Thursday, September 02, 2010

Houdini in Paterson, NJ 1926

Long time readers of this blog know that I have been working on connecting Houdini with trying to recruit Lovecraft as an agent to bust up spiritualist rings. Instead, it appears C M Eddy, Jr was recruited.

A number of ads eroneously claim 1909 as the origination of this poster, but this can't be as Houdini only started getting angry, and then obsessed, with spiritualism circa 1923.

This ad is typical: Houdini had returned to the United States in 1905 following a triumphal tour of Europe. On September 2, 3, and 4th, 1909, Houdini appeared at the Lyceum Theatre, 123 Van Houten St., Paterson, New Jersey. The original of this poster was for these performances.

Instead, the events have been conflated, and we see in this more precise narrative: Houdini’s fall season began in September in Paterson, New Jersey. It would be during this tour that the show began to be plagued with problems and mishaps and soon, the curtain would fall on the great magician for all time.

Shortly thereafter, Houdini met with Lovecraft (in Providence) to encourage him to come on the road with him (per de Camp). Lovecraft declined, of course. Bess was stricken with illness that very night. Things went badly after that, including a broken ankle and the horrendous "stomach punching" encounter. Houdini died (Halloween) shortly therafter - perhaps through nefarious means.

The confusion in dates, of course, is the perpetual calendar. 1909, 1915, and 1926 all fit the dates starting with Thursday, 2 September, but only the latter coincides with Houdini's spiritualist time line.

That infamous "midnight meeting" between Houdini, Lovecraft, and Eddy at Houdini's house created a watershed moment. Lovecraft seemed to have agreed to been literary-consulant-at-a distance; Houdini agreed to use Eddy for espionage, and in return fed him a salary and used his music in his shows (clandestinely). Eddy was a wrier of musicas well as other talents. Seemingly about this same time, though Houdini had backed Weird Tales in its earliest days, Henneberger's debt must have shied him away. For a time, though, Henneberger was shoveling money at Lovecraft, and both Henneberger and Houdini promised Lovecraft job interviews - culminating in an offer for HPL to move to Chicago to manage Henneberger's humor magazine (not Weird Tales). Lovecraft rejected it. Henneberger soon lost control of Weird Tales to the printer, and faded from view - at least from HPL's viewpoint. Houdini had bigger fish to fry, and found other avenues for his fiction, magic promotions, and so forth.

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