Thursday, 24 March 2016

Voyagers! 01x04: Agents of Satan

It’s Harry Houdini’s birthday today, and I love combining historical trivia with your recap experience, so we’re watching an episode of 1982’s Voyagers!

This was a family show created by Scholastic to get kids more interested in history, even though it’s wildly historically inaccurate. Every week, displaced time travellers Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones get flung to a temporal emergency by a device known as The Omni. Bogg, played by Jon-Erik Hexum, claims to come from a future society of time travellers called, unsurprisingly, voyagers. Jeffrey, on the other hand, is a kid from 1982 who got caught up in all of this when his dog attacked Bogg’s history guidebook. Through a twist of fate and fall out of a window, he was flung along with Bogg back to the time of Moses.

It’s not so bad, because as it turns out, Jeffrey – played by Meeno Peluce, real life brother of Soleil Moon Frye of Punky Brewster – is an orphan and also destined to be a time cop anyway. And he’s useful. Bogg, despite being responsible for aligning the time stream, doesn’t know much about the past. The guidebook he lost was crucial to his success. Luckily, Jeffrey’s dead father was a history professor, so Jeffrey is a pint-sized poindexter who knows everything Bogg doesn’t.

Every week, The Omni sends them to a new temporal emergency, and it’s often something that’s interwoven with several other temporal emergencies, so our dynamic duo has to untangle history like it’s a necklace you left at the bottom of your purse. Once that’s done, they get to move on.

Today’s episode starts with a Puritan woman in a white bonnet running through a misty swamp at night, pursued by an angry mob with dogs and torches shouting things like: “After the devil-witch!” and “There is no hiding from the Lord!”

Their quarry is terrified.

It looks like the whole village is after her, too. Men, women, children, all delighting in the hunt.

“Abiah Folger’s spirit tried to choke me!” One of the accusing girls cries out, then falls dramatically into the mist. She’s faking these otherworldly attacks, but that doesn’t do any good to Abiah Folger, who finds herself trapped between a rock and a hard place – quite literally – when the mob corners her against a giant boulder.

Wait. Did that horrible child say Abiah Folger? That name sounds a little familiar…

The town leaders further accuse Abiah as the little liar child writhes in fake agony and cries out for attention. (Your stupid hobby is getting people killed, kid, why can’t you obsess over novels like a regular pre-teen? Also, quick fun fact: she’s being played by a very young Shannen Doherty.) Abiah staunchly proclaims her innocence, but we all know it’s pretty futile. Once somebody thinks you’re a witch in this environment, there is no way to not be a witch.

Abiah begs for God’s help, and just then Bogg and Jeffrey fall from the sky to land beside her.
For some reason, The Omni doesn’t fade them in and out of time like a Star Trek effect, they drop into situations like a couple of paratroopers without chutes. I’m not sure how they don’t break their ankles.

Anyway, you can imagine how well two strangely dressed weirdos falling out of the sky goes down in witch hunt era Massachusetts.

Bogg and Jeffrey know they’ve stepped in it as soon as they see the torches. An additional clue is provided when the leader of the mob, Reverend Parris, calls Bogg “Satan.”

Well, the devil is supposed to appear in pleasing form…

“You are impotent against the power of the Lord!” Parris shrieks at Bogg, thrusting a giant bible towards him.

“I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”

But before Bogg can come up with a suitable explanation for cascading down from the damn stars in front of a town full of paranoid lunatics, Abiah hurries to him to beg for his help. I’m not sure what she thinks he’ll be able to do, but he might be aid from on high, or a powerful enough being from down below to ensure she doesn’t get hanged. Whatever he is, he’s the guy without a pitchfork, and that’s good enough!

Unfortunately, Bogg and Jeffrey are just regular human time cops, so the plan is to run away.

Along with Abiah, they end up scaling a cliff and heading into a cave that may or may not have an exit. Abiah doesn’t know, and Jeffrey doesn’t have time to think of an alternative. On the way, Bogg kicks any Puritans who get too close for his liking into the murky waters of the swamp.

