Archive for October 26th, 2010

Let’s Bring Back Houdini

I have always been fascinated with seances. I think it had to do with my brand new Ouji board I received as a present one year for Christmas. Everyone had Ouji boards. In case you have been living in a box, an Ouji board is a board marked with letters and numbers, and other symbols so you can communicate directly with the dead. It has a moveable piece that players put the tips of their fingers on, letting the spirits guide them to the answers they have questions to.    I always wanted to bring back Houdini. Harry Houdini was the famous magician who died doing one of his magic tricks.

According to Wikipedia, Houdini spent years trying to debunk mediums and psychics. He didn’t believe that anyone could have powers of that nature.  He would often go to seances incognito and then jump up to show the people attending  how things were faked.

Before Houdini died, he and his wife, Bess, agreed that if Houdini’s spirit came back after death, he would say “Rosabelle believe” as a secret codeword to prove that it was actually him. This was a phrase from a play that his wife  performed in when the couple first met. His wife held yearly séances  for ten years after Houdini’s death, but “Houdini”‘s spirit never appeared. Bummer.

So, of course, in 1977, I thought I could bring him back. In college, I lived in a house with 4 sorority sisters. We had a lot of ceremonial candles lying about. I can’t tell you how many seances I had in that house. We would light candles, drink, and then conjure up Houdini’s spirit. I remember one specific time when my boyfriend (later husband) kept telling me to be careful. I was wearing a sweater with a cowl collar and was leaning into my candle as I was laughing while chanting, “Harry Houdini, we are calling on you to come visit us this Halloween eve……”  We would drink a little more and conjure up people and I would always have someone hiding in the kitchen to creep into the room at exactly the right moment. It was just another excuse to have a party.

The best seance I had included a little trick I learned from living in a house with uneven floorboards under the carpeting. If I stepped directly on one place in the living room, the nearby lamp would flicker on and off. I guess the lamp cord was sitting on the long board. Or the light wasn’t screwed in all the way. Regardless, it was something I could use, perhaps. Hmmmmm. That gave me an idea.

I gathered my friends and their friends in a little circle after a few rounds of drinks and had them stand, holding hands with the person next to them so there would be no shenanigans. I lit my ceremonial candles and shut off all of the lights, except for that lamp. I changed the bulb earlier to a 20 watt bulb, so it wasn’t too bright. I opened up the living room window a bit to increase the creep factor. I loved it when it was a bit windy.  I started conjuring up Harry Houdini. I called to him several times before I said, “If you are here with us, please give us a sign…and I would slowly shift my weight to one side on that uneven board under the carpet. The light flickered. A couple people nervously laughed. “Is that you, Harry Houdini?” Slowly shift my weight to make the light flicker on, then off. I was starting to freak people out after a few minutes of my questioning.

“Harry Houdini, are you standing in this room right now? If you are, turn the light on and then off. Wow, this  is just too perfect. Someone was getting scared, but was still suspect. “Vickie, are you doing this?”  Haha. The people on both my sides answered in unison, “She’s not. She is holding my hand.”  I decided to get to business.

“Harry Houdini, are you holding hands with someone in this circle? If you are, give us a sign.” The light went off.  Someone screamed. It was a guy! A guy who screamed like a girl. I wanted to crack up laughing, but I was just beginning. “Harry Houdini, if you are holding hands with someone, gently squeeze their hand. I KNEW one of the 9 would squeeze someone’s hand. Everyone started screaming, which meant, more than one person decided to be a funny guy. I then started shifting my weight back and forth and the light was going crazy and people were screaming. It was a fantastic evening. It also helped that people were intoxicated.

I then announced. “Someone has broken the chain. He has left the room.”  I never told anyone what I did. I had three more “drinking seances” after that.

I’d like to think that the famous escape artist paid a visit to us during one of those seances. Even if he didn’t, I hope  he was having a good laugh watching from above.

Did I mention that he died on Halloween?

Vincent Price…..Priceless

Halloween is approaching and it reminds me of the things that really scare me about this fun holiday. A lot of people would vote for the shower scene in “Pyscho” or Michael Myers in the backyard in “Halloween.” But for me, Vincent Price would be at the top of the list. I was afraid of him, but at the same time, I just had to watch his movies. His voice was menacing, but yet peaceful, soothing. I thought he could probably put people in trances. He had this look that would send shivers down my spine.

He was Hannibal Lecter of the 1950’s.  He could be the Pied Piper with that voice, making the children follow him out of town, hypnotized and ready to be eaten. Well, except I don’t think he was like Jeffrey Dahmer or anything in his films.  He was too sauve and cool to eat flesh. He smoked cigarettes, wore a suit most of the time in his movies, and was just crazy, again,in a suave and cool way.

I used to think “House on Haunted Hill” was the scariest thing ever. We would watch scary movies every Saturday night on Chiller Theater, before Saturday Night Live took over Saturday late night. Vincent Price starred in this movie, and gave me nightmares for days.

I remember staying overnight with Cindy, a friend who lived down the street, one night when “House on Haunted Hill” was on tv. We watched it. I was creeped out as usual, and went to her bedroom to go to sleep. Her closet door was open and Cindy asked me to close it. I guess she was scared also. But, of course, that wasn’t the case. Her mom was standing in the closet with a panty hose over her head.  Surprised I didn’t pee myself. I sure showed the neighbors I had healthy lungs, though. When I rented the movie when my children were tweens, I professed that this movie will scare them to death, they laughed at me. It was sort of 1950’s goofy-scary to them. I thought that a skeleton making a woman back into a vat of acid was pretty darn scary. I believe they used the word, “lame.”  The disappointed me so.

Vincent Price could have been in Heidi and I still would have been creeped out. It was his voice. There are many actors who are known for their voice, such as say, James Earl Jones, or Pee Wee Herman.. But, this guy left an impression. I loved it when Michael Jackson used him in “Thriller.”  It really added to the creep-factor. There was another movie that he was in called, “The House of Wax,”  which I thought was pretty scary too. I think Tim Burton used the scene of the burning dolls in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” as a tribute to House of Wax. Don’t even get me started on his Oompah Loompah’s in that movie. I can get side-tracked talking about that creepy movie.

I don’t think there will be another scary movie that will affect me the way “House on Haunted Hill” did as a child. As I grew older, I found When a Stranger Calls and Invasion of the Body Snatchers to be the next best thing.  But, in the end, no one can touch Vincent Price, the king of horror.



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