Showing posts with label Anna Eva Fay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anna Eva Fay. Show all posts

Thursday, March 17, 2022

All The Anna Eva Fay Links You'll Ever Need

 Episode 74 of the Magic Detective Podcast is finally up and ready to listen to. After a very long delay I was finally able to finish it. As I mention in the podcast, I got distracted with some other interests, so the podcast took a break for a while. But I have had this episode 2/3rds finished since December, so I just had to get it done. I chose to not repeat a lot of information that is I included on other podcasts. Instead, I just gave the episode numbers for anyone who wanted to check them out further. However, to make it even easier, I will put links to those episodes below. AND I will put a link to all the Anna Eva Fay articles on this site, so you can SEE some of the things I spoke of, like the grave for example.

Thanks for being a listener and reader to my blog and podcast. I do intend to continue this project for many years to come!

All the articles on Anna Eva Fay:

The Fox Sisters Ep 57

Washington Irving Bishop Ep 15

Houdini & Anna Eva Fay Ep 22

Samri Baldwin Ep 30

The Anna Eva Fay Ep 74

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Fay Controversy Continues

Anna Eva Fay
Anna Eva Fay was a medium and clairvoyant who rose to prominence in the late 19th Century and early part of the 20th Century. I have written about her several times and even visited her grave in Massachusetts. She was a fascinating woman on many levels. She began as a medium, one who was highly investigated and fooled many of the top minds in the world who researched psychic phenomenon. But still she was a fake. So that makes some of her achievements even more remarkable.

Eventually, she would move into mind reading using the method first developed by Samri Baldwin.  This addition took her out of the area of spiritualistic demonstrations to theatrical performances and it proved highly successful. Along the way, she began to train her son John in all the methods and techniques that she used, hoping and expecting that he would one day take over the show. But in what would be an incredible betrayal by her son, he taught a young woman whom he would later marry, Eva Norman how to do the act. They went out as The Marvelous Fays. Anna was furious. Overtime, Anna would forgive her son, but she never forgave Eva Norman, and the two barely tolerated each other for the rest of their lives.

This brings me to this past weekend's Potter and Potter Auction. There was an item that was listed as "Fay, Anna Eva. The Fay Thaumaturgy Dream Book" And it was a very awesome item, but this was actually an Eva Fay book, not an Anna Eva Fay book. There are several things that give away who this belonged to. For one, the publisher was John T. Fay, the son of Anna. The 'mascot' coins which are reproduced on the cover of the booklet are also those of 'The Fays' not Anna Eva Fay. And finally, they called their performance 'Thaumaturgy', where as Anna called what she did "Somnolency'.  That doesn't make the item any less valuable however. It's still a very rare Dream book and whoever won that item has a real treasure! I think the auction item also came with a token and a ticket, which again pushes up the value of this lot!

This mix up between The Fays and Anna Eva Fay has been going on for years. In fact, Barry Wiley in his wonderful book The Indescribable Phenomenon, says that when Anna Eva Fay passed away in 1927, the news of her death was in all the papers and in an ironic twist of fate, Eva Fay's bank accounts were closed, thinking that she had died. But it was Anna Eva Fay who had passed. I guess the elder Fay got the last word.

By the way, I just finished reading The Indescribable Phenomenon, and it was a fantastic book. Barry Wiley's in-depth research is remarkable. I would encourage anyone interested in magic history and especially the Spiritualist side of the art, to check out this book. I found my copy on ebay. It was published by but their website is down currently.

