The Psychic Next Door (Part 2 of 2)

(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia ShenetteWhat made a psychic a psychic in turn-of-the-century Worcester?  More specifically, was there a typical profile common to members of Worcester's clairvoyant community.  My inquiring mind wanted to know, so I did a bit of research on  I searched some of the names I found in the city directories in the U.S. Census.  I also did a general search using "clairvoyant" under keyword and "Worcester, Worcester County, Massachusetts" under location which pulled up quite a lot.  I also did a general search in GenealogyBank, but unfortunately the more widely circulated Worcester newspapers are not indexed on GenealogyBank.  Not surprisingly, I did find lots of articles on clairvoyants in newspapers from across the country.  In general it seems when they weren't busy assisting in missing persons cases, they were in trouble with the law for one reason or other.

As far as Worcester's psychics go, I noticed a number of the women were older, often widows or divorced.  Many lived alone or in boarding houses.  I think it might be easy to be judgmental, and assume all psychics were con artists trying to make a quick buck at the expense of their customers.  While I'm sure that may be so for some my guess is many of the women, perhaps women with no education or limited financial resources, were trying to make a living as best they knew how.  A certain percentage probably believed they had a true gift.  Others may have had a flare for the dramatic. One woman lived with her adult son and his young family.  The son's profession is listed in the census as "actor."  And yes, I do know I found the correct people in the census, because for most of the people listed their profession is actually given as clairvoyant or spiritual medium.

Many, though not all, of Worcester's clairvoyants lived or had their business establishments in the downtown area with easy access by public transportation.  I love this business listing I found in the Worcester city directory for 1905.

Electric and Botanic Physician and
Medical Clairvoyant.
656 Pleasant St. Worcester, Mass.
Office Hours: 10 A.M. to 12P.M. and
1.30 to 4.30 and 7 to 8 P.M.
Wednesday and Friday Evenings reserved
'Phone call 2825-2
Diagnosis of Diseases by lock of hair $1.00.
Name, age and location of the person required.
The June and Tatnuck Electric
Cars pass the door every 7 to 10 minutes.
Take the cars at the corner of Main
and Pleasant Streets.

Mrs. Dr. Smith worked nights and weekends, AND was on a trolley line.  I'm fascinated by the "Diagnosis of Diseases by lock of hair..." thing.  I will admit to being more than a bit curious as to her education and the source of her credentialing agency or institution.  One of the non-Worcester related articles I read on GenealogyBank was about a  court case concerning a particular psychic and her use of the word "physician".  Apparently an MD took exception to her rather liberal interpretation of the word.  Also what's interesting, I noticed that earlier city directory listings for physicians include a wide variety of clairvoyants and their various sub specialties.  The 1872 volume of the Worcester city directory includes the following specialists--eclectic physician, pulmonist, analytical, Thomsonian, movement cure, botanical, Indian, electrician, cancer and tumor.  Aren't you just curious for more details on each one of those specialties.  I can't help but think God help the poor souls who sought the advice of a "clairvoyant physician" for guidance regarding their cancer treatment.

While I lean towards the skeptical side of things regarding psychics I did have a really interesting "psychic" experience once.  The experience was strange enough to keep my mind open to the possibility that true psychics do exist.  Many, many years ago my mom and I went in to Boston shopping on a cold winter's day.  We took the bus into the city.  At the end of our shopping trip we were waiting in the old, dingy bus station which use to be on Essex St. trying to get warm before our bus came.  This older woman, who looked like what we use to call a bag lady in less enlightened times, sat in the seat next to us and started talking to us.  It was like she knew all about us.  She knew I was an only child.  She knew my dad was in the Navy.  The conversation, which was mostly one-sided on her part, was filled with accurate information about our lives.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but let's just say the experience was strange enough for me to still recall it thirty years later.    

Obviously this post is not an in depth study of spiritualism or even the spiritualists/clairvoyants in my own home town.  I am simply interested in learning about people and social patterns, and find this subject absolutely fascinating and thought I'd share a little bit of my own experience and what I learned researching the psychics in my town.  Is there a psychic in your family tree?  Were there psychics in your town?  Have you or a family member had an interesting experience with a psychic.  I'd love to know.

