MORBID CURIOSITY: Celebrity Tombstones Across America       |   home
AALIYAH   |   Lucille Ball   |   Milton Berle   |   Les Brown   |   Karen Carpenter   |   Charles Chaplin's Son (Little Mouse) and Buckwheat   |   James Dean   |   The Del Rubio Triplets Minus Two   |   Morton Downey Jr   |   Roy Rogers and Dale Evans   |   Richard Farnsworth   |   John Gotti   |   Vince Guaraldi   |   Harry Houdini   |   Meyer Lansky   |   Liberace   |   Julie London   |   Raymond Massey   |   Marilyn Monroe   |   Jim Morrison   |   Carroll O'Connor and his son Hugh   |   Papa John Phillips   |   Elvis Presley   |   Mario Puzo   |   Claude Rains   |   Joey Ramone   |   The Rat Pack: Frank, Dean, Peter, and Sammy   |   STUDIO 54 owner Steve Rubell: Pasha of Disco   |   Gene Siskel   |   Ann Sothern   |   Andy Warhol
Harry Houdini

March 24, 1874 or April 6, 1874 - October 31, 1926
There have been many rumors as to how Houdini died, but the most accurate and most plausible story was the told by Ruth Brandon, author of his biography, "The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini." While touring in Canada and the northern United States, he had broken his ankle and it was causing him a lot of pain. As he was sitting around backstage nursing his foot, some students decided to visit him. One of the guys asked if it were true that he, Houdini, could resist any blow to his body. Houdini, who was writing a letter at the time and really not paying attention to the student, said "Yes." The young man began punching Houdini in the stomach. After four very hard blows, Houdini told him to stop. Later that evening he told his wife that he was experiencing great pain, but nevertheless refused to do anything about it. Harry always had this exaggerated idea about his own mortality; that he was above pain, injury and death. He was in Detroit doing a show and as the evening progressed so did the pain, up to the point where he had to do the unthinkable and stop the show. His wife, realizing the seriousness of the problem, insisted that he see a doctor. He was diagnosed with acute appendicitis and the doctor told him that he had to go to the hospital at once. Once again, Houdini ignored his doctor's advice and called his own personal physician in New York for advice. After a lot of convincing from his doctor in New York, he entered the hospital. When they performed surgery, his appendicitis had progress to something far worse, acute peritonitis. A few days later Houdini was dead. It has always been suspect, that the blows to his stomach ruptured his appendix. But according to doctors, this is impossible. Besides there were many newspaper clippings that suggested that he had been complaining of stomach problems for some time, prior to his hospitalization. One of the tricks Houdini was famous for was the escape from a coffin which was suspended in water. In Detroit, while he was in the hospital, it was clear that the show would not continue. His assistant sent twenty four cases of his props back to New York on the train. Soon after Houdini's death he was notified that one of the cases had been left behind by mistake. It happened to be the case containing the coffin. So everyone decided that this was the coffin he would be buried in. Harry Houdini is buried in the Machpelah Cemetery, I couldn't really tell how big this cemetery was because I didn't have to go far to find Houdini. He greets you right at the gate. He is buried in the family plot, "Weiss" "Houdini," which is pretty large. It has a nun type figure kneeling at the base of the monument and at one time above the family name was a bust of Houdini. It has since been stolen. The Machpelah Cemetery, as most Jewish cemeteries, has been victimized by vandalism. One year the entire Houdini gravesite had been desecrated. Its Gothic benches and ornate headstones were destroyed. During Houdini's lifetime he was notorious for paying homage to fellow magicians of the past by spending time and money to fix up what was often long neglected grave sites. Now the tables were turned and Houdini's grave was in bad shape. David Copperfield carried on the Houdini tradition and donated $10,000 to help repair the damage to his mentor's grave. The gravesite was fully restored, (with exception to Houdini's bust), just in time for the anniversary of his death, October 31st. For 68 years, on every Halloween, Houdini admirers gather at the gravesite to pay homage to him. Standing in a semicircle around his grave, they read excerpts from his 1926 burial service. A wooden wand is snapped in two, over the gravesite, a symbol of the death of a magician and the loss of his power. Then a Conservative rabbi says Kaddish. On October 20, 1995, chief operating officer of the cemetery, David Jacobson, decided it would be best if he padlocked the gate on Halloween. He felt that the publicity behind the event had attracted too many unwanted guests to the grounds, leading to vandalism. He said the problem has gotten out of hand and that he has a responsibility to protect the people who are buried there. The Society of American Magicians have a different opinion, they fought to keep the gates open, and enlisting the help of Governor of New York, George Pataki. Mr. Jacobson says he has no problem with them visiting the cemetery, just don't do it on Halloween. Finally an alternative date for the ceremony was agreed upon, November 16th, the anniversary of Houdini's death on the Jewish calendar.
Machpelah Cemetery
8230 Cypress Hills Street
Flushing, New York
Directions: Take the Interboro Pkwy to Cypress Hill Street exit. Continue down Cypress Hills and on your left you should see this cemetery prior to Cooper Avenue. Houdini is right at the entrance.