Although Harry Houdini was used to publicity, there was one radio-related incident which was probably not the kind of thing he was looking for. As reported in Ben Gross' 1954 book, "I Looked and I Listened": "Harry Houdini, the famous escape artist and magician, also made the front pages, but for slightly different reasons. He had told friends that he was so enamored of this new medium that he would purchase the most expensive set he could obtain. After the elaborate and highly complicated super-heterodyne job had been installed in his home, he found that he could get nothing on it save static. This so enraged Harry that he invaded the store which had sold him the contraption and proceeded to vent his fury by smashing several radios. The indignant proprietor swore out a warrant for his arrest. Hearing of this, Alfred H. (Hollywood) McCosker, the almost legendary press agent who later became chairman of the board of the Mutual Broadcasting System, invited Houdini to explain his actions before the microphones of WOR. Harry accepted the offer and Mac tipped off the police. The cops arrested the escape virtuoso in the midst of his broadcast and the press associations sent the story from coast to coast."
Popular Radio, October, 1922, pages 100-107:

Ghosts  that  Talk--by  Radio

An Exposé of Some of the "Spiritualistic Phenomena" Perpetrated by Fraudulent Mediums for Getting Money from Their Credulous Followers

The author of this article is the president of the Society of American Magicians. All the members of that exclusive organization are pledged to keep inviolate the tricks of their profession--except when those tricks are used for dishonest purposes. Houdini (who in order to study "spiritualistic phenomena" once entered the ranks of the professional mediums himself) properly considers those mediums dishonest who claim that voices transmitted by confederates by low frequency induction or "inductive radio" are the voices from the dead. He is, accordingly, as a public duty, disclosing in this article how these tricks are performed.
Houdini and Doyle
From  a  heretofore  unpublished  photograph
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous spiritualist, and Harry Houdini (professionally known merely as "Houdini") are close friends--as this snapshot indicates. "I respect Sir Arthur for the sincerity of his beliefs in spiritualism," states Houdini. "But I do not share them."
MAGICIANS have used the radio telephone in their performances for several years--long before radio was generally known to the public. I am not at all surprised that the radio is being used by fraudulent mediums to convince their patrons that they are in direct communication with the dead.
    I regret profoundly to admit that in over thirty years of investigation, during which time I have attended hundreds of seances with a mind ready and eager to discover some sign from those who have gone to the Great Beyond, I have never witnessed anything that I could accept as evidence that there was life beyond the grave. All the "evidence" that I have seen is merely phenomena that are well known to the average magician. What are "wonders" to the average human being are merely everyday tests that are familiar in the profession. In performing some of these experiments I have myself seen men and women faint away, overcome with what they thought were supernatural occurrences. As a matter of fact I was merely performing more or less common tricks.
    The passing away of my mother first started me on a serious investigation of the doctrines and claims of the spiritualists. Only those who have lost their loved ones can know the fervor with which such investigations can be pursued. There is no sacrifice I would not make to be able to get in communication with my mother. After years of research I still hope that there is a way of communicating with her from this life. But I have no faith in the existing forms of communication as known to mediums or practised by them at the present time.
    There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that such men as Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Conan Doyle are sincere in their beliefs. They regard spiritualism as a religion; to them it is something sacred. They think that the evidence they have obtained is sufficient evidence to justify their faith in their "communications" with those who have passed beyond. I respect them for their sincerity. But I do not share their beliefs.
    I have made definite compacts with seven intimate friends and relatives to the effect that the one who died first would communicate with the others. All of my seven friends are dead. Up to the present time I have not received the slightest sign from any of them. In order to get into communication with them I have gone to seances conducted by famous mediums. Yet I never received any sign that was not obviously a trick on the part of the medium--a trick with which I was thoroughly familiar.
Medium's Trumpet
From  a  photograph  made  for  POPULAR  RADIO
Only in this case the instrument is fitted with (A) a telephone receiver that converts the received current into sound and (B) a receiving coil that collects energy from the transmitting coil, which may be hidden some yards away--all concealed in false sides. (C) is the orifice through which the voice issues. The medium's confederate may be located several yards away.

