The secret word is .......

19th December 2018. Reading Time: 6 minutes Famous Paranormal Cases, General, Harry Houdini. 4031 page views. 1 comments.

When Harry Houdini passed, he had given his wife Bess a secret 'password' that he hoped he would be able to communicate after he passed away and perform his final escape, from death. A yearly seance was held, but did the secret code ever come through?

Years ago, I thought that Harry Houdini was just a famous magician. Through my research, I found out he was so much more and since then I have been intrigued. If you don't know about Houdini and his links to exposing paranormal frauds, check out my article: Harry Houdini: Magician AND Paranormal debunker. Houdini was obviously a man of many tricks. He used his knowledge of magic and the sleight of hand to debunk a lot of spiritualists during the Victorian era when they were at their peak. He would often attend a seance in disguise and observe. At the end of the seance, being the showman that he was, he would do a dramatic reveal of his identity and then expose the so-called psychic medium who ran the seance and showed exactly how the 'paranormal activity' during the seance was 'performed'. It wasn't that Houdini didn't believe in the paranormal. He very much wanted to believe, but he didn't like frauds.

Before he passed away, he had an agreement with his wife Bess that whoever passed away first would try to communicate with a secret word that only they knew. A seance would be held and if the secret word came through, they would know that it was the real deal. So what was the secret word?

Houdini's secret word (The Houdini Code)

The secret password that Houdini came up with was not just some random word he thought of. It of course had significance. It was a phrase that he and Bess used for years as a communication tool during their Vaudeville mind-reading act. The message itself was to begin with the word 'Rosabelle'. Rosabelle was the name of the song she sang in the act where they first met. This was also inscribed on her wedding band so it was hugely significant for the couple. The rest of the words were randomly selected by his close friend Arthur Conan Doyle.

1 Pray

2 Answer

3 Say

4 Now

5 Tell

6 Please

7 Speak

8 Quickly

9 Look

10 Be Quick

The secret message was Rosabelle- Answer * Tell * Pray Answer * Look * Tell * Answer Answer * Tell

According to, this is how the code is deciphered:

The message starts with “Answer,” which is the second word on the key-word list. The second letter in the alphabet is “B.” So the message starts with a “B.” The second letter in the message is “Tell,” which is the fifth word on the key-word list. Since the fifth letter in the alphabet is “E,” we see that the second letter in the message is an “E.” “Tell” is also used for the fifth and seventh letter in the message so we now have: B E ? ? E ? E The third letter in the message is the word pair: “Pray Answer.” This is the first and second word from the key-word list. So we have 1 and 2 or 12. Since “L” is the 12th letter in the alphabet, we now have: B E L ? E ? E The forth letter in the message is "Look", the ninth word on the key-word list. The ninth letter in the alphabet is “I,” so we have: B E L I E ? E The sixth letter in the message is the word pair: “Answer Answer.” This is 2 and 2 or 22. “V” is the 22nd letter in the alphabet. So putting it all together, we have: B E L I E V E

So the code word was ROSABELLE BELIEVE

The Houdini Seances

Harry Houdini died on October 31st, 1926 - on Halloween. On the anniversary of his death, each year his wife Bess would hold a seance to contact her husband and offered a prize of $10,000 to anyone who could correctly deliver a message from Houdini. 3 years later in January of 1929, a man came ford called Arthur Ford claimed he was ready to speak to Houdini. In Bess's home on the 7th of January 1929, they held a seance. Ford's 'spirit guide' known as Fletcher, delivered the message of Rosabelle- Answer * Tell * Pray Answer * Look * Tell * Answer Answer * Tell. Mrs Houdini was quick to decipher the code as ROSABELLE BELIEVE. Mrs. Houdini went on to do an interview on the 9th of January to New York World stating "I had no idea what combination of words Harry would use, and when he said 'believe,' it was a surprise."

Ford had her sign a document to prove that she believed he had successfully contacted her husband. “Regardless of any statements made to the contrary, I wish to declare that the message, in its entirety, and in the agreed upon sequence, given to me by Arthur Ford, is the correct message prearranged between Mr. Houdini and myself.” (Signed) Beatrice Houdini

Was the Ford claim a hoax?

It turned out that when Mrs Houdini allowed the seance, she was very unwell. She had a fall the week before and was bedridden with influenza and on a lot of medication. She was said not to be of sound mind. It was claimed by a source that Ford paid Mrs Houdini to give him the code in advance. A claim both Ford and Mrs Houdini denied. It turns out however that the code had been published in a book the year prior by Harold Kellock in his Houdini, His Life-Story. Mrs Houdini also alluded that she may have accidentally revealed the code in a newspaper interview in the years prior. Ford never chased his $10,000 prize. Mrs Houdini took back her claim that the seance had been successful stating 'There was a time when I wanted intensely to hear from Harry. I was ill, both physically and mentally, and such was my eagerness that spiritualists were able to prey upon my mind and make me believe that they had really heard from him.'

Mrs Houdini continued the yearly tradition of seances until the 10th anniversary. She decided to gracefully bow out of the seances confirming that she had never received a message from her husband. “Yes, Houdini did not come through. My last hope is gone. I do not believe that Houdini can come back to me - or to anyone. The Houdini shrine has burned for ten years. I now, reverently ... turn out the light. It is finished. Good night, Harry!

While Mrs Houdini no longer participated in the seances, they have continued every year courtesy of the Magic Fraternity with different famous magicians leading the charge. It seems that no one has heard from Houdini since the day of his death.

Some believe that Mrs Houdini's backtracking was denial because she could not accept that the spirit communication was genuine. Her personal belief was that when she died that would be it, so was this communication too much for her mind to accept? Others believe it was in fact a hoax from Ford, especially since Houdini seemingly hasn't been able to come through after all of these years.

It is a very interesting concept in itself and one I know I have spoken to friends about. Do you have that certain word or phrase that is special to you that only a small select few would know? If this word came through to you after a person significant to the word had passed, would this be confirmation that they were communicating with you? I have heard many stories of this happening. If it has happened to you, I would love to hear about it! Tell me about it in the comments below!

Follow LLIFS on Facebook

Don't forget to follow the Facebook page for regular updates 

Mailing List

Join the mailing list to receive weekly updates of NEW articles.  Never miss an article again!

Haunted Magazine

Buy the latest and past issues Haunted Magazine

Books by LLIFS

Check out the books written by LLIFS


  • Joseph Kapusta 2 years ago

    Last year I had a surgery that required me being put under with anesthesia. Knowing of the Houdini secret word arrangement, I did the same with my wife before going under, sharing a secret word that only she would know. Alas, I made it through OK but funny enough, my wife later said to me that in recovery but still groggy, somehow I recognized her (although I don't remember this) and said to her, "am I dead?" How is that for being a paranormal researcher?

Post Comment