Any well-known gentleman goes upon the stage and pictures in his mind a landscape, or the face of any one among the audience; and Mr. Brown, while blindfolded, and holding the hand of the gentleman, will draw a crayon sketch of what he sees in the mind of the person whose hand he is holding."
For a short sketch of Brown's career we quote the following from the Chicago Daily News of February 1, 1897:
"Mind-Reader J. Randall Brown, with his baggage well pasted over with foreign hotel and railway labels, reached Chicago the other day on a trip around the world.
"Away back in 1873 Brown, then a pale-faced stripling, was a reporter on a local paper. Without his ever dreaming of it Reporter Brown was, perhaps, one of the most remarkable men who ever ornamented the profession. The idea of adding to the news-gathering faculty as it commonly exists the gift of mind-reading is a distinct advance in newspaper work. Such an equipment as would be at the service of a young newspaper man who had the faculty of reading minds is beyond anything the big metropolitan dailies have been able to make practicable, and they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on news every year.
"Reporter Brown, with a glorious destiny before him in the department of interviewing, permitted himself to be diverted from newspaper work, and this is how he explained it to a Daily News man the other day:
"It was a clairvoyant,' said Mr. Brown, 'that first sent me into the mind-reading business. I was a Chicago reporter at the time. One day a young fellow of the name of Curtis, a reporter on the same paper, got an assignment to write up this clairvoyant. The fellow took a liking to Curtis, who was a bright amiable boy, and invited him to dinner. Curtis took me along.
" 'The clairvoyant gave us an illustration of his powers. The demonstration greatly impressed Curtis and he kept talking of the wonderful things all the way home. Finally I said to Curtis: "I can do everything that clairvoyant did and a lot he can't do. I have the oddest gifts in the way of mind-reading you ever heard of."
" "I doubt it," said Curtis. "Give us an illustration of what you can do."
" T took his hand and immediately a current was established and I read what he was thinking about. He was greatly surprised and got me to repeat the experiment with others. They were all successful, and finally a few weeks after I was induced to give a public exhibition of mind-reading at the Sherman House. Curtis, who is better known today as William E. Curtis, the Washington correspondent of the Chicago Record, got the faculty of Rush Medical College interested. Prof. Henry M. Lyman witnessed the exhibition, wrote it up in the Chicago Medical Journal, and spoke of me in flattering terms. In a little time I was famous. It was easy to earn big sums of money those days in any way that interested the public, and as my performance was a novelty I was successful from the start.
" 'One day early in 1877, at one of my exhibitions in Chickering Hall, New York, a young man came to see me, saying he thought he possessed like gifts to those that made people marvel at me. He said his name was Bishop, and I told him to go ahead and see what he could do. He began at once and every test he undertook was successful. Later this young fellow became known as W. Irving Bishop, one of the greatest mind-readers ever known to science.' "
Some years ago a Mr. Andrew J. Seymour toured the country as a mind-reader, making the usual extraordinary claims. He issued a small pamphlet called "Mind and Its Powers." The following is the first page of same:
"Mr. Seymour is a native of Ohio. At an early age he discovered that he possessed this peculiar power in a seeming marked degree. The first test was given with a friend who had lost an article. He asked him to think where he had last seen it. He took the party by the hand and immediately found it. For some days after this he continued in deep study to know why and how he had succeeded in obtaining the lost article. By continually repeating these tests he soon found it as easy to reveal names, age and occupation of any one; also to point out any mark or scar, or tell the number of a bank note or watch, combination of safe lock., or in fact, any manner of business on the mind.
"After experimenting he found by placing his right hand upon the subject's forehead he could read with more accuracy and rapidity, making of himself, as it were, a human magnet to attract the thought from the subject's brain to his own. He takes you by the hand; you think; and like a flash he tells you what you think. You may ask what mind-reading is. I know not, nor has it ever been satisfactorily solved."
The italics are his. Nearly all the statements he makes in above excerpts from his booklet are absolutely and totally untrue, and utterly impossible for him or any other human being to accomplish. For instance, he says: "He takes you by the hand, you think, and like a flash he tells you what you think." That is impossible; such a feat of mind-reading has never been performed, and we venture to assert never will be, because the All-Wise Creator never intended and would never allow us poor mortals to be able to read each other's minds at a glance. All such talk by mind-readers and self-styled Telepathists is merely a phase of advertising, to surround themselves with a halo of an apparent supernatural power, in order to awe and impress the credulous.
