Friday, June 7, 2024

Bess and the "bad woman"

While reading Houdini: His Life Story by Harold Kellock recently, the following paragraph jumped out at me as containing an intriguing mystery:

Page 209: Another lady of the halls who cut a wide swathe among the European nobility bobs up in the diary for a time. She was on the same bill with Houdini and elected to make a confidante of Mrs. Houdini. She was a rare dark beauty. Her apartment was fitted in queenly splendor, and in the boudoir her pink perfection reposed on sheets of finest black satin. An amorous German prince had presented her with a toilet set of pure gold, and her jewels represented the taxed sweat of thousands of peasants of several countries. "I think –– must be a bad woman," Houdini confided to his diary, and speculated as to whether he was doing right in permitting his wife to associate with her.... The former idol of princes is now fifty and has settled down as a saleswoman in a five-and-ten emporium in New York City.

As this woman was still alive in 1927-8 (at age 50), it's clear Kellock is being careful not to name her. So who was she? All we know is what we have above. Is that enough to suss out the identity of the "bad woman"?

Please share any thoughts or ideas in the comments below.


  1. The diary might have her name. Good luck with that. She was on the same bill, so a rough time line might help.

  2. It might be an idea (made easier if in public domain) to publish a quality, but not expensive reprint of this bio, which could be greatly enhanced with additional notes/commentary.

    1. It's a great idea and I've long thought about doing that myself. In fact, I almost did it this year. But a lot of Kellock is his early years and I already tackled so much of that in the upcoming diary book. I wanted to move on and get working on the proper chronology books. But maybe in 2028 for the 100th anniversary unless someone does it first. There's a lot of great stuff in Kellock.

    2. A great idea! Hardeen said this book was full of lies. You can fix that.