From handcuffs and straitjackets to sealed water tanks, Harry Houdini, one of America’s first superstars, could escape from virtually anything. So confident in his abilities was he that he intended to defy his last inescapable prospect — death.
Jon Stetson “America’s Master Mentalist” acts as medium in an interactive theatrical act planned for Thursday, Oct. 31, at 7 p.m. at Dickens Parlour Theatre in Millville, in an attempt to contact the great illusionist from beyond the grave.
Halloween marks the anniversary of the death of Houdini. Each year after the legendary magician’s death, a tribute in the form of a séance has been conducted on that day. During Houdini’s life, he made a pact to communicate from “the other side” if possible, and left three different codes with three people, including his wife, Bess Houdini, that he would use if he were able to reach across the chasm of death, giving people a way to know it was the real Houdini.
Houdini requested that Bess hold a séance annually on the anniversary of his death for the first 10 years after his passing. Houdini died Oct. 31, 1926, at 1:26 p.m. By 1936, the conclusion of the first 10 years, Bess had not received their code and stopped holding the séance. However, Houdini’s brother Hardeen was unwilling to quit and the tradition continued.
Hardeen took on a protégé, an escape artist/magician named Sid Radner. Their friendship flourished and deepened to the point that Sid started attending the séances in the 1940s. When Hardeen was ready to stop, Sid was ready to continue, and he did. Radner passed away in 2011.
On several occasions, Radner called upon Jon Stetson to act as medium for the annual ritual, so Stetson is considered the “official” medium for the Houdini séance, and will appear at the Oct. 31 event at Dickens Parlour Theatre. Stetson had made more than 50 national television appearances and has performed in 23 countries. He has also been invited to perform at the White House on five occasions.