Saturday, February 19, 2011

William Henry Harrison Davenport's Grave

Magician and historian Kent Blackmore at William Davenport's Grave
The Davenport Brothers were a sensation across the globe. They created something called 'The Spirit Cabinet' which was a large rectangular box which apparent spirit manifestations took place. They brothers would sit in chairs inside the cabinet and then were tied to the chairs. Next,  musical instruments were placed inside the cabinet and the doors would be closed to hide them from site. As soon as the doors closed, the instruments began to play. Yet every time the doors were opened the brothers were found to be still securely tied.

The team was made up of William Henry Harrison Davenport and Ira Erastus Davenport. William was born Feb 1, 1841 in Buffalo NY. The brothers began presenting their Spirit Cabinet shortly after some sisters also from New York, the Fox Sisters, began to claim they could communicate with the spirits of dead people. Strange rapping sounds were heard in their presence seemingly a signal from these dead spirits.

In the 1850s the two brothers took their show on the road and they were an instant sensation. Within a short time they were traveling the globe presenting this effect. It should be noted that the Davenports themselves never claimed these were supernatural feats, those claims were often made by others who had seen them. The Davenports, like good magicians, really left it up to the audience to decide.

William died rather young at the age of 36 of Tuberculosis. He was buried in Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney Australia. Over the years, many famous magicians have visited the grave including Houdini.

There is a fantastic article written about William Davenport and his grave that I discovered online. In fact, the photo above and the location of the grave below came directly from that webpage with permission of the author Kent Blackmore. The article is an  investigative story which covers some biographical information, the brothers tours of Australia and news of a special monument that was supposed to have been constructed as the grave for William Davenport but was rejected by the Cemetery authorities. Mr. Blackmore does a great job in his detective work. To read his very interesting and informative article,

Locating the grave of William Henry Harrison Davenport

Rookwood Necropolis (Sydney), is located near Lidcombe railway.
The grave location is SECTION E, Grave 848 in the Anglican (Church of England) section.
Come up through the Lidcombe entrance, up to the road which goes in a large circle.
Look for a road on your left, clearly signposted "William Drive." This runs North from the Circle Rd. Go along William Drive about 250 meters.
Look for posts marking sections on the right.. There is a track running between the borders of section "E" and section "F", on the right hand side of the road. (There is also a sign indicating Section EE there, which is accessed from this track and lies further on.)
Go down the track, only about 20-30 metres in. On the right hand side of the track (on the side facing away from the Olympic Stadium), about four graves in, look for a low-lying extended pyramid shape. The grave is no longer white as it was originally.
For those with access to a GPS, the grave is at - 33 degrees 51.986S, 151 degrees 03.148E
Died July 1st 1877

Alan Shaw, Charles Carter and Houdini


  1. Hey, I don't recall ever seeing that Davenport poster in color before. Thanks!