By Tom Interval
There seems to be a lot of uncertainty about when Carrie Gladys Weiss (Houdini’s sister) died. Until today, even the Wikipedia page about Houdini stated that the year of Gladys’s death is unknown (I changed it). But honestly, I’m not sure what all the mystery is about at this point.
While we still don’t know the precise date of her death (which I’m sure would be on her death certificate, probably available from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), we do have two reliable sources as to the month and year.
First, as Houdini expert John Cox, creator of the superb website Wild About Harry, has pointed out, Bernard C. Meyer mentions the month and year in his book, Houdini: A Mind in Chains, on page 5: “At the time of Gladys’s final illness in January 1959 her hospital record . . .” Meyer offers no additional information on the illness itself, but it’s clear it was fatal.
Second, Machpelah Cemetery, where Gladys is buried, has her burial record on microfilm. I discovered this after doing just a little bit of digging. I initially went to Gladys’s Find A Grave web page to see how that site listed her death date. At the time, it was marked as 1972. I wrote to the creator of the page—Big Ern—to see where he got the information. Turns out he read it on the Wild About Harry blog post referred to above, in the “UPDATE” mentioning how Houdini expert Patrick Culliton found an entry for a Gladys Weiss on the New York State death index.
After I questioned the date, Big Ern, whose real name is Ernest, did a little digging of his own. He called Machpelah, and someone there looked up Gladys’s burial records for him. Soon thereafter, Ernest dropped me an email, informing me those records indicated Gladys’s ashes (that’s right: ashes!*) were buried on January 21, 1959. That would put the date of her death sometime in January 1959, which is in accordance with Meyer’s research.
Earlier today I also called the cemetery to confirm what Ernest already discovered and to request a copy of the burial record. The employee there—a nice older woman—looked up Gladys’s record and told me exactly what Ernest had found out. What I wasn’t aware of was the name of the Houdini/Weiss plot itself: It’s the Henry Clay plot, Gate No. 1. (The cemetery representative informed me that Henry Clay is a society.) Despite the fast, friendly service the Machpelah employee gave me, she refused to give me her name and said she would not provide me with a copy of the burial record because “We just don’t do that.”
In short, the two sources I cite above convince me Gladys probably died the week of January 12, 1959. If you have any evidence to support or counter this—or have a copy of Gladys’s death certificate—I would love to hear from you. Please comment below or send me an email.
*It’s interesting Gladys was cremated because Jewish law forbids it. Although, apparently this is not a hard-and-fast rule.
Fantastic work! Thank you. (Think I’m going to zap that update on my own Gladys article. We now know Pat had found a different Gladys Weiss.)
Thanks, John. I may order a copy of the death certificate if possible. If I do, I’ll forward you a copy for your records.
Cool! Thank you.
Thank you, John. I knew I would get things wrong–especially in the material gleaned from Ancestry.com since there were such variances (and coincidences–who the heck would think that the only Carrie Gladys Weiss I could find in the NY death index during multiple checks over three years was some other Carrie Gladys Weiss). It doesn’t feel bad to be corrected on any point–it feels great, John Bushey’s discovery of the French Letter Lock’s real secret filled me with joy. This man is an elusive subject. I think I’ve done well, but, I did miss Carrie Glady Weiss’ death date by 20 years or so. Nice detective work John.
Thanks for the comment, Patrick. I saw the same record you did and also thought it was our Gladys until I called Machpelah, which confirmed the 1959 date. Unfortunately, the woman I spoke with refused to send me a copy of the burial record because “We just don’t do that.” She wouldn’t even give me her name. Aside from that, I hope I get the chance to meet you, perhaps in the company of John Cox someday soon. Thanks again, Patrick. – Tom Interval
I know where Gladys Weiss was on December 25th 1949. She was at my wedding. Actually it was my sister and my double wedding at the Beekman Towers in New York City. I still have in my possession the Silver Vegetable dish that she gave us as a wedding present. (Aunt Gladys),It was a title one gave a revered family friend of long standing, asked me if I wanted cash or something that Houdini brought back for their mother from a trip. She knew I was fascinated by her stories and had written a term paper (Hunter College) about him. They also had a parrot that whistled “Narcissus” by Ethelbert Nevin. I learned it and played her piano for Polly and we all laughed.She lived in a beautiful large apartment on Morningside Heights in Manhattan with her brother,Dr.Sam. On Jewish holidays she always came to my parents for dinners. My sister had a beautiful wedding album. It is possible their is a photo there. Dorothy is 92 and I’m 87 years old.
Hi Paula. Thank you so much for sharing that. I’d love to know more! Please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
I had a strong indication her death was in 1959 but was NEVER certain based on my interviews of it being at the end of 1958 or the start of 1959? Therfore, I dated it in my book, “Benjilini on Houdini” as of 1958 ending with a question mark? Now, you have corrected this slight error. I LOVE your entire site!
Thanks so much for your comment, kind words, and following this site.
All the Best,
Has anyone seen a census record for Gladys after 1920? She seems to have vanished after 1910 as far as census records are concerned.