Marriott, William S. (ca. 1910)
British professional magician and illusionist who investigated
and exposed fake mediumship. His stage name was ‘‘Dr.
Wilmar.’’ One of his noted illusions was the production of apparently
paranormal paintings, duplicating the claimed psychic
phenomena of the Chicago mediums, the Bangs sisters.
The illusion was presented as ‘‘Dr. Wilmar’s Spirit Painting’’
and so impressed fellow magician P. T. Selbit that he agreed
to pay Marriott a weekly royalty for the use of the illusion. However,
Marriott himself was not entirely straightforward in
claiming rights on the illusion, since he had obtained the secret
Mark Probert Memorial Foundation Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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from David P. Abbott, an amateur magician. When Selbit presented
the illusion at the Orpheum Theatre in Omaha in 1911,
Abbott saw the show and visited Selbit backstage, when he
learned that Selbit had already paid Marriott some $10,000 in
royalties.
Marriott performed a valuable role in locating and publicizing
a rare catalog of fake medium equipment titled Gambols
with the Ghosts Mind Reading, Spiritualistic Effects, Mental and Psychical
Phenomena, and Horoscopy, issued in 1901 by Ralph E. Sylvestre
of Chicago. This catalog was designed for private circulation
among fake mediums, on the understanding that it would
be returned to Sylvestre when tricks had been selected from it.
The catalog had an introductory note that stated
‘‘Our experience during the past thirty years in supplying
mediums and others with the peculiar effects in this line enable
us to place before you only those which are practical and of use,
nothing that you have to experiment with. . . . We wish you to
thoroughly appreciate that, while we do not, for obvious reasons,
mention the names of our clients and their work (they
being kept in strict confidence, the same as a physician treats
his patients), we can furnish you with the explanation and,
where necessary, the material for the production of any known
public ‘tests’ or ‘phenomena’ not mentioned in this, our latest
list. You are aware that our effects are being used by nearly all
prominent mediums . . . of the entire world.’’
This infamous catalog included equipment for fake slatewriting,
self-playing guitars, self-rapping tables, materializations,
and a ‘‘Complete Spiritualistic Séance.’’ Marriott obtained
a number of these illusions and had himself photographed
posing with them. Marriott also successfully exposed
fake ‘‘spirit photographs,’’ obliging that champion of Spiritualism,
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to state ruefully ‘‘Mr. Marriott
has clearly proved one point, which is that a trained conjurer
can, under the close inspection of three pairs of critical eyes,
put a false image upon a plate. We must unreservedly admit it.’’
A copy of Gambols with the Ghosts was obtained by psychic researcher
Harry Price and is now in the Harry Price Library of
Magical Literature at the University of London, England.
Sources
Sylvestre, Ralph E. Gambols with the Ghosts Mind Reading,
Spiritualistic Effects, Mental and Psychical Phenomena, and Horoscopy.
Chicago privately printed, 1901.