Back Stories

The Houdini Story

The Faraday Cage

The Jumping Tomato Story

The Starhouse

The Houdini Story
Harry Houdini was a zealous crusader against fraudulent spiritualist mediums and all things psychic. So I was thrilled to find the following anecdote about a moth that suggests he at least had considered a supernatural possibility. From Houdini on Magic, edited by Walter B. Gibson and Morris N. Young.

Houdini writes:
“A Marvelous Coincidence"
Occasionally coincidences occur in the performance of magical feats that are so startling as to cause even the artist surprise, and such might easily be mistaken for actual manifestations of something occult by those who are believers in such things.

“In Gilbert K. Chesterton’s play Magic the performer astonishes himself by actually producing magical effects that he had not supposed possible and which he himself realized that he actually had no hand in, materially speaking.

Something very like this occurred at a banquet given in my honor by the Los Angeles Society of Magicians at the City Club, the night of April 12th. All the members presented brief experiments and among them a druggist of Glendale, California, named Robinson, essayed the feat of changing a rolled cigarette paper into a live moth. Unfortunately, the moth when produced was dead. But just as the metamorphosis was to occur, a living moth appeared from somewhere and circled his head! It vanished as it came, and a believer might have decided that it was the astral body of the dead insect which appeared, or that in some way the powers of darkness had conspired to assist the magician.

Of course it was a coincidence, but a miraculous one. I myself was startled, and so was everyone else, the performer possibly most of all. I have never seen anything like it in my experience with the art of conjuring. “

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The Faraday Cage
For more information on these experiments: click here

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The Jumping Tomato Story

Gordon is an engineer who designs turbines for jet engines. I became friendly with him at work. Among his many interests are religion, psychic phenomena, and UFO’s. One day he told me about an engineer from a previous job who claimed to have a Martian roommate. It was such a good story I brought Gordon to our psychic group to tell it.

But he got side tracked with his grandparents’ religion and just as he began the Martian story the tomato leapt off the window sill. The way we were seated around the table, Claire, Helen L. and Bill were facing the sink and saw the tomato jump; Helen P and Gordon didn’t see it; Marge and I saw it landing out of the corners of our eyes. Everyone heard the “Thump!” By then the Martian story seemed trivial, though later I wrote to Gordon’s acquaintance but, as Gordon predicted, he didn’t answer.

The next week Helen P, after setting aside the seeds, sliced the tomato and we ate it! We planted seeds the next spring. One of the tomatoes I grew, when cut , displayed seeds already sprouted. I don’t know if that means anything.

There is a well known anecdote about Jung and Freud where Jung describes “catalytic exteriorization phenomenon” that seems to describe the tomato’s journey. He writes in his journal that Freud was arguing against such things.

Jung writes
“While Freud was going on this way, I had a curious sensation. It was as if my diaphragm were made of iron and were becoming red-hot -- a glowing vault. And at that moment there was such a loud report in the bookcase, which stood right next to us, that we both started up in alarm, fearing the thing was going to topple over on us.

I said to Freud: 'There, that is an example of a so-called catalytic exteriorization phenomenon.'

'Oh come,' he exclaimed. 'That is sheer bosh.'

'It is not,' I replied. 'You are mistaken, Herr Professor. And to prove my point I now predict that in a moment there will be another such loud report! 'Sure enough, no sooner had I said the words that the same detonation went off in the bookcase. To this day I do not know what gave me this certainty. But I knew beyond all doubt that the report would come again. Freud only stared aghast at me. I do not know what was in his mind, or what his look meant. In any case, this incident aroused his distrust of me, and I had the feeling that I had done something against him. I never afterward discussed the incident with him.” (www.strangemag.com/mysteryofchance.html)

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The Starhouse

Father Dowling points the way.

In June 1990 my husband Dave, our son David and I visited our daughter Jessica, then a Peace
Corps volunteer in Thailand. At the top of my wish list was a visit to Thomas Merton's death site. Merton was a frequent drop-in at our weekly psychic group meetings, often seeming to tell us something about his feet. I felt that if I visited where he died I might get answers about his mysterious death.
All we had to go on was an address from Merton’s The Asian Journal, "Red Cross Conference Center, Bangkok, Thailand," where Merton had given a speech.

On our first morning in Bangkok Dave and I walked steamy streets a few miles before finding a Red Cross Center. However the lovely Thai girl we met there had no idea what we were talking about. When we were about to leave, another girl emerged and showed us a photocopy of an article that described how to get to Merton's death site. It had been left there by Father Gerard Dowling from Australia who had made the pilgrimage the day before, a fortuitous coincidence for us. The actual conference center is at Samut Prakarn, forty miles out of Bangkok. The girl called there and Miss Anan Kuhn, then director of the rehabilitation center, agreed to see us.

The next day, now with David and Jessica who speaks Thai, we spent the afternoon with Miss Kuhn. She spoke of Merton reverently as she shared her memories of his death. She shooed two summer students out of his room so we could go in. She allowed us to take video of our conversation and to photograph an album of pictures someone had taken at the conference, such as the one shown here. That photo has a crease on it as if it had been folded and put in a wallet, another mystery to add to the mix. It turned out there were too many references to feet to draw conclusions, bare feet and sore feet in his writings, “bare feet oddly curled up” in Mott’s description, and in his speech his last day, “...we must now stand on our own feet.”

I recently learned that the room is now used for storing paint. We were fortunate indeed.

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