Abbotts Halloween Special

SPOOKSTERS OF MAGIC PAST AND PRESENT

The Amazing Dr Marquis

by Walter Hudson

The late George Marquis was a frequent and popular contributor to this column. We have shared many of the wild tales and eccentric adventures of this flamboyant showman. In one of his last letters to me, George described his successful midnight spook show of the 1940's. It was different from the run of the mill spook show in that it had very little magic per se. So many shows were merely magic acts which concluded with a minute or two blackout sequence. I am reproducing the letter just as it was written to me.

"My show was 'The Amazing Dr. Marquis and his Horroscopes.' The cast included Hazel Gallagher (Lallah Leali), Vernon Henry, and the DeMaraise Sisters. We opened with the stage in blackout. The music was records playing on 'non synch'. Two flashes and two coffins appeared and then a skeleton from each coffin. The skeletons danced to "Dans Macabre' with special effects. the clock struck twelve as the coffins materialized and a rooster crowed before the dancing skeletons returned to their coffins. The dance was by The DeMaraise Sisters and they did some very good acrobatics. Black light was new and although the people had seen black art acts they had never seen this kind of act. the traveler curtain closed in and the lights came up for my entrance. After a few short remarks I did my Human Radar...seeing with the finger tips. Then Instant Whammy...hypnotism. The dancing handkerchief was next using a miniature coffin instead of the usual Casadega type cabinet. In the Mad Doctor's Dream, I used the arm buzz saw built for my by Owen Brothers. Two mini skirted nurses, Demaraise Sisters, brought out the saw to the strains of 'St. James infirmary'. Lallah Lealli was the patient. the illusion was so new and baffling it was a sure fire hit with the crowd."

"Then I did the Kellar Rope Tie with lots of comedy and real fun. This was done in one. Back to full stage. Music 'Gloomy Sunday'. the blonde, Julia, was lying as a corpse, on a beautiful satin tufted slumber couch. her sister dressed in black was praying before the 'dead one'. Julia moved, awakened and sat up. One half was the gorgeous blonde and Julia wore a Satan costume on the other half of her body. She performed a routine of sexy maneuvering. It appeared as though she was being seduced by the Satan character. When the sister attempted to rescue the living dead the Satan boy tore off her dress. More sex and the crowd liked it. A flash followed and a complete blackout. The two girls and Satan were visible and glowing in the dark through the use of black light. They vanished and the regular black out sequence began. while it was going on, the screen was lowered and the movie began."

"That was it and the show was a sensation on the Warner Brothers, Fox, Publix, and almost every major circuit. Some theaters drew such large crowds there would be three times as many people as the balcony could safely hold. When the lights went out the balcony was actually sagging down under dangerous weight. When the lights were turned on the balcony would be empty. The frightened audience fled during the blackout sequence. One night a Macon, Miss, in the Dreamland Theater, one poor old lady just couldn't make her legs move and when the lights were turned on the movie operator told me the lady was on her knees and shouting, 'Dear God come and get me.' Today, forty years later people would laugh at a spook show. But in those less sophisticated days many were genuinely scared."

"Must tell you another amusing incident. One time Mahendra (Frank Sterling) visited me during a performance in Gulfport, Miss. He had just written a manuscript on 'The Rapping Hand'. I had just bought a used Thayer hand from a trunk and brought it to the stage. Frank gave a mini lecture and then started in with the hand and ended by throwing the hand and board to the stage. It had jammed and he was furious with me"

There were literally hundreds of stories George could and did tell. He had several scrapbooks filled with memorabilia. some of his most valuable pieces of antique magic and posters were destroyed in a fire, but he was always re-collecting whenever he could. Marquis, a copious letter writer in later years, always closed his letters with "Love and Hisses" or "Yours til a cinder." Even on the way out this showman had a weird way of making his exit. His remains were to be cremated and the ashes placed in small containers and distributed to magic enthusiasts...all except his skull which was to be preserved! Who knows? Some day it may turn up in one of the magic museums. George Marquis Kelly would have liked that.



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