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Anna Eva Fay

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Anna Eva Fay
Anna Eva Fay (Paying Tribute to Her Buddha) - Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, UT) - 1905-04-09, p. 12.jpg
"Anna Eva Fay Paying Tribute to Her Buddha."
Alias(es) The Fair Mahatma
Born Ann Eliza Heathman
31 March 1851(1851-03-31)
Southington, Trumbull Co., Ohio
Died 20 May 1927 (76)
Melrose, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts
Burial Wyoming Cemetery, Melrose, Massachusetts
Known for Somnolency
Spouse(s) H. Melville Fay (m. 1872,[1] dv. 1880);[i] David H. Pingree (m. 1881)[2]
Children John Fay (1877-1908)

Anna Eva Fay (March 31, 1851 - May 20, 1927) was an American psychical demonstrator and Spiritualist-Theosophical medium, active as a performer for over fifty years, beginning in the 1870s and continuing into the 1920s.

Fay began her touring career working as an assistant and later partner to H. Melville Fay, her first husband, and quickly became the feature act in the Fay-Braddon Combination,[ii] playing up her endorsement from William Crookes. From the late 1880s onward, Fay had become the sole headliner, an indefatigable and lucrative performer who seemed to continuously be on tour, filling venues across the North America, until her retirement, in spite of routine exposures of her methods by rival acts.

Reading

Press Coverage

As a start: https://guides.loc.gov/chronicling-america-anna-eva-fay/selected-articles

Seattle Post-Intelligencer advertisement for a performance on June 4, 1893 at the Seattle Theater.

1870s-1890s

  • "SPIRITS FROM ABROAD. Miss Anna Eva Fay's Drawing-Room Seances — Curious Performances in the Light — A Carnival in the Dark — Ghostly Legerdemain.", St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO): 2, 30 Aug. 1875, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/138954950/ 

    A private entertainment of a very interesting and curious character was given last evening by Miss Annie Eva Fay, in a parlor at the South End, at which many of the surprisingly dexterous feats that have, within the year, been the subjects of experiments by Prof. Huxley, Mr. Crookes, Sergeant Cox and other scientists in London, were performed in the presence of about twenty ladies and gentlemen. Although represented as due to spiritual influences operating outside the will of the "medium," the interest of the performance is in no degree dependent on a belief in such power, the phenomena produced by Miss Fay being remarkable if regarded simply as juggling. As compared to the ordinary so-called "cabinet manifestations," they are superior in point of skill and delicacy of treatment. For Miss Fay employs no cabinet or other place of close concealment; but quietly sitting, bound as closely as ingenuity can devise the means, in a corner of a private parlor, it requires only that a curtain be drawn for an instant between her and the spectators for inanimate things to be endowed with life and to perform astounding antics with no apparent agency.

    Miss Fay who is of slight figure and very little muscular power, was last evening bound with strips of cotton cloth about each wrist, which were then wound with thread for greater security, and over all strips of adhesive plaster were placed. The cloth was then passed through staples screwed in the window casing and the ends sewed after being knotted, her head being fastened in the same way by a band about the neck. It is proper to say that the tying was done by certain of the visitors, and that a cord connected with her feet was also held by one of the spectators to detect any movement of her limbs. In this position, with the light burning, a curtain was drawn for a moment and immediately let fall, when a strip of cloth hung about her neck was found in a hard knot. A paper was marked and put on her lap with a pair of scissors.

    Immediately the curtain was drawn, the sound of cutting was heard, and two paper dolls were the product of the mysterious manipulation, neatly scissored out in the style most approved by juvenile connoisseurs in the article. It is unnecessary to say that after each feat the bands were carefully examined and the adhesive plaster, knots and stitches remained undisturbed, sufficiently attesting the fact that Miss Fay's hands had not been removed from behind her back, where they were securely fastened, and that at the close of the sitting they were found in the same condition.

    Another concealment of the sitter was followed by a jangling discord of bells and musical instruments, wind, string and percussion, in an inharmonious medley. Another, and a large water pail was placed on Miss Fay's head. Finally, to conclude the fantastic series, a pocket knife, placed on her lap, was opened, and the bands which bound her were severally cut; but not before the same ghostly influence had lifted a brimming glass of water to her lips without spilling a drop. In what was called the "dark seance," the company sitting in a circle with Miss Fay in the centre, the musical instruments flitted through the air and whirled about the heads of the visitors, a heavy guitar banging monotonously and to a degree painfully, upon the head of one investigator in time to the rattle of the tambourine, strange hands patted the cheeks and pulled the hair of one after another, and a babel of confusion was created at the call of the conjurer.

