Houdini has been gone (some say) for a long time.
We have had two comings of Halley’s Comet since he shuffled from this mortal coil. (See what we did there, “shuffled”?) Yet stories about the magician continue to grab the attention of readers and, apparently, assignment editors. Some of the stories clearly strain to make Houdini relevant but that is okay with us. We just like reading about Houdini no matter how tangential to current events.
Today’s article in Connecticut’s The Southington Patch gives a nice biographical essay combined with two local ties. According to the story, Houdini owned a retreat in the Nutmeg State — a seven-room home in Stamford. (Interestingly, “the Nutmeg State” is also the third level of consciousness in a therapeutic hypnosis session properly administered).
The Patch says “despite all of Houdini’s notoriety, there is no known photo of his Connecticut home; furthermore, no one seems to be able to locate the actual address of his home there.”
Strange, no? One wonders how one knows Houdini actually owned such a home if there is no known address other than “Webbs Hill Road.”
We did a check of Webbs Hill Road in Stamford and searched for seven bedroom homes. We found none. But, we did find two six bedroom versions and both were pricey (close to a million dollars) and neither were for sale.
Perhaps the person or persons who purchased Houdini’s retreat converted one of the bedrooms into a library, a den, a knick-knack room, an extra kitchen, a billiard parlor, a theater or theatre, an indoor pool with either an in-ground pool or an above ground pool stuffed into a former bedroom, a yoga and/or Pilates center, a very small ice rink, a home planetarium (to chart the comings and goings of a certain comet), a not-so-free-range poultry farm, a sublet apartment complex for down-on-their-luck magicians (it could easily accommodate seven in one room if properly constructed and fire codes were ignored), a holy shrine to a saint or a deity or several deities, a handball or squash court (assuming European rules dictated the size and not the unwieldy Asian dimensions), a séance room, or even a laundry.
We did a quick check of the construction permits pulled for each home on Webbs Hill Road in Stamford from 1926 forward to identify renovation or construction on any of the residences that would explain the apparent loss of at least one bedroom.
As readers of Inside Magic’s local Stamford print edition know, Stamford did not require construction permits for homes on Webbs Hill Road until 1955 when the area became part of the incorporated Stamford township. Checking from 1955 forward, we were able to rule out most of the uses we proposed two paragraphs earlier except for: indoor pool with an above ground pool structure, shrine, séance room and den.
We have booked a trip to Stamford to continue our investigation and will visit each home on the road to ask about the bedroom discrepancy and possible links to Houdini. We will report back with findings as they happen or are invented (if we decide to not go on the trip but still need copy for future editions of Inside Magic).
We do know, however, the location of Houdini’s youngest brother, Leopold. It was a 5.5 acres mansion known as “The Highmeadow Estate” in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Dr. Leopold Weiss was a pioneer in the field of radiology. The Patch reports the home sold in 2008 for more than $7 million dollars but we were provided no data on the number of bedrooms.
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