One of the leading mind-readers was Paul Alexander Johnstone, of Chicago. He showed self-possession by attempting feats tried only by those who had considerable experience. His most notable performances were given in Chicago. First he successfully accomplished, as he claims, the feat of driving blindfolded, so as to be wholly unable to see, through the streets from one hotel to another; then, still blindfolded, he found in a register a page thought of by a committee, finishing the "test" by writing the name. Afterwards, he gave an entertainment in Central Music Hall in that city, where he opened a combination safe which had been loaned by the proprietors of a prominent hotel. Only two persons, it is declared, knew the combination of the safe, one of them being Johnstone's subject. An account in the Chicago Tribune, a short time afterward, has this to say of Johnstone:
"If Paul Alexander Johnstone is not a fraud he is a most remarkable young man. If he is a fraud, some of the smartest people in Chicago will feel sheepish today when (hey know they have been deceived by a trick as transparent as the mohair hood which Dr. Charles Gatchell asserts Johnstone peered through when he made his famous trip in the downtown streets September 10.
"Dr. Gatchell is a well-known physician and is editor of the Medical Era of this city. He occupies the chair of the theory and practice of medicine at the University of Michigan, and is a confirmed materialist. He doesn't believe in mind-reading or thought transference.
"It was an unlucky day for Johnstone when Dr. Gatchell got on his trail. Dr. Gatchell followed him in his trip through the streets and was confident the alleged mind-reading was fraudulent. He had no way of proving it, though, till he met Dr. G. F. Butler, a lecturer at Rush Medical College, whose office is at No. 240 Wabash Avenue. Dr. Butler was a. member of the committee which accompanied Johnstone, and he had his suspicions. When he had talked with Dr. Gatchell and the two doctors had experienced a little, they learned, as they think, the secret of the tricks by which Johnstone deluded the public and gathered more money in a month than most men make in a year.
"A week ago last Saturday Dr. Gatchell broke up Johnstone's performance at Central Music Hall, and yesterday he showed a Tribune reporter how the young man from St. Paul does the trick. He did it more easily and better than Johnstone had done it, and he used neither whisky nor hysterics to help him out.
"The Tribune reporter and Dr. Butler composed the committee which tested Dr. Gatchell in his rooms at No. 235 Michigan Avenue yesterday morning.
" T will imagine I am Johnstone,' he said. Then he snapped his fingers and stamped and sweated just as Johnstone did. 'Put these gloves over my eyes. Now tie them tightly with this handkerchief. I want the gloves to be near the optic nerve. That's right. Higher, a little. Now try this hood on and tell me if you can see through it.'
"The hood was a double thickness of black cloth, and only a faint light came through its meshes. The reporter said he couldn't see, and the doctor, still imitating Johnstone, drew the hood over his own head.
"Pick out a word in the Century Magazine and remember the page.'
The committee chose the word 'ignorant.'
" 'Now take a trip through the hall and down-stairs. Remember the directions and the number of steps you take.'
"The committee went out, turned to the right a few yards, came back, went downstairs eight steps and returned to the room.
" 'Stand against that wall,' Dr. Gatchell said to the reporter. Then to Dr. Butler: 'Trace in the air the direction you took. Now the number of steps. Now the page in the magazine and the word you selected." "Dr. Butler did all this because he was the man who made the tracings for Johnstone. When he had finished, Dr. Gatchell seized one hand, the reporter took the other, and the three men galloped into the hall. Dr. Gatchell dragged the committee to the right, back again, down eight stairs, and into the room. Then he called for whisky because Johnstone had called for it. Unlike Johnstone, he didn't drink it.
" 'Pencil and paper!' he shouted.
"The pencil and paper were furnished. The doctor bent over the book and ran through the pages, shouting, meantime: 'Give me air.' 'Why don't you keep your minds concentrated? 'Whisky. No; hold on, boys; I don't want any.' When he reached the page he stopped and said: 'Your minds are off the subject. Why don't you say this is the page?'
" 'It is,' said the committee. Then the doctor snapped his fingers some more and fainted once to give verisimilitude to the imitation and finally wrote a word on the paper. The word was 'ignorant.'
"The imitation had been successful. The hood had been examined as closely as it was examined by the committee at the Auditorium Hotel. Dr. Butler had made all the test conditions that have ever been enforced at Johnstone's exhibitions. At least one of the committee never thought of the word once after the fun began; yet Dr. Gatchell had not only picked one word out of forty, but one out of 400 or 500.
"Then he sat down and laughed.
" 'Would you like to know how it is done?' he said. 'Look at these two gloves. You see I fold them and place them against my eyes. That is Johnstone's first deceit. It looks like an additional safeguard against fraud, but he couldn't read a mind without it. Tie this handkerchief about my head. Tie it as tight as you can and knot it above my cars. Johnstone always tells you to tie it tight, and that seems like another safeguard. Without he couldn't do his trick.'
