Monthly Archives: August 2020

Houdini among the Spirits

Harry Houdini died on 31 October 1926, and he is still a ‘household name’ almost one hundred years after his death. In the minds of today’s public, his name is synonymous with escapes, but Walter Gibson, in Houdini on Magic (1953, p.xiv) comments that “… in the final analysis, Houdini’s great claim to permanent fame lay in his crusade against fraudulent mediums and other charlatans who preyed on the public.”

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Goats and Sheep

In a classic study, Dr Gertrude Schmeidler (Schmeidler & McConnell, 1958) found that, on average, subjects who believed in the possibility of ESP (the “sheep”) scored better in ESP tests than those who did not (the “goats”). Magicians who have investigated the paranormal fall into both categories, although, unsurprisingly, the goats tend to be more vociferous and therefore their conclusions more prominent. This is probably the reason for George P Hansen’s (1990) comment that many are under the impression that magicians are total sceptics; he demonstrates, however, that this is not the case.

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A Freemason’s Progress

When a recently-joined Freemason takes his Second Degree, he is told that Freemasonry is a “progressive science”. For many Masons, their Masonic “career” will continue in the Craft lodge only: the Third Degree (Master Mason), followed by annual progression through various offices in the lodge, culminating in spending a year as Worshipful Master (WM) – Chairman – of the lodge. After he has “gone through the Chair”, there are several other offices, such as Secretary and Treasurer, which are usually occupied for several years by Past Masters.

A Mason who wishes to understand more of what Freemasonry is about, though, and in particular what happened after the events described in the Third Degree, will want to explore the many other, entirely optional, degrees and orders open to him. The main ones working in England and Wales are set out in this diagram. (There are wide variations between other jurisdictions.)

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