Sunday, February 18, 2024

Houdini's war on fake mediums began 100 years ago today

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of Houdini's first lecture tour exposing the practices of fake spirit mediums. The tour kicked off at the Plaza Theatre in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 18, 1924. The only reason I know this is thanks to a program in the Harry Ransom Center that Houdini himself annotated as being "very rare."

Houdini's first tour ran for five weeks. He called it "Unmasking the Miracle Mongers" and concluded the lectures with the Double Fold Death-Defying Mystery. This sometimes led to confusion as to what kind of Houdini "show" this was supposed to be. 

Houdini would drop the escapes for his second tour later in the year and also changed the name to what you see on the famous poster above (which I don't think many people realize was made for his lecture tour, not his vaudeville act).

Houdini's lectures truly kicked off his war on fraudulent spirit mediums.

Want more? You can see the program for Houdini's East Stroudsburg lecture on my Patreon below. Also, this month's free reward lists all the known stops on Houdini's tour. Is your town on the list?


  1. Hey, I hate mediums too! Unfortunately there are so many frauds even today, so I wonder how Houdini would have used modern technology to debunk them!

    1. He would have used some type of Powerpoint presentation from a laptop instead of slides for his lectures. Maybe night vision goggles during seances. Cell phone video to record the fraud in action. But all I see these days are card/palm readers, and fortune tellers. Fraudsters have moved on from phony seances.

  2. Houdini did a great service by exposing the bunco crimes of fraudulent mediums in his time. As a magician and retired law enforcement officer, it was Houdini who inspired me to teach the public and law enforcement about bunco crimes in con games and carnival game fraud.

    Some of the bunco uses principles of magic, laws of physics and principles of science. I would only reveal the secret of the magic move if I had to demonstrate for the judge or jurors or when I had to show the LEO's how the fraud was committed.