Did Harry Houdini write a story titled, “Thoughts and Feelings of a Head Cut Off”?
According to Muriel Eddy:
I remember Mr. Eddy’s painstaking revision of Houdini’s: “Thoughts and Feelings of a Head Cut Off” ….. an experience which the master magician had undergone in his youth. Harry Houdini said in his story that somewhere in his travels he came across an ancient superstition that if a head was severed quickly and unexpectedly from a body, the brain in the head kept on thinking for several seconds!
According to Harry, the natives of Aden-Aden were anxious to test this theory, and when he visited that remote island they ganged up on him and ALMOST succeeded in amputating his head from his body….they must have been anxious to hear what the brain of a magician would think of, after it was separated from the body!
[BTW: Houdini owned a photograph (which can be seen on p. 107 of Meyer’s Houdini: A Mind in Chains) of decapitated sailors. A note on the verso in the hand of Bernard Ernst, Houdini’s attorney, states, “Picture taken on Houdini’s South Sea trip – sailors decapitated for mutiny on high seas.]
I am quite sure this story was never offered for sale by Harry Houdini, as it lacked the ring of veracity … perhaps it WAS somewhat exaggerated! When we told H.P.L. about it he exclaimed:
“Oh, what I could have done with that story, but perhaps Houdini wouldn’t have liked it if I’d changed it TOO much. I took a lot of liberties with his “Pharaoh” story, but he seemed satisfied….but THIS one!” and a far-away look was in his eyes ……
Later on, we were discussing the possibility of the TRUTH of a brain functioning after death… and Lovecraft averred that perhaps the brain DID function.… for a few minutes after the death of one’s body. It was a weird subject and there it ended! I sometimes wondered what Lovecraft’s true feelings regarding this matter really were!
[p. 18-19 The Gentleman From Angell Street, Muriel Eddy, 1961.]
According to Chris Perridas excellent HPL blog:
The sitz im leben [creation of alleged context] of the anecdote [short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person] has to be after the writing of “Under The Pyramids” (after February 1924) and prior to Houdini’s death (October 1926). Lovecraft was in New York nearly continuously from March 1924 to April 1926. Therefore one suspects that this would have been between April 1926 and October 1926.
There is no obvious reason to deny the veracity of Muriel Eddy’s report, thus it shores up the idea that Lovecraft, C M Eddy, and Houdini were in close communication.
Will this unpublished manuscript surface like the Cancer of Superstition manuscript or is it lost to history?