Machpelah Cemetery (Queens)
Machpelah Cemetery is a Jewish cemetery located in Glendale, Queens, in the U.S. state of New York. It is the final resting place of magician Harry Houdini, his brother Theodore Hardeen, his mother, father, grandfather, four other brothers, and a sister.
During October 1969, the 43rd anniversary of Houdini's death was celebrated on Halloween by The Spellbinder, the Society of American Magicians. 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.
Harry Houdini, born Eric Weiss, was renowned for feats such as walking through brick walls and escaping from bindings and enclosures. One of his more famous tricks was escaping after being buried alive in a bronze casket. For years, it has been rumored that Houdini took the secrets of his tricks to his grave.
Although born Erich Weiss, he changed his name to Harry Houdini at the age of 17. He chose this name because admired the French magician Robert Houdin. There were rumors concerning that there was a secret compartment at Houdini's grave in Queens. 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 secrets are waiting to be discovered. 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.
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. 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 Society of American Magician's Chairman John Bohannon. 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.
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. "[Cemetery administrator] David Jacobson sends us a bill for upkeep every year but we never pay it." "The Society of American Magicians never paid the cemetery for any restoration of the Houdini family plot in my tenure since 1988," 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 October 31, 1996, the anniversary of Houdini's death. This ritual in which a "magic wand" is broken symbolizes the end of the magician's power.
The granite monuments of Houdini's sister, Gladys, and brother, Leopold, are missing. Some members of the society say they believe that Jacobson has hidden them, or worse, sold them off to collectors. "I have them," Jacobson has said. "They are broken."
A bust of Harry Houdini was smashed or stolen four times from his family plot at Machpelah between 1975 and 1993. The Society of American Magicians gave up trying to replace it. Houdini was president of this society at the time of his death in 1926. On September 27, 2011, a group from the Harry Houdini Museum in Scranton secretly installed a reproduction of the bust, made from durable statuary cement. Among the group were Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz, museum directors, and retired escape artist Stephen Moore. The officials of the cemetery and The Society, despite the unorthodox approach, stated they were pleased with the result. "When someone offers to repair something that's broken — in a charitable spirit — any cemetery would be thrilled," Jacobson cemetery director said.
- Bohannon, John. "Off the Beaten Track: the Mystery of Houdini's Grave". Newsday. October 27, 1985.
- Dyer, Michael. "Magicians Will Visit Houdini Grave Oct. 31". Long Island Press. October 19, 1969.
- Fogel, Suzanna. "Grave Robbers Hits Houdini Tomb In Search Of His Magical Secrets". Queens Tribune. August 18-24, 1983.
- Hahn, Avital Louria. "Magic Moment: Homage to Houdini by present-day prestidigitator".Newsday. December 21, 1996.
- Dunlap, David W. (October 24, 2011). "Houdini Returns". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- Kilgannon, Corey (October 31, 2008). "Houdini's Final Trick, a Tidy Grave". The New York Times. Retrieved October 31, 2008.
- LeDuff, Charlie (November 24, 1996). "Houdinis' Plot Is Cleared Up, and Then Thickens". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
- Dunlap, David W. "Houdini Returns (Of Course)". The New York Times. October 25, 2011.