    The human senses are easily deceived. People believe what they want to believe. The human being is always seeking something in which he can put his faith.
    A combination of deception and faith is capable of leading human beings to almost any extreme of self-delusion. It is the business of the mediums to capitalize this faith.
    I exposed a medium in Bochum, Germany, twenty years ago by throwing ordinary carpet tacks under his bare feet when he came out to the audience in a dim light and posed as a spirit from another world. Today I would need a radio receiving set to uncover his latest deception. Before attending this seance I had been repairing one of my cabinets and had a number of tacks in my pocket. I casually threw them on the floor before the curtain in front of the opening whence the ghost of Cæsar was to appear and lecture. The medium who impersonated Cæsar stepped upon the tacks and burst forth into a profusion of German oaths. From a photograph made for POPULAR RADIO
    Radio has given the "spirit business" an enormous boost in the last few years. While the rest of us have just been getting acquainted with it, many of the so-called psychics have been reaping a harvest.
    I love an honest-to-goodness trick that mystifies and entertains me. It is my business to know them all and to try to perform them better than other magicians. As President of the Society of American Magicians, numbering over 1,000 members, it is my duty to hold such tricks; indeed, we have all taken an oath not to reveal them. But concerning the deceptions of fraud mediums--that is another matter. I regard it as the duty of every thinking man, whether or not he believes in spirits, whether or not he believes in God, to expose imposters who profane the concepts of future life merely to extort money from believing souls who in their ignorance misplace their confidence.
    A total of $300,000 was extorted by one clever medium from Luther B. Marsh (the law partner of Daniel Webster) in 1888 by the use of a primitive radiophone. Her name was Ann O'Delia Dis Debar, and she made a spectacular career for herself until she was exposed in court by Alexander Herrmann and Carl Hertz.
    There have been countless other swindles through the invention which has been practically unknown up to the present time. The device was little more than ordinary telephone by induction in most cases, but in the more intricate deceptions the principles of modern wireless telephony were employed.
The Talking Image
From  a  photograph  made  for  POPULAR  RADIO
The voice of the medium is transmitted to the confederate in another room by the ordinary microphone. The confederate's reply is transmitted into another microphone that is connected with a transmitting coil concealed in a rug (or other object). This energy is collected by the receiving coil in the statue and is converted into sound waves by the telephone receiver concealed in the image's head.

    I have the largest library of magic in the world. It was while trying to buy books that I read of the auction of a well-known medium in New York, and the day before the sale I bought all of her books and bound volumes of the publication, "Medium and Daybreak." I was shown a kettle, and as I knew that the kettle was used by mystifiers, bought this also.
    The device was a "talking kettle." When the proper "spiritual connections" had been established by the medium, through her facial and bodily contortions in the approved "psychic manner," the kettle became most intelligent. Anyone in the room could ask the kettle a question and receive an intelligent answer at once by placing the spout of the kettle to his ear. The answer would come in a whisper, a most ghostly whisper, such as is familiar to those who have attended spiritualistic seances.
    That same kettle is now installed in my home and it talks to my friends in the same kind of whisper with absolutely no change except the replacement of the battery. Sane men of prominence in public life, men who should by all means suspect me of trickery, have actually been deluded by this simple device.
    There is no doubt in my mind but that I could cause a great many people to believe that spirits speak through the medium of the kettle; in this way I could merchandise spirit messages for substantial sums of money.
    The kettle can be handled and carried about the room while it is whispering, turned upside-down and otherwise explored..
    Sometimes my friends ask questions in such a low tone of voice that I cannot hear them; they are, accordingly, completely converted to the belief in spirits when the kettle answers. This "spirit-talking" kettle has been used by mediums for years; it is the invention of David Abbott, who devised it for purposes of entertainment only.
    To the best of my knowledge the first application of the principles of radio to spiritualistic manifestations was in 1852, when Jonathan Koons, a farmer of Dover Village, Ohio, installed a "spirit machine"--described as a "crude structure of zinc and copper for localizing and collecting the magnetic aura."
    This radio telephone trick is performed in many ways. Statues of Buddha are among the popular bits of property employed by mediums; they are made to answer questions as glibly as hollow balls and trumpets.
Talking Objects
From  a  photograph  made  for  POPULAR  RADIO
The ears and mouth of the "talking" objects are merely microphones in the hands of the medium's confederate--who may even be in another building.

