Monday, November 27, 2006

Lovecraft's Copy of Houdini's "A Magician Among the Spirits".

Houdini's book was published by Harper and Brothers in May 1924. It was a social history of Spiritualism and included chapters on the Fox sisters, D.D. Home, Palladino, and Dr. Slade (a slate writer). One chapter included the many poisonings associated with the cultists. In Providence, R.I., a 14 year old medium named Almira Bezely purchased arsenic and tapped out a message her brother would die. She poisoned him, and he did die. Also in Providence, years later, Ruth McCaw poisoned her stepson Leon (who survived) and her handicapped stepdaughter Elsie. The "spirits" made her do it, she claimed before being sentenced to 12 years. (1) (3)

Lovecraft's personal copy was given to him by Houdini. It states in the autograph, "To my friend, Howard Lovecraft / Best Wishes, / Houdini / "My brain is the key that sets me free." (2)

(1) The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero, Kalush and Sloman, p.410.
(2)Lovecraft's Library: A Catologue (Revised and Enlarged), S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2002, p. 81, entry 443.

(3) The Spiritualists howled when the book was released, and Harper's who rushed the copy to press, cut 100,000 words out of it, and did not assist in proofreading the errors out of it lay the book open to deep and just criticism. It's impact was profound, but lessened by the weakness of the editing process. The Secret Life of Houdini, op. cit. , p. 411.

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