One of the most interesting pop culture stories from the early days of the 20th century is the friendship between Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Spiritualism was all the rage at the time — think seances, levitations, speaking to the dead, and so forth, driven in part by people hoping to reconnect with loved ones killed in WWI. Houdini was an outspoken anti-Spiritualist who worked for Scientific American exposing fake mediums. Doyle, meanwhile, was a serious Spiritualist, driven in part by grief at the death of his wife. (Perhaps ironically, Houdini’s stance against Spiritualism came in part from curiosity about the practice after the death of his mother.)

And yet the two became real friends, at least for a time. There is a good amount of literature on their friendship and, frankly, I’m surprised no one has ever made a film or TV show exploiting their shared history. Now DreamWorks might, as the studio has picked up Voices From the Dead, a script by J. Michael Straczynski that uses the mens’ friendship as the basis for a supernatural thriller.

THR says the script ” creates a fictional account of the two teaming up with a psychic to solve a set of murders in 1920′s New York.” One interesting wrinkle in their real-life friendship was that Doyle eventually believed that Houdini’s illusionist abilities were based on real supernatural powers. I’m hoping this factors into this script.

This might be one of those situations where the real-life history behind the script is a lot more fascinating than the fictionalized account. Check out Final Seance, which is a hit and miss book about their friendship, and you can read more about Doyle’s belief’s here.

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