Posted by: Author | October 7, 2010

Seances, Harry Houdini, Halloween and My Novel

All of the above may sound like they don’t relate. They do. Sort of. Harry Houdini was the greatest magician of all time. That’ s not just my opinion. It’s pretty much a fact.  And yeah, I know this is not a Friday Fact day. Harry Houdini died on Halloween in 1926. And that’s a fact, too.

Spiritualism and seances came in vogue in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. Seances themselves as a way to try to contact the dead date back to the very early days of mankind. They enjoyed a huge resurgence in the days of Queen Victoria because of two sisters, last name Fox.  They started the movement when they said they contacted a spirit that communicated with them. Their story is intriguing and I recommend further research if you’re interested.

Houdini was a skeptic about this whole phenomenon. His friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a true believer.  Houdini was able to debunk several mediums and prove the methods they were using to scam people.  He and Conan Doyle enjoyed their arguments on this issue. They liked to debate about the truth of the matter and whether or not there were real mediums.

Despite the fact that he insisted to his friend that there were no true mediums, Houdini and his wife came up with a plan for him to try to contact her after his own death. Since he died on Halloween, every year for ten years after his death, his wife would hire a medium to conduct a seance to see if the secret message would come through. It never did. She gave up after ten years.

What does this all have to do with my novel that I sold this week? Well, in Redemption for the Devil, the hero is looking for a way to have free access to the bowels of the cruise ship on which he’s traveling.  Since 1920 was at the height of the seance/spiritualism craze, I have a character that’s a clairvoyant on the RMS Mauretania. She conducts seances for some of the wealthy passengers. Her name is Madam Theresa and she’s a scammer. Liam, our hero, takes advantage of the situation. Once the first seance occurs, passengers imagine they see ghosts all over the ship. Liam dresses as a dead World War I soldier to have free rein on the boat. The RMS Mauretania had been commandeered by the British Navy  for troop transport during the war so it was feasible for there to be such a ghost on board. The ship took troops to Gallipoli where the British forces lost over 21,000 men and over 52,000 British were injured.

So there you have it. How Seances, Harry Houdini, Halloween and Redemption for the Devil relate.

I’m guest blogging today here:   Come comment on your own true  love or  a ghostly experience you have had – be entered to win a shoe charm to commemorate the January 2011 release of my book Solo Honeymoon. The hero in that one happens to be a shoe designer.



  1. I love the way you tied everything together, Jillian. Every time I think of seances, I picture Ghost and The Others…meh

    • Thanks Danica- Agreed on the meh!

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