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Houdini's Afterlife Experiment
Was the Code in a Book?

by Thomas Razzeto

There are conflicting claims about whether Harry Houdini, the world famous escape artist and magician, after his death in October 1926, was successful in passing a prearranged secret coded message to his wife in January 1929 through Arthur Ford, a psychic medium.

Joseph Dunninger, a magician and friend of Houdini, thought Ford hoaxed the message by getting the code out of a book that was published in 1928. The title of the book is, "Houdini: His Life-Story" by Harold Kellock and was written with the help of Mrs. Houdini. I obtained the book and found that the part that deals with the code is very brief.

(See the book scans below.)

The book talks about how Harry and Bess communicated on stage with secret visual and spoken signals and states, "When one was out of view of the other, the spoken code was used. Their code words for numbers, which the Houdinis kept secret for thirty-five years, were as follows:"

      1 Pray
      2 Answer
      3 Say
      4 Now
      5 Tell
      6 Please
      7 Speak
      8 Quickly
      9 Look
    10 Be Quick   (the tenth "word" is actually a phrase and can also mean "zero")

After the list, we have one more sentence: "By combining these (words) within sentences, they could signal any one number or combination of numbers."

That is the totality of the information in the book about the code. It is important to note that the book says nothing about any of the following:

      • That the code can be used to form words, not just numbers

      • How the clever coding method works to form words

      • That they used the code for the afterlife experiment

      • That the secret message would start with the un-encoded word "Rosabelle"

      • That the secret message would encode the word "believe"

      • The actual secret ten-word message

None of that was in the book!

We can be sure that as soon as Dunninger said that the code was in the book, many people concluded that Ford was a fraud without looking any further. I doubt that Ford even read this book and even if he did, it just doesn't offer, in my opinion, enough information for him to construct the prearranged secret message.

The following ten words are the prearranged secret message:

      Rosebelle * Answer * Tell * Pray Answer * Look * Tell * Answer Answer * Tell

Decode, it says:

      Rosebelle, believe!

The message was delivered and decode by Ford who claimed to be channeling his regular spirit guide, Fletcher, who in turn claimed to be working with the spirit of Harry Houdini. This was done in the presence of Mrs. Houdini at her home in front of witnesses. Mrs. Houdini signed a brief document that states that the message is accurate:

Bess Houdini signs documnt that says it worked

Buit that is only part of the story. Mrs. Houdini later said she changed her mind and doubted that the message came from her deceased husband.

While I think that it is impossible to say for sure what happened in the Houdini case, I do find the case fascinating. If you would like to learn many other important aspects of the case, then you can read my full essay. One thing is for sure: you can at least see how the secret code works!

Here's the full essay: "The Houdini Afterlife Experiment - Did It Work?"

Thanks for reading this short essay! And have a magical and mystical day!

Thomas Razzeto    Jan 25, 2007

Here are the scans from the book. Now you can make up your own mind as to whether Ford could have gotten the secret coded message out of this book as claimed by Dunninger.

Title Page:

Title Page of Houdini Book

Copyright Page:

Copyright Page of Houdini Book

Page 102 and 103:

Page 102 and 103 of Houdini Book

Page 104 and 105:

Page 104 and 105 of Houdini Book

Note as of 2018: When I first posted these scans, my main website was called and that is why I included that information in the scanned images. That way if other websites "borrowed" my images, at least they would still refer to my website and I might get some good traffic. But I no longer use that website and instead, my work can be found on

The End

Thanks for visiting my website! In truth, I honor your divine nature.

All my best, Thomas Razzeto

Written in late 2006 and early 2007.

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