He even wrestles a torch away from one of them, which comes in handy for navigating the darkened cave. Then he swings the torch back and forth like he thinks Puritans are scared of the same things as mountain lions.

Unfortunately, the cave turns out to be a passageway with two exits, and even though Abiah didn’t know where it would lead, some of the town leaders did. The trio of non-witches find themselves with angry Puritans in front of them, and angry Puritans behind them.

Things don’t look so good.

The next day, Abiah, Bogg and Jeffrey are being held in a rather spacious, clean and uncrowded prison cell. Noticeable historical inaccuracy: it’s not covered in human waste. But nobody wants to see that on TV, so free passes on the watered down witch trials from here on. I mean, who’s supposed to be the history police here, me or them?

Speaking of inaccuracies, though, Bogg finally gets around to checking what date they’ve landed in, and finds that it’s Friday, November 13 of 1692. Jeffrey notices right away that something is weird – the witch trials should have been over in September.

Abiah decides to explain what’s going to happen to everybody, since this jabbering about dates and setting history right is nonsense to her. She says that tomorrow is their trial, which will of course convict them all as witches – and possibly reveal Bogg to be Satan himself – and the day after that is the necktie party. All because last week Abiah publicly denounced the trials and the girls who started them.

“It was a lot like rock and roll,” Jeffrey says as way of an explanation for the false accusations. “A way for the kids to rebel against the strict Puritan lifestyle of their parents.”

Except listening to music doesn’t get innocent people executed, so it’s actually totally different. Thanks anyway, Jeffrey.

Abiah starts to cry, so Bogg goes over to hold her. (Bogg holds a beautiful woman at least once an episode.) He promises to help her, and she asks if he and Jeffrey are angels. When he hesitates to answer, she pulls away from him and asks if he’s a demon.

If I were him, I’d roll with the demon thing and try to pull a Dread Pirate Roberts holocaust cloak manoeuver at the trial. But Bogg is Bogg, so he just sits there looking overwhelmed.

Before we get to the trial, we’re treated to a reminder that Massachusetts in the fall is lovely. The leaves are so pretty, and all the old churches are so quaint. Well, they’re not old yet. And they don’t really feel quaint when they’re full of people accusing you of cavorting with malevolent spirits, but still.

A blood-and-thunder magistrate booms his accusations with enough force to shake the rafters as he insists that Bogg’s weird clothes and ill-timed entrance could only have been granted to him from the powers of hell. 

Feeling like the court is forgetting the real purpose of this trial, that charming little girl from the swamp points at Abiah and cries that the witch is burning her. Then all her little friends starting screaming and throwing themselves against the benches. Kids back then, I tell you.

Bogg stands up, heavy manacles clattering on his wrists, and calls the room a bunch of gullible idiots as the girls shriek and the room fills with murmurs. The magistrate reminds Bogg that he and Jeffrey came from the sky.

“Angels come from the sky!” Bogg argues proudly.

“Do angels wear such immodest clothing?” The magistrate scoffs.

Only if they’ve got figures like Bogg’s. And even when they don’t. Clearly this guy has never been to Italy and seen all those paintings of flabby angels swathed in blue sheets.

The magistrate steps up and pulls The Omni from Bogg’s belt. If this weird thing that looks like a compass isn’t some hell artifact, then he doesn’t know what is.

He flips The Omni open for all to see its blinking red light, a winking eye of Satan.

Um… would you believe that a tiny lightning bolt is being summoned by acid and copper in there, and that’s what’s making the light blink? Or is everybody screwed?

Bogg sits back down, clearing knowing that everybody is screwed. He whispers to Jeffrey that their best shot is to get The Omni back. See, Bogg can jump out of one screwed up timeline into another whenever he wants. He’s supposed to make sure the light is green before he goes, but he doesn’t actually have to.

