Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Montage of images and link description. Houdini Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Reference
Interview Transcripts | Further Reading

Ken Silverman on:
Houdini's anti-spiritualism crusade

Ken Silverman
Ken Silverman His anti-spiritualism crusade becomes, in effect, the new Houdini show. He loved the idea of lecturing on spirit mediums at colleges across the country. This is the period when the FBI gets formed, and is a period of sort of Red scares and so on. Houdini formed his own FBI. It was a private group that he put together of investigators to expose fraudulent mediums. He really hired about half a dozen people to go to seances and report back to him on what they had seen. And then Houdini would go and visit the medium, sometimes taking a reporter and sometimes even someone from the police with him. And in the middle of the seance, he would sometimes turn on a flashlight that he had brought with him, exposing something or other that the medium was doing there, that showed the whole thing was a fraud. Those turned into front-page pictures with enormous stories for Houdini laws of physics, by the laws of the world around you. The universe can move in on you. Gravity is always going to work. "But wait a minute. I can do a levitation!" That means that gravity, in this instance, doesn't work. "I have conquered one of the basic laws of the universe." This escapism, this superpower, this business of being different and being greater and being powerful, that’s an important word in the history of Harry Houdini, the power that it gave him.

back to Interview Transcripts


Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference

The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Gallery | People & Events | Teacher's Guide
The American Experience | Kids | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe

©  New content 1999 PBS Online / WGBH

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: