(“Famous Players - Lasky Corp..”, U.S./Library of Congress, McManus-Young Collection)

The Google Doodle, while in the style of an old marquee magician’s poster, does not have the secret phrase on it, I’m still confounded by the timing. Just as the last remaining ember of his great show exits this earthly plain, he shows up grinning on our computer screens.

Though perhaps best known as an escape artist, Houdini had a second message: searching for a way to communicate with ghosts. After his mother’s death, Houdini became infatuated with finding a medium who would help him contact her. When he discovered most were using two-bit magic tricks to fool their clients, he incorporated a whole segment into his road act on debunking spiritualism. Despite his disappointment in the more earthly methods of mediums, he never gave up hope that he would find a way to contact the other side.

And if he couldn’t prove it in life, he would prove it in death. Before he died, like the showman he was on Halloween, he reportedly left a code phrase for his wife, Bess, so that when he returned to walk the earth as a spirit, she would recognize him. The phrase? “Rosabelle believe.” She held yearly seances each Halloween in the hopes of hearing those words. The tradition still continues around the country. Were they perhaps waiting on the wrong day? Should they have been waiting on his birthday?

It’s a coincidence, you may say. I say, the great magician still thrills.