Saturday, February 27, 2016

LINK: Houdini and Bess – The Sing Sing Connection

Chuck Romano has an excellent post on his blog My Magic Uncle about Harry and Bess Houdini's strange connection to Charles Chapin, the former editor of the New York World who was imprisoned in Sing Sing for the murder of his wife. Not only did Houdini regularly visit Chapin in prison, but Bess started up a correspondence with him after Houdini's death and at one point it was reported the two would marry!

This is a largely new story to me, so click the headline and have a read at My Magic Uncle.


  1. Romano wonders how HH would have felt if he had outlived Bess and discovered the romantic letters between her and Chapin. I doubt those letters would have existed if HH hadn't died. Bess was lonely and needed to extend a hand.

  2. I've done my own research on this, and it seems that the Bess/Chapin "romance" was cooked up by the infamous Rea Jaure, journalist for the "New York Graphic", a tabloid rag. Bess and Harry had been friends or at least acquaintances of Chapin, and Bess continued to write to him after Harry's death. After the Ford seance, Jaure weaseled her way into an interview with Bess, urging her to give her some letters from Chapin and "make thousands" with a phony story. When Bess refused, Jaure published an "expose," which got her a nice million-dollar lawsuit from Bess.

    For the particulars, see the January 11, 1929 edition of the "Klamath News." Interesting stuff.


    1. Excellent Meredith! Thank you for this. That Rea Jaure was bad news. Glad to have this clarified.

  3. An interesting side note to this story is the escape form the hangman's noose. Harry performed it in his Sing Sing Christmas Eve show in 1924. This must be the Jesse James Hanging Trick. It's the third mention of the performance of this effect that I am aware of.

    1. Yeah, good catch. At some point we have to figure out exactly what this was. At the moment I feel like it's a lost Houdini effect.

  4. It's an idea for a blog post: The Lost Houdini Effects. I'm sure there are a few more out there.

    There must be a description of HH performing the JJ trick in a newspaper review somewhere.

  5. For the record, the Houdini's were the only ones visiting Chapin after his fall from grace.
    Mr. Chapin was so touched by their kindness he arranged to have house plants he grew in the prison
    sent to the Houdini home. One of which was a corn plant that I now own.
    Bess did not like him, and soon after Houdini death Chapin tried to win Bessies heart. In fact he told
    her that he would not accept parole unless Bess would marry him.
    That was the last time she went to see him
    Jon Oliver

    1. Wow, great info, Jon. Thank you.

      You have a 90+ year old plant?


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