Pat Marquis, J. B. Rhine and Charlie Chaplin

July 18th, 2009 Posted in ESP and other Phenomena, Hoaxes, People in Parapsychology

In July, 1936 Rhine went to California to investigate Pat Marquis, a 12-year-old boy who had been wowing everyone with his ESP abilities. Two years before the boy had gone into a trance and Napeji, an 11th century Persian, emerged. This was very reminiscent of Abdul Latif, the spirit of a seventeenth century Persian physician who sometimes appeared when medium Eileen Garrett went into a trance. Rhine had begun testing with Eileen Garrett in 1934.

So whenever Pat went into a trance, Napeji would take over, and while blindfolded, the boy/Napeji could supposedly tell you which cards had been picked from a deck, walk around, play pool and so on. Rhine traveled 3,000 miles only to show them that the boy had actually been peaking down his nose through the blindfold. “… I had the physicians blindfold me in the various ways the boy had been blindfolded,” Rhine wrote Mrs. Bolton, one of their contributors, “and I showed them to their satisfaction that I too could find my way about pretty well and could tell them how many fingers they held up, etc.“ (More below.)

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Rhine had a talk with Dr. Cecil Reynolds, the physician who had been managing the boy, and as far as Rhine was concerned, it all ended well. “… we managed to settle the whole thing in the most friendly and non-incriminating fashion,” he wrote Bolton, “and I left with the understanding that the Napeji personality (an ancient Persian) was not to be evoked again and the lad was to discontinue his pranks.”

I like that Rhine was never out to embarrass or humiliate anyone and always gave them the opportunity to just quietly stop and go away. He didn’t like to play the part of the debunker. Nevermind all the people already providing that service, he also wrote later, “I found that exposing these people did not put them out of business …” And that is just what happened here. Reynolds and the boy continued to put on performances and in April, 1937 Life Magazine did an article about Marquis.

Rhine wrote Bolton again. She must have asked why he didn’t go public with what he had found and Rhine had to explain. “It is not my policy to call anyone a fake,” he wrote, “and above all I regard it as bad taste to make such statements in public. The old physician in charge of the boy [Reynolds], when he saw through the whole case with me, agreed that it should not go on any longer, as did the boy himself. On my part I assured them that I had no intention of publishing anything on the case. I never have and do not intend to. Mr. Lewis Browne’s letter to the magazine LIFE, which was written after Dr. Reynold’s broke his agreement with me and published more claims for the boy (perhaps under the influence of the boy’s mother, who, a divorcee, was living in the same house as the divorced doctor at the time), was written without any knowledge or consent on my part …”
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Lewis Browne must have made erroneous claims about either Rhine’s connection to the case, or his assessment. I still have to look up that letter to the editor. But I started looking into Dr. Reynolds. It turns out Reynolds was well known in the Los Angeles area. For almost two decades he regularly testified at some of the biggest criminal cases in California. Typically big murder cases that are forgotten now, but were front page news for months at the time. Like Marion Parker, the 12 year old daughter of a Los Angeles Banker who was abducted and dismembered in 1927 by William Hickman. Reynolds was usually called to testify about whether or not an alleged murderer was sane. Reynolds also had a history of being interested in the paranormal.

From here I found lots of interesting connections.

Reynolds was a close friend of Charlie Chaplin and he was also Chaplin’s personal physician. The doctor even had a bit part in Modern Times playing a minister. I think Reynolds must have been a bit stage-struck—he once worked as an un-credited medical consultant for the movie Frankenstein. Another interesting connection: apparently Chaplin invited Reynolds to be there when Einstein came to Chaplin’s house in 1931. Einstein was out West visiting the Mount Wilson Observatory where scientists had found evidence of cosmic background radiation, the first real proof that the universe was expanding. During this same visit out West Einstein attended a seance at Upton Sinclair’s house (I wrote about this in Unbelievable).

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J. B. Rhine, who was a good friend of Upton Sinclair’s, had been introduced to Charlie Chaplin by Sinclair and had visited with Chaplain a number of times when he was out West. (Rhine also corresponded with Einstein.) On one occasion Chaplin showed Rhine a film he had of Pat Marquis.

Rhine’s description of another visit with Chaplin made me smile when I tried to imagine it. “When I was in Hollywood,” Rhine wrote, “Charlie Chaplin showed me a picture which he had taken in Bali and told me of another much better one which he offered to obtain for me from Singapore, picturing some of the religious ceremonial phenomena of self-torturing and allied behavior.” I could just see Rhine doing his best to say in the politest way possible, “no thank you.” (Rhine was on the conservative/straight-laced side, although I found exceptions to this which perhaps should be another post!)

Lewis Browne, who was mentioned in Rhine’s letter to Bolton, was a writer and part of Chaplin’s circle of friends, along with Hamlin Garland, another writer who was also very seriously interested in paranormal phenomena and who had met with Eileen Garrett during her first visit to the states in 1931. Rhine was introduced to Garland by Charlie Chaplin and Garland was the only one Rhine really kept in touch with out of this crew. I found a numbers of letters to and from Garland in the Special Collections Library at Duke.

Finally, I found out that Dr. Reynolds also met with Eileen Garrett during her 1931 visit. So Reynolds knew all about Eileen’s trances and her Persian spirit guide and could have either told those stories to Marquis or worse, coached him with them.

The first picture is of Pat Marquis from the April 19, 1937 issue of Life. The second picture is of Dr. Reynolds and I got it from Notables of the West, Press Reference Library (Western edition). I don’t think I need to identify the last picture!

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  1. 3 Responses to “Pat Marquis, J. B. Rhine and Charlie Chaplin”

  2. By alanborky on Apr 29, 2010

    Stacy, it may well be Rhine was right about Pat Marquis being an ‘inadvertent’ fake, but for me he didn’t necessarily prove anything by having Marquis’ physicians blindfold him, i.e., Rhine himself, in the same way they did Marquis.

    When my kids were younger they loved playing blindfold type games – mainly ones that inevitably led to me ending up under something from where they could drop all manner of crap on my head – but what I was constantly struck by during these games, (possibly because I’m an artist), was how relatively small differences in nose length or and breadth between each of the kids and me or their uncle could contribute to various items genuinely restricting – or failing to restrict – the field of vision of each of us in different ways and to different degrees.

    Marquis was 12 – Rhine a full grown man.

  3. By Stacy Horn on May 2, 2010

    Yeah, it’s hard to know without having more details about Rhine did when he met with the boy.

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