He watches as the magistrate sits at a table and places The Omni in front of him.

The judge, who hasn’t spoken so far, announces that it’s time for sentencing.

In a moment accidentally reminiscent of Monty Python, Bogg asks if the accused are allowed a defense, and the whole room shouts: “No!”

It’s a great accidental joke. It’s supposed to be all intense and signify how close-minded the village has become, but instead it’s the biggest laugh of the episode.

Bogg announces that he’s willing to confess to being an agent of Satan – or even being the devil himself – if the court spares Abiah and Jeffrey. Unsurprisingly, his plea is ignored and all three of them are found guilty and Abiah and Bogg are sentenced to hang. Jeffrey is sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Just for fun, the judge orders that Abiah and Jeffrey be made to witness Bogg’s execution before their own sentences are carried out. An execution, he promises, that will be without precedence for the colony.


During the witch trials, a man named Giles Corey refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The local law enforcement stripped off all of his clothes, lay him in a pit with a wooden board across his body, and stacked heavy stones on him until he was crushed to death. Giles Corey was 81 years old at the time of this torture.

So Bogg better get that Omni back tout de suite.

A few bangs of the gavel for effect, and the judge declares with malicious glee that at midnight tonight, Phineas Bogg will be burned at the stake.

Witches, as you might know, were never burned to death in North America. The practice was common in Europe, though, with records of people being executed in this way in Scotland, Italy, German, and Scandinavia. Elsewhere, it was more typical to kill the witch by hanging or beheading, and then burn their remains. The fire supposedly stopped them from doing any magic after death.

(Of course, this story is all happening as the trials drag on longer than they were supposed to, so that’s not to say that the people of Salem never would have burned somebody. But IRL, they never got around to it.)

That night, there’s a full moon as Abiah, Jeffey and Bogg are all marched out to the swamp. Those Puritans don’t waste anybody’s time on lackluster ambience. Sure, they could’ve burned Bogg in the town square, but there’s a spooky swamp nearby.

Jeffrey asks Bogg if, by some fluke, people from the future are fireproof. Bogg says their only chance of getting out of this is The Omni.

Abiah starts to lament that she’ll never see her beloved again. His name’s Josiah Franklin and he’s a candlemaker from Boston. She wonders how he’ll hear about all of this.

“Benjamin Franklin!” Jeffrey cries, suddenly putting it all together.

Abiah Folger is destined to become the mother of Benjamin Franklin. And good luck founding the United States of America without that guy.

Turns out it was possible for this to get slightly more important than life-or-death, and it just did.

Bogg mentions his favourite fact about Benjamin Franklin: that he became Ambassador to France just so he could chase Parisian skirt. Jeffrey tells him to cool it, Ben’s mom is right there.

Abiah is baffled, but these stripey shirted demons talk about all manner of strange things, so she’s happy to ignore them.

The villagers have spent all day making a pretty spectacular stake. They’ve also carefully arranged the wood in a sunburst pattern instead of just piling it up like kindling. Bogg looks at his impending doom and decides that it’s really not for him. He has to get The Omni. Fast.

Jeffrey starts to cry and says that they didn’t do anything wrong, and Bogg reminds him that none of the witches who were killed did anything wrong. The Puritans show a little sympathy and allow Bogg a farewell hug with his grieving demonic servant in the guise of a child.

But his executioners soon get impatient and tear him away from the touching scene so that they can tie him to the stake.

Bogg makes a stirring speech about how horrible all of the Puritans are, and the Puritans call him a devil again. Then they light the edges of their wooden sunburst, and the flames draw closer and closer to helpless Bogg. The group of girls who have been accusing everyone watch on in mesmerized delight.

The dramatic magistrate from earlier taunts Bogg as the fire flickers wildly. He holds up The Omni and asks Bogg if he needs his talismans to save him. (That thing is totally useless, magistrate. Hand it to Bogg and he’ll show you how ridiculous you’re being.)

