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.