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Witchvox Chapter: Local Poetry
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VxPoem ID: 25284
Posted: October 31st. 2006 4:24:20 PM
Age Group: Adult
The Ghost of Drury Lane
The most historic and oldest of all theatres in London, the Theatre Royal stands on the oldest site in the world to have been continually used as a playhouse. The first theatre built in 1663 and burnt in 1672 was the venue for Nell Gwynn;s stage debut. King Charles II took Nell as his mistress after falling in love with her at first sight during a performance in 1665. A new theatre holding 2000 patrons opened in 1674. Through a lack of finance this building quickly showed serious signs of neglect and in 1794 was replaced by a third theatre with a capacity of 3, 611, but it too succumbed to fire in 1809. The theatre that stands on the site today was opened in 1812 with money raised in part by Lord Byron and Whitbread and since then has witnessed many notable performances and events. "The Man in Grey", the theatre's famous ghost appears during the day, but never at night, in the auditorium of the theatre. He is dressed in elaborate costume, including a tricorn hat, powdered wig and cloak, and carries a sword. To see him during rehearsal is considered to be good luck. Sometimes appearing during a performance, he's apt to shush patrons rather than scare them, he comes to watch the play from the balcony where he slowly walks from one end to the other only to disappear into the wall. Some believe that this ghost is a man that was murdered in the theatre some 200 years ago, whose skeleton was found in a sealed room backstage with a dagger still wedged in the ribcage.dressed in long riding cloak, boots and three-cornered hat. He is said to haunt the Upper Circle, particularly during matinees.
The performer known world wide as Harry Houdini was born on March 24, 1874 in Budapest. Although Houdini often claimed to be born in Appleton, Wisconsin, Houdini actually came to the United States when he was four years old. Houdini's parents were Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weiss and Cecilia Steiner Weiss. His parents spoke only Yiddish, Hungarian, and German.The family was quite poor so most of the children began to work at an early age. From the age of eight young Ehrich Weiss sold newspapers and worked as a shoe shine boy.
Young Ehrich left home at thirteen and traveled the country for about a year, always sending money home when he could. He joined up with his father in New York City, but his father would die about five years later on October 5, 1892, While in New York he was introduced to the world of big time magic. He was very athletic and won awards in swimming and track. He would use this athletic and swimming talents to great use in his future as an escape artist.
Houdini began performing magic as a teenager first calling himself Eric the Great. He read "Revelations of a Spirit Meduim" by A. Medium, which exposed the tricks of phony psychics. A second book was "The Memoirs of Robert-Houdin, " the autobiography of one of the greatest magicians of the day. Influenced by what he read and learned about the internationally known magician Robert Houdin, Ehrich changed his name to Houdini.
In 1894, Houdini met Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner, who was singing and dancing as part of the Floral Sisters at Coney Island. After knowing each other only two weeks they were married in the month of July. Bess worked and traveled with Houdini and helped by singing, dancing, and performing the Metamorphosis exchange which Houdini invented. His fame as an escape artist was worldwide. He invented many illusions and escapes still used today.
Throughout his career Houdini exposed cheats and frauds in the areas of gambling, spiritualism, and psychic frauds. Houdini never believed in spiritualism, but would often pretend to in order to gain entry to seances, etc. Early on he attempted to do a spiritualist act when he was down and out, but found it so distasteful that he stopped and would forever expose those who made such claims.
In the summer of 1926, a few months before he died, Houdini heard about a magician who had sealed himself inside a box and had been lowered into water, where he allegedly stayed for over an hour, submerged, before coming up out of the water and the box, triumphant. Houdini purchased a bronze coffin and had himself locked into it and submerged in a hotel swimming pool for an hour and a half before the coffin was pulled out of the water and opened to reveal a smiling, healthy Houdini. Houdini took the coffin on tour with him in the fall, displaying it in the lobbies of the theaters he played. He jokingly instructed his wife to use the coffin "should anything happen" to him while on tour. It was in that very coffin that Houdini's body was returned to New York for burial.
During a U.S. tour in the fall of 1926, Houdini began to experience severe stomach pain. He refused medical treatment, because that would have meant missing some shows. Houdini was possibly suffering from the onset of appendicitis, and his own stubborn refusal to see a doctor may have spelled his doom. Houdini was tired, and unusually accident-prone. In Albany, NY, a few weeks before his death, his ankle broke as he was being lifted into the Water Torture Cell onstage. In pain, he continued to perform. A few days later, in Canada, he allegedly was punched in the stomach by a university student who was testing Houdini's well-known ability to withstand blows to the body. That punch may or may not have been the cause of Houdini's ruptured appendix; regardless, Houdini collapsed onstage a few days later in Detroit, and was admitted to Grace Hospital, suffering from peritonitis. On Halloween, 1926, with his brother Hardeen at his side, Houdini passed away.
Could Houdini send a message from the "other side?" Houdini and his wife Bess devised a secret message that was to be used to test the validity of any so-called spirit message coming from either of them, should one or the other die.
The message was based on an old vaudeville mindreading routine. The message was, "Rosabelle- answer- tell- pray, answer- look- tell- answer, answer- tell". Bess' wedding band bore the inscription "Rosabelle", the name of the song she sang in her act when they first met. The other words correspond to a secret spelling code used to pass information between a magician and his assistant during a mentalism act. Each word or word pair equals a letter. The word "answer" stood for the letter "B", for example. "Answer, answer" stood for the letter "V". Thus, the Houdinis' secret phrase spelled out the word "BELIEVE".
Bess began the tradition of holding a séance to see whether Houdini could communicate. These séances, of course, provided rich publicity, and Bess was dedicated to promoting the Houdini name. In early 1929, a very ill Bess was approached by "Rev." Arthur Ford. Within weeks, Ford announced that he had successfully delivered the correct message to Houdini's widow. It did not take long for the press to discover that Ford's claim was a hoax, and that Bess had inadvertently revealed the message to several reporters a full year before Ford's claim. The 1936 séance was the last one that Bess conducted.
Author's Notes: Posted by ladykelshan
from website on histories about famous ghosts...
Author's Location: Washington, Washington DC
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