I’ve been thinking about what it is that is driving me to work with the subject matter I am investigating. Maybe a lot of it is about the waiting and the wanting. A process of setting something up and waiting for it, wanting for it to happen. Not quite understanding how it will happen or even if it will happen at all, a hope seasoned with doubt. Perhaps also scepticism laced with longing. Like Bess Houdini, whose husband Harry debunked spiritualists as often as possible, proving their trickery and exposing their theatrics.
At the last Houdini arranged a message that after his death he could pass onto his wife. A secret coded message that could not be faked by any charlatan seeking her wealth or her vulnerability. The only thing was that she could tell no one of the particulars of the message.
And she waited. And hoped. And I believe she must have also longed and doubted. And true to her word she held seances every anniversary of his death for ten years and waited for his message to pass through the ether. But she let it slip and she couldn’t keep her silence, she told someone and the only chance she ever had of receiving a pure message from her love was gone.
Finally in 1936 she declared:
Houdini did not come through. My last hope is gone. I do not believe that Houdini can come back to me, or to anyone… …the Houdini shrine has burned for ten years, I now, reverently turn out the light, It is finished, Good night Harry. (Bess Houdini as cited by Roger Clarke, 2012)
The message she had waited for and failed to keep secret,
full of personal and sentimental touches, ran ‘Rosabelle – answer – tell – pray, answer – look -tell – answer, answer – tell.’ Bess Houdini’s wedding ring was inscribed with ‘Rosabelle’, the song she sang in her act when they first met, and the other words correspond to a secret spelling code used to pass information between a magician and his assistant during a mind-reading act. After establishing the Rosabelle identity, the Houdini secret signal would have spelled out one clear command from beyond the veil.
That command was, simply, ‘Believe.’ (Clarke 2012 p. 305)
Clarke, R. (2012). A natural history of ghosts: 500 years of hunting for proof. Particular Books: London, England.