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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » All tied up! » » A question for Houdini researchers (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Cliffg37
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Here is an interesting thought.

Early on in Houdini's feud with the spiritualists and channelers, he had a meeting with the wife of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Housini was grieving his recently departed mother, and Lady Doyle offered to contact his mom for him. She did this, and made at least three slip-ups bad enough to prove to HH that she was either a fraud, or at least faking for him. The argument that followed cost Houdini his friendship with Sir Arthur. This is history that most of us are familiar with.

Here is the question. Did Sir Arthur really believe that his wife could contact the dead? Sir Arthur was a Doctor. A man trained in observation. In Medical school he was taught by Dr. Joseph Bell; a man so observant that Sherlock Holmes observation tricks were based on things Bell really did. It seems highly unklikely to me that such a man would believe that his wife was talking to the dead. Blinded by love? Perhaps. Motivated by greed? Probably not, Doyle had money and fame thanks to Holmes.

Any thoughts on this?
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
Cliffg37
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The following comes from our old friend Chance. Here are his thoughts on what I have posted above...

Hey Cliff,

Just saw your post asking about Doyle and his wife.

IMO, your question is missing the mark. It's already well established that Doyle was a true believer, irrespective of who the medium was in front of him at the moment. Anyone who gave off the slightest mystical persona was a medium as far as he was concerned. Doyle even accused HH of being one, and of performing his escapes not as a mechanical genius, but as someone that could literally pass through walls. The simplest trick was enough to send Doyle over the edge. Like the time when HH cut his thumb in two and put it back again. Since in his mind HH was already a proven medium, albeit incognito, every trick he did, no matter how obvious, was automatically assigned a spiritualistic interpretation.

So for me at least, the question is not did Doyle believe his wife. He believed in anyone that claimed the title of medium (and at least one who didn't) and who could demonstrate a simple magic trick. Or a trick photo, as in the case of the Cottingley Fairies. The real question is or ought to be, why did Doyle fall so hard for the spiritualism cult in the first place?; why was it so easy for him to ignore the obvious in favor of the far-fetched?; why did he never consider that HH was telling the truth when he stated flat out that everything he did had a simple and mechanical explanation?

An even better question, is did Mrs. Doyle really believe that she was a medium, or was she just playing along for her husband's benefit? I can see where a lonely Victorian housewife might dabble with parlour tricks, just to fit in at house parties or otherwise kill some time. Many of the stories we have today from 100 years ago shared this type of genesis. And no doubt 100 years from now people will say it about many fads happening right now. So my question is, was she a true believer herself, or was she surprised by her husband's reaction to her innocent dabbling and thereby compelled to become a "professional" medium, carried along by force of his will as his obedient Victorian wife?

Either question begins and ends with Doyle himself IMO. Where, when, how, why did he enter this world and become one of it's most genuine sold-out proponents? That's what I'd really like to know.

Best,
C.
Magic is like Science,
Both are fun if you do it right!
houdinisghost
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All right. Doyle was born and raised Catholic, but, said he derived no peace or comfort from Catholicism. He was a member of the London Society of Psychic Sciences (or something like that) going back to the 1880s. His first wife died of tuberculosis and it was his second wife Jean who was seriously into spiritualism. She or the mediums she and Sir Arthur sat with summoned up the spirits of Doyle's son, his brother, his friends, Pheneas (Doyle's spirit guide). Odd they never heard from Doyle's dead wife.
In one of his books, and I think it predates the Atlantic City automatic writing mess, Doyle said that a man need look no further than his own home to find a medium. Every woman had the gift of automatic writing.
My own theory: automatic writing is the product of a repressed id. "Oh my darling. At last, at last I'm through. . ." Oh, brother!
jay leslie
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Quote:
On Mar 9, 2014, houdinisghost wrote:
My own theory: Automatic writing is the product of a repressed id. "Oh my darling... At last, At last, I'm through.


She's not through until she empties your bank account, gets the house and the court orders you to pay half of everytjing you earn in the future, and forever.

Then and only then is she through.

(The above editorial is only meant as a fictions, humorous and funny scenario and does not apply to or represent anyone in particular, who shall remain nameless)
Harley Newman
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It's a good distinction. Most Anglo-American people were raised to be christians, a religion that has lots of discussion of spirits (good and evil). It's not a far jump to spiritualism.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Ian McColl
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Quote:
On Mar 9, 2014, Harley Newman wrote:
It's a good distinction. Most Anglo-American people were raised to be christians, a religion that has lots of discussion of spirits (good and evil). It's not a far jump to spiritualism.


I don't see any difference. Doyle's Sherlock was the thinker, not necessarily Doyle himself. Doyle gave powers to his character which he may not have possessed himself.
MRSharpe
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Keep in mind that at the time and before during the lat 19th century that spiritualist mediums were being given legitimacy from many scientists. Sometimes, the more you know the easier you are to fool.
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houdinisghost
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There are legitimate Spiritualist churches that are no screwier than a lot of other religions. Houdini did not go after those. Houdini was after con men--more like your storefront/lift a curse type crooks. Here in Hollywood, years ago, I attended a service at a Spiritualist Church that I heard Gloria Swanson attended. Well, nobody seemed to be attempting to fleece anyone. A very well dressed group of people sat there until a message came through to someone and that person would share it. Gloria wasn't there, but, she was an ardent believer. Mae West was into seances. I don't know if she really believed in it.
Any reality shows caught a ghost yet?
Harley Newman
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I toured the House of Seven Gables a few years ago, with two currently prominent ghosthunters and a demonologist. In each room, the ghosthunters whispered back and forth about what they were seeing. Each conversation ended with "There's no way we could know that, right?" The demonologist and I shook our heads. Each thing they "saw" had been mentioned on a sign or by the tour guide, two rooms previously. Who needs to write comedy?
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Ian McColl
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Are ghosthunters and demonologists marketed over there as real, a truth! like many other belief systems. if so, therefore this article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-......aff.html would suggest that these parents didn't do anything wrong.

I have heard that any one doing magic is on the wrong side of right and even Hogwarts is bad.
dave_matkin
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Or maybe the right side of wrong?

Depends where you're standing as to your view.....

But some people are loons!

I'm off to read the article.....

PS magic isn't bad .....it's the psyco killers who make a silk vanish whilst killing 10 people that are bad. The small minority ruins it for everyone else.
Ian McColl
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Hi Dave, I think I posted the wrong news event, try this one.
http://doubtfulnews.com/2014/01/two-chil......aryland/

check out the comments underneath especially from busterggi
dave_matkin
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I'm wondering why one of the other kids would freak out if he saw the first kid having his chest cut out by a knife. Surely that doesn't upset kids who are not possessed? Flipping scary.....I think the comment below saying that surely there were some red flags before that is probably right.

I suspect non religious groups have a similar number of nut jobs. Either way it's sad!
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