Machpelah Cemetery (Queens)

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Coordinates: 40°41′38″N 73°53′11″W / 40.69389°N 73.88639°W / 40.69389; -73.88639

Machpelah Cemetery, Glendale

Machpelah Cemetery is a Jewish cemetery located in Glendale, Queens, New York. It is the final resting place of, amongst many others, magician Harry Houdini and his brother Theodore Hardeen.[citation needed] Along with Houdini, his mother, father, grandfather, five brothers, and a sister are also buried in the Machpelah Cemetery in Glendale.[1]

During October 1969, the 43rd anniversary of Houdini's death was celebrated on Halloween by The Spellbinder, The Society of American Magicians (SAM).[2] Among the members of the society's New York Chapter were one-hundred Long Island Magicians, who went to Houdini's grave at Machpelah Cemetery to hold memorial services for the famed escape artist.[2]

Harry Houdini, born Eric Weiss, was renowned for feats such as walking through brick walls and escaping from bindings and enclosures.[3] One of his more famous tricks was escaping after being buried alive in a bronze casket.[3] For years, it has been rumored that Houdini took the secrets of his tricks to his grave.[3]

Although born Erich Weiss, he changed his name to Harry Houdini at the age of 17: this stage name was chosen out of how he admired the French magician Robert Houdini.[1] There were rumors concerning that there was a secret compartment at Houdini's grave in Queens.[1] In addition, some people believe this cemetery, near Houdini grave, holds a secret compartment: this compartment, revealed by a hidden device, was said to be where dark secret are waiting to be discovered.[1] Distinguished magic historian and Houdini biographer Milbourne Christopher, during an interview, said he did not believe that such a compartment existed and that Houdini would never communicate from beyond the grave: then he said that it might be possible.[1]

The Machpaleh Cemetery was visited by many figures. David Copperfield, perhaps the world's best-known contemporary magician, paid his respects at Harry Houdini's grave site.[4] Furthermore, Copperfield donated $15,000 to the Society of American Magicians in order to help undo an act of vandalism which desecrated several graves, along with Houdini's, after speaking with the SAM's Chairman John Bohannon.[4] Along with Copperfield's donation, the escape artist James Randi donated $2,000, and $8,000 were donated from magicians all over the world: these donations paid for the replacement of two granite benches that were vandalized in 1993 and for casting a permanent Houdini bust.[4]

George Schindler, the dean of the Society of American Magicians, said his group had stopped contributing money toward the maintenance of the site in recent years. [5] "David Jacobson sends us a bill for upkeep every year but we never pay it" [6] The Society of American Magicians never paid the cemetery for any restoration of the Houdini family plot in my tenure since 1988, Mr. Jacobson said. The money came from the dwindling funds of the Machpelah Cemetery, he said.

The Society of American Magicians performed a "broken wand" ritual on Oct. 31, 1996, which was the anniversary of Houdini's death.[7] This ritual in which a "magic wand" is broken symbolizes the end of the magician's power.[7]

The granite monuments of Houdini's sister, Gladys, and brother, Leopold, are missing. Some members of the society say they believe that Mr. Jacobson has hidden them, or worse, sold them off to collectors. I have them, Mr. Jacobson replied. They are broken [8]

The Houdini grave site is no longer cared for by the Society of American Magicians, but by The Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania. [5]

A bust of Harry Houdini was smashed in or stolen four times between 1975 and 1993, from his family plot at Machpelah Cemetery.[9] The Society of American Magicians gave up trying to replace it: Houdini himself was president of this society at the time of his death in 1926.[9] On September 27, 2011, self-styled commandos from the Harry Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pa., took it upon themselves to install a reproduction of the bust, which they hoped would be made from durable statuary concrete.[9] Among the commandos were Dorothy Dietrich, a museum director, and a retired escape artist named Stephen Moore.[9] The officials of the cemetery and society, despite the commandos' unorthodox approach, stated they were pleased with the result.[9] David Jacobson, the chairman, president and administrator of Machpelah Cemetery stated "When someone offers to repair something that's broken-in a charitable spirit-any cemetery would be thrilled.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Bohannon, John. "Off the Beaten Track: the Mystery of Houdini's Grave". Newsday. 27 OCT. 1985
  2. ^ a b Dyer, Michael. "Magicians Will Visit Houdini Grave Oct. 31". Long Island Press. 19 OCT. 1969
  3. ^ a b c Fogel, Suzanna. "Grave Robbers Hist Houdini Tomb In Search Of His Magical Secrets". Queens Tribune. 18-24 AUG. 1983
  4. ^ a b c Hahn, Avital Louria. "Magic Moment: Homage to Houdini by present-day prestidigitator". Newsday. 21 DEC. 1996
  5. ^ a b Dunlap, David W. (October 24, 2011). "Houdini Returns". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  6. ^ Kilgannon, Corey (October 31, 2008). "Houdini’s Final Trick, a Tidy Grave". The New York Times. Retrieved October 31, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b LeDuff, Charlie. "Houdini's Plot Is Cleared Up, and Then Thickens". New York Times. 24 NOV. 1996.
  8. ^ LeDuff, Charlie (November 24, 1996). "Houdinis' Plot Is Cleared Up, and Then Thickens". The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 1996. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Dunlap, David W. "Houdini Returns (Of Course)". New York Times. 25 OCT. 2011.