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See table tipping and Ouija board.
The same as demon (which see) but with this spelling, possibly referring to a Greek secondary divinity between gods and men.
The American Davenport brothers, Ira (1839-1911) and William (1841-1877), caused a major sensation in the late 1800s with a spectacular and puzzling vaudeville stage act which seemed to support belief in spiritualist doctrine. It consisted of their being tied hand and foot and then being locked into a large cabinet with an assortment of props. Bells would sound, musical instruments would be played, strange hands would appear through openings in the cabinet, and a bewildered member taken from the audience would have his clothes turned inside out and various other indignities would be inflicted on him. The cabinet was often opened quickly right in the midst of these events, and the two Davenports were always found to be still securely bound and seemingly “in trance.”
The brothers had developed their act as teenagers, following the sensation caused by the Fox sisters. Before long the father of the two “mediums” resigned his position with the Buffalo, New York, police force and took over managing what quickly got to be a very profitable operation. They were joined by William H. Fay, another Buffalo resident who became an important agent of their operation. They developed their tied-in-a-box routine and for the next ten years toured the United States with it. Then they arrived in England, a country that had accepted the idea of spiritualism enthusiastically and still embraced it even after it had begun to wane in the country where it was born. England was fully primed for belief in the Davenports.
Davis, Andrew Jackson
(1826-1910) Known as “The Poughkeepsie Seer,” Davis was the son of a shoemaker, with very little formal education. He claimed from age fourteen to be able to diagnose illnesses by clairvoyance. For a while, he made his living at this questionable profession, then in 1847 he published his major work among many that were to come, The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind. Some thirty-four editions of this book appeared in the next thirty years. A brief quotation will serve to illustrate the pretentious nature of this opus:
In the beginning the Univercoelum was one boundless, undefinable, and unimaginable ocean of Liquid Fire. . . . Matter and Power were existing as a Whole, inseparable. The Matter contained the substance to produce all suns, all worlds, and systems of worlds, throughout the immensity of Space. It contained the qualities to produce all things that are existing upon each of those worlds. The Power contained Wisdom and Goodness, Justice, Mercy and Truth. It contained the original and essential Principle that is displayed throughout the immensity of Space, controlling worlds and systems of worlds, and producing Motion, Life, Sensation and Intelligence, to be impartially disseminated upon their surfaces as Ultimates.
This is typical of such literature, using undefined terms, generalities, and sweeping claims that are never further looked into. It has an appeal to the uneducated, who accept it as being equivalent to genuine philosophical and scientific works of which they have an equal lack of comprehension. And, to some academics, this kind of writing can appear to be a step beyond their own abilities, especially if it seems to state something they wish to accept.
Some of the contents of The Principles of Nature were plagiarized from the works of Swedenborg, a mystic whose books had just been published as Davis began his own work. Davis in some cases used as his own, word for word, long passages from Swedenborg, both in this book and in his subsequent writings. This has been accepted by Davis's followers as proof that he was inhabited by the spirit of Swedenborg while writing, rather than evidence that he might have been cheating. They reject the other, more parsimonious explanation.
Davis also said that the planet Saturn was inhabited by humans more advanced than those here on Earth, with other human civilizations on Mars and Jupiter, and more primitive humans on Mercury and Venus. In 1847 he hardly had to worry about space probes revealing the facts about these matters.
Davis invented the term Summerland to designate the undefined place to which souls went after the death of the owners. This was an attractive and welcome terminology for some of the spiritualists, since it relieved the believers of any need for a religious connection.
In his last years, Davis ran a small bookshop in Boston.
Dee, Dr. John
(1527-1608) Prophecy and other assorted supernatural abilities were attributed to a contemporary of Nostradamus, the brilliant Welshman Dr. John Dee. He was many things — mathematician, navigator, cartographer, prolific writer, master spy, astrologer, and most trusted adviser to Queen Elizabeth I of England. Described as a tall, thin, mysterious man with a long pointed beard, Dee was one of the most powerful but subtle political influences of his day.
