Exhumation may determine if Houdini was poisoned

For all of his death-defying stunts, Harry Houdini could not escape the Grim Reaper: the unparalleled performer, age 52, died on Halloween 1926, taking with him many of his trade secrets. The rumors that he was murdered, however, soon took on a life of their own. Eighty-one years later, Houdini's great-nephew wants to exhume the escape artist's body to determine if he was poisoned by enemies for debunking their bogus claims of contact with the dead. A team of top-level forensic investigators would conduct new tests once Houdini's body was disinterred. "It needs to be looked at," said George Hardeen, whose grandfather was Houdini's brother, Theodore. "His death shocked the entire nation, if not the world. Now, maybe it's time to take a second look." The circumstances surrounding Houdini's sudden death were as murky as the rivers where his act often found the virtuoso emerging unscathed from chains, locks and wooden boxes. The generally accepted version was that Houdini suffered a ruptured appendix from a punch in the stomach, leading to a fatal case of peritonitis.