It’s getting pretty toasty on that stake as the locals are start chanting: “Burn, devil, burn!”

Jeffrey sees The Omni in the laughing magistrate’s hand, so he whips the old man in the knee with his manacles, causing The Omni to go flying and land just at the edge of the fire. Jeffrey grabs it quickly, leaps through the flames, wraps his arms around Bogg and presses the button.


They vanish.

Probably not the best way to prove you’re not Satan, but whatever. At least now they can try to sort this whole mess out. Of course, first they have to land somewhere…

Boston, 1924.

In a country house on a warm summer’s evening, a medium of otherworldly beauty is conducting a séance. At the table with her are a handful of scientists, a wealthy spiritualist dowager, and a man who looks very much unconvinced that the spirits are going to make a genuine appearance.

He’s none other than Harry Houdini, noted skeptic and world class escape artist.

The medium, now seemingly channeling some kind of spirit, asks Houdini why he has come if he does not believe. What does he want?
“I want a sign.”

A ridiculously handsome man and a twelve year old boy fall out of the thin air below the ceiling and land in the middle of the table with a crash. The people around the table are shocked, and the dowager is quite shaken and cries out that Bogg is on fire.

Turns out that Bogg was pulled off a burning stake only to land right on a candelabra. He quickly pats out the small fire on the side of his leg.

Jeffrey flips The Omni open, reads the date, and is met with a reassuring green light.

Houdini looks at Jeffrey and immediately decides that this is the sign. Something has crossed over from the other side. The light on The Omni turns red.

Bogg snatches it up quickly and flips the switch to make them disappear again.

As they blink back out of the room, Houdini watches in stunned fascination while the medium folds her arms triumphantly.

Lady, you know you don’t talk to spirits, don’t act like this was part of your plan.

The chief concern right now, though, is getting somewhere low on drama. That turns out to be Baltimore in 1814. This time, they land in a nice, out of the way pile of lettuce leaves that some pigs are chewing on. I don’t know why there’s a giant pile of discarded lettuce in the middle of old timey Baltimore, but there is. Maybe a salad bar was closed down by the department of health.

As they climb out of the compost, Bogg tells Jeffrey he’s proud of him for jumping through fire to save his life. Jeffrey says they’ve got a problem, though. He’s thinking that they seriously screwed up Houdini just now.

Bogg shrugs and flips open The Omni to report that there’s a red light in Baltimore right now, but his chief concern is finding out why the Salem witch trials went into overtime. And saving Abiah’s life.
Jeffrey wants to repair the damage to Houdini, though, and the reason is he’s just a kid. For him, they will eventually repair Salem so it’s not an immediate danger, and they didn’t cause the damage. Plus, when you’re that age, Houdini is like the coolest person ever.

He and Bogg saunter onto the sidewalk, as the people of Baltimore go about their business, and he explains that Houdini was the original magician debunker. When he saw them appear out of nowhere without any staging or trickery that he could identify, it probably changed his whole outlook on spiritualism.

A man passes them by wearing a top hat and carrying a briefcase. Out of his case falls a single piece of paper. Bogg picks it up and gives it a quick read while they walk. He says it’s just a crummy poem and goes to crumple it up, but Jeffrey wants to know how it goes.

Bogg starts to read out “Defense of Fort M’Henry” – the poem that would supply the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That guy who dropped his paper was Francis Scott Key.

Jeffrey snatches it out of Bogg’s hand and goes racing after Key. He turns it over to him, and Key is like: “Thanks! I wrote this this morning! Death to Britain!”

He shakes hands with a starry-eyed Jeffrey and heads off to his law offices or wherever.

As a thank you for stopping him from throwing out the national anthem of the United States, Bogg decides that they can deal with the Houdini thing first and the Salem thing second. He flips open The Omni and blinks them out of Baltimore. In the middle of a busy daytime street, where anybody can see what he’s done.

Come on, Bogg. Try to do your job well.

