If theater managers feared audiences had forgotten Houdini during his five year hiatus from vaudeville, those fears were quickly put to rest. Houdini was as popular as ever. His movies had provided an avalanche of publicity and audiences were thrilled to now see "Houdini in Person." What they saw was the same act he had presented years earlier; Needles, straitjacket, The Water Torture Cell, and challenges from local businesses. He did experiment with a few new feats, such as being tied to a post inside a ring of burning flames in San Fransisco. He also may have tried his Water Torture Cell escape in full view of the audience in a few select theaters.
Having given spiritualistic debunking demonstrations as part of his The Man From Beyond roadshow the previous year, Houdini now presented a more fleshed-out lecture, compete with a slide show. He gave these in several cities on his tour as well as at colleges. Publicity for his lecture in Los Angeles eclipsed his regular act at the Hillstreet Theatre, especially as he had become embroiled in a bizarre spirit photograph mystery at the First Spiritualist Church. But Angelenos could still see the old Houdini in action with a suspended straitjacket escape from the Examiner building and an escape from a ball and chain at the bottom of the swimming pool at the Ambassador Hotel (possibly his last outdoor water escape).
Always quick to embrace new technology, Houdini began giving short talks on radio, spelling out his beliefs on spiritualism and giving magic lessons. He also became a Mason.
While appearing in Denver, Houdini met up with his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was in town on his own lecture tour. The subject of spiritualism, which had initially bound them, was now putting a strain on the friendship. Doyle was especially troubled by a splashy multipart series of articles that appeared in the Oakland Tribune under the banner headline, Houdini Unmasks the Mediums. "It is so filled with errors that I don't know where to begin," said Doyle. The author felt compelled to write a detailed rebuttal in the paper, bringing their private debate into the public and putting more strain on their friendship.
Houdini's high profile position on Spiritualism earned him an invitation to join a committee formed by the Scientific American magazine that would investigate claims of true mediumship. This gave Houdini the opportunity to go head to head with notable mediums of the day, such as George Valiantine and Nino Pecoraro. These colorful encounters garnered headlines across the country. While Houdini may have started the year in his old guise of Mystifier, he ended it with a new identity; Debunker.
On Christmas Eve, Conan Doyle penned Houdini an angry letter, stating, "You can't bitterly and offensively--often also untruly--attack a subject and yet expect courtesies from those who honor that subject."
Houdini's answer might have best been expressed by the old show business axiom; You ain't seen nothing yet!