A Call to Houdini's Ghost

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A protégé of Houdini's brother — a lesser-known escape artist known as "Hardeen" — picked up the tradition. Sidney Radner, now 82, of Holyoke, Mass., has been holding the séances since 1940.

Many of Houdini's greatest magic props sat in Radner's garage for more than 40 years. "Hardeen gave me some," Radner says. "But I'm a fan. I bought some, too."

Radner wouldn't describe himself as a believer. "We're open minded. We're honoring a tradition," he says. "But some spooky things have happened at these things.

At a séance in Niagara Falls in the 1970s, when a medium called on Houdini to make his presence known, there was suddenly a crashing sound, Radner recalls.

Heads turned to a bookshelf. A flowerpot and a book on Houdini's life had suddenly fallen to the ground. "It was spooky," Radner says. "The book fell open to a page where Houdini asks, 'Do the dead return?"

But was the dead magician sending that long-awaited signal? Radner says he wasn't convinced.

The Ghost Who Couldn’t Spell

A sure hoax came at New York séance one Halloween in the 1980s, conducted in Houdini's Manhattan residence on 113th St., when a medium began channeling the spirit of the great escape artist.

Unfortunately, the ghost of Houdini, couldn't spell his own brother's name. "You'd expect a little more from the world's most famous magician," Radner said.

There's a better test, Radner says. This year, he's bringing turn-of-the-century handcuffs that Houdini used in his act. "If they suddenly open, we'll know something supernatural is happening," he says.

But the bigger test, Radner says, might be getting the cuffs to Detroit. "With all the security concerns," he says, "who knows if they'll let me take them on the airplane. Just getting them there might require a Houdini act." Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.