They land on the same dining room table as last time when they return to 1924, but this time it’s mercifully devoid of candelabras.

The whole house is dark and quiet. Jeffrey asks why Bogg can’t control where The Omni lands them, and Bogg tells him to just be grateful they didn’t wind up on the roof or something.

There are hints throughout the series that Bogg may have stolen The Omni, and isn’t actually supposed to be a Voyager. All we know about the time travelling society is what Bogg tells Jeffrey in the pilot movie, and he doesn’t seem to know anything about history, or – more damningly – anything about how The Omni works.

(In fairness, though, if I was flung forty years into the past and somebody asked how my smartphone worked, I’d just be like: “…microchips?”)

As they hop off the table to go and try to find some lights, the ghostly image of a woman appears before them. She’s transparent, and also the medium from earlier, so this is probably being achieved by mirrors, light, and a big piece of glass. It looks spooky enough to stop our time cops in their tracks, though.

The medium demands to know who they are and what they want.

Bogg says he wants to see Houdini and he’s not impressed. He turns on the lights, and the “apparition” vanishes. The medium enters from a secret passage, and Jeffrey looks to find that from a hidden alcove she was projecting her image onto a piece of glass. That’s a cool thing to explain on a show for kids. Huzzah for science!

Now everybody at home can fake their own ghosts! All they need is an enormous piece of flawless plate glass!

With a sly grin, the medium tells Bogg that since he knows her secret, it’s only fair that he tells her how they do their little falling-from-the-ceiling routine.

Everybody adjourns to a sitting room where the medium, named Margaret, compliments Bogg and Jeffrey on their costumes.

“So realistic!” She gushes.

Realistic for what? A pirate and a swabby?

More importantly, she tells us that Houdini is absolutely convinced that spiritualism is legit and tomorrow morning he’s going to give a press conference to announce he’s giving up magic. Wait. Why would he give up magic? He was an escape artist. His act had nothing to do with calling on forces of the beyond.

According to Margaret, it’s because he feels that the pale imitation of what can really be done (wrecking a dinner party by having “ghosts” land on the food) is shameful now. If magic is real, then he is the con artist, not the mediums.

Margaret says that this’ll lead to the rebirth of mentalism, and she’s going to be the richest and most famous medium in the world. Take that, Edgar Cacye!

She snuggles up nice and close to Bogg and thanks him for saving her future from Houdini and his obsession with the boring old truth. They kiss while Jeffrey rolls his eyes at them and reminds everybody that this is about Houdini. Where’s he at so Jeffrey can talk to him?

Margaret can’t let Houdini see that these two are regular flesh and blood, that’d blow her scheme wide open. After the press conference, they can discuss how much money Bogg wants to be her spirit guide. In the meantime, she’s going to have a couple of her goons watch their door.

Huh. A medium who can afford goons. She must’ve been doing pretty well before Houdini decided to take her down.

Also, that kiss wasn’t just because Bogg’s so pretty.  Margaret was pickpocketing The Omni from him – she doesn’t know what it is or how it works, but she’s not taking any chances on her new cash cows making a sudden exit.

Damn it, Bogg! You’re the worst at this! Get one of those key-bak things for that Omni or put a bell on it or something!

“You’re really having a tough time hanging onto that, aren’t you?” Jeffrey shakes his head.

Everyone’s in agreement then. Bogg sucks.

After a long night of being held captive in a fake psychic’s mansion, morning breaks to find Jeffrey sitting in the window box and Bogg kind of stretched out on the floor like he’s advertising something in a catalogue.

Jeffrey looks out and sees Margaret in the garden with somebody – it’s Houdini! Great! Now all Jeffrey and Bogg have to do is get to him somehow and prove they aren’t ghosts by being obviously corporeal!

To do that, they’re going to have to escape.

Luckily, Bogg has a plan.

A plan that involves the bathroom.

