Halloween is almost here and with it an echo of Harry Houdini, who died on October 31, 1926, and although it has been 88 years since he said he would contact his wife from the beyond, so far no Harry. Does that mean we should stop keeping the channel open just in case. According to San Francisco magician Robert Strong and a group of neuro-scientists, other magicians and a medium, not at all. In fact, they are joining together to give Harry another very public chance to come say hello at a Halloween night séance. Does Robert believe that a séance can bring voices from our dearly departed? No. But he says a good skeptic has an open mind and when they have evidence they are open to it.
Robert discovered through some intense searching, as you may recall, that he has a fascinating family connection to Houdini. Houdini and Robert were both very young when they heard and heeded the call to a life of magic. Like Houdini, Robert is devoted to truth. It was popular in Houdini’s day to use magic to fool people into thinking they could channel the dead, and, as Robert points out, people who had unfinished business were especially susceptible. It gets worse, the more unfinished business people had with those departed, the more they would be charged to clear up the issues with the dead. People were getting conned for all they were worth, and there were scientists at that time who were given cash awards for their research to prove you could channel the dead. Robert notes that sometimes scientists can be the easiest to fool because they may be looking only for simple positive evidence.
Houdini was driven by his own passion for the truth and spent a great deal of time and energy debunking frauds. Robert says that he tells people that he personally does not do magic, he does tricks. As a magician Robert is interested in keeping those tricks secret and would not discuss Houdini’s methods. He smiles as she says that we do not want to know the secrets because if we did there would be no more mystery.
Has Robert ever been asked to do anything he considered unethical? He was asked to promote cigarettes. He refused. When he started to do comedy magic mind-reading, people would come to him in tears quite sure he had some kind of intuition that he could cross over and channel their dead grandmother. He has constantly honed his introductory wording to assure audiences that he has no ability to channel and says quite clearly, “I do not have the ability to channel, predict the future or read minds. I am creating the illusion that I can do this through sleight of hand and misdirection.” Robert has an acute awareness of where others have their attention and when it is off him even for a second, he says that he does something you cannot see, sneaky stuff, even if you are visually looking at him. He follows cues of facial expressions and body language.
To listen to Robert talk about his own connection to Houdini, the art of magic and the types of people who channel is to learn about Robert, show business and psychology.
About love letters, he says “every love letter is a little piece of art, a piece of poetry and a little piece of history.” No, Robert, a big piece of history. He says he may write to Sidney Radner’s sons, a regular letter in his own handwriting – he has some important things to say about what he went through to find his own connection. He knows how a letter would have made it easier for him. He may make it easier for future generations by dropping historically accurate love letters into that mail slot.