Monday, October 02, 2006

there are no gas bills in the afterlife

After reading Arthur & George, I have to admit I wished that the book had explored the relationship between Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini instead. The Nonist links to an excellent overview of their relationship.

Conan Doyle and Houdini first met in 1920, during the magician's tour of England. The two of them became good friends, despite their opposing views on the supernatural. Houdini was delighted to learn that there was at least one intelligent person who believed in Spiritualism and found that man in his friend Conan Doyle. The author was convinced of the value of the movement to the world and had given up most of his lucrative writing career to lecture about Spiritualism around the world. He also found that Houdini’s knowledge of the spirit world was as vast as his own, although their attitudes differed.

Doyle agreed with some of Houdini's methods in exposing fraudulent mediums because he believed that their existence damaged the legitimacy of the movement. Lacking his new friend's magical training though, he was less able to see how fraud was accomplished. Houdini worked to try and show the secrets practiced by the fraudulent mediums to Doyle but the author merely insisted that the mediums he knew were good and honest people who would never try and trick or cheat their followers. Besides that, Doyle stated, just because the feats of the spirits could be duplicated did not mean that they were not real. Just because Houdini could prove that fraud was possible was not enough to convince Doyle that it actually occurred.