Did you know Ehrich Weiss, better known as Harry Houdini, died Halloween night in 1926? It wasn’t a stunt gone awry, but a dare acted out a week earlier which led to his demise. The story, told through David J. Skal’s book Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween, clarifies a university student followed him to his dressing room where he dared Houdini to take a stomach punch. Skal continues, “He may already have been suffering from undiagnosed appendicitis; the result was peritonitis and a swift but excruciating death.”
What was the secret message? I know you are dying to know! The bunch of garbled-goop goes, “ROSABELLE ANSWER TELL PRAY ANSWER LOOK TELL ANSWER ANSWER TELL.”
Author Skal has written an engaging history of Halloween. Through the use of the Oxford English Dictionary and period postcards, he follows the migration of the celebration from Europe to America. What started as a way to relax after the harvest has now turned to big business with Disney costumes and Hershey candies.
Within the pages one will read all about haunted houses, witches, Jack-o’-Lanterns, and skeletons. He includes a fascinating chapter on Hollywood title, “Halloween on Screen” and concludes with the scariest of scenarios, September 11.