Lot 235

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Houdini Offers $10,000 for "finding a genuine medium" and a Letter from "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle"

Harry Houdini (1874-1926). Typed Letter Boldly Signed, "Houdini", in black ink with his paraph, 1p, on carbon paper measuring 8.5" x 11", July 31, 1925, no place. Two file holes at left margin, not affecting any text. Light soiling. Minor discoloration from previous paper clip at top left. Unfolded. In fine condition. Part of a recent foreign find; not on the market for over fifty years. See another lot in this sale for associated brochure on his $10,000 offer.

An amazing letter to the editor of the Toledo Blade, Houdini sent this genuinely signed copy to his friend Graf Klinckowstroem. It reads, in part: I note that someone whose initials are "H. L. B." has something to say regarding my challenging the psychics. May I inform you...I am positively sincere. I have nothing in view with the exception of finding a genuine medium. Up to the present time, I regret to say that every medium I have investigated has been weighed and found wanting."

Houdini continues with an offer to come to Toledo to prove the validity of his motivation: "I take the liberty of enclosing you a copy of a letter I have sent registered to Miss Ada Bessinet where in I have challenged her for $10,000. and if you wish I will come on to Toledo in twenty-four hours notice, with my money...to challenge her publicly or privately...You have my full permission to publish the letter or challenge that I have sent to Miss Bessinet and to which I have received no answer despite the fact that I have a letter of introduction to her from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle..."  A fabulous behind-the-scenes look at Houdini’s efforts to expose fakery. 

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was a British writer and physician. Though he and Houdini had different talents, they shared a mutual interest in the paranormal. Houdini was a skeptic of spiritualism, while Doyle was a believer. Houdini was devoted to exposing fraudulent mediums, while Doyle sought to prove the existence of the supernatural. The two men had a complicated relationship, as they often disagreed on certain topics, yet respected one another's work. Houdini and Doyle also shared a fascination with the occult and the power of suggestion. Houdini used suggestion in his performances, while Doyle wrote about it in many of his books. Houdini was also a fan of Doyle’s work, often performing illusion inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Though Houdini and Doyle were vastly different in their talents and beliefs, their lives were inextricably linked. They were both men of immense talent who pushed the boundaries of their respective fields, and their legacies will live on for generations to come.

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.

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
Wilton, CT, US

University Archives

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000