Both Fays, had put out special token coins, that they both sold for 25 cents. Both had the word 'Mascot' on them. But it's easy to tell the difference. I think there are two Anna Eva Fay coins and one Eva Fay or 'The Fays' coin. The first copper coin below is the Anna Eva Fay coin. You can see her initials, AEF, under the sitting figure. In the book The Indescribable Phenomenon, it's mentioned that there may have been 6 different versions of this coin, but all looked relatively the same. There is a second Anna Eva Fay Coin, which is round, about the size of a quarter and is pictured below. Both coins have the initials, AEF on one side. The final coin below was used by 'The Fays/Eva Fay', and you can clearly see how similar in look this coin is to the copper AEF coin. However, the name 'The Fays' is clearly visible on one side of the coin. And rather than a sitting figure on one side of the coin like AEF had, The Fay coin has an Egyptian looking figure with wings. 
Anna Eva Fay -Mascot Token

Anna Eva Fay - Round Mascot

Eva Fay/The Fays - Mascot Token

Both Fays also put out Dream Books. These are easy to tell apart because one uses the word, Somnolency, which is Anna Eva Fay's book, and the other uses the word Thaumaturgy, which is the book used by The Fays, the son and daughter in law. I don't own any of those at the moment, otherwise I would put up a picture.

I came across another site recently that had a poster listed as an Anna Eva Fay poster, but it was actually one of Eva Fay's. I don't recall off hand what the site was and I can't seem to locate it. Suffice to say, the confusion between the two Fays continues on.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Spirit Handkerchief and It's History

There is a wonderful effect in magic that has found it's way into the acts of many performers called The Dancing Handkerchief. Probably the most iconic performer to present the effect was Harry Blackstone Sr., and then later his son Blackstone Jr.. Even David Copperfield made a hit out of this little wonder.  But you might be surprised just how many well known performers and hundreds of lesser knowns performed this effect.

I tried to track down the origins of the mystery, originally known as The Spirit Handkerchief. Magicpedia lists Nevil Maskelyene as the creator. I can find no reference in magic literature to Nevil Maskelyne having been the creator of the trick.
Anna Eva Fay
thought I had the answer but then a second source listed a different name. Originally, I thought that Anna Eva Fay created this mystery. She began her career as a fake spirit medium and this type of effect would have been ideal for her 'Light Seance' segment.

However, here is what I do know. In the 1870s, Anna Eva Fay was in England presenting her seances. She had encountered John Nevil Maskelyne, who was busy exposing all spirit mediums. There is a brief account of their altercation in White Magic by Jasper Maskelyne. Shortly after this Anna Eva Fay returned to America and for a time was thought to be English, though she was actually from Ohio.

So who created the Spirit Dancing Hank? Looks like the winner is Anna Eva Fay*. But I think I know why Maskelyne's name is connected to it. The Dancing Hank was often presented in conjunction with another effect which was sort of a mini-Spirit Cabinet. Two chairs were placed on stage. A sheet of glass was balanced upon the two chairs and then a small cabinet was placed upon the glass. Inside was a bell and a slate. This effect was the creation of Maskelyne.  And it may have been Frederick Eugene Powell who first presented these two together in the United States. This information comes from Magic: A Pictorial History of Conjurers In The Theatre by David Price.

I do know that Harry Kellar began presenting these two effects together in 1894. He called it The
Cassadaga Propaganda. And from several different accounts, his Dancing Hank routine was a big hit. It's hard to say where he got it from, though he may have seen Maskelyne present it as he was known for stealing material from the Maskelyne show.

I found an interesting article in The Linking Ring Vol 40 #8, on a lesser known magician, John Grdina. In the article it says that Grdina taught none other than Harry Blackstone Sr. the Dancing Hank and whenever Blackstone was in Cleveland, he would mention it to his audiences. Grdina, as a youth apparently saw Harry Kellar first present the effect. He later would create some kind of version of his own.

Blackstone Sr. presented the Dancing Hank so well, that he is associated with the effect. His son, Harry Jr. also made a showpiece out of the routine. Others have presented the original version including Harry Willard, John Calvert and Howard Thurston. But no one made as big a mark with it as did Harry Blackstone Sr.. Below is the video of Harry Jr. presenting the hank, exactly as his father before him had presented it. (The person who uploaded the video fast-forwards through a bit of the early section, so just ignore that.)