    In my collection of old clippings from magazines and newspapers, I find a description of the trick reported in the Gazette de France some years ago. The pages are yellow and the printing is old fashioned. The story concerns "The invisible Girl" who mystified all Europe. To quote the article:
    In a small chamber in this house is seen a chest of white glass suspended from the ceiling by four little chains, which keep it perfectly separated from every other thing.
    This chest is transparent and penetrable to the eye in its whole extent. To one of its extremities is adapted an opaque tube or horn, by which a voice is heard; the voice appears to be that of a young girl, who replies distinctly to every question put to her.
    The impression of breathing and the heat of the air of respiration (impregnated with the odor of liquors which she has taken) are also perceived.
    I thought at first that this voice was that of a ventriloquist, and that it was the voice of him who showed the curiosity. But on the morrow my astonishment was extreme, when this pretended ventriloquist went out of the chamber with another, and, when I put new questions with a voice so low that I was not heard by any of the other spectators, to find that the replies were perfectly applicable and well articulated.
    If it be said that magnetical or electrical virtues are introduced for some purpose in the operation, we would ask how it happens by any of these virtues that the Young Invisible sees and names, without ever being deceived, the object which is held in the hollow of the hand, such as a piece of silver, the surface of which is held up to the orifice of the tube in such a mariner that these objects cannot be perceived from any other point.
    We concluded that perhaps there was in the chest a really invisible girl, a dwarf much smaller than that of the King of Poland. This dwarf died in 1764. A wooden shoe served it a long time for a cradle. At six years old it was 15 inches high, at sixteen years it was 29 inches high. History speaks of a dwarf who at thirty years of age was only 18 inches high. It belonged to Queen Henrietta of France.
    If this is the fact, the dwarf must be only from twelve to fifteen inches in length and above five or six in thickness, this being all the space of the chest which cannot be seen, it being behind the communicating tube.
    The questions we put to the Invisible Girl and the replies which it made are as follows: What age are you? "Fourteen." Where were you born? "At Marseilles" (she has an accent absolutely provincial). What is your name? "Francoise." Are you pretty? "No." Are you good? "Yes, though sometimes ill-natured." What is your position in this chest? "I am reclining." Do all the questions which are put to you disgust you? "Never, but I am sometimes very much wearied."
    Although I could not discover the solution of the mystery, I would rather believe it to be a dwarf than any other thing.
    This ancient and sceptical reporter would not believe the invention to be magical, but if he were living now, a good medium could make him think it spiritualistic. In reality the "Invisible Girl" was a full-grown woman.
    A description of this trick is illuminating as illustrative of the methods of the fraudulent mediums even in those days. John Wyman, one of our well-known old time magicians, copied it from an early publication and put it in his book which was published in 1851. The device consisted of four upright posts, united by bars or nails at top and bottom. From the corner posts four wires bent in ogee form converged and terminated in a crown ornament. From these wires a hollow copper ball about one foot in diameter was suspended by four short, slender ribbons. The ball thus suspended was fitted with four copper trumpets pointing at right angles, with their bells directed to the side top-bars. The ball was simply hung in space by the ribbons, and trumpets were fixed in suspension along with the ball. The voice was conveyed to the flaring bells of two of the horns by a speaking tube concealed by one of the corner posts; then at right angles along the top bars to points directly at the center of two trumpet bells.
Talking Kettle
From  a  photograph  made  for  POPULAR  RADIO
The receiving coil hidden in false sides collects the energy sent out from a transmitting coil that may be several yards away, and this energy is converted into sound by the telephone receiver in the spout.

    Questions were asked by spectators, who spoke into the bell of a trumpet which conveyed the message by the speaking tube to the lady assistant concealed in an adjoining room. Her answer was conveyed back by the same speaking tube. The voice was weak in volume and discernible only to those listening attentively at the four trumpets. The effect was that which might conceivably come from a small "Invisible Girl." The woman confederate was in a side room with a peep-hole through which she was able to see her dupes and make pert remarks about them. A signal system was also operated between the "person who attended the machine" and the concealed operator. The whole "machine" was so simple in construction that it appeared perfectly portable and movable to any part of the room.
    It is interesting to note that as far back as 1784 mediums were using various means of transmitting the voice for mysterious effects. Radio has vastly increased their facilities.
    The fraudulent mediums today are merely using various adaptations of the "Invisible Girl." Instead of being in an adjoining room she is now so far away that she cannot hear the questions asked without the aid of a microphone concealed in the wall. Even at a considerable distance an opera glass, properly focused on the spot, serves the purpose of the peep-hole.
    With an induction coil coupled in the circuit with her telephone transmitter and batteries, she now sends out strong enough impulses to affect the sensitive receiver with a loop aerial concealed inside the horn. This was, indeed, the first form of radio telephone. It employed the same principles of induction without wires as the modern complicated radio apparatus, and it worked almost as well over a distance of a hundred feet or more. The trick is a pretty one and would do credit to any magician, but it has fallen into the hands of unscrupulous psychic performers and consequently, because it is used for getting money under false representations, it should now be exposed.
    With more modern apparatus and the pretense of spiritual communication, this simple illusion is now deceiving thousands and defiling the concept of life after death.
    Perhaps you who are reading this article may attend the seance of a medium as clever as the woman who became nationally famous as a result of her work one evening in a western city.
    While she was in the midst of her communion with the shades of those present, she stopped short.
    "I see a man murdered!" she exclaimed. Then she described a violent death scene, giving the name of the man and the address in the city where he was actually murdered a few minutes before she received the "spirit message." The newspapers confirmed her statements and later spread her fame throughout the country.
    From that time on people paid ridiculous prices for her services--until she was exposed.
Communicating Spirits
From  a  photograph  made  for  POPULAR  RADIO
Still another variation of the inductive radio trick. (A) is the microphone into which the distant confederate talks; (B) are the batteries that furnish current over the concealed wires (C); (D) is the transmitting coil concealed in a picture frame; which transmits the energy to (E), the receiving coils, that are connected to (F) the telephone receiver over the medium's ears.

