EXCLUSIVE: Just the other day, Mike Fleming reported on DreamWorks acquiring Voices from the Dead, an original script by Changeling and Thor scribe J. Michael Straczynski. Based on the real-life friendship between magician Harry Houdini and mystery author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it is a fictional account of how they teamed up with a psychic to solve bizarre murders in 1920s New York.
Independently, Syfy had been negotiating for Among the Spirits, a drama series project about Houdini and Doyle solving mysteries in 1920s, with the deal closing at the very time the feature announcement was coming out. “I guess there is something in the air about that whole time period and that very interesting relationship between Houdini and Doyle,” said Syfy’s president of original programming Mark Stern. (Both Syfy brass and the producers of Among the Spirits first heard about Voices from the Dead from reading our story.) Among the Spirits, named after Houdini’s book A Magician Among the Spirits published in 1924, is based on self-published graphic novel Among the Spirits by writers Steve Valentine and Paul Chart. Stern describes the project, which is being put in development, as “a turn-of-the-century Fringe.” It will be in the vein of steampunk TV classic The Wild Wild West and Guy Ritchie’s 2009 movie Sherlock Homes which put the steampunk genre back into the zeitgeist. It will center on Houdini and Doyle who, with the help of a female cop, try to solve bizarre murders and strange occurrences that look like hauntings and other supernatural events using steampunk technology. “We have Houdini, who was the ultimate illusionist and was all about creating illusions, and Dolyle, who was all about getting to the truth underneath – the pragmatist and the dreamer – set against that 1920s world of America where technology is just starting to grow.” Entertainment One, which produces Haven for Syfy, is behind Among the Spirits, with Chart and Valentine writing as well as producing with Daniel J. Frey.
Among the Spirits is not the only period mystery series project in the works involving real historic figures. ABC gave a pilot order to Poe, a crime procedural following Edgar Allan Poe, the world’s very first detective, as he uses unconventional methods to investigate dark mysteries in 1840s Boston.