On July 4, 1922, Houdini was enjoying an Independence Day picnic and fireworks display at the suburban New York home of his lawyer and friend Bernard Ernst:
…my greatest feat of mystery was performed in 1922 at Seacliffe, L. I., on the Fourth of July, at the home of Mr. B. M. L. Ernest. The children were waiting to set off their display of fireworks when it started to rain. The heavens fairly tore loose. Little Richard in his dismay turned to me and said:
“Can’t you make the rain stop?”
“Why certainly,” I replied and raising my hands said appealingly, “Rain and Storm, I command you to stop.”
This I repeated three times and, as if by miracle, within the next two minutes the rain stopped and the skies became clear. Toward the end of the display of fireworks the little fellow turned to me and with a peculiar gleam in his eyes said:
“Why, Mr. Houdini, it would have stopped raining anyway.”
I knew I was risking my whole life’s reputation with the youngster but I said:
“Is that so? I will show you.”
Walking out in front I raised my hands suppliantly toward the heavens and with all the command and force I had in me called:
“Listen to my voice, great Commander of the rain, and once more let the water flow to earth and allow the flowers and trees to bloom.”
A chill came over me for as if in response to my command or the prayer of my words another downpour started, but despite the pleading of the children I refused to make it stop again. I was not taking any more chances.
[A Magician among the Spirits]
Note: Although there is no reason to doubt Houdini’s story, Ernst himself omits it from his book (Houdini and Conan Doyle) about his friend.
According to the New York Times, the local weather that July 4 was “extremely humid”, though with no mention of a storm. In that same week, the Brooklyn Bridge was closed to automobile traffic after engineers discovered a slipped suspension cable that had “warped in the drought.” [Master’s of Mystery]
H A P P Y 4 T H O F J U L Y !