Episode 363:

Landed In Marshmallows

Life and Mysterious Death of Harry Houdini


Brandon Swanson's Disappearance


Episode 363: Landed In Marshmallows

On today’s episode, Karen covers the life and mysterious death of Harry Houdini and Georgia tells the puzzling story of Brandon Swanson's disappearance.

The Life and Mysterious Death of Harry Houdini

Life and Mysterious Death of Harry Houdini Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Paolo Chiabrando on Unsplash 

Other Images:

1. Harry Houdini (Science History Images / Alamy) 

2. Bess Houdini

3. Houdini jumps from Harvard Bridge, 1908 (GL Archive / Alamy)

4. Houdini performing his water torture cell stunt


"For over 30 years, Harry Houdini dazzled audiences with his bravura stunts and superhuman endurance. The Hungarian-born escape artist jumped off bridges while handcuffed and wearing leg irons, slithered out of sealed milk cans filled with water, and devised a “Chinese Water Torture Cell” in which he was submerged and suspended upside down by his ankles. The heart-pounding getaways usually involved a healthy dose of trickery and sleight-of-hand, but they were also fraught with genuine risk. In 1915, Houdini nearly suffocated during a stunt in which he was shackled and buried under six feet of dirt.

Houdini had made a career out of surviving the impossible, which only made the circumstances of his 1926 death all the more mysterious. The 52-year-old performed before a packed house in Detroit on October 24, but was rushed to the hospital afterwards with an apparent case of appendicitis. He died just a week later on Halloween, leaving his legions of admirers bewildered. An obituary in the New York Times expressed shock at the sudden passing of the man “who so often had seemed to thousands to be cheating the very jaws of death.”..."


-Source: “What Killed Harry Houdini?” by Evan Andrews (History) 2021

Brandon Swanson's Disappearance

Brandon Swanson's Disappearance Notes:


Brandon Swanson Missing Person poster (FBI)

"Born on January 30, 1989, in Marshall, Minnesota, Brandon Swanson was a 19-year-old college student who was enrolled in a wind turbine program at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Canby.

The Night of the Disappearance

The spring semester had just come to an end and on the night of May 13th, 2008, Swanson attended two different parties to celebrate. He was seen drinking at both parties, but according to his friends, he didn’t drink enough to become intoxicated, at least not overtly.

At around 2 AM on the morning of May 14th, Swanson called his parents from his cellphone, informing them that he had accidentally driven his car into a ditch, essentially high-centering the vehicle. He assured them that both he and the car were fine and that he merely needed them to pick him up.

He told his parents that he believed himself to be near the city of Lynd and that the lights he spotted off in the distance were coming from there. So they drove out there looking for him. Both Swanson and his parents had agreed to flash their headlights on and off in order to signal to each other. However, after several failed attempts at locating Swanson using this method, tensions were rising.

“Don’t you see me?” he asked his parents, exasperated.

Brandon's Last Call

Finally Swanson decided on a different course of action. He would start walking in the direction of the lights. He asked his parents to meet him in the parking lot of a popular nightclub in Lynd. Unfortunately he would never make it there..."

-Source: “Missing Since 2008: Brandon Swanson” by Michelle Short (The Crime Wire)

Karen's Episode Sources

  1. “Harry Houdini, Master Mystifier” (Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast)
  2.  “The Life and Magic of the Real Harry Houdini” (Timeline World History Documentaries)
  3.  “EP26: Harry Houdini’s Campaign Against Spiritualism” (Rituals podcast)
  4. “For Harry Houdini, Séances and Spiritualism Were Just an Illusion” by Bryan Greene (Smithsonian Magazine) 2021
  5. “Harry Houdini (1874-1926)” (PBS/American Experience)
  6.  “One final trick for Houdini: exhumation” (Associated Press) 2007
  7.  “What Killed Harry Houdini?” by Evan Andrews (History) 2021
  8. “10 Things You May Not Know About Harry Houdini” by Evan Andrews (History) 2008
  9.  “HARRY HOUDINI VS. THE WITCH OF LIME STREET” by Christine Schiefer and Em Schultz (CrimeReads) 2022
  10.  “Harry Houdini Dies After Operations; Magician, Conscious to Last, Loses Fight for Life in Detroit Hospital.” (New York Times) 1926
  11.  “Mama's death and the birth of a myth” (Wild About Harry) 2013
  12.  “The Davenport Brothers: The act that divided Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini” by Heather Joinville (Readex) 2021
  13.  “Winning Houdini's $10,000 Challenge” (Wild About Harry) 2013
  14. “Mina Crandon a.k.a. Margery” (Wild About Houdini)
  15.  “MARGERY' IS DEAD; NOTED AS MEDIUM; Widow of Dr. Le Roi Crandon of Boston Internationally Known for Seances” (New York Times) 1941
  16.  “Was Houdini a chauvinist?” (Wild About Houdini) 2019
  17.  “In 1926, Houdini Spent 4 Days Shaming Congress for Being in Thrall to Fortune-Tellers” (Atlas Obscura) 2016
  18.  “What caused Harry Houdini’s mysterious death?” by Dr. Howard Markel (PBS) 2019
  19.  “Who'd Want to Murder Harry Houdini?” by Jennifer Latson (Time Magazine) 2014
  20. “Spiritualism” (Wikipedia page)
  21. “Margery: Mina Stinson Crandon” by Michael Tymn, KM Wehrstein and Robert McLuhan (PSI Encyclopedia) 2022
  22.  “Did Houdini Die from a Punch to the Stomach?” by David Mikkelson (Snopes) 2001
  23.  “Margery Pamphlet” (PBS)

Georgia's Episode Sources

  1. “Brandon Swanson” (International Missing Persons Wiki)
  2.  “Hypothermia” (Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  3. “Missing Person Bulletin” (Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension)
  4. “Missing Since 2008: Brandon Swanson” by Michelle Short (The Crime Wire)
  5. “Rural roads of Minnesota remain last known location of 19-year-old Brandon Swanson” by Trisha Taurinskas (InForum)
  6. “Swanson case still unsolved” by Jenny Kirk (The Marshall Independent)
  7. “Teen drove into ditch, vanished as parents searched” by Alexis Weed (Nancy Grace’s Cold Cases, CNN)
  8. “The Disappearance of Brandon Swanson” (Wikipedia)
  9. “The Disappearance of Brandon Swanson” by Debbie Buck (The True Crime Files)
  10.  “The Mysterious Disappearance Of Minnesota College Student Brandon Swanson” by Neil Patmore (All That’s Interesting)
  11. “The Search for Brandon Swanson”
  12. “ViCAP Alert–Missing Person Poster” (Federal Bureau of Investigation) 
  13. “Where is Brandon Swanson? Parts 1 and 2” (Morbid Podcast)