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Monday, September 2, 2013

AUDIO: Marie Hinson remembers the death of her sister Bess Houdini


Today we continue our special Labor Day Weekend audio interview with Bess Houdini's sister, Marie Hinson (Rahner), recorded by Stanley Palm around 1980. These clips come courtesy of Jon Oliver and are shared here with the blessings of John C. Hinson, the great nephew of Harry and Bess Houdini.

This is longest and most intimate excerpt of them all, and it is something truly incredible. That's because Marie was with Bess when she died aboard a New York bound train just outside of Needles, California, on February 11, 1943. Yes, this is that story.

What follows is extremely detailed, loving, sometimes funny, and even in places a little macabre. It's family. I don't feel like I can say much more about this one. Just brace yourself and let Marie tell you the story herself. Enjoy.



Tomorrow: The reaction to these excerpts has been so positive, I've plunged back into the original recording and pulled two new clips which I'll combine as a BONUS. So come back tomorrow and hear Marie talk about the generosity of her brother-in-law Houdini on stage and off.

21 comments:

  1. It really is, isn't it. And for those who always question why Bess wasn't buried in Machpelah, I think this answers that. It's so clear that she went back to her family in the last years of her life. They helped her and looked after her, and the Houdini years really were behind them all. And when it comes down to the practicalities of death and caskets and plots, etc. (and the expense), a family does what they can. It makes perfect sense that the family cemetery offered them a practical and loving way to bury their sister. I'm not even sure religion had all that much to do with it, except that it saved Bess from being cremated in Needles!

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  2. My father was also an escape artist. He was 14 when Houdini died. like Houdini, my father began his intense interest in magic as a very young boy. His passion was locks and keys just as Houdini's had been.
    My father was a well known Magician and escape artist locally. He preformed underwater escape acts as well as the straight jacket escape with great success in front of crowds numbering in the thousands. He was a very sought after performer locally, known for his escape work. He preformed shows for almost every school,all of the rubber factories in Akron for "family day" and many, many other venues. He was often referred to as the "second Houdini", My father wrote to Bessie well after her husbands death. My father sent her a drawing of the "keys" he said came to him in a dream. Anyone who knew Houdini knows what this means. She responded and sent him a personalized autographed picture of herself along with a letter.
    I was introduced to the name Harry Houdini before I could talk and saw my father preform many of Houdini's escapes. I played in the home of Ed Marshal in Akron Ohio, the man who invented and perfected many well known magic tricks. Mr Marshal was well known for the disappearing bouquet and many others.
    As a child my life was centered around escape work, magic, handwriting analysis, mind reading, and many mind over matter performances including "fire eating" with out the use of aids or tricks all preformed by my father. My father wrote 2 books on locks and keys which were self published and had the largest collection of locking devices privately owned in the US. Inspired by Houdini at a very young age he did follow in his footsteps and many say preformed equally to Houdini. He had his own Magic column in the Akron Beacon Journal.
    Unfortunately my father's tremendous skills and abilities never garnered him the respect or the fame enjoyed by Houdini due to the timing of his career start. My father is gone now but many of the articles, photos of his escape work and magic performances and his lock collection remain in our family. My father's name as a performer.. Nicola Stone. I am sure he can be found in the archives of the Akron Beacon Journal and many city news papers in several states. He loved Houdini and even though he never met him he did a lot to honor Houdini's name and memory by keeping the art of escape work alive long after Houdini's death.

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    1. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing the story of your father with us, truthseeker. Nicola Stone... I will look him up. :)

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    2. While you are looking up my father , you may find Mr Marshal an interesting subject. His given name was Horace Marshall.His family and close friends called him ED. Ed bought Mr Schlosser's company. Schlosser built the illusion "fight of time" for Houdini. When I was a child Ed and my father would "disappear" into Ed's workshop for hours developing or perfecting things Ed was working on. Ed also did many items for Blackstone.
      In Ed and Marie's home when I was 5 yrs old I saw my first colored TV ! At the time that was much more impressive to me than the magic that I saw daily as a child. The Marshall's were the first we knew who had one. Marshall was also a remarkable man. Many illusions, props and items used by magicians today can be contributed to Horace E. Marshal. I feel honored that as I child in his home, I and my brother were the first kids to ever saw these amazing creations known today as "tricks". Mr Marshall lives on albeit, behind the scenes of many magicians today.

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    3. I think I found something. Is this your dad? http://www.flickr.com/photos/nutflsh/8183625977/

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  3. Speechless! I can’t wait for the bonus.

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    1. Thanks Joe. Bonus all set for tomorrow (John Hinson sent me some great pics to use with this one). Then maybe in time I will pull out the clips about Bess and Ed Saint. Marie tells the story of when they met, etc. Maybe I'll do that one on the anniversary of Ed's death in Oct.

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    2. Awesome! I look forward to tomorrow and also to October 22 for clips on Bess and Ed Saint.

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  4. my grandmother is buried in Shrewsbury ma with her son Vincent and his wife Helen Hinson. my mother and father, she move up from new York to mass around 1976, she died 1982, Bess is buried at the Gates of Heaven in white planes NY. With her brother in law John A. Hinson died in 1972.

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    1. Thanks John. It's good to have these dates and places nailed down.

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  5. Amazing! Good insight on the burial controversy!

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    1. Yeah, I think this might put any controversy over that to rest (no pun intended).

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  6. Another remarkable recording. Thanks again for sharing these, John. (A note of trivia for those who don't know: Babe Ruth also is buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery. He died a little more than five years after Bess.)

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  7. Wow....just wow... This set of recordings is just INCREDIBLE to hear. Thanks so much for sharing all of this, John! I'm definitely looking forward to those bonus recordings! Hot damn!

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    1. Thanks Beth. Glad you're enjoying these. Bouns post coming in a few hours. I want to make sure people coming back from their Labor Day holiday see this one at the top of the page. But you'll love it.

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  8. You can see the pressure dials of Bess's oxygen tank behind her and Marie. This photo must have been taken shortly before Bess' death.

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    1. Certainly very close. This was, I believe, taken by a newspaper photographer in the nursing home right before she left for NY. At least it ran in stories about how the "terminally ill Mrs. Houdini" was going back home. There is a photo of her being loaded onto the train in Pat Culliton's book. That's gotta be the last photo of her ever taken.

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  9. BTW, what a strange piece of trivia that Cary Grant and Betty Hutton where next door to Marie on the final train to New York. And fighting all the way.

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  10. You mean that Grant and Hutton were having a marital spat on the train?

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