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Overlooked No More: Rose Mackenberg, Houdini’s Secret ‘Ghost-Buster’
08-12-2019, 07:45 AM
Post: #1
Overlooked No More: Rose Mackenberg, Houdini’s Secret ‘Ghost-Buster’
Working undercover for the illusionist, Mackenberg exposed phony psychics who claimed they could connect people to their dead loved ones.

This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

Spiritualism, the religious movement centered on the belief that the spirit survives earthly death and can communicate with the living, was at its peak in the early 20th century; its most famous advocate was probably Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

With that movement came thousands of phony psychics claiming to be mediums who could connect people with their dead loved ones.

Harry Houdini, the renowned illusionist and escape artist, attended hundreds of séances, trying to communicate with his dead parents, before deciding that many self-described seers were in fact con artists soaking the gullible.

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He hinted at having occult powers of his own, but ultimately declared that his stage act was “merely a matter of a sleight of hand,” as Christopher Sandford related in his book “Masters of Mystery” (2011).

By 1924, however, Houdini wasn’t content with renouncing any claim to having mystical abilities of his own. That year he published “A Magician Among the Spirits,” a book in which he debunked some of the effects that mediums produced, like wobbling tables and floating objects. “Whenever any of these alleged spiritual mediums tell you that they have supernatural aid,” he told a reporter at the time, “you may safely set them down as frauds.”
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