For the first time since 1993, a bust of Harry Houdini ornaments his family grave site in Queens. David W. Dunlap of New York Times
According to a New York Times City Room Blog, “Houdini Returns (Of Course.)”, published on October 24, 2011 by David W. Dunlap:
A bust of Houdini atop the central pedestal of his family plot at Machpelah Cemetary in Queens was smashed or stolen four times between 1975 and 1993. The Society of American Magicians, of which Houdini was president at the time of his death in 1926, then gave up trying to replace it.
The above quote implies that the bust was replaced three times between 1975 and 1993.
According to a New York Daily News Sunday Magazine, New York Live article, “The Trouble with Harry” on October 25, 1992 by John Bohannon:
Due to vandalism and theft, the bust has been replaced three times.
According to one of the Houdini New York Times article, “Houdini Returns (Of Course.)”, published on October 24, 2011 by David W. Dunlap:
Harry Houdini’s grave in Queens had gone headless since 1993, when the last of the four busts was wrecked. In September, however, the Houdini Commandos struck.
That is, we know that the last (fourth?) bust was replaced with a replica in September 2011 by Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the HOUDINI MUSEUM IN SCRANTON, PA.
According to Benjilini on Houdini (1994); Below are the dates and some information pertaining to the busts:
- Original Mounted Bust Destroyed with a crowbar – April 1975
- 2nd Bust (1st copy (shell) Stolen – August 1983
- 3rd Bust (2nd copy (shell) Stolen – Nov 1988
- Two Benches Destroyed – May 1994
According to a John Cox at WILD ABOUT HARRY blog, below is the Grave timeline:
- 1916: Houdini erects plot and exedra in memory of his parents.
- November 4, 1926: Houdini is buried in plot.
- 1927: S.A.M. holds memorial service and unveils Houdini bust by John Cassidy (and exedra S.A.M. emblem?).
- April 1975: Original Houdini bust is smashed by vandals.
- Spring 1976: SAM replaces Houdini bust with replica.
- August 1983: Second Houdini bust is stolen. Replaced by S.A.M. with replica.
- 1987: Machpelah Cemetery goes into bankruptcy. State takes ownership.
- November 1990: Third Houdini bust is stolen. (Replaced?)
- 1993: Benches smashed and Gladys/Leopold headstones damaged.
- 1996: Grave is restored with funds raised by the S.A.M. with help from David Copperfield and James Randi. Houdini bust and Gladys/Leopold headstones are not replaced.
- March 2002: Police recover bust stolen in 1983 (returned to S.A.M. in 2011).
- September 2011: Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz replace Houdini bust with replica.
- January 2013: Anonymous owner shares photos of original smashed bust on WILD ABOUT HARRY.
If we compare Benjilini dates with John’s dates, we notice that the 3rd bust was either stolen in November of 1988 or November of 1990; and the two benches were either destroyed in May of 1994 or sometime in 1993.
According to Bohannon: One bust was stolen in 1983, and another one was stolen in the late 1980s [1988 perhaps].
Sometime in 1990, John Cox of WILD ABOUT HARRY visited the Grave on just an ordinary day and saw what looked like a permanent bust on it; he has a photo. Tom Interval of HOUDINI MUSEUM also visited the gravesite around 1990; he wrote an article, The Houdini Grave, documenting his visit that included some photos he took that day; the Houdini bust is missing in Tom’s photos. According to Benjilini on Houdini (1994), the bust which is a black/gray color is mounted only for the “Broken Wand Ceremony” which takes place on the 31st of October. Benjilini had the honor of protecting the bust in October of 1990. The Parent Assembly of the Society of American Magicians keeps this bust in a safe place.
Tom Interval [Houdini Grave Aerial Map] mentioned that someone vandalized Leopold’s and Gladys headstones (Houdini’s brother and sister) in 1994, along with two hand-carved stone benches. Other articles on the internet, like http://www.johncassidy.org.uk/houdini.html, mention 1993 when the vandalism took place:
More vandalism occurred in 1993, when the whole grave was wrecked. This time, famous modern magicians, including David Copperfield and James Randi contributed to the replacement of two granite benches and for the casting of a copy of the bust that was placed in position on the grave only at observances commemorating Houdini by the Society of American Magicians. The cemetery also contributed to restoring the family plot and prepared concrete bases for the new benches. The new bust was said to be ‘made of a marble-like compound which looks exactly like the original’.
So based on the circumstantial evidence above, do you think the bust stolen in November of 1988 (1990) got replaced and was it there in 1993 (May 1994) on the grave when it was vandalized?