Tuesday , August 16 2022
Houdini's grave is worth a visit if you have any interest in his story.

A Return Visit to Houdini’s Grave

Visiting grave sites is something of an odd custom, but many people do this in reverence for loved ones. We also sometimes visit the graves of those famous people whom we admire. Over the years I have visited the graves of mostly poets and writers, with Shakespeare’s being the most meaningful to me. In Paris I joined hundreds of other people who went to Pere Lachaise Cemetery to visit Jim Morrison’s grave (I went on July 3 – his birthday – which could explain the huge crowd).

I grew up not far from the cemetery where Houdini was buried, and as kids we were fascinated by the fact that Houdini’s grave was nearby. I devoured every book with “Houdini” in the title, and my grandfather’s stories about his exploits enhanced my interest in the man. The name Houdini seemed to stand for magic, mystery, and excitement.

My grandfather had seen Houdini performing at Coney Island in the early 1900s, and that was before he became truly famous. By the time my father was a boy, Houdini had become what would be considered the equivalent of today’s rock star. A true celebrity, Houdini was involved in movies, radio shows, and what seemed to be his favorite thing, live shows in the Vaudeville era.

Houdini is probably best known for great escapes. He could escape from chains, straitjackets, water tanks, and most notably handcuffs. When I was a kid running around the house, my grandfather used to call me “Houdini” because I was popping up everywhere and disappearing. The legend caught my attention and then I found out about his grave being in the cemetery literally down the block, and that increased my fascination with the magician.

When I was a teenager we would walk the long cold stretch up the steep Cypress Hills Street from Cooper Avenue with cemeteries on both sides of us. We did this every Halloween because Houdini had died on October 31 and supposedly told his wife that if he could come back he would do so on that night. It was quite a spooky trek, but when we would get there other people had the same idea, so it was not that scary to see a large group of Houdini fans waiting for the ghost to arrive. We never did see anything on those dark cold nights.

Recently I made a return visit to the grave in Machpelah Cemetery in Glendale, Queens. This grave site is not far from the gate that is on the western side of Cypress Hills Street north of Cooper Avenue. Houdini is marked on the stone above the family name Weiss (Eric Weiss was Harry’s given name). I was sorry to see the bust of Houdini had been taken away. I remembered that the grave had been vandalized several times over the years, so perhaps it was removed to protect it.

On a clear cold winter’s day, there was nothing spooky about the grave at all. All the mystery seemed to have been displaced, perhaps by growing older and sadly wiser. Still, the mystery of the man remained and I paid respects to his memory and the reminiscence of the excitement his legend caused me in childhood.

Houdini’s grave is worth a visit if you have any interest in his story. He once was extremely famous and is one of the greatest magicians who ever lived. He died on October 31, 1926, from a burst appendix. It was widely known that he could take any punch to the stomach, but a college student had taken him by surprise and punched him before he could tighten his muscles properly. The great Houdini was undone by a sucker punch, but his legend lives on.

Photo Credit: Harry Houdini – Houdini.com

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. 'Heartbeat and Other Poems,' 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. His newest books 'The Stranger from the Sea' and 'Love in the Time of the Coronavirus' are available as e-books and in print. After winning the National Arts Club Award for Poetry while attending Queens College, he concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose until the recent publication of his new book of poetry, 'Heartbeat and Other Poems' (now available on Amazon). He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written many articles on a variety of topics; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society and Flash Ficition editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.

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