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Old 03-23-07, 12:42 PM   #1
JasonF
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Harry Houdini Hospitalized (Update -- DEAD!)

Quote:
Was Houdini murdered? Exhumation may bring answer
POSTED: 7:42 a.m. EDT, March 23, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- For all of his death-defying stunts, Harry Houdini could not escape the Grim Reaper. The unparalleled performer, age 52, died on Halloween 1926, taking with him many of his trade secrets. Rumors he was murdered, however, soon took on a life of their own.

Eighty-one years later, Houdini's great-nephew wants to exhume the escape artist's body to determine if he was poisoned by enemies for his efforts to debunk their claims of contact with the dead.

A team of top-level forensic investigators would conduct new tests once Houdini's body was disinterred, a relative told The Associated Press.

"It needs to be looked at," said George Hardeen, whose grandfather was Houdini's brother, Theodore. "His death shocked the entire nation, if not the world. Now, maybe it's time to take a second look."

The circumstances surrounding Houdini's sudden death were as murky as the rivers from which he emerged unscathed, escaping from chains, locks and wooden boxes. The generally accepted explanation of Houdini's death is that he suffered a ruptured appendix from a punch in the stomach, leading to a fatal case of peritonitis.

But no autopsy was performed, and when the death certificate was filed on November 20, 1926, Houdini's body was already buried in Queens.

Within days, a newspaper headline wondered, "Was Houdini Murdered?" A new biography, "The Secret Life of Houdini," raised the issue again and convinced George Hardeen and others that poisoning was a real possibility.

A Friday morning news conference was scheduled for details on the exhumation plans. Prominent New York lawyer Joseph Tacopina is assisting the family in clearing any legal hurdles to the exhumation.

The likeliest murder suspects were a group known as the Spiritualists, which became Houdini's nemesis in his final years. The magician devoted large portions of his stage show to exposing what he said were fraudulent seances by the group. The movement's devotees included Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle.

Houdini will 'get his just desserts meted out'
In the Houdini biography, authors William Kalush and Larry Sloman detail a November 1924 letter from Doyle that smacks of Professor Moriarty-style malevolence: Houdini, it said, would "get his just desserts very exactly meted out. ... I think there is a general payday coming soon."

Two years later, Houdini -- by all accounts an extraordinary physical specimen -- was dead before his 53rd birthday. Kalush and Sloman noted that "the Spiritualist underworld's modus operandi in cases like this was often poisoning" -- possibly arsenic.

The biography additionally detailed the injection of "an experimental serum" into Houdini by one of his doctors at Detroit's Grace Hospital.

While Houdini took the Spiritualists' repeated death threats seriously, he traveled without the security trappings now de rigeur for celebrities -- no bodyguard, no entourage, often just his wife Bess.

"If someone were hell-bent on poisoning Houdini," the authors wrote, "it wouldn't have been very difficult."

Pathologists question 'appendicitis' caused by punch
The team working on the exhumation includes internationally known forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, and Professor James Starrs, a forensic pathologist who has studied the disinterred remains of gunslinger Jesse James and "Boston Strangler" Albert DeSalvo.

Baden, who chaired panels reinvestigating the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., pointed out a pair of oddities in Houdini's death certificate: It noted his appendix was on the left side, rather than the right. And the diagnosis of appendicitis caused by a punch was "very unusual."

Starrs said he was long familiar with the story of Houdini's death, and believed the fatal injury was the result of an accident. Details contained in the Houdini biography convinced him otherwise.

"My eyebrows went up when I read this book," Starrs said. "I thought, `This is really startling, surprising and unsettling, and at bottom, suspicious in nature."'

'Spirit' cursed Houdini at seance
The exhumation plan received support from a surprising source: Anna Thurlow, the great-granddaughter of "medium" Margery, whose husband, Dr. Le Roi Crandon, was one of the Spiritualist movement's biggest proponents -- and one of Houdini's most virulent enemies.

During a 1924 seance, Margery "channeled" a "spirit" named Walter who greeted Houdini with a threat: "I put a curse on you now that will follow you every day for the rest of your short life."

The prediction of a short life was all too real, and Thurlow believes there may be a connection.

"With people that delusional, you have to question what they're capable of,"' she said. "If there's any circumstantial evidence that Houdini was poisoned, we have to explore that."
http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/03/23/houdini.murder.ap/

I find it vaguely ironic that Houdini may "speak" from beyond the grave to help us figure out whether he was murdered.

