Houdini Joins the Skeptic’s Circle
There were skeptics among Doyle’s circle of friends, including Harry Houdini, one of the most famous magicians of the time. He pulled off miraculous stunts and created illusions that awed even skeptics. His insider knowledge of audience misdirection and slight-of-hand led him to believe mediums were using the same sort of tricks. He took particular delight in debunking mediums and vocally dispelling how ‘spirits’ would communicate with the living. He declared spirit photography a hoax. To prove his stance, he enlisted the help of Harry Price, magician and member of the Society for Psychical Research. In 1922, Price authored an article, “Cold light on Spiritualistic Phenomena” in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. Houdini respected Price’s candor in exposing the trick behind spirit photography and asked Price to take this ‘spirit photograph’ showing him in a frame with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, like P.T. Barnum before him.