Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lovecraft in the Midst of Controversy: Houdini On 3 February 1925

With much tedium, Chrispy is working to harmonize Houdini's chronology and see if Lovecraft intersected or at least had tangent with Houdini and his cursade on spiritualism. This one is close HPLblog-readers ... very close. This is how I've reconstructed it.

In Joshi, p. 108-111, Letters From New York, Night Shade Books 2005, we learn from a letter by HP Lovecraft to his aunt (on 10 February) that CM Eddy has come to New York unexpectedly. The date is Sunday, 1 February 1925. He states, "unexpected guest ... CM Eddy ... on literary business, interviewing magazine editors & stopping with Houdini up in west 113th Street ..."

[1 February is derived from the indication that it was "the next day" after "Saturday" before "February 5th ... Thursday" - thus we learn that it is on Sunday, 1 February, 1925 that CM Eddy arrives. Obviously it was prearranged by Houdini.

Lovecraft continues, "Eddy had an engagement at Houdini's house at midnight, so we had to hustle ... I piloted Eddy to Houdini's home via the Bronx subway, I then returned ...".

Did HPL stay? It was odd that it was to be at midnight, but no doubt it was the only time Houdini could see CM Eddy. It does have a clandestine shadow, though.

Then, we learn from that same 10 February 1925 letter that his wife, Sonia, arrived on Tueday, 3 February 1925, and a party was arranged.

"...I got Eddy on the wire..." and "I rested & proceeded to the restaurant - a very attractive Italian place which Eddy later learnt is a chosen haunt of Houdini & his wife ... Eddy then went to the Hippodrome to meet Houdini ...".

What could this all be about? Why is CM Eddy needed at Houdini's house? Did CM Eddy really need Lovecraft as an escort? Did HPL stay at the midnight rendezvous? The only clue is from
THE NEW YORK TIMES of Feb. 4, 1925 • Page 24, Column 2: HOUDINI GIVES A S√ČANCE.

The headline read: Shows How "Spirit" Phenomena May Be Worked by Trickery.

At the invitation of the Greater New York Federation of Churches, Harry Houdini, the magician, gave a lecture and demonstration exposing the tricks of fraudulent spiritist mediums at the Hippodrome yesterday morning. [That is Tuesday, 3 February 1925, the day Sonia came to town - the day of the party.]

Several hundred persons, including many ministers attended. At the outset Houdini made it clear that he did not intend "to attack any religion in any way." "It is not my idea to hurt any one," he went on, "for I know there are real believers in spiritism."

He assailed the genuineness of the manifestations of Eva, Margery and others and showed how the feats they attributed to spirits could be performed by trickery. [Houdini had battled Margery under the umbrella of the Scientific American committee for months].

In the presence of a volunteed [sic] committee of clergymen and laymen on the stage he demonstrated "spirit" slate writing, bell ringing, table moving and other supposed phenomena. Of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini said: "There is no doubt in my mind that he is at least sincere."

The week was eventful in that Lillian Clark (HPL's aunt) arrived to meet Sonia and had dinner witht he gang: CM Eddy, Samuel Loveman, George Kirk, and Rheinhart Kleiner. After the dinner, CM Eddy went to the Hippodrome, but GK, SL, RK went over to see Frank Belknap Long, and HPL, Sonia, and his aunt went back to make lemon tea at 169 Clinton.

Maddeningly, HPL makes no comment on the big Houdini event !

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