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Erik Weisz, better known as escape artist Harry Houdini, died on Halloween in 1926 and was buried in the Machpelah Cemetery in Glendale, Queens, New York on 4 November. (The site is named after Ma'arat HaMachpelah, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron; "machpelah" means "doubled" in Hebrew because of the legendary couples married there: Adam, Eve, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah. According to the "Zohar" the cave is the gateway to the Garden of Eden: Adam saw a ray of light emanating from the place and recognized its significance, so he dug a cave there as a burial place for himself and Eve; after their deaths the light was hidden, but Abraham rediscovered the site when he pursued a calf that he wanted to serve to 3 angels who visited him disguised as humans. Before Jacob died he made his son Joseph promise tat he would be taken from Egypt and buried there; Esau tried to keep Jacob's sons from doing so, but Dan's son Hushim cut off Esau's head, which rolled into the bosom of his father Isaac.) The Cemetery Belt that it is a part of is so large that it is visible from space. The Rural Cemeteries Act of 1847 allowed non-profit organizations to sell burial plots to individuals, making cemeteries a legitimate commercial enterprise for the 1st time in the state. In 1852 Manhattan prohibited burials and, as the population grew, it began disinterring tens of thousands of corpses and transported them to mass graves in the Cemetery Belt; the 5 million "permanent residents" of Queen nearly triple the borough's live population. More than 2,000 mourners attended Houdini's funeral. The Society of American Magicians, which Houdini had presided over from 1917 until his death, expanding it from a single club to 5,000 to 6,000 worldwide, initiated its 1st broken wand ceremony (indicating that the wand has lost its magic with the magician's passing) at his grave. As the ceremony began attracting large crowds, including vandals and partiers, the society moved it to November. Rumors persist that the tomb has a secret compartment, revealed by a hidden device, where Houdini's tricks are hidden. Houdini had confided messages that he would communicate in a seance so his loved ones would not be fooled by a medium. His widow began holding seances every Halloween, and the practice continued after her death. A statuary bust with a stone woman stooped in mourning was added in 1927 despite the prohibition of graven images in Jewish cemeteries. (The bust has been repeatedly stolen or destroyed since 1975.) Houdini's widow died in 1943 but her Catholic family refused to allow her to be buried in a Jewish cemetery (although her name is inscribed with Houdini's on his grave marker). Most of the cemeteries reached capacity long ago, leaving them without any source of income, and so have fallen into disrepair. SAM undertook the site's upkeep but its "lifetime dean" George Schindler stopped payment to the cemetery in 1988, claiming that it never provided any care and accusing it of selling pieces of the Houdini gravesite, while the cemetery operator insists SAM never paid for any restoration to the Weiss family plot, which has often been vandalized. The granite monuments of Houdini's sister and brother are missing. The cemetery office has been abandoned since the late 1980s. Houdini was renowned for feats such as walking through brick walls and escaping from bindings and enclosures. One of his more famous tricks was escaping after being buried alive in a bronze casket. So far, however, he is still buried in Machpelah.
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