Archive for November, 2009

Anna’s Voices

Pity Mrs. Anna Mulloy, who dabbled in the psychic sciences and discovered that the world of shadows and secrets is no place for a flesh and blood woman to linger.

Anna first looked to the mysteries back home in Manitou, Colorado, where her husband M.E. was busy with his work as a contractor. She found she had a gift for hearing the voices of the dead, and what else could she do then but to listen? “He’s cheating on you,” the voices said, “he loves another.” And so in August 1899, Anna took her four little children and went to California. M.E. Mulloy sent her regular checks.

But now the voices sang a new tune. “Take the children,” they said, “Go to the grandest hotel you can find, and stay the night.” Sometimes the voices were so insistent that Anna checked her brood into the Westminster itself – at a lordly cost of $2.50 a night!
Westminster Hotel (USC collection)
But it was in more modest lodgings in SRO land from which Anna penned the inspired missive that would bring her exhausting journey to an end. It was twelve pages in length and barely coherent, and when she had finished it, she placed it in an envelope addressed “Policeman, Los Angeles, CA” and asked one of her little ones to deliver it. Officer Zeigler accepted the packet, and soon Humane Officer Craig arrived, to take Anna away to the County Hospital on a lunacy complaint, and the little children to the Home of Mercy, just down the way on Boyd Street, to await instructions from their father in Colorado.

November 25, 2009 at 1:40 am Leave a comment

Book collectors of old L.A.

Shopkeeper William “Scotty” Manson, 47, lived alone behind Acme Stamp and Hobby, supplying used books and collectable stamps to the passing trade. Any customer was potentially a worthy one in the SRO Land of 1956, as Bunker Hill was crumbling and the detritus of human life washed ever further each morning onto the streets surrounding Skid Row.

When two gents came in together and asked for a quantity of books to be boxed, Manson thought he’d made his grubstake for the day. Alas, the fellows had a further request: could he just be so kind as to place all his money in the box as well? A flash of a long knife accompanied the suggestion.

Like any savvy shopkeeper of his place and era, Manson was armed, with a .45 caliber revolver in his pocket. He stepped back and drew his weapon, but the young man with the knife was quicker, and slashed his chest and belly. The would-be thieves turned and ran as Manson unloaded his weapon, then collapsed in the door of his shop. At General Hospital, where he was taken in serious condition with three deep cuts, he told police what had happened.

But even without Scotty’s report, the scene on the street told the tale. One robber, Charles Brooks, 28, resident of a hotel at 224 Boyd, reached 1st and Broadway, then fell, gushing blood. He survived part of the ride to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, where he was DOA.

The second miscreant, Eugene Sparkman, resident of a hotel at 534 Wall, made the acquaintance of a motorcycle cop a block from where Brooks went down, and was popped. Taken into evidence was the book he’d kept hold of as he fled, reform-minded prison warden Lewis E. Lawes‘ “20,000 Years in Sing Sing,” with its heartwarming dedication “To those tens of thousands of my former wards who have justified my faith in human nature.” We can only hope he ran into as enlightened a prison manager as Lawes, in his unreported but inevitable next stop.

November 18, 2009 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

A Peddler Plundered

Street peddler Tony Adams patrolled the corner of Fifth and South Main streets, selling candy from a tray that he secured to his body with a broad leather strap across his back, which freed his hands and made it easier for him to wrap purchases and make change, thus ensuring that he could see to the needs of the candy-hungry downtown crowds as speedily and efficiently as possible.

At least, that’s how Tony saw it. Patrolman Grant McCart took a different view, and arrested Tony on a charge of obstructing the sidewalk.

In court, McCart testified that Tony “blockades the sidewalks as he darts here and there, swinging his big tray in front of him.” The city prosecutor asked McCart to illustrate how Tony moved through the streets, so the tray was brought into the court and fastened across McCart’s bulky shoulders. McCart then barged recklessly about the room, butting into the bailiff with the sharp edge of the tray and nearly knocking Tony over as he turned around.

“I think that will show the objectionable manner in which the defendant uses that big wooden box,” said the prosecuting attorney.

The court was impressed by the demonstration, but Tony had a more important matter on his mind. “Oh, judge!” he exclaimed as he looked into his tray, “Somebody has stolen my goods!” Of the several pounds of sweets that had been piled in Tony’s tray, only a few pieces of chewing candy remained, nestled in one corner. “When I was taken to the police station, I had a nice lot of candy! Where has it gone?”

The judge informed Tony that that was no concern of the court’s and wished him luck in his pursuit of his complaint with the chief of police.

