Orgia Wonder

(Note by Annemann: When my first years of magical "cramming" had passed I found myself intrigued mostly by escapes, spiritualistic phenomena, occult and psychic effects, and mind-reading mysteries. This was probably because such performances seemed to have a "call" on the supernatural, moreseo than other magical phenomena which was so dependent upon "the quickness of the hand." Next to the publicity possibilities of "muscle-reading" X was "sold" on the type of scientific trickery made famous in her day by Lulu Hurst. After checking a number of yellowed newspaper files for astonishing accounts of her work as seen through the eyes of 1883 writers, and using her own autobiography as a base for starting, I detailed a mss. of her strange feats. That someone hasn't made this a featured night club act to-day is as strange as the stunts, for capable presentation allows for many laughs along with the "magnetic" nystery. rt is best done, from the showmanship angle, by a girl of not more than 110 pounds. There are many magicians of to-day who could do much worse than put their wives or assistants to work on what would be an interesting and new (to audiences of this era) marvel. The photographs accompanying this mss. are from Miss Hurst's autobiography. In a later article I want to cover another phase of this work, the "heavy while you wait" principles which had their day with such disciples as Mattie Lee Price and Johnny Coulon.)

Lulu Hurst came into the world in 1869 near Cedartown, Georgia. At the age of 14 she emulated the 1848 story of the Fox sisters by

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"discovering" some sort of unknown "force" surrounding her when "quick, muffled, popping sounds" were heard after she had retired. As in the Hydesville hocum period it caused much excitement and speculation in her vicinity.

However, there is no evidence that any attempt was made to associate the noises with spirits. Later, like the Fox confession of apple dropping and toe joint cracking, Miss Hurst admitted that hairpins breaking through the mattress covering as she slightly moved her head was the cause of it all.

The odic (?) force that seemed to be constantly with her caused objects, he Id firmly by another person or persons,to become uncontrollable at the touch of her hands. She began her theatrical career shortly after and it lasted for two years. Her tests at the beginning were the umbrella test; the attempt of any number of men to hold a chair or cane while she had her hands on them; and the attempt to put a chair to the floor while she rested her hands on it. Later she added the balance test and the heavy weight lifting.

Lulu Hurst made a whirlwind tour of the U. S. In Washington she was tested by savants of the Smithsonian Institute and Naval Observatory. Professor Bell, inventor of the telephone, tried exhaustive tests on insulated platforms to check electrical forces. 23 years before Thurston accepted the wand as successor to Keller, Lulu Hurst was appearing in the same Ford Theatre at Baltimore. Under Charles Frohman's management she néxt appeared at New York's

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Wallack's Theatre. Her success was so noble that The Hew York Times of July 9, 1884 gave more than a column, headed, "Strong Men Children In Her Hands." The New York Telegram, after the opening performance, went to great lengths in detailing the defeat of a Mr. Fred Lubin, "veteran prestidigitateur and mesmerist," who publicly said, "Nobody can fool me." Despite a page report of the Chicago convention, The New York Sun devoted nearly a column and a half to a description of Miss Hurst and her "seance", but analysed it quite well, in view of later light on the subject, by saying, "It is only the people who have seen her, but have not experienced "her powers, who profess to deride them. Those who have been whirled around at the option of Miss Hurst, despite their utmost resistance, think, if they do not acknowledge it, as Mr. Grant, of the Union Club,did last evening, that her performances, if she merely uses her muscle, are more wonderful than if she possessed some secret force."

To illustrate how well Miss Hurst stormed the imagination of the public, a glance at clippings from the papers the evening of and the morning after an earthquake shock was felt in the vicinity of Long Branch on August IP., 1884 are revealing. With hardly an exception they asked questions such as "Did Lulu Hurst Do It?" "Has the Power of the Georgia Wonder Broken Loose?" Luckily for her, too, (and her press agent) Miss Hurst had just arrived in Long Branch that day.

Mr. Frohman booked MissHurst on a flying trip to the west coast then, and the proof of her drawing power is answered by her remuneration. The contract called for ten nights, in ten cities, at $1000 per night.

The Georgia Wonder-made her last public appearance in Knoxville, Tenn., just two years after her "powers" were discovered. At 16 she turned down European offers and lucrative returns, for, as she said, it had begun to prey on her mind that spiritualists everywhere were pointing to her as "the mighty medium." She had continually' repudiated theories of "Spiritism" and "Psychism" as well as other "isms" with which the "Force" had been classed, yet she had found it impossible to make the public do so. Her retirement statement seemed very sincere. She said, "The Great Unknown" and I can remain in mutual isolation, and to-gether fade from the public view. And in this solitude I will devote myself to the study of this Phenomenon, and if I ever solve it so that I can demonstrate it scientifically to any thinking, reasoning mind, and reduce it to the category of natural phenomena operating along the line of cause and effect, then I will come before the world with my explanation."

The problem Lulu Hurst had to solve in the study of her power was concise: "Could a child of fourteen years of age, without exercising an amount of conscious muscular power or agressive force at all commensurate with the unreckoned force opposing her, by some unrecognised law of physics, mechanics or leverage, overcome and annihilate such unreckoned amounts of muscular force when opposed to her in certain specified ways and positions?"

While exhibiting, on the stage, she had learned these things: (A) It was necessary for the fdrce opposing her to exert itself by and through inanimate objects held in certain specified positions. (B) She had no power over inanimate objects unless in connection with opposing muscular force of another person. It was their exertion in connection with her influence that produced the phenomena. (C) The amount of force opposed to her did not make much difference, except to increase the wonder of her performance. A large amount of muscular energy by her opponent or opponents in the tests was more of an aid to her than otherwise. (It must not be construed that she used NO conscious force. In the tests to be described it was necessary to use more or less force to keep her hands in firm contact with the objects used in the tests, and often to give direction to the force in its beginning.)

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