Can the dead communicate to the living from beyond the grave? A 37 year effort to do so, here in Sonoma County, was never successful, but it now provides the basis for an intriguing new documentary film.
Since the great magician's death in 1926, Houdini séances have been held every Halloween since, and in multiple locations, not just Sonoma County. One reason for the enduring interest in these events, theorizes Petaluma filmmaker Tom Wyrsch, is the level of detail that the Houdinis established in their ritual. It included a specific message, "Rosabelle believe" which was written in a sealed envelope on the séance table. One of the original séance participants, magician William Alstrand, brought that detail with him when he moved to the Bay Area, and through him, Soberanes was able to incorporate it into the Sonoma County Houdini séances.
How did Bill Soberanes decide to begin holding these events locally? Wyrsch sees them as part of the newspaperman's entrepreneurial nature.
Because the local séances began so long ago,in 1964, Wyrsch wasn't able to interview any of the original participants. But he did find and talk with several key local people who were involved in the later years.
Wyrsch's film about The Annual Harry Houdini Séances will have its world premiere this on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 3 at the Boulevard Cinemas in Petaluma. Showtime is 1 pm, and the filmmaker will be on hand to asnwer questions afterward.