LEE the hypnotist, 1898Until I happened upon this 1898 lithograph, I had never pondered the feasibility of telephone-induced trances. But they couldn’t say it if it weren’t true, right? I’ve searched high and low, but have been unable to find even the slightest tidbit of data regarding LEE, our intrepid hypnotist. Was his act not sufficiently dazzling, or was it his rather forgettable name that resulted in him being lost to history? Had I been his manager, I would have certainly taken him aside for a talk regarding the dubious merits of a single-word stage name, particularly one so ordinary. After-all, he was clearly no Madonna. But in his defense, he didn’t go by Lee, but instead was known as, LEE.
Active in an era rife with hypnotists, mediums and fortune-tellers, LEE was in a competitive field, one that made a gimmick, something to set him apart from the crowd, an absolute necessity. “Telephone” was a popular buzz-word at the turn of the century, representing as it did the spirit of progress and invention that was in the air. So our clever and, I’m sure, talented, hypnotist took the the idea of hypno-telephony and developed an act so original, so cutting-edge that… no one remembers him! This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise however, as few such acts are remembered today. And besides, how do you sell tickets to an act whose participants are 50 miles apart?!
Whether it was successful or not, LEE could have been attempting a unique bit of salesmanship…selling tickets to two separate audiences for a single event. The mind reels.Hypnotic telephony Realistically, I can’t see how this act could have impressed, but having nothing more to go on than a very old poster, there’s simply no way of determining what the show entailed. The poster tells us that Lee also engaged in more “conventional” performances, like placing impossibly heavy rocks onto the subjects body, breaking said rock to bits with a sledgehammer. (Yes, hypnotized folk are impervious to pain or physical damage) Then there’s the hypnotized man who’s buried for 36 hours, an act that, with variations, was used into the 1960s. But the hypnotism via telephone was the attention-getter, the one that brought in the crowd.