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Snippets and anecdotes from our endeavours in the field feature in this informal reference.

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Original padlock as used by Harry Houdini

The Great Lyle and Harry Houdini

We cannot look at the occult without looking at illusionists or stage magicians as they are often very clever people, who create the illusion of 'a magical act' - note magic without the ending 'k'.

Nonetheless, there are many strange stories often associated with stage magicians. The Great Lyle (The act - Cecil Lyle and his wife Lucille) hated giving interviews and at the same time he was extremely superstitious and every member of his company had to follow his extreme guidelines. He was terrified of germs and anyone with a cold was not allowed anywhere near him.

Harry Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary and his birth name was Ehrich Weiss. His father was a Rabbi. Houdini was a friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the detective stories about Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Spiritualist, who believed Houdini really had hidden psychic powers, which he hid by denouncing other mediums, psychics and spiritualists in a state of denial. Houdini wanted to contact his beloved mother after she died and for some reason attempted to discredit any psychic who could not achieve contact. Conan Doyle believed Houdini did this in order to deny his own powers which he could not accept.

Some people believed that something would get Houdini after his behaviour and he actually died from peritonitis due to a burst appendix on Halloween, 1926, aged 52. His wife Bess had been given a secret code by which Houdini would try to contact her from the other side. She held a seance every Halloween until 1936 on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel, California. Bess herself died in February 1943. A palatial residence owned by Houdini was burned down in 1959 and it was said he could be seen walking among the ruins.