A genuinely accomplished scholar who was never reluctant to mix a little attractive claptrap in with his otherwise valuable teachings, he practiced astrology and searched for the legendary philosopher's stone that could heal all ills and transmute base metals into gold. It is believed that Dee was the model for Shakespeare's character Prospero in The Tempest.
Beginning in 1581, Dee dabbled in almost all the magical arts, and early in his career he labored under the shady reputation of a sorcerer. Before Elizabeth Tudor ascended the throne, and while she was a reluctant resident of the Tower of London, he predicted for her a very long life and a very high position in the kingdom (a very successful prophecy!), and from that moment on, he enjoyed her considerable patronage and trust.
In spite of a certain amount of dismay she felt over Dee's open association with acknowledged rascals and rumored practitioners of black magic, the Virgin Queen appointed him to ever more important positions. Elizabeth had in Dee a skilled cartographer, mathematician, and navigator who served her well, but she valued above all his purported abilities to predict the future.
Some of Dee's magical paraphernalia are still preserved in London at the British Museum, and the prize object of the display is a magic black obsidian glass mirror seven inches in diameter fashioned in Mexico by the Aztec culture. In it, Dee claimed he could see future events by what is known as scrying. This is done by looking into a bowl of water, a crystal, or — as in Dee's case — a special mirror or speculum he called his Angelical Stone. He said that it had been given him by the angels Raphael and Gabriel. (This was later owned by British author Horace Walpole and was sold at auction to an unknown buyer in 1842.) Dee said that an angel appeared to him in the crystal and with a wand pointed out numbers and letters in a chart which spelled out messages in a language he called Enochian, using twenty-one characters. Surprisingly, this language has a real syntax and grammar, though those aspects are closely related to English.
Dee himself did not actually use the mirror, and admitted that he'd never mastered the ability to scry; he left that to others such as an assistant named Barnabas Saul, who soon lost his power and was replaced by one Edward Kelley (1555-1595), a scoundrel who claimed mediumistic and magical abilities and who transmitted the mystical messages to Dee.
Edward Kelley, the charlatan who ruined the reputation and the life of Dr. John Dee. He was a convicted counterfeiter and thus had cropped ears, so he wore his hair long and full to hide this fact.
In the later years of his life, John Dee turned his ill-directed attention to alchemy. Worse still, from 1582 on, he furthered his acquaintance with Kelley to the point of dependence. That association was the downfall of the brilliant scholar, for at that point, he abandoned all his truly useful and productive work to seek the ever-elusive shortcut to wealth and to divine wisdom. He soon found himself betrayed by Kelley and others who fed upon what was left of his fast-fleeing fame and repute. In 1583, a mob raided his home at Mortlake and destroyed many of his books, manuscripts, talismans and magical devices.
He served his last really responsible position as warden of the Collegiate Church in Manchester and was active there during an infamous event known as The Six, in which a group of children in Manchester imagined themselves to be possessed by demons. What was then referred to as a “cunning man” was brought in to observe and report on their situation. This poor man was caught up in the hysteria and was eventually executed on suspicion of being a witch himself. John Dee's only contribution to a solution was to advise the children to fast and pray. It was little comfort to the “cunning man,” whose cunning apparently deserted him when most needed.
Upon the death of Elizabeth in 1603, and the ascent to the throne of James I, who had no patience with anyone pretending to possess any sort of unorthodox (non-Christian) magical powers, Dr. Dee was stripped of his honors and his income and sent to live in the countryside incommunicado. He spent the final five years of his life in extreme poverty until his death in 1608 at the very remarkable age of eighty-one. His library of more than four thousand books on the occult, mathematics and cartography — the largest collection in Britain at that time — was dispersed soon after his death. He is buried at Mortlake.
His assistant, Kelley, was convicted of counterfeiting (again) and was killed escaping prison.
