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?