At the turn of the century, no man represented mystery and its entertainment value more fully than Harry Houdini. Whether at public events, on a vaudeville stage, or in early films, he amazed the public with his ability to escape any container or restraint. His skill was a mystery and everyone was desperate to learn how he did it.
Harry had the same curiosity about other performers of the era. In particular, he set about exposing psychics and mediums. Paranormal pursuits, such as contacting spirits through mediums, using a ouija board, and table rapping were wildly popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a firm believer in the paranormal. He and Houdini actually had a very public falling out over Harry's debunking of spiritualists. As a magician himself, Harry recognized tricks and sleights that others would miss. He was a very prolific debunker.
|Houdini with his mother and wife Bess|
Reading about the 19th century spiritualism fad inspired my first Gilded Age Chicago mystery, Murder at the Seance.
Why do you think spiritualism was so popular during the Victorian era and at the turn of the century?