We are fast approaching another anniversary (Oct 31) of the death of Harry Houdini. I thought I'd take some time and share with you some information about his grave site. His grave has been in the news quite a bit recently due to the wonderful work of the Houdini Museum in Scranton PA. They have taken it upon themselves to restore the Houdini bust to the grave site.
In 1913, Houdini's mother Cecelia Weiss passes away. Those familiar with the Houdini story know how this affected him and altered the course of his life. Cecelia was buried in this plot also. Cecelia's name was added to the large pillar like tombstone.
Houdini though was devastated. He visited the grave often and eventually came upon an idea of buying a larger family plot and erecting a monument to the family. This was called the 'exedra' which means resting place. The design however was done by a friend of Houdini's Oscar Teale.
Oscar Teale was an architect by trade. But he was also an amateur magician. He served as the fourth President of the Society of American Magicians and wrote a book called 'Higher Magic'. It's said that Oscar Teale was also Houdini's Ghost writer on a number of project including the tome 'A Magician Among the Spirits'. He designed the exedra for Houdini. The finale cost of the monument was $40,000.00. It was installed at Machpelah Cemetery on October 1st 1916.
One interesting addition to the exedra was the inclusion on each side of the monument of part of the original Weiss Grave. On the far left is the gravestone face for Cecelia Weiss. On the far right is the gravestone face for his father Mayer Samuel Weiss.
Houdini had his family moved to the new site and made arrangements for the rest of his family to be buried there upon their individual deaths. The only spouse however that was accorded a grave was Bess Houdini. Her name was added to Houdini's gravestone, but truth be told she is not there. Because Bess was Catholic and Machepelah was a Jewish cemetery, she was buried elsewhere.
Houdini did not want his brother Leopold buried there because of the personal feud they were having. Houdini felt that Leopold disgraced the family by marrying his brother Nathan's ex-wife on a few days after they divorced. But apparently, Leopold is there, though his gravestone is not. Houdini's sister Gladys is also buried there but her gravestone is missing as well. Those two stones were taken out to be repaired and have never been returned.
There are 9 Weiss's buried in that family plot; Mayer Samuel (1829-1892), Cecelia (1841-1913), Herman (1863-1885), Willie (1872-1925), HOUDINI (1874-1926), Nathan (1870-1927), Theo/Dash Hardeen (1876-1945), C. Gladys Weiss (sister) and finally Dr. Leopold Weiss.
Houdini paid for perpetual care of his family plot but the care stopped a long time ago. The SAM Parent Assembly #1 was originally taxed with the duty of taking care of the plot or paying for it's upkeep. But for reasons which remain 'cloudy', the Parent Assembly has not paid for upkeep in a very long time and has a strenuous relationship with David Jacobson who takes care of the cemetery. However, others, like the Houdini Museum, have recently contributed greatly to the gravesite and are responsible for the restoration of the bust which now adorns the site once again. I do have a fear that Machpelah may end up like Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia, some day, and the magic community owes to the memory of the greatest magician of all time to care for his grave.
For those of you interested in a short guided video tour of the grave site, please visit the following link:
This video is from John Cox the man responsible for the incredible site WildaboutHoudini.com. Please watch the video because John shows the back of the exedra which is rarely seen. Enjoy!
|Houdini Grave Today