The Magi­cian and the Spirits

Deb­o­rah Noyes
  • Review
By – September 3, 2018

Har­ry Hou­di­ni is arguably one of the most famous magi­cians and illu­sion­ists of all time. How­ev­er, what many peo­ple don’t know is that Hou­di­ni was also inter­est­ed in the idea that spir­its might be able to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple after death, explains Deb­o­rah Noyes in her new book, The Magi­cian and the Spir­its. He was pre­oc­cu­pied with things the eye can’t see,” she writes.

While Noyes offers insight into Houdini’s ear­ly years as he tried to make it on the show busi­ness cir­cuit with his wife and ear­ly costar, Bess, and briefly dis­cuss­es his Jew­ish back­ground, she focus­es most­ly on Houdini’s fas­ci­na­tion with spir­it com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The Magi­cian and the Spir­its takes read­ers through his research of the para­nor­mal as he vis­its medi­ums, attends séances, and more in his search to uncov­er the truth. Noyes also touch­es on the ori­gins of the Spir­i­tu­al­ist move­ment and the var­i­ous tricks and tac­tics employed by fraud­u­lent psy­chic medi­ums. Par­tic­u­lar­ly after the death of his beloved moth­er, Hou­di­ni abhorred how griev­ing peo­ple were preyed upon by psy­chics. The author describes an instance when Hou­di­ni joined his friend, the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife, Lady Doyle, at a séance. While Lady Doyle claimed to be receiv­ing a mes­sage from Houdini’s moth­er, she drew a cross, hor­ri­fy­ing Hou­di­ni, as his moth­er was Jew­ish and the wife of a rab­bi. Despite his skep­ti­cism, Hou­di­ni want­ed to believe, keep­ing an open mind even up to his death.

Sup­ple­ment­ed with quotes, inter­est­ing side­bars, and archival pho­tos, this is an enthralling, impec­ca­bly researched work of nonfiction.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 10 and up.

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

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