    While in man points the performances of Miss Fay come easily within the range of less gifted professors of thaumaturgy, the lightness and dexterity with which many very clever feats are done in the light; with only an instant of concealment and no apparent possibility of movement on her part, are extraordinary beyond anything heretofore shown. These phenomena also gain distinction and merit notice from the fact that they have successfully withstood the test conditions imposed by leading scientific investigators in England, among them being that of the galvanometer to determine the existence of any movement on the part of the performer. Whether Miss Fay is to be regarded as a "medium" or as a professor of legerdemain, she is certainly a very graceful practitioner.

  • "NEW YORK LETTER. Spiritual Seance by a Famous London Medium. Queer Doings in the Dark -- Spiritual Babies Made of Paper. Phantoms Drinking Water — Supernatural Visitors, etc.", Daily Journal of Commerce (Kansas City, MO): 1, 25 Jan. 1876, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/666711582/ 
  • "THE GREATEST HUMBUG YET. How Professor Crooke's 'Gifted and Wonderful' Medium, Annie Eva Fay, Performs her Tricks!", Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY): 3, 14 Apr. 1876, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/135107223/ 
  • "THE SPIRITS.", Buffalo Morning Express (Buffalo, NY): 4, 2 Oct. 1880, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/343884618/ 
  • "MISS EVA FAY'S SEANCE - THE SPIRITS TURNED LOOSE IN MOZART HALL. What was Seen and Heard — Some Clever Tricks — One of the Committee who is Dissatisfied — Etc.", Mail (Stockton, CA): 3, 17 Oct. 1881, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/609578194/ 
  • "SPIRITS AT THE RINK. Twelve Hundred People, With Anna Eva Fay, Make Tests. SAYS HE CAN OUTDO HER, Reueben A. Punnett, of This City, Offers to Forfeit $500 if He Cannot Expose Every Feat Performed by Miss Fay and Perform Many More.", Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY): 7, 26 Oct. 1891, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/135462023/ 
  • THE MYSTERIOUS FAY. She Talks About Her Extensive Travels in Europe. Madam Blavatsky's Talking Head — Unique Sights and Customs — Seance at the Salt Lake Theatre Tonight., Salt Lake City, UT, 16 Apr. 1893, p. 13, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/80824743/ 
  • "A Talk With Anna Eva Fay", Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, WA): 13, 4 June 1893, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045604/1893-06-04/ed-1/seq-13/ 

    Anna Eva Fay, a conspicuous figure for a number of years, appears tonight in the New Seattle theater in what sh is pleased to term a scientific seance of theosophy and spiritualism. As Miss Fay is on a curious mission a reporter of the POST-INTELLIGENCER thought it of enough interest to the readers to relate a marvelous story told him yesterday by Miss Fay. The mistress of the occult sciences after her appearance here return to San Francisco and sails on her strange mission to India to see the talking head, said to be operated upon by Mme. Blavatsky during her lifetime.

    "This head is made of wood, but only one of the elect can make it talk," said Miss Fay. "From its lips is to come the prophetic philosophy of the adepts, and through it the departed high priestess is to finish the great treatise on philosophy on which she was engaged when her astral body left its material counterpart and did not return. This head is supposed to be concealed in a mosque in Bombay, India, where Mme. Blavatsky was in the habit of having her followers meet during her lifetime, and to get that head to talk is my duty and my ambition," said Miss Fay. "It is not sure that I may succeed; my power may not be enough; my physical being may break under the strain, for you see I am not strong."

    Indeed, she is a mere slip of a woman — slender, nervous and high strung, and she has steady gray eyes. She is accustomed to skepticism, but she answers doubting questions with as calm an air of certainty as if she were announcing that the sun shone instead of uttering marvels that turn the accepted laws of nature against themselves and eliminate probability from the whole scheme of things.

    "I have never been where the head is, but the spirit part of me has seen it. Have I faith that I will succeed? Indeed, I have. I hope to secure it and make it talk, not to theosophists merely as a cloak mystery, but publicly and to say one who cares to know the truth.

    "How did I become a theosophist? I think I was born one. From my earliest childhood I was conscious of a strange companionship. Advice was whispered in my ear when I was a woman. My people were spiritualists, so there was nothing to startle me in the manifestations of a supernatural presence. As I grew older the presence became more tangible and the knowledge came to me that my adviser was one of the astrals. I asked of him why my mother never came any more. When I was a child it was my dead mother's form and voice that addressed me. The astral told me that he came in that form not to frighten me."

    Miss Fay told this simply, as if supernatural visits were the commonest things in the world.

