Margery the Medium

Figure 1 Houdini holds Margery's hand in the dark while the cabinet falls over and the megaphone flies through the air.

The falling seance 'cabinet' and flying megaphone at Margery's seance did not convince Harry Houdini. He described in his notebook how it was done.

"When Bird left the room it freed her right foot and hand. With her right hand she tilted the corner of the cabinet enough to get her free foot under it, then picking up the megaphone she placed it on her head, dunce-cap fashion. Then she threw the cabinet over with her right foot. Then she simply jerked her head, causing the megaphone to fall at her feet. Of course with the megaphone on her head it was easy and simple to ask me or anyone else to hold both her feet and also her hands, and she could snap the megaphone off her head in any direction requested. (Houdini added) 'This is the slickest ruse I have ever seen."

The next afternoon Mr. Munn and Houdini went up to the seance-room alone, and Houdini demonstrated the tricks himself.

Before the next seance, Houdini and Munn arranged a series of signals and procedures. This time Munn was on Houdini's left, the magician once more on Margery's left. When Houdini pushed Munn's hand under the table, they broke the chain, and Houdini had his left hand free to feel around. What he felt was Margery's head at the edge of the table, tilting it until the box with the bell fell to the floor. She did her foot sliding trick again, this time catching a stocking on Houdini's garter." Shall I expose her now?" Houdini whispered to Munn. The publisher shook his head, however, and the seance continued.

Figure 2 Houdini demonstrates the box he had built for Margery to sit in during her seances with the committee.

At the next set of seances, which took place a month later, Houdini was determined to outwit Margery, and she was determined to make him look like a fool. He arrived in Boston on the 25th of August 1924 with a special box he had designed in which she was to sit during the seance. This was large enough to contain a chair, had holes for her arms at each side, and a hinged sloping lid at the front which closed, leaving her head and neck sticking out of a hole in the top. It was in fact very like a pillory, and it allowed very little freedom of movement - none at all for the feet and hardly any for the hands and head.


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