Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Buried Alive" - Gloria Graves & the Murder of Mr. Q (Revised)

With the details available on the internet, it's nearly impossible to come up with a perfectly coherent outline of this miasmic Los Angeles Grand Guignol, but here's what I've managed to piece together. Gloria Graves, a pretty 19-year-old Ocean Park resident became morbidly fixated on being buried alive, and in 1935 she caused a stir when she managed to get herself interred for 90 days (though some reports say the police dug her up after fourteen days). Not one of the news stories I found indicate her parents' attitude towards the girl's bizarre hobby, but we do know that Ms. Graves -- real name? Not a clue -- was promptly arrested after her 90-day dirtnap. Apparently Los Angeles had established an ordinance against feats of endurance, and while that would seem like a waste of city council time in, say, Des Moines, it does make some sense in L.A., where the pursuit of publicity actually trumps food-gathering, finding shelter & even drawing breath in the hierarchy of needs. At her trial, Graves showed jurors, press & spectators her specially outfitted coffin & showed them how she slept peacefully, "away from earth's turmoil", under the ground for three months. Apparently the jury was sympathetic -- I mean, who doesn't want to get away from earth's turmoil? -- because in 1938 Graves met up with stage hypnotist "Mr. Q" (Robert Goodwin) & hatched a plan to stage a more elaborate & heavily publicized event. Goodwin, a creepy-looking fellow with a permanent sneer & a mortician's long dour mug, had parlayed his mesmeric skills into eight sketchy marriages to extremely attractive women, four of whom were already married to other men.

Here things get hazy, bordering on opaque. There are numerous photographs of her being placed in her "coffin" before a crowd of mildly interested Angelenos & one showing Goodwin's then-estranged wife Florence kneeling by the coffin, dressed as a nurse & offering Graves a refreshing bottle of milk before the burial, but no record (on the internet anyway) of how long she was underground, or if the hypnotist & the morbid minx from Ocean Park managed to consummate the stunt at all. The hypnotist's role in all this & why Graves felt she needed "Mr. Q" to accomplish something she'd already managed herself sans the sly cozening of a vaudeville fakir -- these matters remain a mystery. Whatever occurred at the main event, billed scrupulously as "The Most Outstanding Astounding Attraction Ever Presented", it led to an altercation between the hypnotist and one Dr. Harold T. Edwards which concluded with the good doctor shooting the nightclub conjurer to death. It was reported by the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner that the argument concerned Goodwin's "asserted insult to the young woman"...

I'll do a little more research in the world beyond the internet & see if I can find out more about this peculiar young lady & the shooting of Dr. Q, so consider this simply a brief introduction to the colorful cast.

Ludington Daily News, September 30, 1935

Gloria Graves demonstrates to the press & jurors what it's like to be buried "away from earth's turmoil", 1935

Gloria Graves shows the jury & press her specially outfitted coffin

Nightclub hypnotist/magician Robert Goodwin ("Mr. Q")

Florence Goodwin, the widow, 1939
The Main Event, 1939
Gloria Graves is prepared for burial by fake nurse Florence Goodwin, 1939
Well, I've already found another piece of the puzzle. This, from the New York Post dated February 9, 1939, states that the young woman over which Robert Goodwin & Dr. Harold T. Edwards feuded was not Gloria Graves, but another of Mr. Q's assistants, Marianna Persall:

Mr. Q. Shot Down by a Man He Called His Friend

HOLLYWOOD. Feb. 9 - Two bullets fired by a man he had called friend killed Mr. Q-. vaudeville hypnotist, on a Hollywood street corner last night.

Police arrested Harold T. Edwards, osteopath and former theatrical
booking agent, on suspicion of murder.

Mr. Q. was Robert M. Goodwin, fifty-seven-year-old trouper.Police said Edwards admitted the shooting, claiming he drew a pistol after the hypnotist knocked him down.

Edwards' story was that he quarreled with Mr. Q. over his treatment of twenty-year-old Marianna Persall, his partner in a recent engagement here.

The girl appeared with Edwards at a police station last Friday and complained to detectives that the hypnotist choked and kicked her a week ago.

Last Sunday Edwards asserted Mr. Q tried to take his own life by swallowing poison.

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