It’s a family affair: The fight over whether the body of Harry Houdini, a.k.a. Eric Weiss, should be exhumed to further an investigation. Did he die because of a ruptured appendix, after a fan punched him in the abdomen to test the magician’s physical strength and discipline? Or was he poisoned by spiritualists because he cast doubt on their beliefs in ghosts and communication with the dead?
Houdini was doing his best at trying to look intense and mysterious when this publicity portrait was made. Some relatives would say it might be how he’d look now, if he knew he was about to be dug up- as some relatives claim- to help sell a book. The Blood family, from the Rochester area, is leading the anti-exhumation charge.
“It is our firm belief that Bess Houdini (the magician’s wife) would never approve of this,” said a statement from her grandnephews, John and Jeffrey Blood. “The family believes this is likely being done to promote sales of a recent book on Harry Houdini, suggesting he may have been murdered.”
“I’m sorry that Bess’ side of the family feels that way, because this is not a publicity stunt in any shape or form,” said Larry Sloman, co-author of “The Secret Life of Houdini.” “This is not something frivolous. This is a serious scientific study.”
Houdini, a poor immigrant who created his own legend from nothing, loved the spotlight. Eighty years after his death at age 52, whether members of his family like it or not, he still attracts it.