June 22, 1894
Five versions of how Bessie Met Harry Houdini. Which one is true?
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Throughout their lives, Bess and Harry told many versions of their meeting and marriage!
1. According to Bess, Harry performed at her school and accidentally spilled acid on her dress during a magic trick. He had his mother make her a new dress, and then took her on a date to Coney Island. But when he kept her out too late, Bess became panicky that she would get in trouble. Houdini then gallantly proposed.
2. Houdini's brother, Hardeen, told this version: Bess was a fellow performer in Coney Island with The Floral Sisters when he and Harry were performing as The Brothers Houdini. Dash dated Bess first; but introduced her to his charismatic older brother. A quick courtship and proposal followed.
3. The Handcuff King related this in his own words to the The San Francisco Call on Sunday, Sept. 1, 1907:
"I eloped with my wife from her school books: that was fourteen years ago, and she was then just sixteen years old. I was only about twenty and was working in a little Brooklyn theater, which she used to pass every day coming from school. Her name was Wilhelmina Rahner and she came about number nine in a family of fourteen girls.
"I saw her passing the place one day and I said, 'Hello.'
"'Howdy do?' said she.
"'I do as I please,' I said.
"I asked if I might take her home after school. 'Yes; but don't let mother see you,' replied the girl, smiling a bit.
She thought I was a real actor, a sort of Booth of Sir Henry Irving, and I didn't put her wise.
"'How'd you like to be an actress?' I asked her one day, knowing that most girls were crazy about the stage.
She said she would like it.
"'Would you marry me?' I asked quickly.
"'I would if you'd ask me.'
"'Well, I ask you.'
"That was on Thursday; Saturday night she met me and we went over to New York City and were married in the city hall!"
4. Bess confessed to Dorothy Young, possibly while under the influence of her favorite champagne, that she, "sold her virginity to Houdini for an orange."
5. Bessie told another story of being on a streetcar with Harry and they saw a wedding party coming out of a church, he proposed and she accepted.
The Houdinis were married for thirty-two years till October 31, 1926, when Harry Houdini died.
For more about this fascinating couple and their unique relationship with Jack and Charmian London, read THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON, $1.99 June only. BUY HERE.
Thank you, John Cox! Visit his blog "Wild About Houdini.