In the 1950s, along came Ralph Adams. He created a more elaborate version of the Dancing Hank that was different from the Blackstone version. Doug Henning later used the Ralph Adam's version in his shows for many years. Though it was still a piece of cloth becoming animated, it was a different routine from the earlier versions. Below is a shorter version of the Henning routine. Usually, Doug presented it onstage with one of his dancers.

Then in the late 1970s David Copperfield debuted a new take on this classic effect. His version was the creation of Don Wayne and it combined aspects of the original with a sort of animated 'zombie' like effect. The Don Wayne version became all the rage for a number of years. Incidentally, the Don Wayne version may have been an updated version of the Joe Karson version known as Voodoo. One reason I think the Copperfield routine became so iconic was that he created a story based routine or a vignette. The magic was an important aspect of telling the overall story.

And speaking of updating versions, the latest and most advanced version of the effect started with the Don Wayne method and flew out to the stratosphere thanks to magic creator Sean Bogunia. Sean has taken the basic effect, added multiple methods and truly brought the animated handkerchief to life in ways that no one ever thought possible. Because of his innovations, many performers present the Dancing Hank in their shows today.

I'm not certain that anyone has really gotten the notoriety with the effect that the Blackstone's did. Though Sean is sure known as Mr. Hanky these days. This is by far a complete history of the effect but it does give you a good overview of the dancing hank through the years. Others have had innovations along the way as well, like Karrel Fox and Steve Dusheck. And a multitude of performers have presented this great effect. One thing is for certain,  over 100 years later the effect of causing a bit of cloth or handkerchief to come to life and animate and dance is still an amazing and popular illusion.

*Barry Wiley, author of The Indescribable Phenomenon, a biography of Anna Eva Fay, believes that in fact it was Maskelyne who created the Dancing Hank effect. His book is extremely well researched so now I'm leaning towards Maskelyne over Anna Eva Fay.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Episode 2 Magic Detective Show

Here is Episode 2 now online. Once you watch the episode, head over to the blog article which gives more information about Episode 2. Enjoy!

Episode 2 Additional Information

For the record, I love searching out the graves of dead magicians. Mainly because it's so darn hard to find the graves of living ones. On Episode 2, I showed three photos of graves of magic related people. The first was the grave of Anna Eva Fay Pingree. Anna Eva Fay was a phenomenon in her day. She was born Ann Eliza Heathman in 1851, just at the time that the Fox Sisters and the Davenport Brothers were making news as spiritual mediums. She apparently showed signs of having 'the gift' and was encouraged to move in this direction. Ann met a man who would become her manager and he taught her the actual gifts (the methods used by fake mediums).  They created an act where she would present 'Light and Dark Seances' on-stage for audiences. Among her interesting creations during the 'light seance' was the effect we know today as The Dancing Handkerchief.  Her 'dark seance' sequence was similar to the Davenport Brothers act, she would be tied to a chair inside a cloth cabinet and bells would ring, tambourines would play and other manifestation would occur.

Over the years she would move away from the seance aspect of the show and move more towards mentalism effects, all with a 'spirit' kind of theme to them. She retired from show business in 1924 and settled in Melrose Mass.

The next grave belonged to Mina Stinson Crandon, better known as Margery the Medium. She was the medium who The Scientific American Magazine was going to acknowledge to the world as being  a genuine medium and could really speak to the dead. Well, that is until Houdini got wind of this and he stepped in. Actually, he more than stepped in, he took over the investigation and an all out war ensued! Houdini had a special wooden box built to house Margery and prevent her from causing the manifestations to happen by her own hand. Her spirit guide 'Walter', who was her deceased brother, still spoke however and could be quite the salty tongued spirit.

Houdini successfully prevented the Scientific American Committee from awarding Margery with any sort of authenticity certificate.

She lived on Lime St in Boston and is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery. The photo was provided to me by escape artist and investigator Norman Bigelow. Norm is currently offering a lecture about Margery and Houdini and other mediums.

