Monday, August 14, 2023

Dark Doyle

Over the weekend our good friend Anna Thurlow, great-granddaughter of Mina "Margery" Crandon, shared with me some letters written to Dr. Le Roi Crandon during the famous Margery-Houdini seances. One letter written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on August 27, 1924, contains this surprisingly dark sentiment:

"Something will happen to that man H. You mark my words. Better to get between the metals when an express is due, than block the way of the spirit."

We tend to think of Doyle as the creator of the virtuous Sherlock Holmes, but he was also the creator of all the dastardly murderers from those stories. He could go there! It's hard not to see this as a veiled wish that harm come to Houdini, if for no other reason than to prove this existence of avenging spirits. Although the idea of Houdini being pushed in front of an express train seems more like a tactic a person would employ than a spirit.

Dark Doyle indeed.

Want more? You can read the full letter as a member of my Patreon.


  1. A big thank you to Anna and John for this letter! Unfortunately Doyle's handwriting isn't the clearest out there. Nice to see Doyle and Crandon throw zingers at Harry. It brings them down to the level of us plebes.

  2. Not having read the full letter or those prompting it, is it possible, (if Doyle was still friendly towards Houdini) his words were of caution/concern for Houdini who is wrongly fighting powers greater than HH understands?
    Thanks for sharing this correspondence,
    Diego Domingo

    1. True. It can be read like that. Although his concern seems more for someone (Crandon) who might be standing too close to H when the spirit strikes.

    2. In Silverman pages 351-352, Doyle roasted HH in a January 26, 1925 Boston Herald newspaper article not long after this letter. It read to me like a prelude of that article.

    3. This is my reading of it-not a wish that any harm would come to HH, more a surety that "the spirits"-or what in more careless, modern terms might be called "bad juju"-would be certain to cause Houdini harm thanks to what Conan Doyle felt were bad-faith efforts. The most negative cast upon it to me is more of a "well, he asked for it" ruefulness than enmity. Grim any way you take it.

  3. I made a mistake (now cut). Houdini and Doyle's friendship came to an end in May 1924. So this letter came after their break.