Special to The New York Times.
WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 26.Members of Congress are numbered among the callers for advice on spiritualistic mediums in Washington, but who they are is a dark mystery. This was one of the revelations this afternoon before the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia when Harry Houdini, magician, appeared in support of the Copeland-Bloom bill to prohibit fortune-telling for fees in the District.
The committee room scene during the hearing resembled a tabloid convention of Spiritualists and mediums, including one who claimed she had told Mrs. Harding her husband would become President and later warned her of his death. The mediums were present opposing the measure.
Amusement entered the hearing as it proceeded, especially when Mr. Houdini engaged in repartee with various fortune-tellers. Once he issued a general challenge to them to tell just what his mother had called him when he was a boy, but no Spiritualist ventured to furnish that information and Houdini did not offer it.
The stage magician explained his purpose as being not to attempt any opposition to legitimate practice or to religion of any sort, but simply to check fraudulent mediums. He rebutted the statements of some that the pending measure would infringe on their religious liberty. According to Houdini, it was impossible [sic] for any one to become a spiritualistic minister, in proof of which he displayed a parchment to show that he himself had obtained such a charter.
Affairs of the Heart Included.
As an example of what was transpiring in Washington he read an advertisement by one of the many mediums here promising information on affairs of the heart and whether your lover is true or false. This, he said, was going on in the national capital all the time and should not be permitted.
Affairs in the District were assailed as particularly objectionable because fortune-telling here was officially licensed, as contrasted with conditions in States where those claiming ability to tell the future are arrested. Houdini declared that some fortune tellers act under the cloak of religion. He said thousands of girls go to see these people.
An astrologer, giving her name as Mme. Marcia, protested against the proposed legislation.
I predicted the election of President Harding and his death to Mrs. Harding, she said; and shortly afterward, when Houdini asked if that were not an eleventh-hour prediction, she declared emphatically, It was not.
Mme. Marcia then offered to help clean up conditions in Washington, declaring there was a woman here claiming to be an astrologer who was not, and that a check-up should be made with a view to prosecutions.
There are men in the Senate and in Congress, she continued, who consult me constantly.
In a colloquy that followed with Representative Bloom of New York this astrologer addressed him as Senator, but corrected herself by adding, No, Congressman, at which Bloom commented:
Now you are predicting that I am gong to be a Senator.
Draws in Weather Bureau.
When the laughter subsided, Mme. Marcia continued her argument, saying the United States Weather Bureau uses astrology every day in forecasting the weather.
A warm reply to Houdinis argument that many were telling fortunes behind religious cloaks came from Dr. Jane B. Coates, head of the Spiritualist Church of America, located in Washington. She declared he was attacking the religion of Spiritualism under cover and insisted that Spiritualists have a right to give advice to the members of their congregations or to others.
I have saved many young girls, she said, from marrying the wrong man and have kept others from going wrong. My religion goes back to Jesus Christ. Houdini does not know I am a Christian.
Jesus was a Jew, retorted Houdini, and he did not charge $2 a visit.
Dr. Coates later denied an assertion by Houdini that insane asylums are filled with Spiritualists. She declared there were many in the insane asylums because they had witnessed spiritualistic manifestations which they did not believe were possible.
Provides $250 Penalty.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Houdini was before the House District Committee on the same bill. It provides in part:
Any person pretending to tell where lost or stolen goods may be found; any person who, by game or device, sleight of hand, pretending, fortune-telling, by or by any trick or other means, by the use of cards or other implements or instruments, fraudulently obtains from another person property of any description; any person pretending to remove spells or to sell charms for protection, or to unite the separated shall be considered a disorderly person.
Any person violating the provisions of this law shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $250 or by imprisonment not to exceed six months, or by both fine and imprisonment.