Last up is a fellow who I've done a LOT of research on, William Henry Palmer, who performed under the stage name of Robert Heller. He was quite the performer. His show included not only magic, but mind reading and music. You see, Robert Heller was an accomplished concert pianist. The Library of Congress even has several of his pieces of sheet music in their collection.

Heller traveled the world presenting his magic. He actually was from England but his career really blossomed in America. One of his most popular feats was his Second Sight routine. This was an early version of what we think of today as mentalism or mind reading. Heller used multiple methods to read the mind of Haidee Heller, a woman he called his sister but apparently she was not. Incidentally, there is a wonderful story I read that happened between Robert Heller and Haidee. After the musical section of the show one night, he and Haidee got into a quarrel behind the scenes. She refused to come out for the Second Sight routine. So Robert Heller walked out and announced "Ladies and Gentleman, this is the part of the program where Ms. Haidee Heller comes out, except tonight she refuses to do so. Let's wait and see." He then quietly took a seat on the couch and began to twirl his thumbs not speaking a word. A few moments a red hot Haidee came storming out. Heller said "Ah! I thought so" and they continued with the show.

Robert Heller died unexpectedly in November of 1878. He was on tour in Philedelphia and had performed at the Concert Hall on Nov 26th, but showed clear signs of being ill. It was pneumonia and he died the next day. His body was sent to Machepelah Cemetery in Philidelphia and was placed in a vault there. Sometime later it was moved to Mt. Moriah Cemetery where he remains to this day.

Incidentally, these three folks were all connected in two ways. First they all had a connection to Houdini. Anna Eva Fay and Houdini were friends. Margery and Houdini were friendly enemies. Houdini re-discovered the grave of Robert Heller. Second connection is they all presented seances!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Anna Eva Fay Final Resting Place

On our recent visit to Beverly, MA, we took some time to visit the grave of Anna Eva Fay. I have a photo of the site posted elsewhere, but this is the first time I got to see it in person. It's a beautiful structure, but there was an interesting bonus that I had never seen and was curious about. Inside the crypt there is an ivory bust of Anna Eva Fay on display.

Ms. Fay is laid to rest in the Wyoming Cemetery in Melrose MA.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Life of Anna Eva Fay

Anna Eva Fay
Ann Eliza Heathman was born in Southington Ohio in 1851. She apparently showed signs of being a medium at a young age and was encouraged by her family in that regard. Spiritualism had just been born in 1848 and it was sweeping the nation. The Fox Sisters and the Davenport Brothers were touring with their respective spiritualistic shows. It seemed logical for Ann to move in this direction as well. She met a man named H. Melville Fay who was a fake medium who became her manager and some think he was the one who taught Ann the methods of the fake mediums. FAY, by the way was also a fake name, he likely appropriated it from William Fay who was touring with the Davenport Brothers.

Ann adopted the stage name of Annie Fay and began to perform as a stage medium. David Price's book, A Pictorial History of Magic says that she may have started performing as early as age 11. So that would be around 1862 that she began. The early act consisted of Mr. Alexander Fay (another name used by H. Melville Fay) who did magic and ventriloquism. Her act followed with a 'Light Seance and a Dark Seance'. The Light Seance is probably where she presented the 'dancing spirit handkerchief'. This is the same trick that Harry Blackstone Sr. made famous, but it's generally agreed that it was invented by Anna Eva Fay. Though, it's not likely her routine was the same as Blackstone's.

The Dark Seance was her version of the Davenport's Spirit Cabinet. She would be tied to a post using strips of cloth. The knots in the cloth were then sewed together with thread. Rope would be tied to her feet and then the rope would extend outside her cabinet and be held by members of the audience. Her 'cabinet' by the way was not a cabinet at all, but instead was a pipe and drape set up to form a small curtained room. When the front curtain was closed, odd manifestations would occur, but every time the curtain was opened, Ann was found to be still tied and still in a trance-like state. The manifestations she offered were unique. Her head would be seen floating above the top edge of the curtain at one point; nails and a board were put into the cabinet and moments later the nails would be found to have been pounded into the board; a sheet of paper and a pair of scissors were put into the cabinet and when opened the paper was cut into the shape of a string of dolls.