I see a blog comment in your future...

The Psychic Next Door (Part 1 of 2) - Halloween

Other Posts You Might Like:

Amanuensis Monday: Clairvoyants and Distractions
Flu 1918 (Part 1 of 3) - Amanuensis Monday
Madness Monday: The Stuff We Throw Away, and...
The Volcano of Wrath (Part 1 of 2) - Amanuensis Monday

The Psychic Next Door (Part 1 of 2)

The Psychic Is In...
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)

Was Your Granny A Medium?

Last winter I was reviewing some microfilm at the library and came across several ads in the classified section of the newspaper that caught my attention.  The ads were listed under the "Clairvoyants" section heading of the classifieds.  Here's one of them:


   I do not paint a picture of roses and sunshine for you when trouble and darkness is really about you. I do not gladden your ear for the sake of gold--for gold is not my God.
   One dollar may seem to you a great outlay, but when you stop and consider it will protect you against weakness and nervousness, troubles and worriment perhaps all the rest of your life.
   It will insure success to every hope, ambition and business venture.  It will bring about such conditions of happiness and contentment such as you may have never know before, and you will have confidence in yourself to have power over friends and foes, to make them do your bidding, which will be simply MARVELOUS.  It is truly a wonderful secret power.

168 Pleasant St.


Special Offer Coupon to Ladies
   Cut this out and bring it to 168 Pleasant Street, Worcester, and receive a $3 reading for $1.  This coupon is good any time.  Save this for future reference.  Hours, 10 to 8 p.m.

Readings Will Be $3 and $5 After This Month


Wow, AMERICA'S GREATEST SPIRITUALIST and a coupon!  AND all right here in Worcester! If you're like me, there's nothing better than a serious deal with a coupon to draw you in.  Let's just say that if I was in the market for psychic services all the other clairvoyants' ads would pale in comparison once I spotted that coupon.

On another visit to the to the library I noticed a business subject heading for "Clairvoyants" in a Worcester city directory.  I never knew clairvoyants had their own business listing in the city directory!  Not only that, there were a bunch of people listed.  I started to wonder, who the heck are all of these people?

I will admit, my fascination with the whole clairvoyant thing predates my more recent discoveries in old classifieds and city directories.  My husband refers to it as my "fascination with the strange, the mysterious, and the hard to believe."  How can you not love that stuff?  Frankly I thought, "Psychics! What a great topic for a blog post for October!"  It's kind of like peanut butter and jelly or Mom and apple pie.  Halloween and psychics--they just go together!  Plus you just can't go wrong with a good psychic story.

So back to my original question, who are these people?  I reviewed the "Clairvoyants" section of the Worcester city directories from 1900 through 1920 (Clearly I don't have enough to do with my time...).  Over a twenty year time period a total of 38 people, mostly women, are listed.  Not surprisingly, there are more clairvoyants listed in the earlier directories.  By 1920 there are only four clairvoyants still practicing the "craft."  What's interesting is many of these people were not fly-by-nighters ready to cash in on a quick buck and then move on.  Worcester's psychics were rooted in the community and sometimes lived in the city for years.

Here is a list of people who appear in the "Clairvoyants" section of the Worcester city directories business listings from 1900 to 1920.  Their years as active psychics (meaning the range of years for which they were listed in the directory) appear in parentheses.  I'm not including their business or home addresses, because not surprisingly, many of them moved around quite a bit.

