The Houdini Afterlife Experiment
Was the Code in a Book?

By Tom Razzeto     useyourmagic.com

There are conflicting claims about whether Harry Houdini, the world famous escape artist and magician, after his death in October 1926, was successful in passing a prearranged secret coded message to his wife in January 1929 through Arthur Ford, a psychic medium.

Joseph Dunninger, a magician and friend of Houdini, thought Ford hoaxed the message by getting the code out of a book that was published in 1928. The title of the book is, "Houdini: His Life-Story" by Harold Kellock and was written with the help of Mrs. Houdini. I obtained the book and found that the part that deals with the code is very brief.

(See the book scans below.)

The book talks about how Harry and Bess communicated on stage with secret visual and spoken signals and states, "When one was out of view of the other, the spoken code was used. Their code words for numbers, which the Houdinis kept secret for thirty-five years, were as follows:"

      1 Pray
      2 Answer
      3 Say
      4 Now
      5 Tell
      6 Please
      7 Speak
      8 Quickly
      9 Look
    10 Be Quick   (the tenth "word" is actually a phrase and can also mean "zero")

After the list, we have one more sentence: "By combining these (words) within sentences, they could signal any one number or combination of numbers."

That is the totality of the information in the book about the code. It is important to note that the book says nothing about any of the following:

       That the code can be used to form words, not just numbers

       How the clever coding method works to form words

       That they used the code for the afterlife experiment

       That the secret message would start with the un-encoded word "Rosabelle"

       That the secret message would encode the word "believe"

       The actual secret ten-word message

None of that was in the book!

We can be sure that as soon as Dunninger said that the code was in the book, many people concluded that Ford was a fraud without looking any further. I doubt that Ford even read this book and even if he did, it just doesn't offer, in my opinion, enough information for him to construct the prearranged secret message.

The following ten words are the prearranged secret message:

      Rosebelle * Answer * Tell * Pray Answer * Look * Tell * Answer Answer * Tell

Decode, it says:

      Rosebelle, believe!

The message was delivered and decode by Ford who claimed to be channeling his regular spirit guide, Fletcher, who in turn claimed to be working with the spirit of Harry Houdini. This was done in the presence of Mrs. Houdini at her home in front of witnesses. Mrs. Houdini signed a brief document that states that the message is accurate:

Houdini's Afterlife Experiment

Buit that is only part of the story. Mrs. Houdini later said she changed her mind and doubted that the message came from her deceased husband.

While I think that it is impossible to find certainty in the Houdini case, I do find the case fascinating. If you would like to learn many other important aspects of the case, then you can read my full essay. One thing is for sure: you can at least see how the secret code works!

Here is the full essay, "The Houdini Afterlife Experiment - Did It Work?" http://www.useyourmagic.com/essays/houdini.html

Thanks for reading this short essay! And have a magical and mystical day!

Tom Razzeto    useyourmagic.com    Jan 25, 2007


Here are the scans from the book. Now you can make up your own mind as to whether Ford could have gotten the secret coded message out of this book as claimed by Dunninger.

Title Page:

Title Page of Houdini Book

Copyright Page:

Copyright Page of Houdini Book

Page 102 and 103:

Title Page of Houdini Book

Page 104 and 105:

Title Page of Houdini Book


If you enjoyed this essay, then you might enjoy some of my other work:

   Spiritual audio books for children and grown-ups: Use Your Magic!
       useyourmagic.com

   An inexpensive ESP board game: ESP Mind Power!

   Back to my essays

    Have a magical day!

    Tom Razzeto