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Magicians Will Try to Channel Harry Houdini at Upper East Side Eatery

By Shaye Weaver | October 26, 2016 5:50pm | Updated on October 28, 2016 5:15pm
 Houdini's broken handcuffs from one of his escape tricks sit next to the plaque that will be placed on the facade of 244 E. 79th St.
Houdini's broken handcuffs from one of his escape tricks sit next to the plaque that will be placed on the facade of 244 E. 79th St.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

MANHATTAN — Harry Houdini is coming home to the Upper East Side.

A séance to connect with famed magician Harry Houdini will be held for the first time in his former home on East 79th Street, marking 90 years since his death.

The Society of American Magicians will meet at noon on Halloween Day inside the building's Sojourn restaurant to try to reach the master of mind tricks in the spirit world, according to George Schindler, the society's "lifetime dean."

"When Harry died, it was a great loss to the community and to the world," he said.

On Wednesday, a plaque honoring the great magician was unveiled outside his former home at 224 E. 79th St. It will be placed on the building's facade sometime this week, according to organizers.

The tradition of a Halloween séance to honor Houdini was started by Houdini's wife after his death on Oct. 31, 1926. The ritual is now done annually across the country, but this is the first time it will take place at the magician's boyhood home.

There's some irony in the custom, considering Houdini had a hobby of debunking psychics and mediums. In 1924, he wrote a book called "A Magician Among the Spirits," in which he said that he doesn't believe in spirit manifestations and that nothing convinced him that séances actually worked.

In 1887, Houdini's family moved into a studio on top of the four-story building on 79th Street, which was then called Mrs. Loeffler's Boarding House.

It was there that he and his brother, Theodore Hardeen, began to gain momentum as magicians in their teen years, Schindler said.

It is said that when the brothers had a new trick they would go downstairs and perform for the others staying in the boarding house.

The unveiling of Houdini's plaque launched off "National Magic Week," a week-long slew of festivities celebrating Houdini and all things magic.

Deborah Hardeen, the granddaughter of Theo Hardeen, traveled from Connecticut to see the plaque and celebrate her great uncle's life.

Hardeen grew up hearing stories about Houdini in school, but didn't know she was related until she was about 11 years old. A letter showed up at her house addressed to Harry Houdini Hardeen and she asked her father to explain.

"I wish I knew the man personally," she told DNAinfo New York on Wednesday. "I've never been here, so it's pretty cool to be standing where he used to perform. I know he's with us here and probably enjoying the fact that I am connecting."