"The doctor's eyes were apparently bandaged securely, the strain of the handkerchief falling on that part of the glove which rested against his contracted eyebrows. When he raised the brow, up went the bandage and the (winkling eyes peering out under the gloves saw everything in the room.
" 'Now,' he said, 'look at this hood.' With a quick motion of his hands he yanked the hood apart and drew the outer cover over the reporter's head. The cloth was mohair and as transparent as the street veils women wear. The committeeman took off the mohair and tried on the outer hood. It was thick broadcloth and as difficult to see through as a board.
" 'Wait,' cried the doctor. He pulled the strings that secure the hood around the neck, and lo! the front seam opened wide. That was all there was of it. The apparently supernatural feat of mind-reading became as simple as the commonest parlor trick. There was nothing occult about it. Anybody can be a P. Alexander Johnstone so long as the side-show draws crowds and green goods are for sale.
" T have been led to expose this trickery,' said Dr. Gatchell, 'because this man is unseating the faith of the people. Bishop was as bad but no worse than Johnstone. I am surprised that the intelligent cynical men of the world who saw him drive through the streets and pick out the name in the register were taken in so easily. I examined this hood at Central Music Hall and found it was double. I did not have an opportunity to look for the aperture, but I am confident I have reproduced the garment he wore when I saw him. When he tested the Auditorium committee he made one of the members trace the route before he left.'
" T did that,' said Dr. Butler, 'and I want to tell you something in connection with it. When we drove over the route first we went to Monroe Street. I made a mistake when I traced and drew "two and one-half blocks north," instead of three and one-half. That threw him off and although I kept my mind firmly fixed on Monroe Street and he claimed to read my thoughts, he turned on Adams Street. That was what first made me suspicious.
" 'He watched the tracing through the aperture in the inner hood,' Dr. Gatchell continued. 'Then he made the committee trace the name and date chosen in the Grand
Pacific Hotel, and he was ready. Did you notice how he drove? He stood with his back bent and his head thrust forward. He could see in the broad light of the afternoon every bit as well as you can, and you could have driven as he did. When he reached the hotel he asked to be sent to a room. He remained there alone for five minutes, and when he came downstairs his hood was gone. He said he needed fresh air. Maybe he did, but the coincidence is strange that the office of the Grand Pacific Hotel is so dark that one cannot read in it through a mohair mask. When he had turned the leaves to the date Aug. 25, with his eyes close to the book as I held mine, he found the name J. G. Butler, Jr., which had been selected for the test, and wrote it on a piece of paper.'
" 'The "Jr." wasn't in my mind at all,' said Dr.
" 'When he went home,' Dr. Gatchell resumed, 'he had what looked like congestion of the brain. I am satisfied from the symptoms described to me that he had nothing but hysteria and whisky - the kind of hysteria a woman gets when she wants to frighten her husband into buying a new bonnet for her; the kind of whisky they sell at the bar of the Grand Pacific Hotel. His pulse was higher. That was the whisky. My pulse is over 100 at this moment from the exercise I have taken.
" 'I propose to show this man up as a trickster, and to do this I will make these offers: I will pay to him $500, or I will hand it over to a charitable institution, if he repeats the performance of Sept. 10 and lets me do the blindfolding. Or, if he will repeat the performance, I will do it after him with the same committee or forfeit to him $500. ()r, I will forfeit $500 if he will "read" a single word in my mind under simple test conditions. I don't know how he opened the safe. I can only explain and repeat what I have seen him do.
"The doctor left at the Tribune office a certified check for $500. Whenever Mr. Johnstone wants to make the trial, Dr. Gatchell will write a name on the back of the check and pin the check to the wall. Then, if Paul Alexander Johnstone writes the name on another piece of paper Paul Alexander can take the check and place it in his waistcoat pocket.
"A reporter tried to bring the 'mind-reader' to the Tribune office yesterday. Mr. Johnstone looked as healthy as a farmer's boy. When told of the test proposed his health began to fail. First he wouldn't come for money.
" 'Hundreds have offered me $1,000 bills if I could tell the number of the bills,' he said. T always gave the number and refused the money.'
" 'Where were these offers made?'
" 'O, I don't remember exactly, they were so frequent.'
" 'Can you name one town of the hundred?' ' 'Let me see. I think one place was Appleton, Wisconsin. No, I'm not sure of that, either.'
