Appendicitis is handled fairly easily by hospitals and doctors today, but that wasn’t always the case. Before the wide-spread use of antibiotics in the years following World War 2, the infections caused by ruptured appendixes proved to be over 80% fatal according to some medical sources. That infection–peritonitis–was the issue in this case.
Erik was said to be a stubborn man. His wife, Bess, said in later years that she had to beg and beg Erik to go to a hospital and have his appendix checked out. When he finally did go, and the doctors removed the appendix, it was too late. The ruptured organ had infected the stomach cavity. See the paragraph above to understand Erik’s chances of survival in this situation.
The stubbornness that characterized his hospitalization manifested itself early in the man’s life. He ran away from his Appleton, Wisconsin, home at the age of 9. At the end of the 19th Century, that type of thing was not as uncommon as it may seem. However, Erik ran away because his clergyman father and he fought with each other all the time. Dad had plans for his son, but Erik had other ideas about what he wanted to do in life.
Bess had been a blessing to Erik. The pair met and married in 1894. While they never had children (Bess, her family said, was infertile), she looked after a wide variety of pets the couple adopted throughout their marriage while Erik worked and provided for them.
In his hospital bed, Erik’s temperature reached 104 degrees. The stomach interior was septic. The doctors tried another surgery in an attempt to introduce some anti-bacterial serum, but it had no effect. “Bess,” Erik said, in the last words he would utter in this life, “I’m tired of fighting.” She held his hand as he passed. Erik became simply another statistic, someone who died of an infection that is easily dealt with today.
For the next decade after Erik’s death, Bess tried to make contact with her husband through seances and the use of mediums, but she knew that they were all fake, all charlatans. She wanted to prove that they were all crooks, in fact, and called them out when they couldn’t communicate with Erik. And, Bess also knew that Erik would have approved of her efforts.
Of course, we know Erik Weiss by his stage name.
You see, besides being a wonderful magician, Harry Houdini had also made quite a splash as a debunker of spiritualism.