    The secret of her spiritualistic demonstration was simple. A radio antenna in the sole of her shoe received impulses from a transmitting antenna in the rug upon which she stood, and conveyed them to a sensitive head phone hidden in a large bouquet of flowers on her shoulder. A reporter had telephoned the news of the murder to her confederate behind the scenes, who transmitted it by radio telephone. The receiver concealed in the flowers was not loud enough for the audience to hear, but when the medium leaned her head upon the flowers she could hear it distinctly.
    Her feat was a blow she had been aiming at sceptics for some time. She had placed her reporters at police stations, hospitals and newspaper offices to wait for the news of a death by violence which would receive space in the papers.
    You understand this particular type of medium now, and are sure you will not be fooled--but suppose you should meet the statistician-medium? She wears a phone over one ear and a complete aerial and receiving set is concealed beneath a heavy wig, or it is concealed in her hair.
    She stands under a chandelier which hides the transmitting antenna, or perhaps walks near a picture from which the radio waves issue. If she is a good radio engineer, she may have a set so sensitive that she can place her transmitting antenna in another room. Your name rolls off her tongue, as soon as you enter. She tells you all about yourself, she seems to know as much about you as your intimate friends.
    "Your mother will be here shortly," she remarks, casually, although you had not told her your mother was dead and that she was the one you wished most to be near.
    Many a man has fallen a victim of such mediums, for he had no way of knowing that confederates had looked up his history while he was waiting for the interview, and telephoned it via radio. The medium offers proof that he or she has not left the room to receive information, and thereby he gains a few more gullible customers for his illicit traffic.
    A few years ago, while going to Europe on the Imperator, I was asked to entertain with an informal seance. I had for my guests Theodore Roosevelt, Victor Herbert and other prominent men. Roosevelt wanted to know if I could tell him where he spent his last Christmas Day. I had a slate with a "spiritual" covering, and in a few moments, with the slate apparently before their eyes continuously, a map appeared upon it, made with a dozen colors of chalk. It indicated the exact spot where he had been on the "River of Doubt" and was a duplicate of the map he intended soon to publish in a book. The name of W. T. Stead, the English writer lost on the Titanic, was signed below the map; it was recognized as Stead's own signature. I had never seen the map and I was unacquainted with the signature.
    "Is that really spirit writing?" Roosevelt asked with deep concern.
    I am sure I could have won his confidence by this slight test. But I replied:
    "No, I am simply a mysterious entertainer. Everything I do can be explained by natural means as illusions."
    When it is so easy to deceive a highly developed mind, it is easier to fool ordinary people, and especially those who are anxious to believe.
    In many instances self-hypnotism is the secret. The medium suggests things, catches the mind off guard, and the moment after it has been surprised he follows up with something else which carries the intelligence along even against the will.
    Radio at present is the greatest aid to the fraud mediums, and they are sure to take advantage of every new development. I hope that spirits will talk to us through radio instruments some day, but I will prefer to hear such messages in a scientist's laboratory rather than through the presentations of unscrupulous mediums.
    If there are mediums who are not fraudulent, I have yet to see them.
*While the author does not feel at liberty to describe the operation of this kettle, the explanation of it is obvious. The secret lies in the radio receiving apparatus that is concealed in its hollow walls. The kettle is made of papier-mâché, so that it will not absorb the radio waves which are intended for the aerial coiled inside. The medium who operates the kettle or similar radio device must have a confederate in an adjoining room, who hears everything through a sensitive microphone concealed in the room where the seance is held.
    One of the best devices for concealing such a microphone is an oil painting, a painting made on gauze rather than canvas. By placing a deep shadow box over the picture the thin gauze is made to look like canvas. The shadow box acts as a resonator for the sounds in the room and the thin gauze enables the sounds to pass to the microphone with but little obstruction.
    The confederate in an adjoining room may thus hear every question that is asked in the room and make his replies by radio. The transmitting wireless instruments are placed in the room with the confederate, but the transmitting antenna is concealed in a rug directly beneath the kettle. This arrangement makes it necessary for the radio waves to travel only a few feet to reach the receiver in the kettle, so that not much power is required for transmitting.
    With modern improvements in radio, the kettle may be carried to any part of the room, and with the sensitive microphones they are making today, the slightest whisper can be heard by the confederate who may be elsewhere in the building, or even at some distant point.--E