If Houdini was murdered, I feel sorry for Gordon Whitehead -- the guy who punched Houdini in the stomach and has long been blamed for Houdini's death. Whitehead was well-intentioned -- one of Houdini's stunts was taking a punch in the stomach, and Whitehead was just trying to participate in the stunt. But he caught Houdini unaware, before he had a chance to tense his stomach muscles, and the punch either ruptured Houdini's appendix or caused enough abdominal pain to mask a coincidental bout of appendicitis that led to a ruptured appendix.
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Old 03-23-07, 12:47 PM   #2
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Waste of time and money, but as long as the taxpayer isn't footing the bill I guess I don't mind.
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Old 03-23-07, 01:03 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs. Groucho
Waste of time and money, but as long as the taxpayer isn't footing the bill I guess I don't mind.
I dunno -- it seems no more a waste of time and money than any other exploration of history. In recent years, we've conducted forensic examinations to determine whether President Zachary Taylor and Tutankhamen were murdered, so why not Houdini?
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Old 03-23-07, 01:11 PM   #4
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I think Houdini's death was pretty straightforward. Otherwise, that's one hell of a coincidence.
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Old 03-23-07, 01:17 PM   #5
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Harry Houdini Hospitalized (Update -- DEAD!)
It should read Harry Houdini Hospitalized (Update-- STILL DEAD!)
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Old 03-23-07, 01:29 PM   #6
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next year we can expect The History Channel to do a show investigating who killed him. Just like the stupid one they did about Julius Ceasar
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Old 03-23-07, 01:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy
next year we can expect The History Channel to do a show investigating who killed him. Just like the stupid one they did about Julius Ceasar
and King Tut
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Old 03-23-07, 01:33 PM   #8
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They can have Josh Bernstein dig him up.
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Old 03-23-07, 01:44 PM   #9
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Never mind that, who's the father of his baby.
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Old 03-23-07, 02:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JasonF
http://www.cnn.com/2007/LAW/03/23/houdini.murder.ap/

I find it vaguely ironic that Houdini may "speak" from beyond the grave to help us figure out whether he was murdered.

If Houdini was murdered, I feel sorry for Gordon Whitehead -- the guy who punched Houdini in the stomach and has long been blamed for Houdini's death. Whitehead was well-intentioned -- one of Houdini's stunts was taking a punch in the stomach, and Whitehead was just trying to participate in the stunt. But he caught Houdini unaware, before he had a chance to tense his stomach muscles, and the punch either ruptured Houdini's appendix or caused enough abdominal pain to mask a coincidental bout of appendicitis that led to a ruptured appendix.
From Wiki:

Quote:
The most widespread account is that Houdini's ruptured appendix was caused by multiple blows to his abdomen from a McGill University student, J. Gordon Whitehead, in Montreal on October 22. Another possibilty suggested is poisoning. The eyewitnesses to this event were two McGill University students named Jacques Price and Sam Smilovitz (sometimes called Jack Price and Sam Smiley). Their accounts generally agreed. The following is according to Price's description of events. Houdini was reclining on his couch after his performance, having an art student sketch him. When Whitehead came in and asked if it was true that Houdini could take any blow to the stomach, Houdini replied in the affirmative. In this instance, he was struck several times, before Houdini protested. Whitehead reportedly continued hitting Houdini several times afterwards, and Houdini acted as though he were in some pain. Price recounted that Houdini stated that if he had had time to prepare himself properly, he would have been in better position to take the blows. After taking statements from Price and Smilovitz, Houdini's insurance company concluded that the death was due to the dressing room incident and paid double indemnity.
Not that well intentionned if you ask me... Damn those Montreal McGill University students sullying my alma mater.
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Old 03-23-07, 02:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy
next year we can expect The History Channel to do a show investigating who killed him. Just like the stupid one they did about Julius Ceasar
And the 750 stupid ones they've done about JFK.
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Old 03-23-07, 02:30 PM   #12
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I just want Geraldo to open his tomb.
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Old 03-23-07, 02:54 PM   #13
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I don't buy into the murder theory at all. As with the Zachary Taylor thing, it's a cheap way for people (if they're right) to get notoriety and into the history books by attaching themselves to a famous person.
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Old 03-23-07, 02:58 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JasonF
Harry Houdini Hospitalized (Update -- DEAD!)
Wow, a thread bump from 1926!

I've always thought the official version was accurate, but since he was also the James Randi of his day, the results could be interesting.
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Old 03-23-07, 03:33 PM   #15
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I wish someone would punch David Blaine.
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Old 03-23-07, 04:44 PM   #16
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The son of "The Big Bopper" (who had died with Buddy Holly and the others) just had his dad dug up and checked out, since there was a long standing rumor that he was shot with a gun by someone on the plane and didn't die in the plane crash - but crawled away after it crashed and was either shot then or before.

Anyway, they did the autopsy and they didn't find any bullets, just his body all bashed up - from injuries suffered in a major plane crash.
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Old 03-23-07, 05:46 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Rockmjd23
They can have Josh Bernstein dig him up.
Better yet:



Geraldo Rivera!!! Maybe he'll find Al Capone's treasure entombed with Houdini!
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Old 03-23-07, 08:38 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs. Groucho
Waste of time and money, but as long as the taxpayer isn't footing the bill I guess I don't mind.
Not to worry. All the bills should disappear immediately after being created.
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