Beatrice Houdini

Beatrice or Bess Houdini was born Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner on January 23, 1876, in Brooklyn, New York. Like her famous husband, Bess came from a large German speaking immigrant family and was bitten by the showbiz bug in her teens.

Bess was working at Coney Island in a song and dance act called The Floral Sisters when she was first courted by Houdini's younger brother, Dash (aka Theo Hardeen). But it was the older Houdini brother, Harry, that she fell in love with and married on June 22, 1894.

Bess and Harry worked as The Houdinis for several years before Houdini hit it big as The Handcuff King. But he and Bess continued to occasionally perform the Metamorphosis. Bess also looked after their menagerie of pets, collected dolls, and made the costumes for Houdini's full evening show. She also said it was her duty to make sure her absent-minded husband was dressed well and had clean ears.

By all accounts, Bessie was strong-willed and very spirited. While her husband was a teetotaler, Bess enjoyed drinking and she also smoked. Following Houdini's death in 1926, Bess struggled with money, alcohol, and was the target of unethical spiritualists and journalists out to exploit her. She twice attempted suicide.

In 1930 Bess met Edward Saint who became her companion and manager (and some say secret husband). Together they moved to Hollywood where they held a Final Houdini Seance atop the roof of the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. Bess also helped form the MagiGals, a group of female magicians and enthusiasts which included Gerri Larsen, the mother of Magic Castle co-founders Bill and Milt Larsen. In 1938 she appeared as herself in the film Religious Racketeers.

Bess remained a much loved and respected fixture at magic conventions until her death on February 11, 1943 aboard a train in Needles, California. She is buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY.