Will Houdini escape from the grave?

NEW YORK Fri Mar 23, 2007 2:34pm EDT

Forensic scientist Jim Starrs speaks at a news conference in New York March 21, 2007. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Forensic scientist Jim Starrs speaks at a news conference in New York March 21, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A descendant of Harry Houdini wants his body exhumed to test a theory that the famed escape artist was murdered 81 years ago, a spokesman for the family's lawyer said.

Houdini, who was famed for freeing himself from chains, straitjackets and sealed containers, died in 1926 in Detroit, Michigan but was buried in Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York.

No autopsy was performed but the cause of death was said to be a ruptured appendix. Houdini's appendix was thought to have ruptured by a punch to the abdomen.

But Houdini's great nephew George Hardeen believes the performer may have been killed by people who were angry because he debunked their claims that they could communicate with the dead.

If his bid to have Houdini's remains exhumed is successful, Hardeen plans to have a team of forensic investigators examine the body for evidence of foul play.

Joseph Tacopina, a prominent New York defense attorney who charges $750 per hour, is assisting Hardeen.

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