Friday, April 20, 2012

What happened to the Margery box?


During his highly publicized battle to expose Mina Crandon aka Margery the Medium in 1924, Houdini constructed a special "cabinet box" to contain and control the wily medium during their seances. He called it the "Margie Box."

Of course, there was controversy. At one point a ruler was discovered inside the box that Margery could use to ring a bell box on the table outside. Margery accused Houdini or planting the ruler in the box to discredit her. Houdini denied it. Then Margery forced open the lid and Houdini had to reinforce it with additional padlocks. And so it went.

But the real mystery is what ever happened to the famous Margery cabinet box? According to Ken Silverman, Houdini once again used his "Margie Box" during a demonstration of Margery's techniques at Boston's Symphony Hall in January 1925. Said Houdini, "This is the first time it has been seen outside of the seance room because I was bound to secrecy by the Scientific American." But after this, the box vanishes.

It seems amazing to me that Houdini's Milk Can from 1908 would survive in the basement of 278, yet a prop from 1924 -- one that was a big part of his most famous exposé -- would not. You would have thought Houdini would have kept it for use on other mediums, or even featured it during his full evening roadshow, as explaining the techniques of Margery was part of the third act for a time.

So does anyone out there know what happened to Margery's box? Along with Houdini's biplane, this might be one of the greatest missing Houdini artifact mysteries.

The Margery box after Houdini's reinforcements and the rarely seen back.

UPDATE: In 2010 Dean Carnegie investigated the whereabouts of the original Margery Bell Box(s) and was able to locate one in the Salon de Magie Collection. According to Dean, there were two Margery cabinets as well, "one tight as a drum and one gaffed." So that makes two missing cabinets.

UPDATE 2: Is the Margery Box in Las Vegas?

16 comments:

  1. Probably with the Houdini home movies.

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  2. Watch out ... you might be about to unleash something.

    I'll just stand well back.

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  3. I heard that margery grand daughter got all the margery stuff.

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    1. Hey John. Thanks for commenting. Anna Thurlow sometimes comments here. I wonder if she knows anything about this?

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    2. Hi -The Margery Box was never in Margery's possession, so I do not have it. When I went to a Houdini Seance in Las Vegas (I think 1998?) I was told that someone living in Vegas had the box in a storage unit there. I tried the telephone number later but it was disconnected. Presumably it still exist and hopefully someone will bring it to light. As an aside - my grandfather (her son) understood Houdini to have put the ruler in the box. I guess we will never know what really happened that day.

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    3. Thank you, Anna! Great to hear there's a possibility the box is still around.

      To the person in Vegas who owns it...how about giving Wild About Harry a little exclusive and let me come out and photograph it? In return I'll promote whatever you'd like me to promote on my site. It would be a wonderful thing. :)

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  4. does any one knows where margery is laid to rest?

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  5. Yes, I do. Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston.
    My site has a map.
    http://deadconjurers.blogspot.com/search/label/Margery%20the%20Medium

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    1. thanks Dean

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    2. She is buried in the family plot at Forest Hills Cemetery, which includes her parents, Walter, her sister & the sister's secret lover, and her son and daughter-in-law (my grandparents).

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  6. Salon de Magie--would that be the Klosterman collection?

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  7. Houdini biplane got sold to Donald Steverson

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    Replies
    1. Yep, that's right. But do we know what Steverson did with it -- does it still exist today?

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