Friday, November 16, 2012

Was there a paranormal occurance during the live 1987 Houdini seance?

The last time the Official Houdini Seance was open to the public (as it was this year in Fort Worth) was in 1987. That year the Official Houdini Seance was incorporated into a live television special hosted by William Shatner called, The Search for Houdini. Essentially, it was a magic variety show featuring performers like The Pendragons and Penn & Teller, with the conclusion of the show being that year's Official Houdini Seance held by Sidney Radner. As always, Houdini failed to appear.

Or did he?

Mark Alberto Holt, who worked behind the scenes doing lighting effects, has come forward with a remarkable story. Mark posted the following comment on my blog about the Seance in February, and has allowed me to repost it here. Says Mark:

"I was there doing the special lighting effects. One such effect was lighting inlaid into the seance table with plexi glass over the top for dramatic effect on each person around the table. During rehearsals it was determined to bring the levels of the lights down from 70% full to 25%. Just perfect for that glow effect up the faces. So starts the seance. I was told that the people around the table were relatives of Houdini and seance experts. This part of the show was not scripted. (I still have Shatner's script). Towards the end of the seance, one end of the plexi glass started to warp, Live on TV. This must have raised 6 inches above the table. It could not have been from the heat of the lights under. They were barely on. Producers screamed to go to commercial. The people at the table wanted to continue do to the fact there was a sign. Mr. Shatner had no choice other than to listen to the producers and go to commercial. I left the lighting board that was in the audience and dashed on stage. There was shear Chaos on the stage. The plexi was cool but it was lifted. The crew started clearing the stage and the screams from Houdini's family rang through the theater to continue the seance. That was the last anyone spoke of this. I was there and so was Harry."

I recorded the seance and still have the VHS in my collection. Below is the moment during the seance when they abruptly went to commercial. While I can't see any phenomena myself, you can see that Sidney Radner starts to look to the left end of the table as they cut to Shatner at 0:44.

When the show returned from commercial, the seance had wrapped up with each Inner Circle member expressing their doubt that Houdini would or could return.

The inner circle that year was made up of: Sidney Radner, Marie Blood, James Randi, John Gaughan, Henry Mueller, Todd Everett (L.A. Herald Examiner reporter), and William Shatner. The medium was Bob Steiner.

Maybe one of these gentlemen can come forward and corroborate Mark's amazing story?


  1. WOW! This is great. I remember more now. They did go to commercial as scripted that nothing happened and the seance continued. As soon as Bill finished his line and cameras cut from LIVE, that's the exact time it rose. I'm sorry about the placement also, it was camera left, stage right end that lifted. Talk to Sidney Radner. It was in commercial this took place. Sidney was insisting to continue. They wanted to go back in live after commercial but couldn't because of the scripted program. [maybe that was Houdini's way of being alive to the live audience who cared about him, not meant for the entertaining of the TV masses] It all comes back now once I see it and not just a 25 year old memory. - MAH

    1. You know, after watching this, I was thinking it might have happened during the commercial break. Thanks for the extra info. This is wild stuff. I really wish they would have at least addressed it during the wrap-up after the commercial -- maybe show the warp. Not sure the show's director had instincts for live TV.

      Unfortunately, Sidney Radner has passed away. Marie Blood as well.

  2. I talked with Marie Blood at the magic table at the Edison Hotelin 1990 about this show and she said that someone left a message in her hotel room saying "Houdini did return."



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