A few sober citizens of Hudson, Wis., were selected from the audience to test the “strange” powers of Annie Abbott, a vaudeville performer who took her act – and her children – on the road after her husband’s death in 1886. The “Little Georgia Magnet” made believers of them all. A physician's eyewitness account appeared a few days later in the Minneapolis Tribune:
A WONDERFUL WOMAN.
Mrs. Abbott Wipes Up the Floor With the Press, the Count and the Clergy.
HUDSON, Wis., Oct. 11. – (Special) – Much has been said through the press recently about Mrs. Abbott’s strange “power” over men; how she would resist the combined strength of several big strong men; that she could lift eight or ten men; and six men could not lift her, and many other apparently absurd and ridiculous things that this woman could do. Our people took but little stock in the reports until some of our own reputable citizens saw her exhibition a few evenings since at Chippewa Falls, and efforts were instituted to have her visit Hudson, which resulted in her appearance Friday evening.
She is a delicate little creature, a perfect type of Southern beauty, with sparkling black eyes and most pleasant face. When she reached the opera house, a committee was selected from the audience to supervise the tests and investigate the “wonder.” Among those selected were George C. Hough, District Attorney S.N. Hawkins, George D. Cline, of the Republican. All phases of avocation were represented.
A poster for Abbott's show.
The fun began. She literally wiped up the floor with the court, seriously interfered with the freedom of the press and blocked the church. The whole gang wasn’t a bagatelle for her. It was the most wonderful and utterly inexplicable exhibition – a genuine phenomenon – ever witnessed in this country. People may scoff and turn up their nose at the supernatural or, unnatural forces, if you please. Hypnotism until recently had but few believers. Mesmerism and kindred phenomena were thought to be highflown titles for “fraud” and “fake,” but science has taken a hand and dispelled such ideas. It sounds a little “fishy” to state that she lifted two feet clear from the floor nine heavy men at one time, piled upon two heavy chairs, and as easily as the reader would this paper; in fact two gentlemen had their hands interposed between her hands and the chair, with no other contact when the entire mass came up, and those gentlemen assert that there was no more perceptible pressure against their hands than the weight of the hand.
Her muscles were examined during the tests and no sort of muscular action was found. What does it? The committee all tried singly to lift her, which the smallest man could do (she weighs not over 95) when she willed it, but when she preferred not, it remained not. Men tugged till their eyes bulged and they were red and blue in the face, but she remained smiling and as immovable as a block of buildings. Two, three four, six and eight men together expended all their strength in vain to hoist her a particle. She picked men up by the ears, by the head, hoisted them on poles, by her fingers tumbled them around like paper balls.
Perhaps the most wonderful feat to the scientific was that in which a little boy, selected from the audience, was given in each hand the end of a silk handkerchief and she held the other ends slackly in her hands. Soon the boy began to tremble and shake violently for a moment till he became quiet when gentlemen were told to lift the boy. Lo, he was found to be loaded too, and was practically as heavy as Mrs. Abbott and could not be lifted. Sticks were laid across her open hands and could not be moved off them by three or four men. She stood upon one heel of her little No. 1 slipper and six men tried, by laying a pole across her breast, to push or pull her off her balance. They tugged till the stick broke, but not a fractional part of an inch did she give. Many other strange feats were performed.
A prominent gentleman who was on the committee said today: “To say there is any sort of trickery or mechanism about it, is to stultify your reason and insult the intelligence of those who made the tests.”
Certainly there could be none. Every possible privilege and opportunity of investigation afforded the committee no sort of effort to conceal anything. In fact there were no doubting Thomases when she got through. Perhaps they were afraid to assert it if they thought so. A wag said today that both political parties were negotiating for Mrs. Abbotts’s services until after the election. It is safe to say she could carry an election. Never has anything occurred in this city that has created so much interest. One can hear nothing else discussed but Mrs. Abbott. She is surely a great phenomena. Possessed of a power to suspend gravitation seems most probable.
T.B. Williams, M.D.
Sample Minnesota newspaper articles, photos and ads dating back more than 140 years. Fresh items are posted weekly. Go here for tips on how to track down old newspaper articles on your own. Follow the blog on Twitter. Or check out "Minnesota Mysteries," a new book based on the blog.
E-mail your questions or suggestions to Ben Welter.
A century ago, the Minneapolis post office hand-sorted a half-million letters a day. More than 2,000 arrived with mangled or incomplete addresses. Here's how patient specialists dealt with letters that "would baffle an expert in hieroglyphics."
In a United Press story published in the Minneapolis Tribune, a Yale man who probably managed to avoid frat houses during his undergrad years demonstrates that you can be right about all the facts and still come to the wrong conclusion.