British Museum visitors may also see Dee's rose-tinted crystal, engraved gold and wax talisman tablets (in particular, the Golden Disc of the Four Castles), wands, and formula books on display.
de Freitas, José Pedro
See Arigó, José.
A psychological phenomenon in which the subject experiences a situation that he or she feels strongly has been experienced before. It is believed that a unique combination of sensory inputs (hearing an unusually worded phrase along with perceiving a distinctive odor, for example) may bring about recall of a previous similar or identical combination, thus creating the illusion that the entire experience has been previously encountered.
Since this is a strange experience, it is often enthusiastically brought up as an example of a probable psi phenomenon, which it is not.
See also cryptomnesia.
De la Warr, George
(1905-1969) A civil engineer from England who became wealthy by selling quack medical equipment. By stroking a rubber pad mounted on a mysterious black box modeled on that of another quack, Ruth Drown, De la Warr said he was able to diagnose and treat diseases. He made a fortune renting out the devices and training people to use them, and he might very well have believed that they really worked.
His boxes had a number of dials which were to be twisted until the stroking of the rubber pad seemed to change in character. The setting of the dials then gave the operator a number. Each box was accompanied by the Guide to Clinical Condition, a list of numbers that could be consulted to determine the medical condition of the subject. For example, 901 would mean “toxins” and 907 would be “fracture.” A “bruise” was indicated by 80799, and 60404 meant a “secretion imbalance.”
Other boxes designed and manufactured by De la Warr were used to actually treat patients, and one even photographed “thought forms.” A disastrous court case brought against De la Warr revealed testimony of just how silly his procedures were, and though he won the case, the event brought his practice to an end. By then he'd made his fortune and didn't much care.
See also Dr. Albert Abrams and Ruth Drown.
Delphi (also, Delphos)
The Oracle of Delphi, probably the best known of the Greek divining agencies, was essentially a political force. The women in charge were not above accepting bribes to give appropriate answers to inquirers. It was believed that the god Apollo spoke through the Pythian priestesses while they were in various states of drug-induced trance.
The ambiguous nature of their utterances became a popular joke, as when they were asked to tell King Croesus the outcome of an upcoming battle to be fought across a river. The response: “When Croesus passes over the river he overthrows the strength of an empire.” The questioner was pleased and left a generous offering at the temple. A great empire did fall that day, but it was his own. Such procedures gave rise to the expression “Delphic statement,” used to designate anything that can be taken two or more ways.
Today, investment advisors and meteorologists are the tamer versions of the Oracle of Delphi.
(or daemon, from the Greek daimon) A malevolent spirit. Demons are often invisible, but can see, usually have wings and can fly, know the future, can propagate (with other demons or with humans), and can die. Demons come in all sizes, so they can enter and inhabit the bodies of humans and animals, but are inhibited from this by properly-selected charms and they fear fire, water, light, salt, and certain herbs. Sneezing is said to provide a demon with the opportunity of flying up one's nose, thus the expression, “Bless you!” or “Bonne santé!” or “Gesundheit!” as a response to a sneeze. It's not known to help, but it can't hurt.
The Lesser Key of Solomon, the Lemegeton manuscript now in the British Museum, lists seventy-three demons in hierarchial progression, but there are so many other menus to choose from, one is hard put to decide which listing to accept. These head demons, former rebellious angels, bring about storms, shipwreck, earthquakes, and other cataclysms.
Demons, as drawn by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Occultists, with their uncanny wisdom, have estimated that there are 7,250,000 demons currently in action, who are controlled by some seventy-nine higher powers. The hierarchy of demons is as follows:
Thirteen marquis demons
There are thirteen other less fancy officers in this court, and the regular common demons are under the control of this royalty.
The Talmud, not to be outdone, declares that there are 7,405,926 demons in existence. The Greek philosophers Porphyry and Thales believed in demons. The Templars, a group of French knights dedicated to protecting Christians on their way to slaughter infidels during the Crusades, adopted the demon Baphomet as part of their strange religious rites, a fact all the more mysterious because the name is a corruption of Mahomet.
