Ten men and women sit at a round table in the dark, in silence so still you could hear a pin drop. Each one listens intently, waiting for a sign. On the table before them lie handcuffs, picks, and a large bust of the man of the hour: Harry Houdini.
This is the tradition that Bill Radner and Tom Boldt observe every Halloween. This is the Official Houdini Séance. And it's coming to Danvers.
"It's a labor of love and it's for the legacy and the tradition that started many, many years ago," said Boldt, 62, referring to the intricate séance planning he's been involved with since 1985. "I think that we, in continuing to do this, raise up Houdini."
On Friday, Glen Magna Farms in Danvers will play host to a medium, magicians, and, if attendees are lucky, the ghost of Harry Houdini at the 88th annual Houdini séance.
Boldt became involved with magic and séances in the mid-'80s when he met Sidney Radner, a well-known and self-declared Houdini expert, at an event in Boldt's hometown of Appleton, Wis. – a hometown of Houdini's at one time as well.
"He said, 'How would you like to have a séance?' " Boldt recalled. "And I said, 'Absolutely not.' "
But upon learning the history of the gatherings, Boldt changed his mind.
Houdini, the legendary illusionist, died in 1926, but before he did, he told his wife that he would try to communicate with her from the grave, said Arthur Moses, author of "Houdini Speaks Out" and "Houdini Periodical Biography." Every year until her death, his wife attempted to reach her husband on the day he died -- Oct. 31.
The séances came to an end in the mid-1930s until 1948, when Sid Radner, a native of Holyoke and protégé of Houdini's brother, began holding them again. In 1985, he brought Boldt on board.
Sid Radner died in 2010, but his son, Bill, of West Springfield, and Boldt have continued the tradition. And they take it very seriously.
"We don't want anything less than 100 percent," said the 64-year-old Radner. "We don't want any funny business."
Beginning in 2011, the séances have been a public affair -- open to a limited number of the public for the price of a ticket. Included is catered food, entertainment (in the form of magicians, of course) and an insider's look at the séance itself.
The séances have traveled far, too – to places like London; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and California – making its appearance in Danvers all the more unusual.
Locations are often selected due to Houdini's ties to the place.
"Houdini performed in Salem and in Massachusetts," said Boldt. "We feel that that area is kind of the epicenter of Halloween in America, if not the world." He added that Glen Magna Farms is supposedly haunted, adding to the site's allure.
This year's entertainment will be provided by Gene and Jennifer Yee of Yee Magik, who will perform the metamorphosis -- a favorite act of Houdini's where a magician locked in a trunk and another one standing on top of it switch positions in an instant, they said. Evan Northrup and Eric Robitaille will also perform, and Anastasia Zimeris, an Aboriginal medium trained in Australia, will perform the séance, Radner said in a statement.
As for the success of the séances, Boldt and Radner said nothing concrete has occurred yet. But the pair did describe some unusual happenings, including a chill in the room, a floating light, and a book falling from a shelf.
The ultimate proof would be the unlocking of a special pair of handcuffs that, according to Radner, Houdini told his wife he would open if he were able to come back. Moses described the handcuff story as "folklore," but Radner has a bit more faith.
"At this point, I can't say yes," the séances have been successful, Radner said, "but anything's possible. I can't be definitive. If anyone could come back, Houdini could."
Tickets are available by contacting co-organizer Vince DeAngelis at 978-535-8950.
Kiera Blessing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.