Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cabalistic Scaramouches & Boozy Transcendentalists, A Quick Survey

The sacred shrine of Dr. Fung Po-Chee, Ph.D., who gave readings based upon Chinese astrology and terminology in the Rainbow Tea Room and Art Shop at 786 Dragon Road, China City.  Photograph by Harry Quillen.

The House of Tomm, home of the famous Chinese reader, who gave private readings in China City. Photograph by Harry Quillen.

Esther Tabakman, "Madame Tab", (at left) with Rey Danielson, a client in La Fonda Restaurant (it was on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park at that time), 1940.

Mentalist Jack Swimmer poses with a "crystal ball" in his hand. This was taken after his presidential vote count predictions were declared correct. Date of photo: Nov. 15, 1956. Courtesy of the L.A. Herald-Examiner.

Photo of mentalist Jack Swimmer holding up his predictions for total national, state and county vote count in the 1956 presidential election. On October 10th his predictions were locked in a safe (under the supervision of members of the County Board of Supervisors) and brought out again November 9th and compared with the published results of the election. He was declared correct on all 3 predictions. Courtesy of the L.A. Herald-Examiner. 

Slogans like "Crystal gazer, truth only," "Special readings 50c" and "Why worry, I have helped thousands, why not you?" are posted on signboards in front of a house in South Gate, 1938. Photograph by Herman Schultheis.

Magician Satani gets an eye full of the magic crystal ball. Photo dated: April 28, 1930. Courtesy of the L.A. Herald-Examiner. 

Renee Torres wrote some questions and sealed them in an envelope, which she apparently saw burned. So she's surprised when "Satani" quotes and answers them as he looks into his crystal. She doesn't know that the burned envelope was a substitute, and that his aide copied her questions and placed them so he can "see them in the crystal." The medium's confederate writes "customers' questions on small slip of paper hidden in back of hollow "crystal" ball. Medium then reads questions from slip of paper that emerges from slit in back of ball and slides back into ball through another slit. Photo dated: April 30, 1930. Courtesy of the L.A. Herald Examiner.

Magician Satani stands in back as table is lifted. From left to right: Ned Connor; Thomas Barker, Deputy Labor Commissioner; Doc Joseph Jasin; B. Wayne De Hart, Deputy Realty Commissioner; Joseph Taylor, Chief of L.A. Detectives; and Dt. Lt. Swan. Photo dated: April 28, 1930. Courtesy of the L.A. Herald-Examiner. 

This photo shows a simple method of "table lifting" which has deceived hundreds of persons at false seances, according to "Satani." Frances Lee thinks her "psychic current" is helping make the table "float," but "Satani" is lifting it by means of a ring. The medium presses a secret button which raises a nail-like catch in the center of the table. The medium then lifts the table by hooking a groove in a flesh-colored finger ring-under the head of the nail. Photo dated: April 30, 1930. Courtesy of the L.A. Herald Examiner.

John Calvert, who influences people with his magic, mind-reading and hypnotism, with Joy Harwood, one of the Florentine Gardens beauties, who will blend mystery with eye appeal in the new Warner Bros. revue, "Ecstasies of '45," opening on December 27, 1945.  Photo date: January 31, 1945. Courtesy of the L.A. Herald Examiner.

A giant horseshoe-shaped sign, which reads "Good luck, palmist, psychic," creates a portal to a South Gate psychic's house, 1938. Photograph by Herman Schultheis.

Although currently involved in making "War of the Worlds" at Paramount, George Pal is already preparing for his next project, "Houdini." Pal discovered that boxer Jack Dempsey is an accomplished magician. The discovery was made at a dinner where Dempsey entertained guests with feats of mental magic tricks and sleight of hand. With Dempsey now on the Paramount lot in the Bob Hope feature "Military Policeman," Pal discussed the possibility with Dempsey of him appearing in an important role in "Houdini." Photograph dated March 24, 1952. Courtesy of the L.A. Herald-Examiner.

It is inevitable that Los Angeles should offer rare and glowing opportunities for faddists and mountebanks —spiritualists, mediums, astrologists, phrenologists, palmists and all other breeds of esoteric wind-jammers. The city is cursed with an incredible number of these cabalistic scaramouches. Whole buildings are devoted to occult and outlandish orders—mazdaznan clubs, yogi sects, homes of truth, cults of cosmic fluidists, astral planers, Emmanuel movers, Rosicrucians and other boozy transcendentalists. These empirics do a thriving and luxurious business. They fill the papers with mystic balderdash. They parade the streets in plush kimonos. They hold "classes" and "circles," and wax fat on the donations of the inflammatory. No other city in the United States possesses so large a number of metaphysical charlatans in proportion to its population. The doctrines of these buddhas appeal to the adolescent intelligence. By the recital of platitudes couched in interstellar terminology, they dangle the tinsel star of erudition before the eyes of the semieducated. Their symbological teachings represent a short cut to knowledge, a means of attaining infinite wisdom without the necessity of hard study. These doctrines are ingeniously salted with altruistic formulas, thereby offering a soothing substitute for Methodist theology. The Los Angeles mind has been enchanted by this East Indian wind music, and exudes large globules of psychic perspiration in its undaunted and heroic assault upon culture.
-- From Los Angeles - The Chemically Pure by Willard Huntington Wright

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