The Wicked Australian Hypnotist

Old Spirituals has a few Australian readers and this post is for them, as a tiny act of friendship while they are living under lockdown.


A startling number of Australian hypnotists were at work in the United States in the early 1900s. From Chicago to Virginia; San Francisco and Kenosha; Philadelphia to Kansas, the United States loved their Australian hypnotists. I cross-checked with some Australian papers and sure enough, there were a number of ads offering hypnosis training:

The Age (Melbourne, 1902)


Then a story came out that smeared Australian hypnotists… but before we go into that, take a look at some of these ads:


Great marketing by “Professor Bruce”


My favorite of these hypnotists was a fellow named Edward Albert Hartley, who operated out of Chicago. Hartley’s modest claims were matched only by his generous pricing.


After branding himself a Master of Strange Powers, Hartley wrote, “What I do for 50¢: I call your name, your age, occupation, and what condition your business is in and how to promote it, tell you about your wife, husband, sweetheart and lover, and how to win the love of anyone you desire. I tell you of any move, journey, speculation, position, or change of any kind which may be before you and how to act to obtain the best results. I tell you exactly what your acquaintances think of you. I tell you whom and when you will marry, if at all, and give their name, age, occupation, and disposition. I tell you everything you called to find out, and that, too, without asking you a question or you speaking a word.”

I’m not sure I want to know what my acquaintances think of me, but otherwise it sounds good.




In 1902, an anonymous talent manager from Philadelphia gave a startling account of his experience. After acquiring an Australian hypnotist client, the talent manager discovered the market was saturated in his city so he and his client headed west. “We began to coin money. We had absolutely no trouble in getting audiences at 50¢ and $1 a head. We were having a great time, and we had so much money that we never thought about keeping an account of the income. I bought a great big tin box, and we dropped the money in the slot when the patrons paid up. Both of us had a key and when we wanted a few dollars to spend we unlocked the box, made out a due bill and drop it in the box with the cash.”

Solid accounting system 


Then it all came crashing down. The talent manager said, “I was in the habit of getting up rather early. One morning, I had the strangest feeling imaginable… My head was heavy, and I had a dazed sort of feeling. I looked at my watch. It was 11 o’clock. I had retired at the usual hour. I was sober at bedtime and did not recall any trouble in falling asleep. Something had happened to me. I got downstairs as soon as possible, walked around, for a short while and then went into the hotel office. I asked the clerk to give me the tin box. He gave it to me [and] I unlocked it. Cold chills began to chase up and down my vertebrae and frosty globules began to accumulate on my forehead. There was nothing in the box but a few scraps of paper.” The talent manager asked where the hypnotist was but the clerk shrugged. He didn’t know.

Turned out, the wicked Australian hypnotist had absconded with the proceeds, and stuck the talent manager with the bill for three weeks’ lodging. “Did the Australian hypnotize me? Or did he drug me? I am sure I can’t say,” the talent manager mused. “But whatever he did was enough and while I have nothing to say against hypnotists generally, I don’t care to manage any of them, and I have steered clear of them since that time.”

The talent manager didn’t say who his client was, which unfairly cast suspicion on all Australian hypnotists. I like to think it was Edward Albert Hartley, but who knows?