A New Film Explores Houdini's Quest To Debunk The World of Mysticism

Illustration for article titled A New Film Explores Houdinis Quest To Debunk The World of Mysticism

When you hear the name Houdini, you probably get a very specific image in your head. That of a man in a straight jacket escaping something. But a new movie will explore a side of the legend many people don’t know existed: The skeptic.

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STX Entertainment just bought the rights to make a film based on the book The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher. Mama director Andres Muschietti is attached, with Jaher himself adapting the screenplay.

The Witch of Lime Street tells the true story of Harry Houdini’s rivalry with Margery Crandon, a spirit medium, who Houdini believed to be a fraud. In the 1920s, the famous escape artist formed a council to prove just that and made it a personal goal to debunk the world of mysticism and spiritualists as fake.

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Considering there are still very famous mediums in the world, the story feels pretty timely, in addition to the nice historical hook of Houdini. In a statement from STX, president Oren Aviv says many studios were pursuing rights to this book:

“This is a spellbinding and exciting true story that weaves a fantastic mystery and lots of intrigue with history involving some of the most renowned and iconic figures of the era. The timeless question ‘is there life after death?’ is explored through a scientific quest to investigate and validate supernatural phenomena. Ultimately, the film leads to an epic showdown and otherworldly confrontation as the world-renowned occult master Harry Houdini takes on the world’s greatest psychic, Margery Crandon.”

Muschietti has a bunch of potential projects on his plate but I would hope this one happens sooner rather than later.

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And on a semi-related note, if this topic interests you, there’s a similar movie out there, minus Houdini, that you may have not seen. It’s called Red Lights and it stars Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, and Elizabeth Olsen. The film follows a group of spiritual debunkers and it’s got some huge flaws, but it’s pretty underrated.

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[The Hollywood Reporter]

Image credit: Wikimedia


Contact the author at germain@io9.com.

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DISCUSSION

Harry had a reason for wanting to debunk the spiritualists. He was devoted to his mother, and when she died spiritualism was all the rage. Mediums claimed to be able to contact those on “the other side”, and Harry approached them out of a sincere desire to contact his mother. However, his experience as a stage magician allowed him to see through the fakery, which was profound and manifest. He turned against spiritualists out of anger that they promised to contact his mother and couldn’t.

Just before he died Harry told his wife to hold seances for him; he’d contact her if it was possible. He gave her a password so she’d know it was really him. She conducted the seances through the 1930’s then passed the task on to others. Their heirs still hold the seances today; Harry has never come through.