Rose Mackenberg: First Female Ghostbuster

About this episode

Who ya gonna call? Rose Mackenberg!

That’s right. Long before Peter Venkman and his crew showed up with their proton packs to fight the supernatural, there was Rose Mackenberg, Houdini’s top undercover spy in his war against crooked psychics and mediums.

Rose Mackenberg was described in a 1949  Hearst syndicate article as “perhaps the only woman ‘ghost-buster’ in the world.” In this episode, you’ll hear about the seance-gone-bad that essentially ended the friendship between Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and escalated Houdini’s crusade against Spiritualism, the tactics used by the famed magician to expose psychic con artists, and the important role Rose Mackenberg played in that battle. We guarantee you’ll be fascinated by the story of this truly fearless female. 

Show Notes for Episode 23!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, with their families/

Rose demonstrates how the ghostly hands trick works/

Rose demonstrating the table tipping trick/

Rose, a woman of many disguises/New York Times


“Overlooked No More: Rose Mackenberg: Houdini’s Secret ‘Ghost-Buster,’” New York Times, by Gavin Edwards, December 6, 2019

“For Harry Houdini, Seances and Spiritualism Were Just an Illusion,” Smithsonian Magazine, by Bryan Greene, October 28, 2021

Criminal Podcast, episode 175, The “Ghost Racket Crusade,” hosted by Phoebe Judge, interviewing Tony Wolf

“The Art and Crime of Illusion: Harry Houdini’s Assistants,” Saturday Evening Post

“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” PBS’s American Experience 

“10 Things You May Not Know About Harry Houdini,”, by Evan Andrews, updated August 22, 2018

“Houdini, Sir Doyle Do AC,” Atlantic City Weekly, by Tom Wilk, updated June 6, 2019

“Rose Mackenberg: Ghostbuster of Phantoms, Frauds, and Flimflam Men, Wednesday’s Women, by Sandy Levins, March 11, 2020

Wikipedia: Rose Mackenberg


Rebekah Raymer Book (featuring a fictional meeting between the main character and Harry Houdini)

Gary Oldman in (just a few!) of his diverse film roles

The Fox Sisters & The Origin of Spiritualism:

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