Mrs. Sarah E. Ashton (1900-1916)
E.W. Bond (1902-1905)
Mrs. Katherine Brochwitz (1917-1919)
Mrs. M. Jennie Brown (1904-1909)
Mrs. Fannie Bruce (1904)
Freda Davis (1917)
Mrs. Sarah E. Deforest (1909-1910)
Mrs. Jennie Devoe (1900-1901)
Richard L. Drexel (1912)
Mrs. Reba Eames (1901-1914)
Dulsie B. Everton (1905)
Lucinda Gamage (1903)
Mrs. Gena F. Grant (1904-1905)
Herbert L. Harwood (1905)
Mrs. L.T. Jeffries (1905-1916)
Mrs. Helen W. Kenney (1912)
Mrs. Rose Laraney (1900-1901)
Madame G. LaRoche (1919-1920)
Maybelle Lefort (1908-1919)
Mrs. F.F. Linwood (1900-1905, 1916-1920)
Lillis Nichols (1913-1916)
Mrs. Annie M. Manning (1900-1913)
Mary Zinn Masia (1917)
Mrs. Alice A. Middlemas (1916-1920)
Mrs. Lillie O'Connor (1917-1918)
Annie M. Pentlaw (1903-1908)
S. Henry Prentiss (1900-1911)
Mrs. Christabel Rich (1905, 1908-1909)
Mrs. L.B. Smith (1903-1913)
Mrs. Julia A Spaulding (1900-1902)
Mrs. G.M. Spring (1901)
Mrs. Willard Stewart (1908-1920)
John B. Strand (1900)
Mrs. F. Washburn (1903-1904)
Mrs. Mary Ella Whitney (1900-1910)
Mrs. Mary A. Wilkins (1902-1903)
Clarence L. Willis (1916-1917)
Mrs. Lillie M. Zade (1918)

The Psychic Next Door (Part 2 of 2)

Other Posts You Might Like:

Amanuensis Monday: Clairvoyants and Distractions
COG 97: Researching "The Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 1 of 4)
A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)
Reading the Classifieds - Amanuensis Monday

October is Polish-American Heritage Month! - Wordless Wednesday

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) This is a photo of my grandfather's brother, Alexander Szarejko (11 Nov 1892-21 Jul 1962), and his wife, Klara (Kruzicki) Szarejko (08 Aug 1898-29 Jan 1991).  I believe the photo was taken in April of 1926.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Presenter Interview: Colleen Fitzpatrick, Forensic Genealogist
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Polka Time!
Not So Wordless Wednesday: It's Costume Month at Heritage Zen!
Treasure Chest Thursday: Travel Diary, Poland 1937

Choronzak - Tombstone Tuesday

Joseph (1873-1918) and Antonina (1882-1918) Choronzak,
Notre Dame Cemetery, Worcester, MA
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)

 Joseph Choronzak 1873-1918 his wife Antonina 1882-1918

The Choronzaks are the couple I wrote about in my three part series, Flu 1918. Joseph and his wife Antonina died on the same day of the flu, and according to a newspaper account left seven children orphaned.  I found and photographed their grave which is located in an old section of Notre Dame Cemetery in Worcester. I was also contacted by yet another grandchild of Joseph and Antonina who kindly sent me a photo of their grave as well. Interestingly, many of the other graves in the immediate area appear to be the graves of victims of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. I plan to post more about some of the other flu victims in the near future, so check back for additional posts. If you are interested in reading a little bit more about one of Joseph and Antonina's grandchildren check out the two Mystery Monday links listed below.

Other Posts You Might Like:

Mystery Monday: Yet Another Polish Wedding...
Send Up A Flare, Mystery Bride Identified! - Mystery Monday
Going Home: Our Lady of Czestochowa, Worcester, MA
The Stories My Grandmother Told Me

Maine in October - Wordless Wednesday

Dock Square, Kennebunkport, ME
(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) We had the most amazing weather for our Columbus Day weekend away in Maine.  The high temperature was 83 degrees!   We had dinner outside in Freeport after shopping at L.L. Bean on Saturday night and spent some time Monday afternoon at the beach.  This is October?  What a beautiful weekend!
Kennebunkport, ME

Wells Harbor, Wells, ME 

Wells Harbor, Wells, ME
Other Posts You Might Like:

Wordless Wednesday: Fall Weekends in New England
Not So Wordless Wednesday: It's Costume Month at Heritage Zen!
COG 97: Researching "The Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 1 of 4)
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Polka Time! 

