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THE NEW YORK TIMES January 21, 1927 Page 36, Column 2


Hamid Bey Lies in Grave Nearly Three Hours to Explode the ‘Shallow Breathing’ Theory

Nose, Ears and Mouth Stuffed with Cotton—Curious Crowd at Englewood, N.J., Sees Test

Hamid BeyHamid Bey, youngest of the Egyptian fakirs, stood before a damp open grave in the front yard of Walter A. Shannon’s home in Englewood, N.J., at 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon. Around him pushed a curious crowd of men, women, children, dogs, and six gravediggers waiting to bury him for three hours. A fine rain fell on the Bey’s white gandourah head-dress and flowing mantle; and his ankles above a pair of inadequate-looking sandals, were exposed to the cold.

Beside the Bev stood two henchmen, Zulicfer Effendi, whose white robe was topped off with a cerise gandourah and a purple umbrella, announced that Hamid would forthwith explode the late Harry Houdini’s theory that the burial of fakirs was accomplished through “shallow breathing” of a limited amount of air rather than by the aid of self-willed catalepsy.

Goes into Cataleptic State

The skeptical crowd surged closer as the moment for burial approached. Then at 1:10 o’clock the Bey made a gasping sound and stiffened out in the cataleptic state. Two doctors, Francis P. Weston of New York and William Silverstein of Newark, aided by three newspaper men, stuffed the ears, nose and mouth of the fakir with cotton, and he was forthwith laid five feet below the level of the lawn in a narrow inner grave. A little sand was heaped over his face, and boards were placed over the inner hole. This left as much air as Houdini had in his steel casket when, last Summer, he was lowered into the Hotel Shelton pool in New York. To cap the performance, the gravediggers then get to it to fill in the three-foot hole above the inner grave. With this accomplished, the Bey was abandoned for three hours minus eight minutes by all save his henchmen. They took turns sitting at the grave’s head on an old kitchen chair, waiting for the signal from the electric bell that might signify Hamid was in trouble.

And the mixed, inquisitive crowd all went to Walter Shannon’s home to eat the sandwiches and drink the coffee provided by his wife, the former Leona Le Marr, “the girl with the thousand eyes.” Under the emporary [sic] spell of the Orient they sat around discussing such subjects as “after all, life is an indefinite thing.”

Betters Houdini Record

The first hour went by and then the second. The fakir was still underground. He had passed the record of Rahman Bey, who had been placed in an immersion casket in the Hudson for an hour. And he had gone beyond the record of Houdini, who had, by shallow breathing, remained in a casket in the Shelton pool for an hour and a half.

Near 4 o’clock, however, the three Irish gravediggers began to uncover the fakir. The three negro gravediggers stood by ready to “spell” their companions. Shortly after 4 Hamid was lifted from the position he had occupied for nearly three hours. The cotton was still in his mouth, nose and ears. The dirt had been undisturbed since they had showered it over his face.

Once in the air, the Egyptian shivered and gradually came to life. He murmured one word, “Houdini,” and broke into a broad grin. Afterward he said he had communed with Houdini, but refused to report the conversation. His pulse and respiration, which had been 72 and 18 respectively before burial, were the same after coming out of the cataleptic state, according to the two doctors. Houdini’s pulse, after the “shallow breathing,” registered 142.

Zulicfer said he had been in communication with Hamid all the time the latter was underground. Asked at specific intervals how his protégé was getting along, he would reply: “Il est bien.”

Terry Turner of Loew’s, Inc., who arranged the performance, said he didn’t know about giving the fakir a vaudeville contract. “The audience would walk out before three hours are up,” he said. Elated by his victory, the Bey said he would perform the same stunt soon “for three days.”

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