Showing posts with label houdini grave. Show all posts
Showing posts with label houdini grave. Show all posts

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Houdini's Grave Upkeep and More


This next piece, I found on the SAMMagicians Instagram Page and I'm basically reprinting it here.

After his sudden and untimely passing in 1926, the funeral for Past National President Harry Houdini featured over 2,000 mourners and presented the very first Broken Wand Ceremony. His remains were then interred at Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, NY, featuring many unique elements designed by Houdini himself. 

After nearly 100 years, today the gravesite needs repair and maintenance, as well as a plan to consider its perpetual care and upkeep.

Having given so much to the Society of American Magicians and establishing it as a global force in the community of magicians, we wish to honor Houdini's legacy and commitment by taking on some of the burden of care for this site.

Please consider donating any amount you can spare, and know that generations of magicians will be able to benefit from your contribution.

To read more about the history of the Houdini Grave, click below for an article I wrote quite a while ago. And check out the comments in the comments section, as they are also rather revealing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mysteries of the Houdini Grave

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.

Let's take a trip back in time. It's 1885 and Houdini's half brother Armin/Herman died of turberculosis. Young Erich offered up his entire life's savings ($10) towards his half brothers funeral. Herman had a typical shaped tombstone with a rounded top. Seven years later, Houdini's father dies in 1892 and is buried next to Herman in the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens NY. The father was given a tall pillar shaped tombstone as can be seen in the photo. Between the Weiss grave and the tree on the right is Herman's tombstone.

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.

Another unique feature is the emblem of the Society of American Magicians which is in the center of the monument just below the bust of Houdini. Harry Houdini served as President of the Society for several years and was the current president when he died in 1926. I can't help but wonder if the emblem was added after Houdini's death. It wouldn't make sense to have it on there in 1916 when the monument was erected. There is one photo in the Silverman Houdini book which shows Houdini sitting on the exedra as it was being built. No circular hole is there for the emblem. So it likely was added later.

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.

But there is a tenth person buried in the cemetery that never is mentioned. Perhaps people have forgotten about her. Hannah Steiner, Cecelia's mother is buried there. Houdini had her disinterred and then placed next to Cecelia sometime between 1913-1916 as a 'birthday gift' to his mother. Strange, sure, but this was Houdini. There is a gravestone there which reads Grandmother 1821-1887. This was Houdini's grandmother, his Mom's mother. She is between one of the marble benches and Herman's grave.

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 Please watch the video because John shows the back of the exedra which is rarely seen. Enjoy!
Houdini Grave Today

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Houdini's Grave & More

If you've been following my blog, you know about the October 8th Heller Project to clean up the grave of Robert Heller. Thankfully, there are others in the magic community with this same passion. The very first to do this was Harry Houdini and now his grave is in need of some work. The Houdini Museum in Scranton has been working to make repairs and has restored the bust of Houdini. John Cox does a nice job of covering their efforts and in the link below.

WILD ABOUT HARRY: Houdini Bust Magically Reappears at his Grave Site...

In addition to this, the October 8th date for Hellers grave is right around the corner. It's going to be extremely difficult and will take more than one outing. It probably won't get finished this year. But we need to start it. Below is copy of the email I sent out to those folks who have volunteered to help with the clean up. If you are in the Philidelphia area and would like to help out, please contact me.
AND also, keep in mind, in the case of RAIN or inclement weather the event will be postponed.

 October 8th Clean-up of Robert Heller's grave

Time: from 8am - 1 pm
Date: Saturday Oct 8, 2011
Where: Mt. Moriah Cemetery,  6201 Kingsessing Ave Philadelphia, PA, 19142

What we need: Lots of garden, lawn tools. lawn and hedge clippers and trimmers, saws, shovels, racks, and pretty much anything you think might help get the job done. PLEASE be sure to bring gloves with you and come dressed for this kind of work. IF someone has a first aid kit, that might be a good idea to have handy for cuts and scraps.

Attached is a map of the cemetery and  the location of the Heller gravesite*. Hellers grave is in Section 135 plot 189. We will be working in an area away from most of the other volunteers. The Heller site is greatly overgrown so it's going to be a huge task to get it cleared. How much we can do in a single day is unknown, but at least we will be knocking a dent into it.

Inclement Weather:
The last two clean-up days at Mt. Moriah were called on account of weather. So IF it is raining on October 8th, this event will be cancelled. And in the event of cancellation, I'll let you know when it is rescheduled and hope you are able to make it.

Thanks for your help with this project.

*email me at for a copy of the map of the Cemetery or if you have any other questions.