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Monday, January 21, 2013

Telepathy and Temperance

In Illinois during April of 1908...

Mrs. Marvin Miller, of Jacksonville, Illinois, was a passionate Anti-Saloon League member, and a believer in telepathy. To Mrs. Miller’s credit belongs the idea of wedding temperance to telepathy. Mrs. Miller spoke of the idea to her friends, and urged it at several talks to Illinois daughters and mothers. She and her friends even gave a demonstration. According to the Ocala Evening Star of April 3, “[a]t Aurora last week the Rev. William Wasson, rector of the Episcopal church, was scheduled for an address in opposition to the local option. The women…sat in the audience and launched thought waves at him. They say he was so confused that this thoughts became muddled and his language halting.”

With a county by county election on the Prohibition question scheduled for April 7, 1908, the Temperance Thinkers mobilized some 500,000 women to dress all in white and to direct thought waves at voters. “Women arrayed in white will assemble at the polls,” described one paper, “and by concentrated mental effort endeavor to influence the men. The male-citizen will also be subjected to visual influence of an extraordinary character. In order to get to the voting booths he will be compelled to walk between lines of women and girls.” With only a small handful of urban counties dissenting, Illinois barred some 1,500 saloons. Twenty counties voted for an absolute ban on liquor.

The Arizona Republican, reporting on the results, sounded a note of alarm. “We can think of no more powerful influence than the concentrated effort of a half million feminine wills directed towards a certain object. There was nothing unlawful or improper in the exercise of such an influence, provided the thought currents are turned off when the polls closed and were not permitted to play after the counting of the ballots began. In that case, the mental suggestion of the ladies to the election boards would have amounted to hypnotism, which, though not expressly inhibited by the statutes would have been reprehensible.”

As an electoral tool and fad, telepathy seems to have faded after 1908. 

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