We are SURE we have the facts straight on the dressing room story and the money. We have discussed all of this with no one until now, except for Houdini expert and escape artist Norman Bigelow, who agrees and calls it all an amazing story. We feel it is an innovative and exciting new slant on an important part of Houdini lore.
Here is a quote from Norman he sent us in an email
"Dear Dick, That story sounds as believable as any and more than most. Of course we would have to believe a "lawyer" would fudge some paper work. Ha ha Norm"
MORE FROM NORM...
That gives so much interesting information for a lot of thought.
I thank you and that is great research.
The insurance thing is interesting because we all know that many people do set things up to get insurance and get as much as they can.
That may put a whole new twist on this whole thing."
MORE NOTES FROM OUR FILES.
On a recent television it was claimed Houdini was murdered by J. Gordon Whitehead. We do not believe that is so. We do however believe Whitehead was stalking Houdini's every move in Montreal, and punched Houdini to do some harm, but did not intend for Houdini to die.
Please be reminded, until now, most every thing we know about the dressing room incident comes through ONE source, Bernard Ernst, who was putting a double indemnity case together. He was the provider of the three affidavits along with others from the loyal Houdini clan. He even tried to get three revised, more to his liking. Two went along, Jack Price and Sam Smilovitz. Not J. Gordon Whitehead. Why would Ernst want them revised? Clearly, to build a better case for the double indemnity, which meant Bess Houdini would get more money. That would be the job of any competent lawyer. When J. Gordon Whitehead did not go along Ernst attacked his veracity.
The details of the story of the punches in the dressing room were to some degree manipulated by Bernard Ernst who was Houdini and Bess's lawyer. Bess and the family decided to be pragmatic in the matter and go along to get the extra money. After all Houdini was dead, and the living had to be taken care of. He wanted to find a way to collect double indemnity from the insurance or insurances after it was turned down. He framed it that way and got affidavits from the various witnesses. He led the testimony for them to sign or rewrite. Bess sent the boys as much as $200 each which in today's money could have been as much as $15,000. in those days given the fact that gold was $20 an ounce at the time and now is in the range of $1,500. This is in today's money $15,000.00. An inflation calculator on the web says it would be worth $2,448.93 still quite a large sum for Bess to put out.
Bernard Ernst after quickly getting an affidavit from all three boys, had both Jack Price and Smiley Smilovitch sign a second "improved" affidavit. The were probably quite similar since they came from the same originating source, Ernst himself. Whitehead, who hired a lawyer, the others I do not believe did, refused to send a revised affidavit to Ernst. He was probably, at first, intimidated by Ernst, but then probably on the advice of the lawyer pulled away not wanting to get any deeper. When he punched Houdini, he wanted to hurt him, but not kill him. Now it might be considered murder. Ernst, on the other hand, did not want it to be murder, or an existing condition of appendicitis, neither of which would have qualified as an "accident" for the double indemnity to kick in. He had to find a way that it was accidental.
In later years when we asked relative Marie Blood, who Beatrice Houdini lived with for a time after Houdini died and would have talked about it intimately with the family, said Bess said Beatrice felt Whitehead "just came in swinging!"
I believe Whitehead must of gone to some earlier Houdini event or talk or promo or the one at the college where he attended and could have met Houdini, and so was able to come back stage. He saw or attempted to see Houdini at least six times, four of which were successful, by his own admission. He even was able to look up Houdini at a secret hotel, as many big stars do, to not be bothered by fans and kooks.
One James P. Clarke from Montreal wrote a letter to Arthur Conan Doyle complaining about Houdini's rough treatment of Doyle in his talks. The Canadian census finds no record of a James P. Clarke existing at the time.
There was, however a famous Canadian composer, James P. Clarke who died way before in 1855 or thereabouts. This letter could have been Whitehead writing under that name as I believe Don Bell suggests in his wonderful book, "The Man Who Killed Houdini!. It is believed Whitehead did that sort of thing. Or it was a friend or possibly just some other person. At any rate it is clear Houdini did not make everyone in Montreal happy with an anti Spiritualism talk he did, as well as attacking its proponents in his show. I think Whitehead was a "believer" who was out to get even with Houdini and hurt him. When it turned to "murder" he was taken back and hired his own lawyer. Being an "accident" fit his needs at any rate and got him off the hook.
This all leads back to Ernst as far as I am concerned.
The dressing room story was put together to suit Bernard Ernst's needs to get Bess the double indemnity. Whitehead did not mean to kill Houdini but went along with the story to protect him self.
MORE OF OUR RESEARCH TO FOLLOW!
Dorothy Dietrich & Dick Brookz
We need your help for our projects. The Houdini Museum is a 501 C-3 a non profit organization. We need funds for research, for repair of the Houdini grave that we have been put in charge of by the cemetery since we replaced the bust, and for repairs and reconstruction of the facade of the building that the Office of Economic Development has awarded us a $30,000 grant that we must match with donations in order to get the money. Please help!
Click here to go to page 1, Houdini Murdered1.
Click here to go to page 2, Houdini Murdered2.
Click here to continue to page 4, Houdini Murdered. As of yet uncaptioned pictures about this story
Other sites of interest concerning this subject.
Whitehead Friends LadyMarler, LadyAllen
Whitehead out to get Houdini
Julia Sauer Houdini Ernst affadavit
Julia Karcher Houdini Ernst affadavit
Mackenzie King and Spiritualists
Houdini's Sick Ptomaine before Montreal New York Times
Things to do in Scranton
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