Houdini, "Margery" & James Collins


Fresh Blood
Jan 28, 2012
I was intrigued by a reference in Ruth Brandon's The Spiritualists to a postscript to the story of Houdini and the medium "Margery" (Mina Crandon). There's a run-through of the main story here: http://www.historynet.com/mina-crandon- ... cian.htm/1

If you know the story, you'll recall that part of Houdini's debunking of Margery rested on his finding a ruler hidden in the "fraud-preventer" cabinet he'd designed to hold Margery during the seance. He claimed the ruler could be held in her mouth and used to manipulate objects outside the cabinet.

Whether this was possible or not, the postscript is that it's claimed that many years later Houdini's assistant, James Collins, confessed that he'd planted the ruler in the cabinet on Houdini's orders. Obviously, this wouldn't necessarily prove anything one way or the other, but I do love the mad intrigue of it all.

I've struggled to track down any more detail on this. The best I've got is this overview: http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/Margery.htm. It looks at the books by Milbourne Christopher and Brian Inglis, who seem to take rather different positions on the matter. I haven't read either book (yet) but I note that they were published in 1975 and 1984 respectively, so more may have been said in the 28 years since.

Does anyone know any more about this story?

In particular, I'm looking for anything on the "confession" by James Collins himself, and whether there's a more recent view of the whole incident that I've missed.

Any pointers whatsoever very welcome.


Justified & Ancient
Aug 7, 2002
I'm not sure about the Collins confession, but I've been reading a new comic book Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini and in the story of the comic, it implies that Margery would strip out of her clothes to some degree and that sauciness had a direct effect on people believing her. It could be a fiction obviously, but was there such a claim by the Houdini camp?