Skeptic » eSkeptic » October 31, 2006

The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine



An All-Houdini Halloween Special eSkeptic

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Halloween 1926 death of Harry Houdini. To commemorate the legacy of the man many regard as the greatest skeptic of all time, we’re proud to present two Houdini-related treats: an all-Houdini Halloween Special bonus episode of Skepticality, our official podcast (featuring an interview with escape artist James “The Amazing” Randi), and, a brief selection from poet Steven Price’s critically acclaimed new book-length poetic biography of Houdini, Anatomy of Keys.


Skepticality: The Official Podcast of Skeptic Magazine
Houdini in handcuffs

Harry Houdini in handcuffs

Randi in handcuffs

James Randi in handcuffs

Houdini Halloween episode

On this special Halloween-themed episode of Skepticality, Derek and Spooky… er, Swoopy delve into the mysteries surrounding the life and death of the great Harry Houdini. We have an interview with the curators of the Houdini Museum, distinguished magicians Dick Brooks and Dorothy Dietrich (the first female magician ever to perform the sometimes-deadly Bullet Catch illusion), regarding their annual Houdini Halloween Séance.

Then, James “The Amazing” Randi — the foremost inheritor of the legacy of Houdini — joins us to share some Houdini history, featuring daring escapes and the challenge of sorting fact from fantasy in the Houdini mythos.

SUBSCRIBE to Skepticality
within iTunes

DOWNLOAD Episode #38 (22mb)

SUBSCRIBE to the Skeptic RSS feed


Anatomy of Keys (cover)

The enjoyment of the ambiguities of poetry is a deeply personal undertaking, while the work of the Skeptics Society focusses clearly on consensus-seeking regarding the demonstrable. But, surely, many strange creatures may stir on Halloween — even poets!

As a special one-time toast in honor of Houdini, we’re very pleased to share a brief selection from Steven Price’s new book-length poetic biography of Houdini, Anatomy of Keys.

Steven Price is the son of a locksmith, and teaches poetry and creative writing at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. His new book has been hailed by poetry critics and Houdini fans alike. (The Globe and Mail, Canada’s leading national newspaper, calls Anatomy of Keys “gripping” and “breathtaking,” saying this “Houdini epic is pure magic.” The Globe and Mail’s reviewer, author and former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation president Patrick Watson, went so far as to say, “Reading the Anatomy of Keys, I thought it must have felt like this when T.S. Eliot came on the scene.”) READ the Globe and Mail review >

This selection speaks directly to Houdini’s struggle against fraudulent “spirit mediumship” — a confidence game that is, tragically, once again flourishing in an ongoing big-money revival of “speaking to the dead.”


Anatomy of Keys

excerpts from the book by Steven Price

XXXIV

Shrouded lamps. Dour carpeting in parlours.
The blind spectre wavering incandescent
in a glass. Margery’s gorgeous, Greek struggle
in her ropes. A Flemish medium fumbling
his slates in a dingy farmhouse outside Paris,
his mellifluous cursing at such clumsiness.
And old Alfred, dying in his shabby cot,
Begging his legs be lashed together to keep
from falling apart. So much rope in all of them,
so much stubborn light to fool the heart.
You will forgive her, Bess said. There is time.
Locking hotel shutters as if locking in the light.
The dead do not return, not as you desire them:
in keys perhaps, in keys pretending to be keys.
You longed for that life before her shrouding
when spirits still amused. Not yet haunted
by the real. When loss still seemed of use.

XXXV

The easy giving in of human reason
to the stubborn disregard we call the heart.
The way grief makes us easy in our greed.
Like mad Winchester’s castle, its thousand locks.
And that stevedore strangling his infant son
at the urging of his dead wife’s spirit.
His small bed squeaking later as he cried
to her. Or the blind chemist in her kitchen
late at night frying lentils laced in arsenic
to hasten to her beloved ghosts. In this manner
evil is made available to the heart.
Such madness is not faith. True faith comforts
no one, it confounds, is stubborn, it terrifies
in its immensity. No heart is huge enough.

Patreon: a new way to support the things skeptic creates

Get eSkeptic

Science in your inbox every Wednesday!

eSkeptic delivers great articles, videos, podcasts, reviews, event announcements, and more to your inbox once a week.

Sign me up!

Donate to Skeptic

Please support the work of the Skeptics Society. Make the world a more rational place and help us defend the role of science in society.

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall, M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods. The lectures each range from 32 to 45 minutes.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

Copyright © 1992–2017. All rights reserved. The Skeptics Society | P.O. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119. Privacy Policy.