So amazing and believable was Annie Fay that regardless of the inclusion of magic and ventriloquism people began to believe her work was the real thing. I should point out that she never presented her offerings and legitimate spirit manifestations. However, the statement or disclaimer made prior to her performance left a lot to the imagination. It basically said, 'if you think what you are seeing is real, you are welcome to think that. We present these demonstrations of your kind consideration'. That's a simplified version of the quote, and it hardly says what she is doing is fake, but it also makes no claim that it's real. I think because she was a 'stage medium' and presented her show in a theatrical setting, it was assumed she was merely a show person. But because people are so quick to believe these pseudo paranormal performers, she became a sensation.
After returning from England in the 1870s, Annie Fay became Anna Eva Fay. She and H. Melville Fay, whose real last name was Cummings, had a son, John, in 1877. Young John would assist his mother in the act as he grew older. Another interesting character who once acted as an assistant to the Anna Eva Fay show was Washington Irving Bishop. Sadly, Bishop was a bit of a traitor as he was source behind an exposure article that appeared in the New York Daily Graphic in 1876. He left the show and went off on his own after this. The exposure of the Anna Eva Fay act did nothing to slow down her success.

Shortly after her son was born, H. Melville Cummings/Fay, her manager and possibly her husband, died. She then married David Pingree who then became her manager as well.

Over the years the spirit manifestation part of the act began to loose appeal and it was replaced with Anna Eva Fay presenting feats of mentalism or mind reading. In the past, parts of her act were taken by other performers, specifically the spirit handkerchief or dancing hank which ended up in the acts of, Harry Kellar, Frederick Eugene Powell, Harry Blackstone and others. Now it was her turn to 'borrow' from another performer. She took Samri Baldwin's Q&A routine and added it to her act.

The Anna Eva Fay version of the Question & Answer Act started with pads of paper being passed out before the show to audience members who wrote down questions on the paper and then tore the paper off and kept it. Later in the show, Anna would sit in a chair and be covered with a light cloth and begin to answer the questions briskly that people had written down. Near the end of the act, the cloth covering would be removed and Anna Eva Fay would collapse in the arms of her husband.

Everything seemed to be splendidly for Anna Eva Fay until her son John married a woman named Eva Norman in 1898.  Eva and Anna Eva Fay did not get along from the start and what made matters worse is when Eva and John went off on their own and started doing an act called 'The Marvelous Fays. They were basically doing a copy of Anna Eva Fay's act. Later Eva Fay would bill herself as 'The High Priestess of Mysticism'. This caused a rift in the family. It was not an exact copy, as Eva Fay presented her version on the Q&A act much differently and more flamboyantly than the elder Fay.

In 1908, while apparently cleaning or toying with a loaded pistol, John Cummings Fay, son of Anna Eva Fay and husband to Eva Fay accidentally shot and killed himself. John was buried in the family plot in Massachusetts.

Anna Eva Fay continued to perform her act until 1924 when she retired. It was during this time that none other than Harry Houdini stepped into the picture. He had exposed her act in his book A Magician Among the Spirits, and was actually meeting her after the book had come out.

Houdini claimed that Fay revealed her secrets to him, but some historians believe that this probably did not happen. I'm not sure that the revelation that she was not a real spirit medium would be a real revelation to Houdini given the nature of Anna Eva Fay's act and Houdini's knowledge of escapes and magic. There was one thing she did reveal to Houdini.  According to the Kenneth Silverman's biography on Houdini, Anna Eva Fay confided in Houdini that she visited her son's grave often, always hoping for a message from beyond but never receiving one.

Another thing revealed in the Silverman biography was this shocking bit of news, when Houdini went to visit Anna Eva Fay in her home in Mass., he brought along a movie camera to record the event. So here is yet another lost film. Maybe, just maybe it's among the Larry Weeks Collection.

