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Ex-GI Seeks Homecoming Fans

November 02, 1986|JAMES MARNELL

In 1954, Harold H. Webb was one of 21 American prisoners of the Korean War who decided not to return home. Since then, Webb, a former Army corporal who was branded a turncoat and squealer and was dishonorably discharged, remained with the Chinese and later became a citizen of Poland. Today, the Jacksonville, Fla., native said he wants to come back. His problem, however, is that the State Department has rejected his petition for citizenship because he became a Polish citizen in 1970. "When I left Korea, when I said I would not return home, was the beginning of the time I wanted to return home, back in 1954," Webb, visiting relatives in Louisville, Ky., said. "I've always had it in my mind. I've always had deep down inside in me--I am an American." He recalled hunger, fatigue and death during the war. During his captivity, he said, he was brainwashed and believed the United States was the aggressor. Webb, 55, who is married and has two daughters, can appeal the State Department decision, but he said he wants "to appeal . . . to the American people and let them judge me: Can I come home or not? Should I be able to? I think they can understand my story, and I think they will say I have a right to come."

--Well, 60 years later, Harry Houdini has failed to return from the dead. A service in New York that included grave-site prayers and incantations produced not a trace of the master magician and escape artist, who died on Halloween in 1926. Each year seances are held in various parts of the country in an effort to communicate with Houdini. His widow, Beatrice, called a halt to the spiritual gatherings in 1936, seven years before her death, after trying for 10 years to contact her husband. "We tried, but he didn't come up," said Kenneth Force, master of St. Cecile Masonic Lodge in New York, a Houdini haunt. "We'll try again next year." Meanwhile, in Appleton, Wis., a seance was attended by Houdini's niece, Marie H. Blood, and magicians from Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. During William Monroe's trance, Blood asked him to name Houdini's favorite dessert. Strawberries, Monroe said. "I was disappointed," Blood said, "that he (Monroe) didn't have the faintest idea, because everybody knew he loved bread pudding custard with fresh cherries on top."

--Dr. Robert K. Jarvik gazed into his crystal ball for medical advances of the 21st Century. Jarvik, who developed the Jarvik-7 artificial heart, said in Omni magazine that by the year 2000 researchers will have found a vaccine for AIDS and that the average American can expect to live beyond 100 after the year 2100.

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