Thursday, 26 May 2016

How Houdini Controlled the Rain

     Of course, we have all heard about Houdini, the great escape artist. A sideline to his story is what happened after his mother died. Distraught and grief-stricken, he sought the aid of mediums in order to contact her. By his own account, he wanted to believe. But it was a mistake for any medium to let a top class professional magician into the séance. Immediately, he saw that everything was not as it seemed. Behind the raps, the levitations, the slate-writing, the ectoplasm, and so forth lay the most blatant fraud. It was amazing how simple were many of the stage tricks involved. Thus began his crusade against Spiritualistic trickery. And most amazing of all was the desperate will to believe by their dupes. Many people, including his friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle insisted that he himself must be a medium, performing his work by with the aid of the spirits, despite his constant avowals that they were merely tricks.
     The upshot was his book, A Magician Among the Spirits (which can be read or downloaded here), appropriately dedicated to his mother. And on pages 245-6 he describes his own amusing adventure.
    Again many of the effects produced by mediums are impulsive, spasmodic, done on the spur of the moment, inspired or promoted by the attending circumstances, and could not be duplicated by themselves. Because the circumstances of their origin and performance are so peculiar detection and duplication of Spiritualistic phenomena is sometimes a most complex task. Not only are mediums alert to embrace every advantage offered by autosuggestion but they also take advantage of every accidental occurrence. For instance, my greatest feat of mystery was performed in 1922 at Seacliffe, L. I., on the Fourth of July, at the home of Mr. B. M. L. Ernest. The children were waiting to set off their display of fireworks when it started to rain. The heavens fairly tore loose. Little Richard in his dismay turned to me and said:
     “Can’t you make the rain stop?”
     “Why certainly,” I replied and raising my hands said appealingly, “Rain and Storm, I command you to stop.”
     This I repeated three times and, as if by miracle, within the next two minutes the rain stopped and the skies be came clear. Toward the end of the display of fireworks the little fellow turned to me and with a peculiar gleam in his eyes said:
     “Why, Mr. Houdini, it would have stopped raining anyway.”
     I knew I was risking my whole life’s reputation with the youngster but I said:
     “Is that so? I will show you.” Walking out in front I raised my hands suppliantly toward the heavens and with all the command and force I had in me called: “Listen to my voice, great Commander of the rain, and once more let the water flow to earth and allow the flowers and trees to bloom.”
     A chill came over me for as if in response to my com mand or the prayer of my words another downpour started, hut despite the pleading of the children I refused to make it stop again. I was not taking any more chances.
     That reminds me of my own experience while living in a residential college forty years ago. I was sitting in my room with the wind howling outside. Just then, a student voice came from one of the other rooms: "Stop, wind!"
     It did. Right away.
     Next thing I heard was the same student voice saying, "Thank you!"

1 comment:

  1. Lol! When I was young boy, I heard the story of Jesus calming the storm tossed waters in Sunday School. Later that week a terrific thunderstorm blew up. I ran out on our front porch, threw up my right arm and shouted "Stop!" It did. I ran in the house and hid my room the rest of the day.