Catechists, Our Lady of Czestochowa - Wordless Wednesday

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) My son began a new year of CCD a couple of weeks ago.  Things have certainly changed over the last ninety plus years.  I'm not positive, but I believe this may be a photo of the children in the religious education program at Our Lady of Czestochowa (also known as St. Mary's) in Worcester, MA.  The photo was probably taken in the late 1910s.  My grandmother, Antonina (Bulak) Szerejko, is the young teacher in the white blouse holding a book.  Her sister, Helen Bulak, is the third person to her left wearing a dark, round-brim hat.  Father Boleslaw Bojanowski, the longest serving pastor at St. Mary's, is to the left of my aunt.

Take a close look at the photo.  Observe the serious look on the children's faces.  In the front row, near the sidewalk to the left, there is an unhappy looking little boy with two black eyes.  I wonder how that happened.  In the middle of the photo, in the first row of children standing, there is a child with a shaved head.  Lice?  Illness?

Times were tough.  My grandmother use to say, "There was nothing good about the good old days." I think some of the children in this photo might agree...

Other Posts You Might Like:

Flu 1918 (Part 1 of 3) - Amanuensis Monday
Going Home: Our Lady of Czestochowa, Worcester, MA
A Matter of Habit: Solving a Mystery
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: WWI Red Cross Volunteers

Harvey Ball and World Smile Day - Tombstone Tuesday

Harvey Ross Ball (10 July 1921-12 Apr 2001), Notre Dame Cemetery, Worcester, MA
(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) I decided to post a photo of Harvey Ross Ball's gravestone in honor of World Smile Day which is on October 7, 2011. Worcester native Harvey Ball was a commercial artist and the original designer of the smiley face.  If you think Mr. Ball made a huge profit off of the smiley we all know and love, you are wrong.  Mr. Ball never copyrighted or trademarked his smiley and was paid the princely sum of $45 in 1963 for his work.  By all accounts Mr. Ball never regretted his decision, and was a goodwill ambassador embodying the true spirit of his iconic symbol.  Smile!

Other Posts You Might Like:

Tombstone Tuesday: Jacob Riis, Riverside Cemetery, Barre, MA
Worcester Tornado Memorial - Tombstone Tuesday
Fascinating Ladies
Tuesday's Tip: A Tale of Two Indexers

My Family Tree: A Literal Interpretation

(Original Image and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)  Okay, so there's Auntie Sophie at the top of the tree.  Grandma is in the middle, and Auntie Helen is standing on the ground at the bottom...

I posted this photo a while back for Wordless Wednesday.  Had I known our Carnival of Genealogy topic for October was going to be "Your Family History If A Tree" I would have saved it for COG, but I didn't so oh, well...c'est la vie.   I figured I'd pull it out again, because it seems to be such a perfect interpretation of this month's theme. Unfortunately, given that the photo appears to have been taken during the colder months and this is New England, I don't know exactly what kind of tree my "family tree" is.  

What kind of tree might it be, and what kind of tree would best represent my family?  I really don't know.  The tree in my photo isn't tall enough or grand enough to be an oak.  It's clearly not a willow.  It doesn't display a willow's cascade of branches.  I don't think it's a McIntosh or another type of New England apple.  Maybe it's best that I can't figure out what my tree really is.  The mystery behind the photo makes the photo all the more intriguing.

I love this photo.  It so perfectly offers insight into my grandmother's personality--her sense of fun, her close relationship with her sister Helen and her cousin Sophie, and of course her snappy sense of style.  My grandmother was never one to leave the house without her "beads and earrings" and in this case her hat.  Don't you just love the hats?  

If you suddenly came upon an old family portrait or photo, going as far back as your family tree goes, which of your ancestors would you like to see perched in a tree?  An immigrant?  A cowboy? A Puritan perhaps?  What would he or she be wearing?  Would it be a fun photo or a serious portrait?  I think by nature it would have to be lighthearted, but maybe not.  What type of tree would it be?  A willow?  An oak?  A nut?  Or would your tree be like mine, a mystery for the ages...

Submitted for the 110th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

Other Posts You Might Like:

The Stories My Grandmother Told Me
A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)
Flu 1918 (Part 1 of 3) - Amanuensis Monday
COG 97: Researching "The Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 1 of 4)