He tells the goons that Jeffrey’s a twelve year old kid who’s been locked up all night and the tank is full. The goons agree to let him use the facilities, but instead of going in the bathroom, he kicks the first goon in the shin then steps aside so that Bogg can head-butt the second goon in the chest.
It’s great.

Jeffrey slides down the bannister and makes a quick escape through the secret passageway from earlier, which turns out to lead into the kitchen. The butler and a third goon are chasing after him, so he flips a table at them. The table has all the stuff to make a salad on it, but when it gets tossed this real mournful voice goes: “My cake!”

So it was a salad cake? I think somebody tried to turn that into a business in Baltimore in 1814. It didn’t work out.

Meanwhile, out in the rose garden, Margaret is doing her best to bewitch the ultimate escape artist. He confesses that his understanding of reality has been shaken. The logic of illusion, the psychology of trickery, it all seemed to be the extent of the so-called supernatural. But now? Everything is confusing.

He asks Margaret if he can study with her.

Margaret doesn’t say no, which is why she’ll never make it as a medium. In fact, she tells Houdini that she’s flattered, and accepts a rose from him with a seductive glance. The real Houdini was really into his wife, Bess, who isn’t even mentioned in this episode.

The moment gets ruined anyway, when Jeffrey comes racing into the garden shouting Houdini’s name.

“It’s me! The kid from last night! I’m not a ghost!”

Houdini notes that it’s wonderfully convenient there’s going to be a press conference this morning, because now he can reveal what a dangerous huckster Margaret really is. Margaret counters that the only announcement will be about Harry Houdini’s latest disappearing act – one he won’t be coming back from.

Menacing goons surround them in the garden.

Where is she hiring these guys and why does she need so many? Looks like being a medium is a lot like being a mafia don.

Margaret is an over-the-top twist on prominent medium Mina Crandon, who went by the mononym of “Margery” professionally. Crandon was a Boston-based psychic who hosted séances for the elite, and even had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle across from her crystal ball a time or two. Houdini attended two of her séances on behalf of a committee put together by Scientific American magazine.

The real Margery was married to a wealthy surgeon, and the question of whether or not she was a femme fatale is tough to parse out an accurate answer to. She certainly was sexy, though, and on several occasions sprinkled her breasts with luminous powder and took her top off during the séance. The original raver.

Back to Margaret and her insane plan.

Step One: Bury Bogg, Jeffrey and Harry Houdini alive in a wooden crate in a cemetery.

Houdini tells her that this is so stupid as the goons march him and our voyagers through the tombstones under the light of a full moon. It’s always a full moon when Bogg’s about to die, but he’s a time traveller, so that’s fine.

As far as the world will be concerned, Houdini’s mysterious disappearance will be a confounding tragedy. Until Margaret starts communicating with him in her séances. She might even get around to telling people where to dig him up. One day.

The goon makes Jeffrey get in the box first. It’s the goon he kicked in the shin during the toilet ruse, so no big surprise. Bogg is supposed to go next, but Margaret stops him.

For a goodbye kiss? No. She says before a magician dies, it’s customary for him to disclose his secrets. She holds up The Omni and says she pushed all the buttons and nothing happened. (That’s because The Omni is set for this date and locked in until Bogg changes it.) He tells her that it’s just a prop, it has nothing to do with the trick.

She smiles at him skeptically and says she’ll keep it anyway. As a souvenir.

Then she decides she actually would like a goodbye kiss – she’s only human – and plants one on the soon-to-die.

Once that's taken care of, Bogg heads into the crate. And then Houdini, who gets a lantern from Margery so that he can appreciate the drama and ambience of his slow suffering death, and not at all so we can keep the interior of the crate well-lit for any scenes that might happen in there.

Margery claims that the candle in the lantern is perfectly timed to mean that when the flame goes out, everybody is about to die. What I’m wondering if she calculated this to include the amount of oxygen that the flame itself will be removing from the crate. How scientific is this death trap?

