I just finished reading The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero
. It’s a fascinating book, and Houdini is definitely on my list of People to Visit Once I’ve Acquired a Time Machine. Meanwhile, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is still on the list, but whereas previously I only wanted to thank him for creating Sherlock Holmes, now I also want to smack him in the back of the head and yell, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG
WITH YOU?” Apparently, the Doyle-Houdini relationship can be boiled down to:
Harry Houdini: Hi! Actually, it’s more complicated than that, since although Houdini was relentless in exposing fraudulent mediums he truly hoped to find proof of existence after death. Conan Doyle’s wife offered to put Houdini in touch with his deceased mother, and through automatic writing produced a long message in English that was headed by a hand-drawn cross. Given that the late Cecilia Weiss was (1) Jewish and (2) could neither speak nor write English, Houdini didn’t find the episode all that convincing. The deathblow to the friendship between Doyle and Houdini was an article the latter wrote, “Spirit Compacts Unfulfilled,” in which he stated, “I am perfectly willing to believe, but…I have never seen or heard anything that could convince me that there is a possibility of communication with the loved ones who have gone beyond.”
Arthur Conan Doyle: That escape from the locked milk can filled with water was awesome! You’ve got mystic powers, right?
HH: Uh, no. I’m a stage magician.
ACD: Whatever. I’m totally into Spiritualism.
HH: Hey, I used to do a spook act with the wife. Check it out—I’M IN UR SÉANCE, READING UR MIND.
ACD: WOW U R TOTALLY PSYCHIC!!!
HH: Dude, it’s a trick. Chill.
ACD: OMG WHY R U DENYING UR POWERZ! U R TEH EV0L!!!