Monday, April 18, 2011


Here's one that has me scratching my head. Recently I acquired a catalog from the Dunninger Collection sale in 1988, and for sale inside was this candid photo of Houdini and the infamous Mina Crandon aka Margery the Medium.

Far from being a portrait of the bitter enemies that has come down through history (some even implicate Margery in Houdini's death), this photo shows them to be VERY friendly indeed. I mean, look at this! He's holding her hand and turning on that old Houdini charm. He wasn't even this amorous with his on-screen leading ladies. Other photos taken during this session show a grimly serious Houdini, but certainly not here.

Of course, maybe Houdini is just lulling her into a false sense of security before he brings the hammer down on her bogus act. Or maybe the Margery story is more complex than we know? Interestingly, the famous photo of Margery at her front door, which was used in her own publicity, was taken by Houdini.


  1. I wonder when the photos were taken in the whole process of examining her for Scientific American.

    Maybe they were taken before any seances had been held and before he exposed her.

    If that's the timing, he might have had a friendly demeanor, either as a matter of politeness, or to try to appear fair-minded and non-judgmental, or because she was being friendly.

  2. Who is conning who I wonder. Although she did say he was the only one she had any respect for, didn't she?

  3. Perhaps it is simply a case of "hate the sin, lover the sinner" for both.

  4. There were a few pictures taken all in one sequence, of which this was one. The most famous of this sequence is the photo in which J Malcom Bird joins them. All of pictures were by Houdini and he sent a copy of them to Margery, and she asked him not to publish them for the sake of her reputation. The doorway is not actually that of 10 Lime street, which was not recessed, but that of a neighbor's.

    My sense is that there was a genuine respect between the two, perhaps due to their somewhat similar backgrounds (largely self-educated, constantly in the company of ivy league men) and innate generosity of spirit. However I do not think there was more to the relationship than that, and whatever potential affection they might have had for each other was exitinguished by the harsh realities of the publc eye and controversy.

    1. Thank you, Anna. Interesting that that wasn't the actual doorway of 10 Lime St. Never knew that.

      Yeah, I think you're spot on with your assessment of Houdini and Margery. Did you happen to see the Jim Steinmeyer's play, The Card Trick? He really captured what you are saying here.

  5. No I haven't seen it, but I did just read your review. I really enjoy your blog and website, by the way.