Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Houdini letter to cemetery fails to sell in auction.

Click to enlarge
A letter in which Houdini spells out precisely who should be buried in the Weiss family plot at Machpelah Cemetery failed to sell yesterday at a Swann auction of Autographs and Revolutionary Americana (Sale 2276, Lot 260). The letter, which was written in May 1925, carried an estimate of $4000 - $6000. I suspect it didn't reach the reserve.

I've seen this letter sourced in biographies, but I've never seen the actual document itself. It's pretty fascinating. It's also easy enough to read between the lines and see that Houdini making certain that his brother Leopold, for whom he held a deep grudge, doesn't make it into the family plot. This letter also explains why none of his brothers spouses are buried in Machpelah. Apart from Bess, this was clearly "Weiss Only."

But one thing that really jumps out at me here is that Houdini says that his sister, Carrie Gladys Weiss, went by the name of Gladys Houdini. How interesting that she would adopt the "Houdini" name. I hadn't heard this before, but this helped solve a mystery in preparation for my Top Secret presentation at the Magic Collectors Weekend next month.

Of course, Houdini's instructions were not entirely followed. The dreaded Leo did make it into the family plot, although his headstone, as well as the headstone of Carrie Gladys, are currently in storage. Also, Bessie was not buried with her husband, as we know.

Thanks to Kevin Connolly at Houdini Himself for the tip.


  1. Too bad inivisible tape wasn't invented before this letter was drafted. The detoriated tape on this letter looks awful.

  2. You can still buy items after the auction is closed,if they didn't sell or meet reserve.

    Also, Houdini's family had another plot in Machpelah Cemetery. I wonder who is buried there, besides Uncle Neuman.

  3. I was wondering what Houdini meant by a second plot. I thought maybe he meant there was the first plot with his parents original headstones -- and then he bought a second plot adjacent so he could expand it into one large plot (but on the books it remained 2 plots).

    But there's another Machpelah plot? Is it nearby? Also, Uncle Neuman is a new one to me. Spill!

  4. I'm sure that this document is properly stored. Thank you very much for sharing.