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THE NEW YORK TIMES November 1, 1978 Page –, Column –


The New York Times News Service and The Associated Press

DETROIT AP–Devotees of Harry Houdini say the long departed escape artist promised during a Halloween séance in the hospital where he died that he’ll be back next year—with even more amazing feats.

Four researchers into the occult began their séance in Room 401 of Detroit’s Grace Hospital at 1:26 p.m. Tuesday—52 years to the minute after the magician died of a ruptured appendix in 1926.

Seated around an old wooden desk in the semi darkness of the hospital room as others have done on previous Halloweens, the four beckoned him, and Houdini appeared, assures medium Irene Rucinsky.

Houdini said he had not communicated with anyone on earth since his death, and that he would not again before “taking over another body” next year.

“I would like to be born on the anniversary of my death next year” Ms. Rucinsky quoted Houdini as saying.

“The after-life is peaceful, quiet, and there are no differences between one another,” but Houdini’s life “terminated too quickly. He had not fulfilled everything,” Ms. Rucinsky said, so he wants to come back.

“We’re not just a bunch of kids with a pumpkin,” stressed séancer Mark McPherson. “This is very scientific and very research-oriented.”

Before his death, Houdini had made several pacts with his wife and friends agreeing on a secret signal that the first-to-die would give others to make his ghostly presence known.

Dozens tried for the $10,000 reward offered by Houdini’s wife, Beatrice, to anyone who could prove contact with her departed husband’s spirit by reciting the agreed-upon code. In 1928, one medium did recite the code, but was later denounced as a fraud.

Because the code was then disclosed, no attempts have been made to try to use it. But each year since, groups have gathered on Halloween to make more attempts at contact.

But this was the last chance to do so in the very room where Houdini—real name Eric Weiss—passed away. The aging Grace Hospital is scheduled to be torn down in the next year.

Sol Lewis, head of the Michigan Metaphysical Society, a 30-year veteran of parapsychology and a college teacher, led the group’s questioning of the great Houdini.

Would he come back as a magician? he asked.

“Much more so,” the medium said.

Ms. Rucinsky said Houdini told her more work remains to be done on “the greatest illusion man has ever seen,” a four-mirror disappearing act in which three persons vanish.

She quoted Houdini as saying persons in the after life have the gift of prophecy, and said he predicted Middle East negotiations will break down, “relationships be totally severed and a direct confrontation will occur within a week.”

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