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Harry Houdini séance to cap National Magic Week

Magicians, believers and skeptics alike will gather on Oct. 31 at the childhood home of Harry Houdini at 244 East 79th Street to perform a séance, in hopes of reaching the illusionist from beyond the grave.
Magicians, believers and skeptics alike will gather on Oct. 31 at the childhood home of Harry Houdini at 244 East 79th Street to perform a séance, in hopes of reaching the illusionist from beyond the grave. Photo Credit: @popnogram via Instagram

National Magic Week kicked off Wednesday with the announcement of a séance intended to reach legendary magician Harry Houdini from beyond the grave.

Representatives from the Society of American Magicians, the Childhood Home of Harry Houdini Foundation and New York Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright gathered at the illusionist’s childhood home at 79th Street and Second Avenue to lay the groundwork for the supernatural scene, set to occur there Oct. 31.

“No matter who we are, or how old we are, surprise, mystery and joy can still be found in the world,” said Sara Crasson, North Atlantic Regional Vice President of the Society of American Magicians. “You are invited to return here on the 31st … where we will participate in a longstanding magicians’ tradition: A séance, where we will attempt to reach Harry Houdini himself.”

Houdini died Oct. 31, 1926, from a case of peritonitis. The traditional séance began when Harry’s wife and stage assistant Bess Houdini organized a gathering in NYC in 1936 in a final attempt to contact her husband. Since then, various séances have been held around the city on the anniversary of his death, but no one has made contact. This year’s ceremony is part of National Magic Day festivities at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 31 at 244 E. 79th St.

Sammy Musovic, 55, owns the building where Houdini and his family first lived after emigrating from Budapest. Next week’s séance will be held on the ground floor — now Sojourn restaurant — with believers and skeptics gathered around an old wooden table Musovic believes was at the residence when Houdini lived there.

“I had no clue when I bought this place,” Musovic said. “I do hear some funny sounds sometimes, and I do worry . . . if I see a black cat, I’ll go around unless I have to.”

Magician Ken Ferst, 68, specializes in card tricks and was a shy teenager when he learned his first illusion. Magic has played an important role in his life, and he is anxious to attend his first Houdini séance next week.

“It would be kind of scary and cool at the same time,” Ferst said. “You never know. Life is full of surprises.”

Other local events for National Magic Week include performances and classes at St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital, Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital and the VA New York Hospital in Brooklyn.

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