Houdini stares at the flame and poof! It goes out before he even climbs into the crate. Margery smiles indulgently, until he winks at the lantern and the flame comes back. That rattles her a little, even though she ought to know that Houdini would be Houdini until the last possible moment.

The shameless show-off climbs down into the three man coffin and Margaret tells him to have a good time escaping. It’s his favourite pastime, after all.

The ladder is taken out, the crate is closed, and the goons start the laborious task of shovelling dirt over top.

Inside the crate, Bogg’s too tall for comfort, and Jeffrey is nervous about how this buried alive thing is going to work out, but they’re with Harry Houdini! Surely he’s been in worse pickles than this!

Houdini gently tells the boy that a controlled illusion is very different from what’s happening to them right now.

Bogg busts up laughing. Everyone is being so morbid. Did they miss the part where he pickpocketed his Omni back while he was kissing Margaret? Turnabout is fair play, after all.

At casa de Margaret, a séance is being held so that the spirits can help guide Houdini’s friends to the tragically missing magician. Margaret calls for Houdini.

“Where is Houdini?”

We’re all expecting Houdini, Bogg and Jeffrey to land on the table now, right? Well, that’s what Bogg was expecting, too, but he set The Omni wrong for the millionth time, and instead they land in the middle of a Zulu battle. (It’s mostly stock footage and a spear prop thrown at them for effect.)

Houdini has been blindfolded for his psychological protection. All this noise is confusing the hell out of him. The reason he’s been blindfolded is because the travelling aspect of voyaging takes you through a tunnel of stars and prisms. It would probably be counterproductive to make him witness that, since our aim is to keep his skepticism intact.

Once Bogg gets The Omni sorted, they manage to land on the séance table just as Margaret is summoning her “apparition” on the pane of glass. When they thud down, the alarmed dowager from the last time screams: “Not again!” And everyone else murmurs in confusion.

Bogg pulls the blindfold off of Houdini who asks how they managed all of this, and Jeffrey tells him it was an illusion. Houdini would, in this story, rather believe in an impossible illusion than a genuine supernatural feat, so he just rolls with it.

Houdini stands up and takes a bow in front of the applauding séance attendees.

He announces that nothing gives him more pleasure than exposing a fraud – not even making elephants vanish? – and tonight he gets to expose a fraud who is also a criminal.

Margaret looks calmly furious as Houdini accuses her of kidnapping and attempted murder.

Bogg and Jeffrey slip away to find that The Omni light is green. Jeffrey wants to stay and hang out with the greatest magician of all time some more, but Bogg tells him that Houdini would only want to know how they do stuff, and it might do more harm than good.

Besides, they have to make sure Benjamin Franklin is alive to invent electricity or whatever.

When a reporter who was invited to the séance asks Houdini how he escaped, Houdini looks around to find Bogg and Jeffrey have vanished. He jovially reminds the reporter that a good magician never reveals his secrets.

Back in Salem, Reverend Parris is right where we left him, shrieking about witchcraft in front of an empty burning stake. He’s telling everybody that it’s pretty obvious they freaked Satan out bad enough that he fled back to hell like a giant coward.

And while the devil himself might have escaped justice on this night, the people came to see and execution and you gotta give the people what they want. Instead of tomorrow morning, they’re going to hang Abiah right now.

“Where are your devils now?” The blustering magistrate demands of Abiah, just so we can do this same joke again. I know this is for kids, but it’s a little stale when Bogg and Jeffrey crash in from the heavens.

Bogg tackles the magistrate and grabs Abiah. All three of them run from the swamps into the caves… because that worked so well last time. Jeffrey notices this, too, but Bogg tells everyone to shut up until they can offer alternatives.

Well, you dummies could’ve gone back two months to September of 1692 to find out why the trials didn’t stop when they were supposed to and thus prevent Abiah from ever being accused.

The plan Bogg chooses is to wait until they’ve gotten to the other side of the passage and then jump into the swamp from a high rock ledge. Abiah isn’t thrilled with this, but he scoops her up and takes a leap before she can formulate a decent argument.

