Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The final cut

Click to enlarge.
We seem to be in the season of Dr. Leopold Weiss, with the recent discovery of a family Bible and other revelations about the estranged brother Houdini called "Doc." So today I thought I'd share this article from The Bridgeport Telegram dated November 16, 1926, just a few weeks after Houdini's death.

As we know, Houdini and Leopold had a falling out when Leo married Sadie Glantz, the Hungarian ex-wife of another brother, Nathan. The precise details of the family drama are not entirely known, but Houdini's displeasure took many forms, including cutting Leo's head out of family portraits and forbidding his burial in the Weiss family plot.

Even after death, Houdini struck, as this article records. Houdini's Will stipulated that the dreaded Sadie, and by extension, Leo, would receive nothing from his estate. Ironically, Leo's own estate at this time may have been larger than Houdini's, which was ultimately declared insolvent.

Leo's life did not play out so well after Houdini's death. A census taken in 1935 shows him still married to Sadie; but at some point, she vanishes from his life, either by death or divorce. Leo retired from his lucrative practice as a radiologist in 1949 due to increasing blindness (some say caused by repeated X-ray exposure). In 1962 he committed suicide by leaping from the roof of his apartment building in the Inwood area of Manhattan.

Leo left all his worldly goods to his long-time former nurse, Marguerite Elliott. But Marguerite's husband forbid her from accepting, so all that was left of the last living Weiss sibling was thrown out.

But Leo scored one victory in the end. Even though Houdini had excommunicated him, he was buried in the family plot in Machpelah cemetery, though today his gave is unmarked due to vandalism. Whatever happened to Sadie in life or death is unknown.

Leopold and Sadie Glantz Weiss.

UPDATEGuest blog: Leopold and Sady Weiss: Why Houdini Wasn’t Happy.



  1. HH's estate was insolvent? I don't think I've ever read this.

    1. Yep, it took a several months, but when all the bills etc. were tallied, it was deemed insolvent. There were articles in the papers about it at the time. I had pulled one down from to share in a post, but now I can't find it.

  2. I'm not surprised, money always burned a hole in HH's pockets 😄

  3. This is interesting, something new I did not know. Why was it insolvent? Estate planning or a poor businessman? What did he owe? I thought he owned expensive properties in NY and California, or, was it that he did not own the propert(ies) in California? Was he just a house guest or did he rent? Does anyone have any clue about what he was earning back in the day? I had read in some stories he was wealthy. Or maybe he was, but he lost it, perhaps, in investments such as his movie business? Anyway, perhaps this warrants an blog if its own? Thanks for the info.

  4. He made a lot of money and at one point he had amassed a pretty good fortune. He was making around $2000 a week in vaudeville, which is extraordinary for this time. He owned 278 outright. But he invested and lost a great amount of money in his motion picture ventures. When he toured in 1923, it was because he had to for the money. He continued to earn large amounts of money, but it flowed out to staff, collecting, and never ending legal fees battling mediums. And you hear stories of old magicians (and their mothers) that he supported. At the time of his death, I believe he had somewhere around $200,000 in the bank, which is still a nice bit of money in 1926. But when all was paid out and done, it was gone. The money Bess got was from the sale of 278 and insurance.

  5. In the Untold Story, Christopher notes: "When his will was filed, liability exceeded assets by several thousand dollars. According to Christopher, HH's assets added up to $69,995.16 which included cash, books, personal effects, and stocks and bonds. The stocks and bonds weren't worth much. Probably much less after 1929.

    Liabilities included $30,024.19 for the funeral and administration of the estate, and $46,366.73 in debts, and a $693.99 commission to the executrix. It appears Bess left holding the stick for $7.089.75, but the money paid out from life insurance and the sale of 278 covered that and still left her with some nest egg money.

    I wonder if Bess left behind any money or if she spent it up to the very end.

  6. What about the value of all his magical equipment willed to Hardeen? Anyone know how much life insurance?

  7. I don't believe Leopold was completely cut out of the will. From Joel Miller's article about the will in Magicol, later reprinted in Genii, after bequests were made to Bess, Theo, the Lib of Congress, his assistants, and SAM, the remaining assets were to but put in trust and income from the trust was to be distributed between Bess and the five siblings (including Leopold). If Bess died, then it would have been redistributed, and if Leopold were still married to Sadie at that point, he would have been completely cut out at that time. This is all moot, since there weren't any assets to go into the trust.

  8. According to Eduardo's bio, Bess raked in something like half a million dollars in combined payouts from various insurance companies.

    The props willed to Hardeen were certainly worth a chunk of money, the USD alone cost HH something like $10,000 to build. Since they were passed on to Hardeen instead of liquidated for cash, there was no money to be made from them.

    1. Oh, so the estate was insolvent but only after all bequests were made? I thought it was insolvent before bequests, and all assets first sold to pay debts and before any bequests were made? Any estate lawyers out there?


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