Lot 236

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Beatrice Houdini Detailed Description of Husband's Death 1 Week After, "The world has lost a Genius, but I have lost my Man"

Beatrice Houdini (1876-1943). Autograph Letter Signed, "Beatrice Houdini", 3pp on 3 sheets of black-bordered mourning stationery with an image of Harry Houdini at upper left, 8” x 10.5”, New York, November 9, 1926. Expected mailing folds and minor creases. Some light soiling and discoloration from previous paper clip at top left. Two file holes at left do not affect the legibility of the darkly penned text. In near fine condition. Part of a recent foreign find; not on the market for over fifty years. 

This is one of the greatest pieces of Houdini memorabilia in existence, and is to our knowledge unpublished; a new discovery buried for decades in Germany and unknown to scholars for nearly a century. There has always been a dispute about Houdini’s end and this letter will certainly dispel all the rumors. Incredibly, it was written within 9 days of the event. In our 44 years in business, we have not seen many better Houdini items than this.

Sick with grief over her husband's recent death, Beatrice Houdini finds a bit of solace in replying to a letter of condolence from Graf Klinckowstroem, a fellow medium-exposer. Her lengthy letter, in full: "Your thoughtful letter of condolence received to-day. May I thank you for same? Yes my dear husband spoke of you quite frequently, and always very highly. The shock of his untimely end has been a severe blow to me, consequently I have, and am still very ill. I will try to answer your questions in full. Harry Houdini was born in Appleton Wisconsin 52 years ago (1874) his name was originally Ehrich Weiss, but legally changed to Harry Houdini years ago, he never had a serious illness in his life, did not drink or smoke, therefore was physical fit, his clean and moral life also fitted him for his hard strenuous work. A blow given him in his abdomen by two students was the direct cause of his death. He had broken a bone in his foot, during one of his tricks on the stage, lying on a couch in his room, these boys visited him, asked him if he would feel a hard blow, Houdini used to hard knocks, replied no, and in play they hit him – the blow ruptured his appendix, in fact the blow was so severe that his appendix was pushed over to the other side.

My dear husband merely explained once to me that it hurt, the Doctors immediately operated, but it was useless. ‘God’s will be done'. He passed to the great beyond Sunday Oct 31-1926 at 1-26. The world has lost a Genius, but I have lost my Man. You ask about the Library – the Magic library was left to Washing the ‘Congressional’, the Occult library was left to the ‘Physic Research of New York’ the drama was left to me – but dear Sir, I also own a wonderful collection of data – manuscripts – letters etc. of the Occult, this collection is entirely mine to do with as I wish, I believe you would carry out the work my dear husband started. I am to frail to do it and as these things are too valuable to get into the hands of people who would not understand the proper use then, I would gladly present them to you – please understand I give them to you outright, only I ask you to give me in detail just what would be suitable in your work – what books – what pamphlets etc.

I am so sorry I cannot write German (and both my parents were born in Germany) ich schtam von deutchen eltren, I speak German but do not write it. By this mail I will write to our very dear friend Reg. Weiss and beg him to tell you just what I mean, but you dear Sir please do not hesitate to ask me just what you want. I will also send you some photos of Houdini and myself. We were married 32 years, and all so happy, I worked with him on the stage during our life to-gether, and I miss my darling so. Forgive this long letter but it is so wonderful to write to one, who will fight his battle for him.”

Graf Klinckowstroem (1884-1969) was a well-known and influential figure in the history of paranormal research. Born in Germany, he developed an early interest in spiritualism. An amateur photographer, he used his skills to expose mediums and psychics who were fraudulently claiming to have supernatural powers. He was a staunch advocate of scientific investigation of the paranormal and was one of the first to call for scientifically controlled experiments to test the claims of psychics and mediums. Klinckowstroem worked with leading scientists and researchers, including Nobel Prize Laureate Dr. Charles Richet (1850-1935), to establish the International Institute for Psychical Research, which was dedicated to investigating supernatural phenomena. He expressed his skepticism of mediumship in many of his writings and speeches, believing that psychics and mediums were exploiting people by taking advantage of their ignorance and gullibility. He was particularly critical of fraudulent mediums who claimed to be able to communicate with the dead. He argued that the claims of psychics and mediums were based on superstition and deception, not on any scientific evidence. Klinckowstroem also exposed the methods of fraudulent mediums. He documented the use of tricks and deception by mediums to make it appear as though they had supernatural powers by showing how they used sleight of hand and props to create the illusion of paranormal phenomena. His work was highly influential in the paranormal research community, and his efforts to expose fraudulent mediums helped to discredit the field of mediumship and establish the need for scientific investigation of the paranormal. Klinckowstroem's work continues to be an important part of the history of paranormal research and is a testament to his commitment to the scientific investigation of the supernatural.

Remigius Weiss (c.1852-1941) was a former medium, also known by the stage name Remigius Albus, who befriended Harry Houdini when the latter was in Philadelphia investigating Dr. Henry Slade (1835-1905). Slade was a famously fraudulent medium that specialized in slate writing, claiming that spirits used the slate to communicate. Weiss testified to the Seybert Commission that Slade's methods were fraudulent. He also obtained a signed confession from Slade stating that all his spiritualist manifestations were deceptions performed through tricks. According to Houdini, Weiss had given him the "best expose ever written of Slade's slate writings." 

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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May 31, 2023 11:00 AM EDT
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