Ms. Fay was also on hand when Houdini was set to challenge Margery the Medium at Symphony Hall in Boston in January 1925. I guess you could say she was there for 'spiritual support' (sorry I couldn't resist that one).

Anna Eva Fay Pingree died on May 1927. She was buried in the family plot at the Wyoming Cemetery in Melrose Massachusetts. She was an amazing woman and became quite famous and wealthy with her unusual act. Historian Barry Wiley has written a biography of Anna Eva Fay called, The Indescribable Phenomenon and it's published by Hermetic Press.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

UPDATE on HOUDINI Funeral Films

I ran an article about the funeral films of Harry Kellar and The Great Lafayette that Houdini had commissioned. I speculated that maybe just maybe they might still be around though they were certainly lost at the moment. John Cox was the first to chime in with a very smart comment regarding the explosive nature of the film material and how doubtful it would be that they'd still be around. This was followed by another excellent comment by Gregory Edmonds backing up John's thoughts and adding quite a bit more historical information to the mix.

Well, thanks to John Cox and also Joe Fox (hey Joe!) a photo of an article from the MUM Magazine October 1958 has appeared! It's the smoking gun that reveals that at least in 1958, the footage still existed and was in the possession of Larry Weeks. Mr. Weeks was attempting to get all the footage transferred over to a safer and longer lasting medium. Among the film footage that Larry Weeks had was 'the original Grim Game Movie, the Monastery Escape that Houdini did in France; the original films of his historic flight in Australia in 1910; his hanging straight jacket escape filmed in many cities; his Overboard Box Escape; Lafayette's Funeral; Houdini's own funeral; and others!

So it seems that luck and good fortune may be on the side of history here. It's still kind of an unknown as to whether Larry Weeks got all this footage transferred. We know he did get the Grim Game transferred over. So lets hope that the Keller and Lafayette funerals are still preserved for history and that we might see them someday, soon.

UPDATE: Here is something else I just ran across. While researching the life of Anna Eva Fay I stumbled upon something shocking. To preface, I've recently put up a couple articles about the lost films of Houdini, mainly his funeral films of Lafayette and Harry Kellar. Well, imagine my surprise to learn when Houdini went to visit Anna Eva Fay in her home in Mass., he brought along a movie camera to record the event. So here is yet another lost film. Maybe, just maybe it's among the Larry Weeks Collection as well.

UPDATE UPDATE: Yes, there is another film that I don't think has ever been seen. Reports say he was tied to the tower of the Heidelberg Building in Times Square. The New York Times says that after the escape he tossed the rope down to the crowd. However, other reports say he was placed in a straight jacket and hung upside down over the edge of the Heidelberg Building. He was going to repeat one of these stunts from the fire escape of Hammersteins Victoria, but the police intervened. Does this film still exist today? 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Spirit Cabinet - A History

This article is about the Spirit Cabinet illusion. However, there would be no spirit cabinet without The Fox Sisters. Margaret and Kate Fox were two young girls living in Hydesville NY with their parents. In 1848, the two sisters demonstrated that they could communicate with ghostly spirits by having strange rapping sounds manifest in their presence. Their abilities gave birth to a phenomenon/movement that would be known as Spiritualism. Later in life the sisters admitted they were frauds (but they even recanted that eventually).
Living not far from Hydesville, NY were two brothers, Ira and William Davenport. In 1854, the brothers started making claims similar to that of the Fox Sisters. To prove their abilities they created The Spirit Cabinet and took their show on the road. The Spirit Cabinet was a large rectangular wooden cabinet that rested upon two saw horses. This allowed the audience to view the cabinet from underneath. There was room inside for each brother to sit at opposite ends of the cabinet. I believe there was also room in between them as well for a spectator to sit if the routine called for that.  The basic effect was that the two brothers would be tied to the seats within the cabinet by members of the audience. A number of instruments, like bells and tambourines were placed in between them. The doors of the cabinet were closed to allow 'spirit darkness' and the manifestations would begin, the bells would ring, rapping could be heard and the tambourines would play.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Strange Life & Death of Washington Irving Bishop

Washington Irving was an American author who is famous for many books including the stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hallow" and "Rip Van Winkle" both which were written in 1820 and are still popular today.  There was another Washington Irving, however, this one was Washington Irving Bishop and he was supposedly the godson of Washington Irving.

