On June 18th…

Arthur and Jean (c. 1920)

While touring in America in 1922, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife, Jean, stopped at Atlantic City, where they were able to spend time with friends Harry and Bess Houdini. During the visit, on June 18, 1922, Sir Arthur invited Harry to the Doyles’ hotel room so that Jean could perform an automatic writing session for him, contacting a deceased loved one who would “dictate” a message through Jean.

The Houdinis were skeptical of seances – Harry spent years debunking mediums and would later reveal some of their methods in his A Magician Among the Spirits – but Harry agreed to go. Before he went, Bess mentioned to him that she had been talking with Jean the previous evening about Harry’s mother, Cecilia Weiss, who had died in 1913.

Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle (Atlantic City, 1922)

In the Doyles’ room at the Ambassador Hotel, Jean entered a “trance” and began to write:

Oh, my darling, thank God, thank God, at last I’m through – I’ve tried oh so often – now I am happy. Why, of course I want to talk to my boy – my own beloved boy – Friends, thank you, with all my heart for this. […]

When complete, the message covered 15 pages. Cecilia Weiss assured her son that she was happy, that she loved him, and that she was grateful to the Doyles for the chance to speak with him again.

Harry Houdini was polite, but the seance proved to be a breaking point in his friendship with Sir Arthur. Among other problematic aspects, the purported message from his mother was in fluent English, which she never spoke.

Cecilia Weiss, Harry Houdini, and Bess Houdini (1907)


Sources: A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes, by Leah Guinn (JHWS “Amber”) and Jaime N Mahoney (JHWS “Tressa”); Teller of Tales: The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, by Daniel Stashower; and “A Magician Among the Spirits: The Improbable Friendship of Harry Houdini & Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”, by Joe McGasko.