'MUSIC HALL MIRACLES.
'''DR.'' BODIE'S STAGE CURES.
'FAKES AND FICTION.
'(From Our Special Correspondent.)
'London, November 5, 1909.
'One of the most amusing civil actions heard in the Law Courts in recent years was that brought by a young man names Irvine against ''Dr.'' Walford Bodie, a gentleman who has been posing before the public for years as a marvellous healer of paralytics and unfortunates suffering from all kinds of physical and metal afflictions. ''Dr.'' Bodie, who calls himself a ''blodless surgeon and medical electrician,'' claims also mesmeric and hypnotic powers of the most wonderful order. Irvine, an impressionable youth, longed to emulate Bodie's feats, and in return for £1,000 in hard cash, Bodie guaranteed to teach Irvine all the medical, surgical, and other wonders that he himself could perform - inter alia: -
'To enter the ''cage of death'' and come out unscathed.
'To stand in the ''magic circle,'' and, while those around were doubled up in agony, to stand calm and smiling.
'By the force of will to prevent a man who sat in the fatal electrocution chair from being shrivelled up.
'To make paralytics walk.
'''The Magic Circle.''
'Dr. Bodie took the young man on tour with him, giving him a couple of pounds a week and a promise that in three years' time he would be a fully qualified doctor - a la Bodie presumably. But Irvine speedily came to the conclusion that whatever Bodie's accomplishments in the medical line, he was primarily merely a trickster, that his ''curers'' were fakes, and his patient mainly paid accomplices; in short, that Bodie was nothing but a fraud. So he asked for his £1,000 back, and failing to get it sued Bodie in the usual way.
'In court Irvine, with the assistance of witnesses, ''gave away'' Bodie's show in a manner most complete. Starting with the ''magic circle,'' Irvine described how members of the audience went on the stage and stood holding hands with one another and Dr. Bodie. An electric current was announced to be passed through the magic circle. The witness himself appeared to turn the switches.
'All the others tumbled about with the stock, but Dr. Bodie stood calm and smiling, like Ajax defying the lightning.
'The chief point of the trick was that the ''members of the audience'' who went up were a little company that travelled about with Bodie from town to town, and were paid by him. If any real members of the public went they were ''discouraged,'' but if they persisted they got all the ''shock'' they wanted, not from an electric current, because no current was used, but from the elbows, knees, and feet of Bodie's assistants. The next item of the Bodie programme was
'The Cage of Death.
'Before going into it Bodie announced that he was about to undertake the most daring experiment ever attempted by any living electrician. The current was such that it would kill anybody except him. He touched the metal with iron rods and sparks flew. Fireworks were sometimes used to enhance the fiery effect. A reward was offered to anybody who would ''duplicate the experiment'' and enter the cage. But anyone venturesome enough to offer to do so had first to insure himself for the benefit of his widow and children. Irvine tried the cage himself, and beyond experiencing a mild, tingling sensation, was not a penny the worse for his daring. The reason was simple. The ''cage of death'' was merely a contrivance in common use in hospitals for electrical treatment, the only danger Dr. Bodie incurred was that he might possibly get a spark from a firework in his eye.
'Concerning Dr. Bodie's alleged ''cures,'' several witnesses gave evidence, all with a view to showing that they not only received no benefit from his treatment, but were for stage purposes, made to appear much worse than they were. The ''doctor,'' it seems, was careful to interview all would-be patients before he allowed them to appear on the stage to be ''cured.'' Only those who were incapable of doing this were sent home with a bottle of liniment.
'All these witnesses declared that they had received no benefit whatever from Bodie's treatment, which in one or two cases caused the patients exquisite pain.
'Very amusing were some of the witnesses called to prove that Dr. Bodie's hypnotic powers were mainly ''fakes.'' Once, at Aberdeen, one of his paid assistants dressed up as a midshipman, and challenged the ''doctor'' to mesmerise him. Of course the doctor succeeded after an apparently tremendous tussle of wills. But meanwhile some sailors in the audience had begun to ask pertinent questions about the pseudo-midshipman's arm badges. The assistant had made a bad blunder, for he had decorated his uniform with badges which would really have taken him between 20 and 30 years to earn!
'On Dr. Bodie's behalf several witnesses were called to prove that he had cured them of deformities and paralysis, but the court had only their word for it that they ever really suffered from the ills of which they alleged Bodie cured them. One of these witnesses declared that Bodie had cured her of ''spontaneous dislocation of the hips and compound infantile paralysis of the foot.'' When the ''doctor'' went into the box he made some startling admissions. He calmly admitted that he possessed no recognised medical qualifications, and that the letters he had tacked on to his name represented worthless degrees conferred on him by American institutions trafficking in such things.
'He further admitted that most of the statements he made regarding his medical education and his travels in lands in a work he published under the title The Bodie Book, were flagrant fiction. He justified these tales on the ground of ''showman's privilege.'' As a matter of fact, Bodie, on his own confession, has never been out of the old country. Reading his book in the light of his own admissions one can only regret that ''Dr.'' Bodie did not invade the literary field so profitably exploited by Rider Haggard. Whatever his faults and failings ''Dr.'' Bodie is certainly the possessor of what Andrew Lang termed ''a mighty imagination.''
'The jury gave Mr. Irvine the £1,000 he claimed.'
(The Advertiser, Adelaide, South Australia, Tuesday, 7 December 1909, p. 11h)
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