Sunday, January 21, 2007

Houdini and Lovecraft: Testimony of Muriel Eddy (1961) Part 5

In our last installment of our investigation into Muriel Eddy's testimony - this next pericope seems very true. (1)

When Harry Houdini came to Providence {20 September 1925} for the last time, we made up a theater party and attended the performance. It was a big production, and his wife Beatrice assisted him in his magic tricks and illusions. A niece, Julia, also was an assistant on the stage.
After the show, Houdini suggested that we go to lunch at a Waldorf restaurant. It was very late, and at the midnight hour we sat at a long table together, with Beatrice Houdini’s pet parrot perched demurely on her shoulder. Lovecraft got quite a kick out of watching the parrot … named Lori … sip tea from a spoon and nibble daintily at toast held by his polite mistress!

I remember that H.P.L. ordered half a cantaloupe filled with vanilla ice cream, and a cup of coffee. He was in great spirits and bubbled over with good humor, talking a blue streak about everything under the sun. Harry Houdini gazed at him admiringly. I am sure he liked H.P.L. as much as almost everybody did who had a chance to study and know him.


We know that Julia Sawyer (Houdini's niece) assisted not only with the show but as an undercover agent. (2) Prior to November 1925, Julia was dispatched to Lilly Dale - upstate New York - to discover information on Pierre Keeler a fraud and slate writer in residence there.

As to the parrot, this element is verifiable (3).

The Waldorf Restaraunt is a unique and verifiable element - and one that would only be relevant if she had truly been there. After some heavy research, Chrispy found (4) that the original Providence Bijou was razed in 1925 and immediately replaced by a concrete building which held a Waldorf Restaraunt franchise for years.

Lovecraft's love of ice cream is legendary, so that certainly seems correct. That he loved coffee (5) to this all his friends attested.

So, if we take this anecdote as factual, and there is every reason to do so, the implications are fascinating. Julia spent mid to late 1925 undercover in Lily Dale, NY. Muriel says C M Eddy did undercover work at Lake Pleasant, MA. We know that C M Eddy met (or told Lovecraft that he would meet) Houdini as early as 10 February. This is the height of Houdini's desire to go on the attack of the spiritualists. (6)

The distance of time gives us the question of who knew Houdini first - Lovecraft or C M Eddy. They both knew Baird and Henneberger and met Houdini within the same space of time. We can trace much of Lovecraft's contact with Houdini, and some of C M Eddy's contacts. Lovecraft was impoverished, and C M Eddy was more impoverished - exactly the kind of people that Houdini needed and had a passion to assist with his enormous wealth. Did HPL send work to C M Eddy form Houdini - or was it a natural progression of both men being cultivated by Houdini and C M Eddy having the broader amount of time to help?

Whatever the start of the game HPL and CME were at the end of it friends and there were few secrets from them that Houdini had created an espionage network. However, it seems that Lovecraft did not have the temperament to follow through as CM Eddy did.


***

1. The Gentleman From Angell Street: Memories of H. P. Lovecraft, Muriel E. Eddy & C. M. Eddy, Jr., ed. Jim Dyer, Fenham Publishing, Narangasett, R.I., 2001. “The Gentleman From Angell Street”, Muriel Eddy, 1961.
2. The Secret Life of Houdini, Kalush and Sloman, p. 465, "For three dollars, Julia got messages from a dead sister who never existed and from the spirits of two of her still-very-much-alive relatives." On line notes refer to "Central City Assembly No. 14, S.A.M., Syracuse, N.Y.", The Sphinx, November, 1925, 270.
3. THE NEW YORK TIMES • July 9, 1938 • Page 14, Column 7 HOUDINI’S PET PARROT PICKS CAGE LOCK, ESCAPES (Special to The New York Times. ) HOLLYWOOD, July 8 – Pat Houdini, 25-year-old parrot and former stage companion of Harry Houdini, emulated his dead master today by picking the lock to his cage and disappearing into the Hollywood hills.
Pat was reported to be “singing” as he soared away. // Edward Saint, who was Houdini’s manager, says the parrot learned to pick locks while watching his master during his escape acts with which Houdini fascinated audiences for years. // A few days ago Mrs. Houdini went East. She left the bird at a boarding home for pets, forgetting to tell them of Pat’s propensity for picking locks.
4. From www.http://cinematreasures.org/theater/26 , we read the following recollections: http://cinematreasures.org/theater/6598 Roger Brett wrote in Temples of Illusion about Spitz and Nathanson's Bijou Theatre: // "With its unveiling on March 28, 1908, Abe and Max became the city's first showmen to operate three theatres at once. This was the original Bijou at the corner of Westminster and Orange Streets, nestled against the big UnionTrust Building. A rarity among Providence Theaters, it had only one name and policy, movies, from its inception until its closing in July of 1925. // "Like the short-lived Lyric, it was a converted store and took up the entire ground floor of a high-ceilinged wood framed building dating from the early 1800's. It was razed in 1925 and the present [1976] concrete building, for many years occupied by a Waldorf Restaurant, immediately replaced it. (...) When it became a theater a huge false front was erected and the roof appeared to be flat when viewed from Westminster Street." // In style, this fa├žade can best be described as 'High Coney Island.' It was elaborate in the extreme, painted white, and contained 2000 light bulbs. These were not in a sign but were actually mounted on the woodwork and traced the curves, arches, and parapets in brilliant relief for the benefit of evening crowds. Grime, generated by the city's traffic and chimneys in the early 1920s, forced the management to abandon white paint in favor of green and the Bijou lost some of its amusement park glamour towards the end. // "The Bijou sat 407, all on one level. From the beginning the theater was very popular and consequently very sucessful. Although the term was not in use at the time, the Bijou, along with the Nickel, were Providence's first-run movie houses. Abe Spitz, improving upon Charlie Lovenberg's initial booking arrangements, had the necessary contacts with the right people to insure getting the very best films for his theaters. The policy here, as at the Nickel, was always movies and illustrated songs, but no vaudeville." // posted by Gerald A. DeLuca on Jun 26, 2005 at 6:50am
5. Sam Moskowitz, Worlds of Weird, Jove, 1965, "I called on him a few months before his death ... if liquor was the cause of the early demise of Dylan Thomas ... black coffee loaded with sugar surely helped Howard to an early end."
6. p. 454, The Secret Life of Houdini, Ibid. Vacca and Houdini met in 1921 in Chicago. He was put on staff in 1923. He did advance work for Houdini and filed reports to him prior to any engagement. p. 460, Houdini hired Rose Mackenberg and filed detailed reports on hundreds of seances. Also, Alberta Chapman, a showgirl was a spy. A friend, not on the payroll, filed reports. This was Robert H. Gysel. (p. 461). He also enlisted law enforcement professionals, Detective Joseph Greene and policewoman Elizabeth Michaels in Manhattan. In Cleveland, he and a reporter broke up George Renner's racket.

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