Tony was fined $5 for obstructing the streets and advised in future to cry his wares from the curb.

Sources: Los Angeles Herald, August 26 and 29, 1906.

November 16, 2009 at 10:34 pm Leave a comment

A Peddler Pelted

Each day at noon, the little children emerge from their classroom at the San Pedro-street school and tramp off to their respective homes to have a nutritious lunch en famille. Dear little creatures, some barely old enough to walk, who spend their days in learning what life is all about, and the skills they’ll need to navigate this fresh new city they are lucky enough to be citizens of.

On this particular day, the wee ones engaged in their favorite noontime activity, the tormenting of a Chinese vegetable peddler whose route regrettably takes him near to their school. The children fell upon his wagon, snatching up potatoes with which to pelt the… well, he was not a man, exactly, he was a Celestial, in the parlance of the day.

Enraged, the victim ran at the diminutive mob, waving his blacksnake whip and shrieking invective. What else could you expect from a savage? All the children scattered, save one terrified three-year-old boy. The vendor obligingly whipped the child about the head and the feet, compelling a passing white man to grab the whip and knock the Chinese to the ground. No one was badly hurt, and the parade moved on — just a typical happening in 1896 LA for all concerned. 

Photo credit: Chan Yip Leung, a fruit and vegetable peddler next to wagon, 1914 (LAPL)

November 12, 2009 at 8:36 am 1 comment

“Professor” Alexander J. McIvor-Tyndall rides again!

Peter LaFleur managed to win a championship blindfolded in the film “Dodgeball,” so how hard could it possibly be to drive a horse-drawn carriage at a breakneck pace through the streets of downtown Los Angeles while likewise deprived of sight? That was the challenge mind-reader, mystic and clairvoyant Professor J. McIvor Tyndall faced on November 18th, 1895. As a crowd of onlookers blocked traffic and sidewalks in front of the Hotel Ramona, the blindfolded Professor Tyndall took the driver’s seat in an open barouche, accompanied by his passengers, including the Chief of Police, the city clerk, and the Professor’s partner in adventure, Dr. K.D. Wise. Tyndall took up the reins and whip in left hand, while with the other he grasped Dr. Wise’s hand, who sat beside him. Not only did Tyndall aspire to drive the horses blindfolded through the city, he also aimed to find an unknown object hidden by the members of his entourage somewhere in the vicinity of the hotel. Somehow, no doubt due to his heightened mental sensitivity and muscle-reading powers, Tyndall managed to lead the horses on a wild dash down Spring Street, missing by mere inches streetcars, trucks, carriages and terrified pedestrians. He whirled up Fourth, turned on Broadway to Second, and then eastward on Second where he pulled the horses up short at the side entrance of the Hollenbeck Hotel. Still blindfolded, and still grasping the hand of his friend and accomplice Dr. Wise, Tyndall felt along the fa├žade of the stair entrance to the Hotel, where he quickly found a feather duster hanging from a nail above his head. He grabbed the duster,  re-embarked into the carriage along with his amanuensis, Dr. Wise,, and drove pell-mell back along the route he’d come. Astonishment ensued among the crowd when the carriage arrived at the steps of the Hotel Ramona, although a few onlookers observed that in previous years Tyndall had performed the exact same feat, and that on these occasions the object had been hidden in the exact same spot.

Tyndall’s ambitions did not end with mind-reading. He also aspired to cheat death. In December of 1985 he announced plans to place himself in a hypnotic trance, be buried alive in an airtight ten foot deep grave, and then be disinterred and resurrected at the end of thirty days. Taking his cue from Hindu fakirs, Tyndall’s method also required that he be coated in clarified butter. However, when his assistants learned that to bury a human being intentionally, even with his or her consent, constituted a felony, they declined to follow through on their end of the bargain. While they educated themselves about the law, Tyndall lay in a cataleptic state for 32 hours, until he was finally awakened by these words, “Professor! Professor! Without quotation marks! Here’s the bold bad Times reporter and he says he will never put quotation marks around your title again if you’ll only wake up!”

Tyndall continued his mystic exhibitions, lectures and experiments for years in the LA area, eventually graduating from “Professor” to “Dr.”, and establishing an institute of psychic science at Grand Avenue and 15th streets. The founder of his own movement, the International New Thought Fellowship,Tyndall is also the author of a number of books, including Cosmic Consciousness, or the Man-God Whom We Await, How Thought Can Kill, and The Spiritual Function of Sex. After a lifetime investigating the land of Spookdom, Dr. Alexander J. McIvor-Tyndall died for good in 1940.

November 3, 2009 at 4:17 pm 1 comment


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