SPOOKSTERS OF MAGIC PAST AND PRESENT
Houdini Seance 1937
by Eddie Clever
"What a close call, it scares me stiff", shaking his head Professor Massey, retired medium, laid the book he had been reading, aside.
"Anything that frightens you surely must be terrible". Judy, his granddaughter and ward looked across the room and smiled. "Let me see what frightful thing you were reading". Rising, she walked across the room and sat down upon the arm of his chair. Out of college the past spring, she was the aged Professor's only living relative and some said she was the power that kept his weakened heart beating.
Sliding his arm around her waist, he gave her a little pat. This, to those who knew best, was expressive of a parental love which knew no bounds.
Looking up at her he smiled, "Judy while you were making merry at that Halloween party you wrote me of two years ago, you little realized that this old earth just missed being crashed to bits!"
A mischievous glance sparkled in her large black eyes as she exclaimed, "Poof, just like that" and throwing out her hands in a gesture of helplessness, she laughed heartily.
The kindly old Professor shook his finger at her and said, seriously, "If the planetoid 'Object Reinmuth 1937 U. B.' had collided with the earth, probably you would not be laughing now".
Judy slipped from the chair and dropped to the foot-stool at his feet, a favorite place of hers since a child. Propping her elbows on his knees, she turned her face to him and over the comely features gathered a look of mock seriousness as she said, "Tell me, O great One, just what this terrible calamity was".
Patting her head, over which jet black hair was gathered in the latest hair-do, he assumed his best professional air. "Well it seems that in the fall of 1937, a scientist in Johannesburg, Africa, was startled by observing on a photographic plate, which had recorded the skies the night before, a curious streak. The next morning, October twenty-eighth, a German astronomer also saw the streak of light. And a few hours later that streak was causing plenty of excitement in the astronomical laboratory at Columbia University". "On the evening of October thirtieth, when small boys were ringing doorbells, and you, my dear, were bobbing for apples, scientists all over the world were staring in awe and wonderment at that streak which was becoming sharper and brighter. No longer puzzled, they were as anxious and worried as scientists ever become. For that small streak, running a fraction of an inch on photographic plates threatened to put an end to Halloween parties for all time".
Judy was listening eagerly, puzzlement spreading over her face. "But as October waned, the light waned and disappeared. And in this, the latest book on popular astronomy, we are told that the streak was one of those mysterious visitors of space, a planetoid. It missed the earth by the narrowest margin ever recorded since scientific observation. Christened 'Object Reinmuth 1937 U. B.' - after Karl Reinmuth, its discoverer - it was travelling at a speed of 70,000 miles per hour. It could have reached the earth in five and one-half hours from the nearest point in its path!"
Both Judy and her grandfather were silent for a time, thinking and pondering. Then, with a far-away look in his eyes, the old medium said, "For some reason, that planetoid reminds me of Houdini".
Judy's head jerked up and the perfectly arched eyebrows rose as she asked, "Why Grandy, why should that remind you of Houdini?" What a peculiar comparison".
The tired old eyes were misty as the Professor answered, "Well, although Houdini was an enemy of Spiritualism, yet I always considered him my friend".
Judy nodded, "You are a darling, Grandy, I have never heard you express hatred or ill will towards anyone".
Slowly, the Professor went on, "Three years ago, October thirty-first, his widow conducted the last of the ten year seances. It was a failure, just as the others had been. And yet, just as that planetoid missed the earth by a hair's breadth, we might say, so, perhaps, did she miss Harry's spirit. Judy, I really believe that she and a few others were sincere in endeavouring to communicate, yet that last seance was almost a three ring circus. Broadcast by radio and bally-hooed like a circus sideshow it was destined for failure. Perhaps, hovering on the fringe of all the hysteria and bally-hoo, was Harry's spirit, waiting to get through. But it missed just as the planetoid did. Who can tell?
Judy pondered for a moment and then said, "Grandy, you kept me away from your spook business when I was small and later sent me to expensive schools. I know that the money came from people who came to you seeking knowledge of the spirit world. But tell me, just what are your true convictions?"
Reflecting for a moment, he said, "Judy, my child, I have accumulated sufficient funds to live upon and to give you a fairly liberal allowance after I go over beyond. All this came from those, as you say, who sought, through me, communication with the spirit world. Oh, I admit that there has been so-called trickery in my work, yet I firmly believe. I am certain that I have seen and produced genuine phenomena. Like many other sincere mediums, I have never exploited a person's belief, nor have I robbed widows and orphans as some of the publicity-seeking exposers would have you believe all mediums do. Every cent I made came to me as legitimately as any paid choir singers salary! I know that I have been the instrument of bringing happiness, contentment and a truer understanding of life to many. I have seen tear dimmed eyes of the bereaved fill with hope and cheer. I have been the means of saving at least five persons from suicide, by advice which they thought came from departed spirits. Perhaps it did, who can tell? I brought together many separated husbands and wives Judy, if bringing happiness and hope into the lives of human beings is wicked and vile, as the prejudiced enemies of Spiritualism claim then I am a very wicked old man!
Jumping up, Judy threw her arms around the old man's neck and kissed his silver hair. "Grandy, no matter what some narrow persons may say, to me you are the grandest person on earth. You and I know that there are good and bad in all professions and callings. But we only hear of the bad. The scandal mongers play those up. Why think of it, my sweet old English professor has been accused of embezzling college funds to play the stock market!"
Taking the old Professor's hand in her's, she drew him from his chair. Hand in hand they walked to the window and drew aside the curtains. The waning moon was riding the eastern sky, casting weird shadows upon the great tree-studded lawn. Gazing toward the moon, the Professor said, "Tomorrow is another Hallowe'en and in memory of Houdini as a master magician, thousands of children will be made happy. Through the unselfish efforts of Edward Saint, Houdini Archivist, tomorrow is National Magic Day or Houdini Day. Magicians everywhere will visit hospitals and orphanages and entertain shut-in children with magic. And although he was the enemy of my creed and faith, yet I am glad that his memory is honored in this manner. Because a man lived and fought the good battle, as he saw it; little children shall be made happy. And to Ed Saint go my sincere good wishes and heartfelt praise for bringing this about. In honoring Houdini we should also remember Saint who made this possible. Somehow the name seems appropriate, does it not?"
And as they stood, hand in hand, the moon climbed higher, the shadows drew closer to the trees, as do all things of a common heritage. And perhaps peering over the shoulders of those two earthlings, with a smile of satisfaction upon his face, was the Spirit of Houdini. Perhaps. Who can tell?
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