Demons are believed to inhabit deserts in preference to most other zones, perhaps favoring the closer resemblance to their home clime.
See also Johannes Weyer.
The study and classification of the hierarchy of demons, their powers and limitations, attributes, multiple names, and derivations. Not considered a very useful pursuit, but a good conversation piece.
(DOP; in Russia referred to as “bio-introscopy”) In the 1950s, this was a popular subject for sensational news stories and for parapsychology. It was claimed that some persons were able to “see” without using their eyes, scanning printed matter with their fingertips, with their noses, or even with their feet. At one point, in 1990, it was even claimed that some children in China were able to “read” bits of paper crumpled and placed in their armpits or their ears, or even by sitting on the paper!
In Mexico, the Instituto Mas Vida (“More Life Institute”) took up teaching DOP to the children of wealthy patrons. Blindfolded, the children specialized in reading large-type books opened at their feet while they were seated. It seems no accident that this is the perfect position in which to peek down the sides of the blindfold. When a piece of blocking paper was inserted below the chin, the child was always struck blind.
One famous practitioner of the art was a Russian psychic named Rosa Kuleshova, who, like the Chinese children, also read with her posterior. Another Russian, also famous for moving small objects with fine, invisible nylon threads, was Nina Kulagina, who can be seen in a black-and-white film made decades ago at a Leningrad laboratory, reading letter cards posted on the wall behind her. To a conjuror, the method is obvious: She brings her right hand up before her eyes, then it dips into her pocket, emerges and is casually shown empty. This suggests that she was peeking into a small mirror held in that hand, then the mirror was dumped when she'd had her glance. As if to verify this theory, she read off the cards — and even one two-digit number — in reverse order. Certainly there was no reason for her to have held her hand before her eyes, except to accomplish the trick as described.
The Chinese children were found at one point to be using a one-ahead method with the crumpled papers, and since the controls were nonexistent in any case, they had no problem cheating, if they had wanted to, when their magical powers failed them.
A term referring to a sort of angel or Hindu god. Yet another class of minor spirits.
A figure in religious mysticism depicted as a man-figure with horns, a tail, and cloven feet. Frequently, in Italian and French sculpture, the figure also has a conspicuous organ of procreation. The Devil is often synonymous with Satan.
Despite his usual evil reputation, he was credited in medieval times with some good deeds as well as bad. In anthropomorphic form, he was said to work in deep silver mines where human beings could not go, to build massive bridges, and to assist sailors in navigating through hazardous waters — in response to appropriate prayers or incantations, of course.
Some of the greatest support for belief in devils and demons was provided by St. Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274), who endorsed as fact every fable that had ever been adopted by Christianity from other religions. Nothing, no matter how bizarre, was unacceptable to St. Thomas. He even claimed that devils could produce progeny:
When children are born of the intercourse of devils with human beings, they do not come from the seed of the devil or of the human body he has assumed, but of the seed which he has extracted from another human being. The same devil, who, as a woman, has intercourse with a man can also, in the form of a man, have intercourse with a woman.
Since no half-devils were extant, this explanation took care of that awkward fact; the devilish progeny would look just like real, regular persons.
(also, witch's mark) In books dedicated to the identification of witches, it is said that Satan places his mark upon the body of a witch, usually a red or blue spot, to more easily recognize his property. The mark was also believed to be insensitive to pain and to not bleed if pierced.
Tertullian (circa 155 -222), one of the Latin Fathers, certified that witches were so marked, and this became the official and convenient manner of recognizing these evil folks, since no one is free of some sort of scar, mole, crease, wart, or bump that can be elevated to the status of a Satanic brand mark, especially when substantial rewards are available to the one who discovers such a sign. As a result, witch-hunters eagerly examined every part of a suspect's body, accepting the slightest suggestion of a mark as evidence. They were invariably successful.
Devils of Loudun
See Loudun, Devils of.
