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Harry Houdini, testifying before a subcommittee of the United States Congress in 1926, brandished a sealed telegram and demanded that someone in the audience tell him the contents of the message inside. The chamber was packed with spiritualist mediums, psychics, and astrologers who had turned out to fight against Houdini’s bill, House Resolution 8989, which would ban the practice of “fortune telling” in the District of Columbia. If the mediums couldn’t read the telegram, Houdini argued, they belonged in jail for hawking fraudulent psychic powers.