Houdini’s 1923 revision of A Magician Among the Spirits
Original hand-corrected typed manuscript for a revised edition of A Magician Among the Spirits, 409 pages in a period 10.25 x 11.5 binder, extensively hand-corrected throughout by Houdini (primarily in ink) and his assistant Oscar Teale (in pencil), and signed in ink at the top of page 84, “Harry Houdini.” Teale adds a penciled note at the top of page 133, “Carbon copy of this mailed. H. H. Jany 13th 1923.” The notations throughout range from simple spelling and grammar corrections to near-paragraphs of text. Affixed inside the front cover is a haunting original glossy 6.5 x 8.5 composite photo of Houdini surrounded by ghostly spirit figures. In fine condition, with expected edge chipping and toning to pages. Originates from the estate of renowned stage magician Milbourne Christopher, whose bookplate is affixed inside the back cover. Provenance: Collection of Milbourne Christopher, Swann Galleries, October 30, 1997.
Beginning in the 1920s, Houdini set about debunking spiritualists, psychics, and mediums by exposing their methods—he was even known to attend seances in disguise to observe supposed clairvoyants. He chronicled these exploits in A Magician Among the Spirits, first published by Harper & Brothers in 1924. Houdini was unhappy with the result—they had edited down his nearly 175,000 words to a mere 75,000—and almost immediately began working on this revised edition, a project left unfinished and unpublished at the time of his death in 1926.
Near the beginning, Houdini corrects a sentence while explaining his credentials as a truth-seeker in this realm, crossing out one entire sentence and a few individual words, adding "I," "in the," "of," and "I did," in his own hand: "I have spent a great many years in the study of Spiritualism, though not as much time as I did in the research of magic and magicians." These activities cost Houdini his friendship with writer Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the most prominent spiritualists of the day—a public feud developed between the two, and Houdini did not spare Doyle from harsh criticism in the book. Among Houdini's own handwritten notations in this manuscript are: "Would Shirlock [sic] Holmes have proceeded that way?" and, "So says our friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle," which he adds to paragraphs questioning the logic of those who believe in the paranormal. The impressively thick manuscript is breathtaking to behold, and the copious notations are revealing of the great magician’s creative process. An extraordinary, museum-quality piece, this manuscript represents Houdini's last major literary effort of his lifetime. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.