See Bermuda Triangle.
de Wohl, Louis
(Ludwig Von Wohl-Musciny, 1903-1961) A Hungarian-born astrologer. Learning of the interest in astrology shown by the German Nazis, in 1940 the British put together their own — equally secret — group of astrologers, calling it their “black group,” within the Department of Psychological Warfare. They put Captain Louis de Wohl in charge.
This man, who had arrived in England as a refugee in 1935, was chosen by the British because he said he knew the techniques used by Karl Ernst Krafft (the German Nazi astrologer) for making his forecasting, and it became his job to anticipate what their occultist might advise the warlords of Germany to do.
It appears that de Wohl had misrepresented and hyperbolized his talents to the British, and they did not retain his services for long. He wrote some fake astrological articles that contained discouraging predictions for Nazi Germany, for use in equally fake astrological magazines. These were distributed throughout Europe by various means.
Not ignoring the renewed German interest in the sixteenth-century French prophet Nostradamus either, de Wohl also invented some pro-British/anti-Nazi quatrains in an attempt to neutralize Krafft's work. He created a 124-page book titled Nostradamus prophezeit den Kriegsverlauf (“Nostradamus Predicts the Course of the War”), which of course predicted the fall of the Reich. The book was printed in huge quantities and dropped over occupied territories by the Allies in 1943.
An interesting question is whether or not either side in this psychological World War II battle actually had any real belief in astrology or in Nostradamus; both sides have officially denied any such belief, even up to the present. In any case, the expensive and ludicrous campaign failed to have much effect for either of the warring factions.
See Hubbard, Lafayette Ronald.
Dingwall, Dr. Eric J.
(1890-1986) Born in Sri Lanka, an anthropologist by training, British scientist Dr. Dingwall became interested in psychical and parapsychological research at an early age, and was renowned as a major investigator of psychic claims. He knew many of the major figures in the field and was highly respected by believers and skeptics. He was an expert in conjuring techniques, and was a member of the London Magic Circle as well as of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). He was also associated with the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
Dr. Dingwall was a major investigator of Margery Crandon and served as a general gadfly to the SPR. In one instance, when he discovered that the SPR had developed incriminating data on the work of George Soal and had been withholding it, Dingwall insisted that they publish their findings or he would do so. Wisely, they did so.
A respected and much-loved researcher, Dr. Dingwall abandoned parapsychology in 1969 and died at age ninety-six in 1986 with the conviction that, even though he had failed, ever, to find real evidence of psychic phenomena — especially of survival-after-death, which was the important subject for him — there was probably something there which he had merely failed to find.
Discovery of Witchcraft, The
(original spelling was “Discoverie of Witchcraft”) See Scot, Reginald.
Also called the “Mantic Art.” The process of determining the future; discovering hidden or lost articles, persons, or substances; deciding guilt or innocence by various means; and generally of finding out required knowledge. Dr. Charles Mackay, author of the remarkable book Extraordinary Popular Delusions (1841), lists there fifty-two species of divination claimed by practitioners.
One form of divination is metoposcopy, determining one's destiny by analyzing the lines of the forehead in relation to the sun, moon, and planets. The process is as successful as casting a horoscope or reading the lines of the palm.
Divination is attempted by means of forked sticks or pendulums (see also dowsing), by interpretation of almost any random event such as throwing dice, cloud formations, the configurations of the entrails of a sacrificed animal (known as augury), dreams, how a pack of cards is dealt out, the movements of insects and a great variety of other phenomena.
In Genesis 44, there is a reference to a silver cup belonging to Joseph “in which [he] drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth,” which was another popular method similar to scrying, an art that involved looking into a bowl of water. Even today, crystal balls are used to try to see images of the future.
See also I Ching, numerology, omens, palmistry, police psychics, prophecy, and Tarot cards.
