Monday, February 11, 2019

The widows deaths

Today marks the 76th anniversary of the death of Bess Houdini on February 11, 1943. To mark the occasion, here's an article from Variety that ran shortly after her passing. I was not aware of this!

Variety, February 17, 1943.

Bess did know Paula Thurston, who was actually the magician's fourth wife. The widows had considered the idea of holding a joint seance in 1936 to contact both Houdini and Thurston (as well as Charles Carter). I'm shocked to learn Paula died at only age 33. But from what little is written about her in Jim Steinmeyer's excellent Thurston biography, The Last Greatest Magician in the World (where I nicked the above photo), I suspect it was related to alcoholism. 



  1. Strange and sad coincidence. I was also interested to read that Bess's tea room on W. 49th lasted several years; I had thought it was much more short-lived. Also interesting to hear it was in the same area where Rockefeller Center now stands (presumably between 5th and 6th, nearer to 5th). Prime Manhattan real estate, even in those years.

    1. Yeah, I was under the impression that it didn't last that long. (This article makes a few errors.) But it is true it was located in what became Rockerfeller Center. I did a little post on it here. BTW, I've never seen a pic of the outside. Would love that.

    2. Oh, thank you - I never saw your tea room post! What a marvelous article! That must've been a fabulous place to visit, especially with magicians gathering there between and after shows, and Bess in charge. I think it would've been approximately where the 49th Street entrance to Simon & Schuster now stands. There may not be a NYC tax photo, though, as the photos online are from around 1940, and Rockefeller Center was, I believe, 1939 (alas). Though someone out there may have a photo or sketch! Interestingly, there is still a standalone building on the corner of 49th & 6th that was probably built around 1900 and would be the single remaining example of the architecture in the area.

    3. I love it. I'll make a pilgrimage to the spot on my next trip to NYC. Would like to check out that building as well. I'm betting there's a Starbucks nearby so I can have the full experience. :)

    4. Haha! ("Mrs. Harry Houdini's Starbucks Rendevous..."!)