Catching the Spirit by Adam Wolf #ccmasons
As we approach Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve, also known as All Saint’s Eve, I feel it is appropriate to devote this month’s article some interesting facts about Brother Harry Houdini. Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz, later Ehrich Weiss or Harry Weiss; March 24, 1874 was initiated as an Entered Apprentice on July 17, 1923 in St. Cecile Lodge, No. 568, in New York City. He passed to the Degree of Fellowcraft on July 31, 1923, and was raised to the Degree of Master Mason on August 21, 1923. In 1924 he entered the Consistory, in the Scottish Rite.
Houdini’s Masonic activities included giving a benefit performance for the Valley of New York, which filled the 4,000 seat Scottish Rite Cathedral and raised thousands of dollars. In October 1926, just weeks prior to his death, he became a Shriner in Mecca Temple. His last rites, held November 4, 1926 at the Elks Clubhouse in New York, concluded with traditional Masonic Rites.
In the early part of the last century, 906 East 23rd Street was the site of the First Spiritualist Temple. The building still exists today, but is occupied by another church. In 1923 Mrs. Mary Fairfield McVicker was the Associate Pastor of First Spiritualist Temple and, at her seventy third birthday in front of two hundred of her friends, she made a rather strange pronouncement. She stated that she had seen herself passing out in a vision and requested that a photographer be present at her funeral. If a photograph were taken of her casket at five o’clock on the day of her funeral, she would be appear in the photograph, and this should be taken as evidence of her spirit returning. Two weeks before her passing, McVickers arranged for her funeral. She passed on March 23, 1923, and commercial photographer C.H. Monroe was engaged to photograph her spirit hovering over her coffin at exactly 5:00 PM. It appeared that three photo plates were made of her in her casket and one of the plates was ruined during developing. The pastor of the church Mary Vlasek, claimed that she had seen McVickers’ spirit hovering over the casket as the photos were being made. Several people, including C.H. Monroe who was puzzled by the “distinct impressions,” commented that they had seen McVickers’ spirit in the photos.
Harry Houdini, who had previous experience in spirit investigations, and who was also President of the Society of American Magicians, was asked by Mr. Albert Hetzel to investigate the photos. On April 11th, 1923, Houdini, along with a photographer Nathan B. Moss, visited the First Spiritualist Temple in an attempt to capture the image of McVickers’ spirit. Houdini produced a very detailed report of the investigation, showing that he made every effort to achieve objective accurate results. Houdini refused to use photographer Moss’ plates, but insisted upon buying new ones at a camera supply store that he stringently selected, even refusing a package due to the corners not being glued properly. Houdini followed Moss into the darkroom to watch him load the camera grip, which never left Houdini’s side as they drove to the Temple. Here is a portion of Houdini’s report.
“On arrival at the church we took ten exposures. The plate in which the light shows is the second one taken under the same exposure that Mr. Hetzel wanted, three minutes, F. 4.
The faces that Mr. Hetzel pointed out to me as being spirit faces floating around, I discovered were faces, either through accident or design, could positively be recognized and seen on the wall, but only at a distance away from the wall and at certain angles. In order to show the accuracy of this I requested Mr. Moss to hold a pencil on the wall, I walked back until I could see the faces, then I requested him to move the pencil until it was right under the chin of the face which can be plainly seen, and I posed with pencil and the photo is a three-minute exposure. Mr. Hetzel was positive that the faces were spirit faces before I had shown to everyone in the room that the peculiar formation allowed your mind to see faces, in fact he had one photo of his own and traced a number of spirit faces, so he said.
The pictures were taken as follows:
April 11, 1923, 1st negative 3:30 P.M., 2nd negative 3:58 P.M. (“spirit” negative). When we returned to the Chamber of Commerce Building, we entered the dark room and in my presence the plates were developed immediately, and on one we beheld a peculiar streak. Mr. Moss became very much excited. He had a print made from this plate which caused a great deal of talk, not one photographer could explain how this could be tricked. Mr. Moss offered $100 to anyone who could produce it under the same conditions, whereas no one could duplicate same. Were present: Mr. J. M. Hall, Mr. Albert H. Hetzel, Mr. Stanley Bruce, Reporter of the Examiner, Mr. Virgil Vlasek, Financial Secretary.
Let us remember that Harry Houdini was a brother of the craft and that his spirit is linked to us by an indissoluble chain. We’ll catch you at our next meeting, brethren!
Brother Ackereisen: Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Adam Wolf, Master