"When it was suggested that the matter of money be waived he pleaded the absence from town of his manager, Gooding, and when that obstacle was battered down with argument he said he was too sick to work. While he talked he grew worse, and when the interview ended he looked as if he needed a doctor's care. He said Gooding had his hood and his bandages.
"Johnstone has made a great deal of money by his performances. He was patronized by the Press Club and he was taken up by the Union Club and many societies, to his great pecuniary advantage. His last show was before the Union Club, and the wealthy young men of that organization were spellbound by his phenomenal feats of mind-reading."
As a sequel to this, we give the following from the columns of the Chicago Evening Journal of a few days later:
"The doctor who has been 'exposing' Johnstone, the mind-reader walked up to the clerk's desk at the Wellington Hotel this morning, carefully placed his satchel, overcoat and umbrella on the desk, hung his crooked cane on the register and said to the clerk:
" 'Suite of three or five rooms?' asked the obliging clerk.
" 'No; I don't want to register; but I would like to ask you a few questions,' said the doctor.
"The clerk resigned himself to his fate, and the doctor leaned over the desk and asked in a very confidential manner:
" 'That safe-opening puzzles me. Did Johnstone open that safe on the square, and_'
" 'You have stated in the papers,' replied the clerk, that you could perform the tricks or feats that Johnstone did. Now, I do not undertake to say anything about his driving through the streets blindfolded; but if you will open the safe as Johnstone did, we will give you $1,000. At the lime no one knew the combination of the safe excepting myself and the proprietor; we will agree to keep our minds centered upon the combination as we did then, and if you can so influence our minds, or read them, learn the combination and open the safe, you can take out and keep the first $1,000 you lay hands upon, and we guarantee that the money is there.'
"That settled the doubter."
Quite a remarkable "test" was once made by Sid. Macaire, formerly of Chicago, but now quite a prominent conjuror in Dublin, Ireland. When practicing mind-reading, he gave a trunk key to a gentleman to hide. It took place at a private house. The subject took the key and disappeared through the rear door of the house. On his return, Macaire took his hand, after having himself blindfolded, and led the man out of the house into the yard, back again into the basement of the house, then into the laundry, where the domestic was getting out the family washing, then up to the tub, at which she was at work; down into the dirty water went his hand, and the key was found at the bottom of the tub, underneath the clothes.
Ladies, owing to their delicacy of touch, make excellent mind-reading operators. None of them have become prominent in the profession in the United States, but a number have abroad.
This article would be incomplete without mention of Miss Lucy de Gentry, who attracted more attention as a mind-reader than any other lady. She is originally from Russia, and has created quite a sensation throughout Europe, as she not only performed the same experiments that Bishop and Cumberland did, but she did them much quicker and with more brilliant success. She differs very materially from these operators by her quiet and distinguished appearance in her experiments. Her presence, compared with the extreme nervousness of the gentlemen just mentioned above, is very striking as their nervous condition which they assumed to a great degree often left a painful impression on their audiences. In her entertainments she would generally take hold of any small object, the other end of which was held by the medium; for instance, she would use a handkerchief or a ruler; this is similar to some of the original methods used by Brown, who very often separated himself from the medium by a short piece of stiff wire. A "test" which she executed very quickly took place in Vienna. A handkerchief was tied around her wrist - she being blindfolded - and a gentleman who had fixed his thoughts on a certain flower in a large basketful on the table took hold of the other end of the handkerchief, and she very quickly picked out the flower he had thought of.
A comical performance took place in Dublin a few years ago. The particulars are given by Sid. Macaire:
"After a very successful engagement of Mr. Bishop, at the Ancient Concert Rooms, an aspiring amateur (who hid his light under the bushel when writing to the daily pupers scathing and, I may add, nonsensical letters, under a nom de plume, antagonistic to Mr. Bishop's performances) proposed to reproduce the experiments - not, however, by muscle-reading, but deception.
"A hall was engaged - the night for experimenting came - and the would-be exponent appeared behind the lootlights' glare in faultless attire. A test was: Finding the pin. The pin was hidden. He searched - high up and low down - here, there, and everywhere - but without success; when the concealer suggested to the experimenter to sit down and he would surely find it. He did sit down - and he found it!! - for it was bent and stuck in the seat of the chair, after the style most amusing to school-boys - and when the gentleman in question felt the point of the joke he had not seen, he bounded into the air with three good war-whoops -a sanguinary yell, which invoked blessing on the man that invented pins - and evolutions that convulsed the audience from the celestials to the footlights."
Moral: Never profess ability to do what you cannot achieve.
The following is Washington Irving Bishop's programme at his first appearance in Chicago:
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