    From the adepts Miss Fay skipped to the reincarnation article in the faith. One of the arguments against reincarnation as generally received is that as a man is reincarnated as a human infant, and as a man's soul after death still remains a conscious and complete entity, the question arises, what becomes of the reincarnated spirit's knowledge during the babyhood of its new existence? Miss Fay gets round this by believing that the soul that lives out one life here is reincarnated in another planet, and that this is the first step in the great scheme of advancement. Reincarnation proceeds indefinitely. Contrary to Mrs. Besant and most other eminent theosophists, Miss Fay believes in no retrogression. Movement is only upward, and what he has learned and earned in life determines a man's position in the next stage, but it is unfailingly higher than here.

    The casting of the astral is the one thing above all others that makes people commonly free from 'isms' curious about theosophy, and Miss Fay knows all about that, so she was asked how she did it.

    "There is no process about it at all," she answered. "You simply will it so, and so it is. It is not hard to separate the physical from the psychic body. You do it when you sleep. That is all. The physical body remains as if dead, the mental counterpart moves. It really is the ego — your senses, your mind. It will sit in a chair and a glass of water will be behind a screen in another part of the room. I will it and that glass of water will be at my mouth. My astral has brought it; my material body has not moved. I have done that a thousand times before audiences of thousands. There is no apparatus, no darkening of the hall, no possibility of deception.

    "There are said to be those who can project the astral body across continents and oceans at will. Mrs. Besant claims that power. Mme. Blavatsky knew no such thing as space or place. Where she wished to be, there she was. I rarely have sent my astral body more than a few yards. Once, when I was a young girl, so innocent that I did not know what I did, my astral was projected from London to Paris. I was at London, an dmy powers had just begun to attract attention. At the suggestion of some leading theosophists I sent my mental self to a studio where an eminent photographer had been called to await me, and there, while I was senseless in London, the photographer saw me enter a room and took a picture of me. The experiment was a perfect success. You ask me why I do not attempt such things now. I do not feel the strength in my body. There was a theosophist who cast his astral from Brighton to London, you will remember. It came to London right enough and made many manifestations there, but it never returned to the physical body. The theosophist's body was found at Brighton. The doctors, I believe, said he died of heart disease."

    "Miss Fay, how should one begin to learn to be a theosophist?"

    "Seek and ye shall receive," she answered smiling; "there can be no knowledge without faith."

  • "ANNA EVA FAY. To-morrow's Big Attraction at the Academy of Music.", Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA): 5, 28 Jan. 1894, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86071868/1894-01-28/ed-1/seq-5/ 
"Anna Eva Fay, mystic and high priestess of the occult..." (Fargo Forum of 26 Jan. 1918, p. 6)
(Rock Island Argus of 21 Jan. 1922, p. 12)

1900s-1920s

  • "ANNA EVA FAY - THE MODERN ORACLE OF DELPHI LAYS BARE LIFE'S MYSTERIES", Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, UT): 12, 9 Apr. 1905, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85058130/1905-04-09/ed-1/seq-12/ 
  • "Anna Eva Fay.", Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Fargo, ND): 6, 26 Jan. 1918, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042224/1918-01-26/ed-1/seq-6/ 

    Anna Eva Fay, mystic and high priestess of the occult, will open a five-day engagement with daily matinee at the Orpheum theater Monday. With a series of interesting psychic experiments she contrives to give an entertainment that has a vast appeal for many people. Miss Fay's present program does not vary materially from those she has given here in the past. It is just as mystifying as ever and it holds the attention of her audiences as of yore. Miss Fay lacks something of her one-time vivacity, nevertheless, she is just as capable an entertainer as ever. She predicts the end of the great war some time in March or April, says the draft army will not see service, but will be kept in the cantonment camps for some time, and performs some remarkable experiments in mental telepathy. By far the most mystifying part of her program is the famous cabinet act, in which with her hands and feet securely tied, she plays tambourines, guitars and other instruments. She makes her biggest hit, rowever, in 'somnolency,' when she enters an apparent trance and answers all sorts of questions coming from all sections of the house with a glibness and fidelity that is a bit startling. She not only gives the names and initials of her interrogators, but describes them in minute detail. It is all a bit puzzling.

  • "ANNA EVA FAY, TELEPATHIST, HEADS NEW MAJESTIC BILL", Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock, AK): 8, 10 Jan. 1920, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/165776631/ 

Notes

  1. It was reported in the Chicago Tribune that Annie Eva Fay sued for divorce in May 1880, on the grounds that Henry Melville Fay was married to Carrie Sawyer, and had been engaged with adultery, including with Mary Burt, an actress. This seems to have been granted, as she was remarried in May 1881 to David H. Pingree, the touring manager.
  2. Braddon was said to have simply been H. Melville Fay under a new name, suggesting, at least, that their divorce in 1880 was not terribly acrimonious.

References