(née Pinckert, 1918?- ) Mrs. Dixon is a famous Washington seer who also claims healing powers. But her major claim to fame is that she is said to have predicted the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In its March 11, 1956, issue, Parade magazine reported, concerning the 1960 presidential election:
Mrs. Dixon thinks it will be dominated by labor and won by a Democrat. He will be assassinated or die in office “though not necessarily in his first term.”
The election was not “dominated by labor.” She was correct on the winner's party, and the death prediction was in line with the Presidential Curse (which see) since Kennedy fell into that pattern. But when 1960 arrived and the election was closer, Mrs. Dixon declared that Richard Nixon would win the presidency.
The endless chain of Dixon's major failed predictions (such as Tom Dewey as “assistant president,” the fall of India's Nehru that never happened, Richard Nixon's return to office, germ warfare in 1958 with China, a monster comet striking the Earth, and the election of a female U.S. president — the last two to have taken place in the 1980s — and the dissolution of the Roman Catholic Church before 1990) establish that her actual, written record is hardly impressive. Nonetheless, she still has a large and enthusiastic following among credophiles.
(plural noun, pronounced jinn; singular, djinni) In the Moslem religion, spirits with specific supernatural powers, the children of fire. They are corporeal, often taking the shapes of ostriches, snakes, or humans, and can become invisible. In Malaysian magic, there are 190 Black Djinn, evil mountain-dwelling spirits.
The alternate versions of the djinn are the genii. The differences are nonessential to any person's knowledge of the real world.
See “end of the world”.
From the German, meaning “double walker.” A persistent fantasy is that each person has an identical “twin” somewhere, though they are unrelated. The chance of two identical DNA patterns existing at the same time, even if generated by the same two parents as the result of two different sperm/egg fusings, is inadequately described by the term “astronomically small.” For that reason, an actual doppelgänger is very highly unlikely.
Legend says that if the two should meet, they will both die. That seems reasonable.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
See Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur.
Superstition and stupidity have scored victories against archaeology and anthropology in China, where dinosaur bones and other artifacts inscribed with historical records have been eagerly purchased from finders and ground to powder by apothecaries who then sell the useless substance as an aphrodisiac and general cure-all. It is called “dragon bone.”
Drawing Down the Moon
A witch's ceremony held on or near December 12. It is dedicated to Bacchus, the god of wine and fertility. Yet another reason for folks to get together for drinking, dancing and general carrying-on.
The Greek scholar/historian Xenophon wrote about dreams as a form of divination and in the second century Artemidorus of Daldis set about collecting dream lore and published a book on their interpretation. Dreams also served the Greeks as diagnostic tools, being messages from the gods.
It was also believed, in some cultures, that dreams resulted from divine visitations, demons or spirits of the dead. The Bible records that Joseph interpreted dreams for Pharaoh, and there are several other prognostications achieved through dreams, such as those in Genesis 20:3, 31:23, and 37:5; Job 33:15; Numbers 12:6; and 1 Kings 3:5.
In actuality, a dream appears to be the reaction of the brain to various sensory inputs experienced while asleep. It explains away what would otherwise be disturbing and/or misunderstood information. The dream is not a supernatural phenomenon.
(1891?-1943) A Los Angeles chiropractor of the “sealed black box” school, Drown obtained a British patent for her “camera” device which she said produced a photographic image of an organ, from a drop of blood from the patient.
In England, Drown met “radionics” worker George De la Warr, who developed her ideas into a separate movement and caused a minor war between the two schools. Radionics dealt with various quack devices that were used for medical diagnosis and treatment.
Drown was called a fraud by the FDA when it looked into her practice, but that did little to slow her success.
See also Dr. Albert Abrams and George De la Warr.
(from the Celtic der, for “superior,” and wydd, for “priest;” Pliny claims the word derives from the Greek drus, but that is highly unlikely; also known as Semothees) Priest-magicians of Gaul, England, the north of Scotland, and the Hebrides. In the first century, the Roman emperor Tiberius issued a decree against the Druids “along with the whole pack of such physicians, prophets and wizards.” Druids were written about by Julius Caesar in his Commentaries on the Gallic War, and by Celtic authors. In 1598, the tomb of a very famous Druid chief Chyndonax was discovered near Dijon, France, covered with Greek inscriptions.
