Alternate Realities: Who Killed Harry Houdini?

Alternate Realities: Who Killed Harry Houdini?

[ReviewAZON name=”Houdini” id=”72″ display=”inlinepost” asin=”0743272072″ trackingid=”mywebsource1-20″ country=”us” width=”200px” float=”left” imagetop=”10px”]Harry Houdini was a famous magician and escape artist. He was world famous for his ability to get out of incredible traps. However, he couldn’t escape death at the age of 52 after having severe appendicitis. But is this how he really died? Some people believe that Houdini was actually murdered. Who would want to kill a magician? The following is a list of groups or people who killed Harry Houdini…or did they?



This is not to say that Houdini committed suicide.  Harry Houdini was a hard worker who didn’t find a lot of time to rest. He was on a performance tour at the time of his death. He was over 50, working late into the night, and didn’t have time to stop for much of anything – including his own health.  In the 1920s, people died from appendicitis.  They still do today, but it isn’t as common.  Could Houdini have ignored the pain in his abdomen and pushed himself too hard?



The official story was that Houdini died of peritonitis, which occurred from a ruptured appendix. Peritonitis happens when the thin lining of the abdomen is ripped and causes and infection brought on by internal organs. While Houdini was performing at the Princess Theater in Montreal, Houdini was approached by three McGill University students.  One of them, J. Gordon Whitehead, heard that Houdini could withstand a punch to the abdomen from anyone.  Houdini told him it was true, and while he was standing up, Whitehead hit him several times in the stomach before Houdini was prepared.  This caused the damage to occur and Houdini died in Detroit on Halloween night, 1926. This is the official story that is generally attributed to his death.  Some say that Whitehead was hired to do this. No positive connection was ever made.



One of Houdini’s goals was to discredit spiritualists who said they could talk with the dead. There was a huge wave of sensationalism on this after World War One and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.  People wanted to speak with their deceased relatives.  One of these people was Harry Houdini who lost his mother in 1913.  What Houdini found out was that most of these mediums were charlatans and he spent several years debunking their claims.  As you can imagine, the spiritualists were upset by this bad publicity because they were losing a lot of money. One of the people who was initially friends with Houdini, was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame).  His wife was a spiritualist who was discredited by Houdini and Doyle hated the magician for it.  Did he have a reason to kill the escape artist? Did some other spiritualist try to stop Houdini from disclaiming their lies?



According to a book released in 2006, The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman, Harry Houdini was also a spy. It is possible that Houdini was working for both American and British Intelligence agencies as he was working his way through eastern Europe. Additionally, he may have helped the Germans with information on wanted criminals and Russian anarchists. Did Houdini put his own life in jeopardy by helping foreign nations spy on one another? Did someone feel that he knew too much?



When a murder occurs, investigators often look for a motive from one of the people closest to the victim.  In this case, it would have been Houdini’s wife, Bess. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Bess may have been mad as hell.  As it turns out, Houdini had an eye for the women.  One woman, in particular, was Charmian London – the widow of writer Jack London. According to Houdini biographer, Kenneth Silverman, there are several entries in Charmian’s diaries that make mention of “H.H., her magic man” and “magic lover”. Did Bess find out about this affair with Charmian? After Houdini died, Bess paid one of the three witnesses to the Montreal punching incident $200 for telling the story as it was an accident instead of just his appendix. This afforded her the double indemnity clause of Houdini’s life insurance policy.  Was this planned or was she trying to make more money from his death? She gained a lot more money from it being an “accident”…