StoryCorps 445: Goodnight, Harry

In this podcast, we present two stories with ties to Halloween.

Fennell2The first story takes place over Halloween weekend in 1995. After an evening out, Janette Fennell, her husband Greig, and their infant son, Alex, had returned to their San Francisco home when armed men forced Janette and Greig into the trunk of the Fennell’s car. The men then drove off in the car with Janette and her husband locked in the trunk believing their baby was still in his car seat in the back of the vehicle.

The Fennells managed to escape and the carjackers were never caught.

The family continued to drive the car (pictured at left in a 1999 photo with Alex and his younger brother, Noah, sitting with their parents on the trunk) for several years after the kidnapping, and 20 years later, Janette and Alex came to StoryCorps to recount the harrowing ordeal.

The second story involves someone who made his living getting out of almost impossible situations—the great illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini.

Houdini died on October 31, 1926 at the age of 52. Famously, he told his wife Bess that he would attempt to contact her from “the other side,” and for a decade after his death, she marked the anniversary with a Halloween séance. In 1936 Bess gave up trying to get in touch.

radner_lg3-209x300In the 1940s, Sidney Radner (pictured at left) picked up the torch eventually christening the yearly event The Official Houdini Séance™, and in 2010 StoryCorps producer Jasmyn Belcher Morris traveled to Sid’s Massachusetts home to record him for StoryCorps.

Sid, 91, was a protégé of Houdini’s brother Hardeen, and was once also the owner of one of the world’s largest collections of Harry Houdini memorabilia. A few weeks after the story aired on NPR Sid invited Jasmyn to participate in that year’s event (pictured below). It turned out to be his last. Sid died in 2011, more than 70 years after taking over the tradition.

Click here to read more about Jasmyn’s attempt to contact Houdini.

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Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Moments Like Last Night Make Me Wanna Believe in Ghost” by Electric Bird Noise from the album Silber Sounds of Halloween
“Childhood (2)” by Yann Teirsen from the Goodbye, Lenin! Soundtrack
“Shock Hop” by Johnny Cale