Houdini and Doyle was focused on the power of mediums this week. A year after the death of an eight year old girl, another girl has vanished and the police have accepted the help of a medium to try and find this second victim. Our medium, Madam Korzha, is shown using a number of different psychic tricks. I thought that I would share some facts about psychics and their connection to Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The idea of mediums grew in popularity in the 1840’s in connection with the rise of spiritualism. This movement is often believed to have started in Hydesville, New York with the Fox sisters. They insisted that they could communicate with a man who had been murdered in their home. Spiritualism then spread to Europe through newspapers and traveling mediums. As this belief grew more public seances were presented and psychics became more well known. During the Victorian period a more modern spiritualism emerged and various social classes all began to embrace it. Women were considered to be more in tune with spiritual forces and believed to be the best mediums.
As we have seen in Houdini and Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was very interested in mediums and was a great believer in Spiritualism. Harry Houdini though was definitely not. After Houdini’s mother died in the 192o’s he became obsessed with debunking mediums. He would attend their performances and work to find out how they were performing their tricks. Later Houdini went on to travel and give lectures about mediums. He would show slides of specific performers and tell his audience exactly what they did to pull off their acts. What is interesting to me is that both of these men became focused on aspects of spiritualism after loses within their lives. Doyle’s wife grew very ill and did eventually die, which pushed him further into his belief that there had to be some way to communicate with the dead. Houdini reacted in the opposite way. Instead of wanting to believe, he wished to prove that once someone had passed that there was no way to further communicate with them.
If you want to really see how a seance is done you should watch the Seance video, it’s the fourth episode, from the Houdini and Doyle: World of Wonders series. Watching Rebecca Liddiard’s reactions during it is wonderful.
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