The great Harry Houdini, in addition to being an escape artist extraordinaire, took it upon himself to systematically debunk all matters paranormal. Houdini cast a skeptic’s eye upon theosophy in general (which was all the rage at the time) and mediums in particular, seeing them as parasitical opportunists who preyed upon the bereaved and the bereft. Though far less famous, his sister, Ruby Katrini Tetrazzini Houdini championed a similar cause, not from any particular familial solidarity, but because Ruby was competitive with her older brother to a degree that approached psychosis.
Several years after Houdini’s sad passing, Ruby remained obsessed. She pleaded, implored and cajoled her sisters, Opal and Pearl as well as her best friend, Marguerite, to gather for a séance on All Hallow’s Eve. The stated purpose was to contact her dear departed brother, Harry, but in actuality she intended to unmask a very popular and successful local psychic, Madame Emmeles d’Esprit, whose legendary skills had never been successfully challenged. Ruby busted out all manner of arcane props to set the mood: a phonograph, a crystal ball, a Ouija board, even an old skull she’d found in a curiosity shop. She asked her guests to bring a reliquary of a departed loved one because, well, the more spirits, the merrier. “Oh, I suppose”, sighed Opal, long inured to her sister’s peculiarities. “Will there at least be cake?” whined Pearl, who was always hungry.
On the appointed evening, Pearl arrived carrying their mother’s ashes in a fine urn. Marguerite brought her grandfather’s beloved Bible. They all looked at Opal, curiously. “I kept some of my dear Albert’s toenail clippings. They’re in my purse. Want to see?” “No!”, the others replied, in unison.
Madame d’Esprit, pale as a wraith herself, wafted through the door in a cloud of myrrh. She was attired most scandalously, chiefly in filmy scarves, and she was festooned with long strings of beads and tinkling gold bracelets. Her raven Bartok fluttered in with her and lit on the antique skull on the table. As Pearl gobbled down several slices of teacake, the medium chanted softly, swaying rhythmically in the glow of the full October moon. “Let’s begin, then” she said, softly.
All was deathly quiet for several moments and Ruby Katrini Tetrazzini Houdini was feeling extremely smug. Then, with a gust of wind that came from nowhere, the candles went out. The crystal ball glowed fiercely with a brilliant pulsing light. Pearl’s urn shook violently, and finally crashed off the table and smashed open, loosing a cloud of ash like Mt. Vesuvius. Harry’s favorite song issued forth out of the phonograph, and the planchette of the Ouija board began moving. It spelled out “Get a Life”. At that moment there was a deafening crack of thunder and the skull abruptly turned towards Ruby, dislodging Bartok, who gave an insulted squawk. “Give it a rest already, will you, Ruby?” it said, in Harry Houdini’s voice.
Ruby, Opal, Pearl, Marguerite, Bartok and Mme. d’Esprit are depicted with meticulously handcut vintage images on this 8″ × 10″ × 3/4" stretched gallery canvas and embellished with ornate black Dresden trim , small sparkling crystals, an etched copper frame and a rivet-enhanced brass nameplate.
This original artwork and story are copyright Ramona Szczerba 2011. Copyright to this material is in no way transferable with the sale of this item. The buyer is not entitled to any reproduction rights – neither image nor story can be reproduced without my express written permission. Thanks!