When the townsfolk get to that part of the passage, they’re stunned to find that everyone has disappeared again, although by this point they should be used to it. The Puritans reluctantly give up and head back to town.

Once they’re safe and in the all clear, our devils and their witch climb out of the murk of high reeds and thick mist they’ve been hiding in. Bogg checks The Omni to find the light’s still red. Because they’ve done literally nothing to fix the massive damage that’s been happening in Salem, so why would it be green, Bogg?!

Abiah says she wishes that those who have died so wrongly because of these trials could come back and defend themselves. And Bogg’s all: “Maybe they can. Maybe they can…”


Bogg, this is stupid.

Every single thing these people see is of the devil. Whatever you’re planning will only make this worse.

The next day, the town crier calls everyone into the square so that he can notify them that everyone’s houses and barns will be searched for Abiah Folger. And whoever’s barn she’s hiding in is the next witch, so look alive! Also, there will be an anti-witch rally tonight at eight o’clock! Anyone who misses it will be accused of witchcraft! Fair warning!

Then he rings his bell a bunch because it’s the little pleasures that make being town crier so worthwhile.

While he’s doing his crying to the town out front, Abiah is sneaking into the back of the church with Bogg and Jeffrey and two large pieces of plate glass. Where the hell did they get plate glass in Massachusetts in 1692?

According to Abiah, Bogg stole them from Mr. Owen who was planning to install them this very week, but there’s no way for them to have such large pieces of thin, unblemished glass. Also, this plan is stupid. The Puritans are just going to decide this is more witchcraft. What else are they going to think?

Bogg sets up and waits for the evening meeting.

That night, it turns out the purpose of the gathering is so that little Betty Parris can name the next witch. Whoever it was that used magic to prevent the townsfolk from finding Abiah today.

But before the girl can pick anyone out, a hooded apparition appears by the altar and tells the town leaders that they have betrayed their faith by listening to lies. As predicted, the first assumption is that this is the devil, but someone from the town declares that she recognizes the cloak as belonging to a woman they hung in June.

When we get a closer look at the apparition, we note she’s wearing a noose around her neck. It’s a nice touch.

Hey, remember when I mentioned that Giles Corey was 81 when he died? Well, Bogg impersonates him with a bushy fake beard and a hat that make him look like Eric Jonrosh from The Spoils of Babylon. Everyone in town buys it as he tells them to stop murdering innocent people now.

The third ghost is Jeffrey masquerading as an old woman, and he repeats the general message of everyone needing to stop the trials.

Then the next ghost, a woman the room recognizes as Suzanne Martin, appears by the pews and tells the girls to come clean about their accusations. There have never been any witches in Salem, have there?

The ghost commands Betty to tell the truth. On her soul.

Betty tearfully breaks down and confesses that she and her friends have been making the whole thing up.

Reverend Parris is shattered, and the other town leaders are sobered by the realization of their guilt.
Dawn is breaking as Bogg, Jeffrey and Abiah take down their props in the church. Everyone seems pleased with their results, and Bogg and Abiah share a kiss because the leading man should always kiss the most likeable female character even if it’s weird because she’s Benjamin Franklin’s mom and the whole point of this adventure was streamlining that one dude’s path to existence.

Jeffrey decides that it’s high time somebody distracted those two from making out, so he asks Abiah how she accomplished the final ghost. She appeared in the corner, not up where Jeffrey had put the glass.

But Abiah says she wasn’t playing the last ghost, she was in the alcove with Jeffrey the whole time, how could she?

Bogg and Jeffrey look at each other.

That means the ghost of Suzanne Martin was real!

And with that fun little twist, I’m going to lie awake tonight wondering if that means Houdini was making a mockery of the real supernatural with his magic. And was his desire to publicly shame mediums some continuation of the misguided witch hunts? Also, if you’re going to meet a poet in Baltimore during your spookiest episode, why not Poe?

And why didn’t they go back to September?

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