The episode kicks off with Houdini, Doyle and Adelaide aboard an ocean liner bound for North America. Houdini is bringing his deceased mother back to the U.S. for burial in New York while Doyle and Adelaide are off to investigate a homicidal poltergeist in Canada.
But Thomas Edison is the real focus of this episode. Edison uses his "Necrophone" to channel the dead and gives a convincing demonstration of the device at the scene of an alleged poltergeist murder. Houdini, a friend of Nikoli Tesla, is no friend to Edison, and is skeptical of his "glorified Ouija board." The story plays out at an estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada and features lots of spooky haunted house action. At one point, Edison's Necrophone appears to reach the spirit of Houdini's mother.
But the only person who actually returns from the dead is Adelaide's husband, who confesses he's been working with the secret service and faked his death. Speaking of Adelaide, this episode finally features a kiss between Houdini and the good constable! I'm been waiting for this, and the scene was very well played by Michael Weston and Rebecca Liddiard, who have nice chemistry. (This got a big reaction on Twitter last night -- #HoudiniAndDoyle even trended during the East Coast feed.)
Ultimately, the murderer is exposed as human and Edison destroys his Necrophone, fearing he has "opened a doorway to Hell." But one thing Houdini can't explain is the repeated appearance of a mysterious young woman who seems to be following him. She even appears (and disappears) at his mother's grave. Is she a stalker or a ghost? It looks like they're saving the answer for the season finale next week.
Just the Facts
This episode opens with a transatlantic ocean voyage. In real life, Houdini suffered from terrible sea sickness. Just the sight of a ship in the harbor would make him feel queasy. But here Adelaide is the sick one.
Edison also claimed that he was working on a device that could communicate with the dead. Nothing ever came of his "Telephone to the Dead", but the idea persists today with EVP (electronic voice phenomena). In 2013, EVP was employed at the annual Official Houdini Seance in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The medium later claimed a positive result.
Despite Edison's spiritualistic predilections, it's likely Houdini was an admirer. Certainly Edison's inventions played a large part in his world. Houdini's adopted hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin was the first U.S. city to have electric street lights. Houdini also famously recorded his voice on an Edison wax cylinder in 1914. He also kept an electric chair in his home, said to be an Edison original from Sing Sing, but more likely a dime museum mock-up which reminded him of his early days. [Read: Houdini's electric chair - the shocking truth.]
The Brothers Houdini in their youth. When Houdini found fame in Europe, he sent for Dash. There he set him up with his own escape act and even provided him with a stage name: Hardeen. Dash would perform as Hardeen throughout his life and carry on the act after Houdini died.
This episode suggests conflict between the brothers over how to handle Mama's death. While there was no conflict between Houdini and Dash (who was with Cecilia when she died), Houdini later turned his wrath on his youngest brother, Leopold, whom he partly blamed for their mother's death. In my opinion, it would have been better if the brother in this scene would have been Leopold, and Hardeen could have been saved for season 2 (if we get it).
Finally, the scene in which Houdini grieves at his mother's grave is certainly a moment that the real Houdini experienced. Houdini visited his mother's grave in Machpelah Cemetery in Queens on a regular basis. He would also say Kaddish, as we see him do here, over both the graves of his mother and father on the anniversaries of their deaths. In 1916, he dedicated a large marble excedra in the memory of his parents which still stands today.
Next Monday: Houdini & Doyle concludes with the season finale, "The Pall of LaPier."
Houdini and Edison illustration by Marco Roblin from the unpublished Edge of the Unknown II.
- Houdini speaks in 1970
- Official seance medium claims to have captured Houdini's voice
- Hardeen joins Houdini & Doyle
- The real story of Houdini & Doyle