    D&D reply;
    No one at the time realized that Whitehead was following Houdini's every move. ie stalking Houdini. This is done with celebrities today, and in those days just as well. However, people were not as aware of it as they are now. They did not realize this "divinity student" was warped, a wakco weirdo, a follower of occult "sciences" and as we may soon reveal, may well have been connected to people involved in spiritualism and seances. No one at the time had a good read on Whitehead. The two boys honestly went along with the "accident" story that "poor" Whitehead didn't quite understood what Houdini meant. Whitehead went along because with Houdini dead from the punches, he could be up for a murder rap. He realized beating up a person like Houdini, as Margery and others were pushing to stir believers up, and had proselytized, that was one thing, but to murder him was quite another.

    D&D

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  61. Well done, Harry....Your legend's become so larger-than-life that people are now starting to think they can just come up with whatever fantastic conspiracy theory they like, and it will somehow, in some way, be true.

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  62. I have chosen to post anonymously - please respect that - who I am is unimportant to a consideration of the facts

    'Magician historians' are looking at Houdini through 'rose coloured glasses'. The evidence for parapsychological / psychical effects is overwhelming. Houdini and his fans have been unscientifically hammering *all* psychic claims (e.g. Randi/JREF, magicians in CSICOP, etc.) are barking up the wrong tree. Psychic abilities exist to some extent, seldom under much conscious control but nevertheless real psi effects today have astronomical odds against chance in lab experiments that rule out cheating.

    BLINDSPOT 1: Some magician historians say Houdini's secret group of debunkers consisted of showgirls, former fraudulent psychics (i.e. fraudulent magicians) ....WHY DON'T THEY ALSO MENTION the 'SOCIETY OF AMERICAN MAGICIANS' were involved too? Or is that a bit too close to home for 'magician historians'?

    BLINDSPOT 2: A decade before Houdini led the SAM conjurers unscientific, opinionated, secretive assault on the field of psychical research, other SAM con-jurers – the same ones later part of Houdini's 'own secret service' - were also attacking claims verbally and in some cases physically. John W Sargent (later Houdini's secretary) President of SAM had previously asked the US Government to employ their magicians to debunk psychic mediums!

    BLINDSPOT 3: Kalush's book mentions that in the weeks prior to Houdini's death, his lawyer Bernard Ernst informed Houdini he was being sued in court cases by psychics. Psychics weren't going to murder Houdini, they were going to sue Houdini and expose people taking the law into their own hands! All those SAM member magicians using false undercover names would have been named in court.

    BLINDSPOT 4: The posters above imply Bernard Ernst was right to be dishonest to help Bess Houdini, if it obscured what occurred, that doesn't make it right. You are all downplaying the fact lawyer Bernard Ernst became the next President of SAM after Houdini's untimely death. Obviously SAM were worried about their magicians being sued by psychics even after Houdini's death! These undercover conjurers, show girls, religious anti-spiritualist activists were acting aggressively, libelously and possibly illegally.

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  63. continued ...

    BLINDSPOT 5: Some 'magician historians' wish to redirect blame to psychics or 'spiritualists' like Arthur Conan Doyle (who undoubtedly made some sincere errors of judgment) while Houdini and co. were playing mental games with him and running undercover activism. These were victims of Houdini's aggressive 'own secret service' who were indeed acting like spies. What else would you call it? The word 'spies' is appropriate.

    BLINDSPOT 6: You don't have a crumb of proper evidence Whitehead was a spiritualist (they don't follow the bible that closely). What is true is the Society of American Magicians was founded by several devout Christian magicians i.e. more likely to follow the bible claims and oppose psi claims. So these assumptions are irrelevant conspiracy theories.

    BLINDSPOT 7: While it is true some psychic claimants did predict Houdini's death, the most accurate prediction was not from a psychic but reportedly from a fraudulent conjurer/debunker Robert Gysel who had been assisting Houdini's secret debunking team. He threw a brick at one séance. He predicted to a newspaper man that Houdini would die, one week before his actual death. Also Kalush's book claims Houdini's 'own secret service' were suggesting to Houdini that his life was under threat, these are magicians predictions of Houdini's death.

    Wake up Houdini historians! Harry Houdini was fantastic escapologist ... a flawed human being ... a prejudiced, poor psychical researcher who used ghost writers to help make dodgy claims in books. Celebrate ONLY what he was good at, do not erase his flaws or errors of judgement in life.

    I'm not convinced Houdini was murdered. But *if* there is indeed decent evidence to support this, one place to look for clues would be in the 1902-1930 records of the Society of American Magicians group activities against psychic claims, they were involved. Look for missing information that you would expect to be there. Sadly the public cannot search private organization information, nor can ordinary historians, only magician historians. But do any of you have genuine impartiality to do so? I hope you do. Find the truth, don't bury it with Houdini.

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  64. Looks like this episode repeated recently. Hopefully people find their way to this post to get get a bit of reality. How awful that this garbage will live on in repeats.

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