March 3rd, 1923 (Saturday)
Houdini's Final Day in Vancouver
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic.
Houdini has his final two vaudeville appearances today (a matinee and an evening show) of his seven in total this week at the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Reviews have been superb.
His outdoor publicity stunt of hanging upside down and escaping a straitjacket in full view has been major front page news (actually getting more column inches than reviews of his vaudeville show).
What more could one ask?
Well, I had hoped today for an editorial summing up of his impact or at least some kind of "goodbye and thanks Harry" - but neither The Sun nor The Province refer to him at all. (They do, however, both run a final Orpheum Theatre advertisement for his shows).
It's as if they have nothing more to say. (I guess they didn't).
And as if Houdini has no further need for continuing coverage. No doubt he was busy this weekend accepting via telegram another "unique challenge" from the chosen newspaper ally in the next city of his vaudeville tour.
But what I did find, Houdini-related, in The Province on its front page was this curious story:
"Doyle Sure of Ectoplasm"
"Twenty Three Austrian Professors Said to Have Been Convinced"
"Famous Writer Thinks Controversy Should Now Be At End."
What better timing could this have had than the end of Harry's Vancouver visit? I wonder what thoughts raced through his mind as he read this (as I'm sure he must have done).
The story recounts a letter published recently in The New York Times, in which the famous author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and an ardent spiritualist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, tells of a "demonstration of ectoplasm" (which he himself apparently had not actually witnessed) by mediums in front of multiple distinguished Austrian scientists which, in his mind, "puts an end to the whole debate so that anyone who reopens it is inexcusably ignorant or willfully perverse."
Gee. I wonder to whom he might he be referring?
The next paragraph is headed,
"Houdini Is Wrong."
Doyle is quoted as writing:
"We are publicly assured. . . I am sorry to say, by my friend Houdini, that this was all what they called 'bunk' and that [the ectoplasm] was really regurgitated food. . ." [but according to Doyle it could not be as it was often the wrong colour.] "Criticism is most welcome and helpful, but I would beg our opponents to exercise some restraint in it, or they will make the subject and themselves rather ridiculous."
And of course, as we know, Houdini would show no restraint in exposing fraudulent mediums to the end of his days and this public campaign (as well as comments like those expressed above by Doyle) would put an effective end to their trans-Atlantic friendship.
This was to be Houdini's first and only professional visit to Vancouver. Just over three and a half years later he would once more be front page news but for quite a different, unexpected reason. (His death.)
It's been fun reliving day by day Houdini's triumphant appearances in Vancouver during this week in 1923. I wish I could have been there but I guess this was the next best thing.
I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed researching it for you.
Researched by The Magic Demon exclusively for Canada's Magic. With thanks to the Vancouver Public Library and The Vancouver Sun. The VPL and its staff are awesome!
Thank you to The Magic Demon for guest posting this fabulous Houdini series at Canada's Magic!