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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Oldies... but goodies! » » "Margery" Houdini's Medium he couldn't expose (autograph) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Mr.Mystico
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There is a book written about Mina Crandon (pseudonym - "Margery") by a member of the Scientific American magazine. In 1925, J. Malcolm Bird published a book which supported Crandon and as research officer of the American Society for Psychical Research, he was able to sway many other ASPR members to her side. They became her greatest supporters and devoted hundreds of pages in the ASPR journal to her séances.

Houdini became one of the panel members to 'expose' or declare genuine the ability of 'Margery' to be able to contact the dead. Depending on your version of history, Houdini was unable to catch Margery, or he was able to. You can "Google" Margery for the whole history... but one thing is for sure, it's a very cool story.

I have a first edition of this book which I bought from a collector. He didn't know this when he sold it to me, but it was a hand-inscribed, autographed copy, signed by Mina Crandon (Margery). The inside cover and first page were obscured with decades of library card holders, which when removed, showed the writing. I've got to imagine that this is the only surviving example of her writing and signature.

I tried like crazy to contact Mina Crandon's granddaughter, Anna Thurlow (to no avail)... but James Randi wanted to know if I was interested in selling it (I am not). I've included a picture... any comments or information would be welcome.

Click here to view attached image.
Kevin Connolly
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Thurlow is supposed to have a closet full of material on her grandmother from what I have heard. Margery was in contact with many people in her day, with writing as the most common form of communication. I wouldn't think it would be the only signed piece out there, but I really never checked this angle. I do have a letter from her husband that I picked-up along the way.

With many private collections still out there, there's a chance more could turn up. IMHO.
Please visit my website.
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Always looking buy or trade for original Houdini, Hardeen and escape artist items. I'm interested in books, pitchbooks and ephemera. Email [email]hhoudini@optonline.net[/email]
Bill Hallahan
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Houdini clearly did expose Margery. In his booklet, Margery The Medium Exposed, he relates his experience on the Scientific American panel that evaluated her extraordinary claims. It's notable that one scientist on the panel wanted to call her a fraud after several incidents, and Houdini refused because wanted to continue to run more tests.

Houdini showed how all her extraordinary claims could be faked. She was unable to exhibit her extraordinary abilities when restrictions were put on her to prevent the type of trickery Houdini predicted she was using.

As the standard of absolute proof is usually unattainable for proving a negative, one has to resort to reason. After reading the specific events in Houdini's book, I believe that it's just not reasonable to believe that she was anything but a fraud. The book lays out a sequence of events such that it would be too extreme a stretch of imagination for her to be what she claimed.

It's unfortunate that there are no other known signatures of Mina Crandon. That will make it difficult to verify it's actually her signature. I hope you find another, and they can be verified. You might consider having tests done to verify the age of the writing in your book. That would at least provide the time period when the book was signed.

My guess is that there are other copies of her signatures around somewhere. Good luck.
Humans make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to create boredom. Quite astonishing.
- The character of ‘Death’ in the movie "Hogswatch"
Mr.Mystico
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I have no doubt Margery (and all mediums) fake(d) their effects... I mean come on, people aren't really contacting the dead and spewing ectoplasm. What is in dispute is whether or not Houdini actually caught her. I know he wrote the booklet (I have two copies)... and sure, he could fake the effects, but the story goes, he COULDN'T and DID'T catch her (and that's what's so cool!).

As for verifying the signature.. I think the fact that it was totally hidden beneath a slew of library card holders, and the seller didn't advertise it as autographed... convinces me it's genuine. At least James Randi was interested after he saw the pictures and heard how I came across it.
Kevin Connolly
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Off the top of my head, Houdini was on the road, when Scientific American was going to award the prize. I think the guy who owned the magazine, Munn(?), had the article and magazine already printed and ready to publish. Houdini had to convince him to stop and go up to investigate. Some of the team that was going to award Margery the prize, were sleeping over Margery's house and 1 or 2 may been sleeping with her too. Myself, I like to see the naked pictures that are supposedly still out there.

As for the autograph, it may most likely be genuine. It wouldn't be the first time a library handled an item they knew little about. I know myself that the NYPL used to sell signed Houdini photographs(from his collection) for a dollar a piece. These pieces were handled by at least 4 different people at the NYPL before they sold them to me.
Please visit my website.
www.houdinihimself.com

Always looking buy or trade for original Houdini, Hardeen and escape artist items. I'm interested in books, pitchbooks and ephemera. Email [email]hhoudini@optonline.net[/email]
Stefan
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The book you mention is well known to me. I don't know how many are out there but in a decade of being on the lookout I have owned 2 signed editions. The Crandon's bought a bunch of them and would give a signed copy sometimes to someone. One copy I had , had the same Walter printed poem in it .... "There is a place" - your photo was small so it was difficult to see. Margery séances were special invitation only, usually made up of researchers, professors and local University folks. I would still say the book and a signed copy is extremely rare and far more rare than a Houdini signature. I have a book on ghosts signed by Margery they gave to Hereward Carrington just before Houdini arrived and Carrington made a quick exit, not wanting to argue with Houdini.
Steve Rivkin - the Hereward Carrington biographer and online blog
Stefan
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Whoops I meant stamped poem, they supposedly had a ink stamp of it. - Steve

The copy that Bird gave Carrington had the following inscription from Bird.

To Hereward Carrington

Another investigator who knows a genius medium when he sees one and isn't afraid to say so. - J Malcolm Bird

Ironic that later Carrington would eventually help to bring her down but he was also mad at the Crandon's - or at least very irritated. Why will appear in my book if I ever get it finished.
Stefan
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Other signed copies I have seen signed by Margery was a copy to the lady who donated Wolf Trap Park to Virginia. [no I didn't look up her name at the moment]
And another copy which only had a first name but was perhaps to the son of the head of the ASPR - who also worked for the ASPR.
Usually these were fairly noted people or they became so.
John Cox
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Quote:
On 2009-01-05 10:45, Kevin Connolly wrote:
Thurlow is supposed to have a closet full of material on her grandmother from what I have heard. Margery was in contact with many people in her day, with writing as the most common form of communication. I wouldn't think it would be the only signed piece out there, but I really never checked this angle. I do have a letter from her husband that I picked-up along the way.

With many private collections still out there, there's a chance more could turn up. IMHO.

Earlier this year Anna allowed me to share several items from her collection on my blog, including communication between HH and Margery and a photo of Margery's seance kimono.

http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/p/the-margery-files.html
Please visit my blog

WILD ABOUT HARRY
Stefan
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Dr Crandon, Margery's husband did a lot of letter writing, often playing the expert with a doting fatherly approach. In real life they say he had a bad temper but I think he enjoyed being the husband of the super medium. The ASPR likely has writings, sound recordings and so forth but they don't want to open it to researchers except a few higher ups in the ASPR - or at least they turned me down and others have said the same as far as research access goes. I just hope they preserve it and perhaps turn all of it into a digital database someday but that takes some money and time even if it is much cheaper these days.
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