Augury (see also divination) was a popular form of prognostication used in Druid ceremonies, and they were said to be competent at controlling the weather, producing visual illusions, fire walking, and speaking with animals.
Halloween is essentially a Druidic festival.
(1892-1975) One of the most famous and proficient mentalists of all time.
Joseph Dunninger created a high standard of mentalism for others to follow. He rose to fame as a result of his exciting radio appearances.
Born the son of a tailor on New York's Lower East Side in 1892, Joe Dunninger was interested in conjuring as a boy. Among the many acts he went to see at that time, he was impressed by a two-person mind-reading routine performed by Mr. & Mrs. John T. Fay. (John was the son of Anna Eva Fay, a spiritualist who had been very popular in vaudeville in the late 1800s and had attracted the interest of magician/investigator Harry Houdini. John's wife was Anna Norman. After John's death by suicide, Mrs. Fay went on with the act, billed as “The High Priestess of Mystery,” eventually headlining shows in 1908-1910.)
However, unlike the “double” act done by the Fays, Dunninger's was a one-person act, never using any assistants — or at least not so that anyone ever knew about it. He was very mindful to assure his audiences that he worked entirely alone, and published a carefully worded but quite genuine offer of $10,000 to anyone who could prove that he used paid confederates. Though many tried, no one ever collected, and for a very good reason: He never used any.
Becoming a very highly paid and fully booked mentalist at posh affairs all over the United States (though he had an overpowering fear of flying and traveled almost exclusively by train all of his life) Dunninger made most of his early fortune before income tax laws went into effect in this country, and he invested heavily in oriental artifacts, eventually amassing the largest collection of rare Tibetan art in the United States outside of a specialized museum in Staten Island, New York. His home in New Jersey was filled, wall-to-wall, with sculptures, wall hangings, exotic rugs, dozens of carved crystals, and gold figures of deities. In the basement was a mass of material from the Houdini home, most of which he eventually sold to the Houdini Hall of Fame Museum in Niagara Falls, Canada.
With his elegant, commanding mannerisms onstage including a strange pseudo-Oxford accent affectation, Dunninger was known to the public only as a mentalist, “The Master Mind of Mental Radio.” He appeared on radio starting in 1943, and on television frequently in the fifties and sixties performing the most astonishing series of stunts that were ever devised by anyone. The list of persons he used in these presentations read as a Who's Who. Jack Dempsey, Bob Dunn, Harry Truman, the Duke of Windsor, and Babe Ruth — it seemed as if Joe Dunninger could reach into anyone's mind at will.
On one occasion, Dunninger had the U.S. postmaster general in position at the main post office in New York City. On his live TV presentation, he asked that official to reach into the thousands of letters going by him on a conveyor belt and to choose just one. A few minutes of “concentration” and Dunninger wrote down on a large pad of paper what he believed the address was on that letter. You guessed it: When the postmaster read out the address, it was the same one that appeared on Dunninger's pad.
Joseph Dunninger maintained an enigmatic image all of his life. He never quite said that he read minds, but he didn't say that he didn't, or couldn't. Publicly, he stayed away from magicians and seemed apart from their interests; personally, he loved to talk tricks and to root around in magic shops. Though he always disclaimed any supernatural powers, he could leave an audience with absolutely no other explanation of what they'd seen. When asked for an answer to the enigma, he had several answers. “Any child of twelve could do what I do,” he might say, “with thirty years practice!” Or “I'm not a mind-reader. I'm a thought-reader. If a man comes up to me an hits me in the eye, I don't have to be a mind-reader to know his thoughts; he dislikes me.”
Dunninger's final series of programs for ABC-TV, recorded in 1971, were never broadcast. By that time he was suffering from Parkinson's disease and could not summon up the strength of presentation he'd previously displayed.