He was born in 1856 to parents who were both devout Spiritualists. His mother, Eleanor, was in fact a practicing medium. He lived a fairly ordinary life, went to college and then got a job. He left that job to work for Anna Eva Fay the famous psychic/medium/mentalist. Before long, Bishop became Fay's manager. But something would happen to change all that. In 1876 an exposure of Anna Eva Fay's act appeared in a newspaper. The information was secretly provided by none other than Washington Irving Bishop. Right after this, Bishop left the employ of Fay and went about presenting his very own 'exposure' show revealing the tricks of Anna Eva Fay and other fake spiritualists. He even went so far as to expose the 'Second Sight' act that Robert Heller the magician had been presenting. Heller by the way, never claimed to be anything other than a musician and a magician.

Around 1877, Bishop's act changed from being an exposure act to one where he did Mind Reading effects. He learned these from another popular mind reader of the time Jacob Randall Brown. The one main effect that he got from Brown was the technique called Muscle Reading. During Muscle Reading the performer can be blindfolded, and while holding the hand of an audience member, is able to locate hidden objects. Bishop built this into quite the phenomenon.

Now fast forward to the night of May 12, 1889. Washington Irving Bishop has been asked to perform before the prestigious Lamb's Club in NYC at 70 West 36th Street New York NY. The Lamb's Club was the first professional theatrical club in America. Over the years some of the famous members have included: John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, Cecil B. DeMille, George M. Cohan, Fred Astaire, John Phillip Sousa, Cliff Robertson, John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin and many more. Bishop was asked to perform for the top tier of Theatrical Entertainers and he gladly agreed.

He performed a number of unbelievable Mind Reading effects with the use of his muscle reading technique. And then, he collapsed! He fell to the ground unconscious. A friend of Bishop's mentioned that his friend was probably alright. He apparently suffered from catalepsy.   The definition of Catalepsy- noun a physical condition usually associated with catatonic schizophrenia, characterized by suspension of sensation, muscular rigidity, fixity of posture, and often by loss of contact with environment. This was not the first time Bishop passed out during a performance. Because of this he carried a note in his breast pocket explaining the situation and informing whoever found him that under NO circumstances should an autopsy be performed. 

Bishop woke up a short time later and actually requested to finish his performance. But before he got too far he was out again. This time however, he did not wake. Attending doctors eventually pronounced him dead in the early morning. Bishop's wife was notified and the following day she came to see her dead husband at the funeral home. When she saw her husbands body she was mortified. An autopsy had been performed! His skull had been cut open and his brain removed. She began yelling "they've killed my husband!!!" It is very likely that Washington Irving Bishop was simply in a cataleptic trance. The doctors who examined him in the early morning said  'no note was found on his body'. Possibly they found the note after they had begun the autopsy. Shocking!
But the story doesn't end there. If the wife was angry, it was nothing compared to Eleanor Bishop, the mother! She wanted answers. Why was an autopsy done? Who stole her son's brain? She asked for an coroners inquiry, so a second autopsy was done. The missing brain was located in the chest cavity of Bishop, but no cause of death could be discovered.  Later she had charges brought against the doctors involved. Unfortunately, they encountered a hung jury and the doctors were all released.

Mrs. Eleanor Bishop was kind of a unique person. She made countless outlandish claims throughout her life. Things like being friends with Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley. She claimed she was owed countless millions of dollars and on an on the tales went. Apparently, none other than Harry Houdini came to her aid later in life and he would purchase items from Bishop's collection to help out the mother. When she passed away, Houdini found out he was the sole beneficiary of her $30 million estate (except there was no money to be had).