Bert Reese information

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Postby Torkova » 05/25/05 05:35 PM

I'm doing research on Bert Reese and was wondering if anyone had any info on him besides the Jinx/PME references. Especially photos or graphics. I have a bunch of the Edison stuff but almost nothing on his exploits in Europe. I know his teacher was Foster who wrote "The Salem Seer." Did Foster actually teach him billets or was Reese more inspired and came up with his own ideas?

Also, does anyone have any theories as to where Annemann's info came from? In the Jinx, he claims that "going through my clippings, etc." but was wondering where he got the details of Reese's handling of billets. Was this just putting it together from descriptions in the newspapers? Reese died in July of 1926. Could Annemann ever have seen him work?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
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Postby John Smetana » 05/25/05 06:40 PM

Al Mann wrote a treatise on Reese. Sorry I can't recall the title. I'm sure someone on this board would know it.

All the best,
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Postby Anthony Blake » 05/25/05 09:19 PM

John...

The Mann ms. is called "The Bert Reese Docimasy"... the book runs 27 pages and covers both some historical background on Reese (as per Edison, Crowley, Annemann, Houdini) as well as several routines as might have been performed by Reese... it's a good read with good information...

Hope this helps...

Success!!!

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Postby Bill Mullins » 05/26/05 12:54 AM

From the NY Times, June 23, 1894, p. 1.
"Police Chase Him from the Hub"
"'Prof.' Bert Reese Carries a Chicago Letter, but it Does Not Save Him"

Boston, Mass., June 22. -- [Special] - One Prof. Bert Reese, so self-styled, has been in Boston recently, but when looked for by the police today could not be found. Reese came here three weeks ago and advertised himself as a clairvoyant, claiming to have letters from the highest officials in Chicago addressed to the Chief of Police of Boston. When called upon to produce the recommendations he produced one written on paper bearing the imprint of the Chicago Police Department and signed John J. Hartnett, Captain commanding Second District. Reese was advised by the police to leave town and he lost no time in going.
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Postby David Alexander » 05/29/05 01:04 AM

Joe Rinn, life-long friend of Houdini, wrote about Reese in "Sixty Years of Psychical Research," published in 1950 (England in '54). Go here if you want to find several for sale starting at $50.

http://dogbert.abebooks.com/servlet/Sea ... h&sortby=2

Reese is the perfect example of someone who focussed on doing a very few moves...perfected them and used them to make money. He could do the pellet switch, the billet switch and, according to Al Mann, the Center Tear....and that was it.

Of course his presentation was perfect and Reese was marvelously sincere. He came across as real. If memory serves, Rinn said that out of 50 newspaper accounts only one or two actually described what Reese did. The rest described what Reese wanted them to think he did.

One of his ploys for meeting the famous was to take trips to Europe (and back) on ocean liners of the day. In First Class he'd hobnob with the wealthy and sign them up as clients.

To his dying day, Thomas Edison believed that Reese has some unexamined and mysterious "power," he was that convincing.
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Postby Torkova » 05/29/05 06:22 PM

Many thanks to all for your help. I'm doing on-going research including trying to find out where Reese is buried. He died in Hamburg, Germany in July 1926 and can't seem to find out whether his widow brought the body back to the states. Any thoughts as to how I might find that out? Would love to get a photo of the gravesite.

Thanks again.

Best regards,
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Postby Guest » 05/31/05 03:51 PM

Unfortunately I can't give you the URL but the Intl. Survivalist Society web site has a fairly good article on old Bert.
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Postby Doug Dyment » 05/31/05 09:04 PM

There are two articles on the Survivalist Society's site: here and here .

... Doug
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Postby Guest » 06/01/05 06:19 PM

Actually, I did a google and found several different, very interesting, articles on old Bert.
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Postby David Alexander » 06/05/05 10:23 PM

I believe there's something about Reese in Houdini's Paper Magic, but I don't have it at hand to double check.

Reading old newspaper articles will tell you what people thought he did, not what he really did...although they may contain some clues.

Good luck.
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Postby Guest » 06/06/05 06:53 AM

Originally posted by David Alexander:
I believe there's something about Reese in Houdini's Paper Magic, but I don't have it at hand to double check.

Reading old newspaper articles will tell you what people thought he did, not what he really did...although they may contain some clues.

Good luck.
Daivid Alexander IS "the man who knows".
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Postby Torkova » 06/06/05 07:53 PM

Guys,

Thanks for all the references. There are indeed a couple of pages in the Houdini book on "THE BALLOT OR PELLET TEST" where he mentions basic Reese technique among others. Nothing specific in terms of switching & routining except to say that a good memory is very important the way Reese did his work. Much appreciated - thanks again.

BTW, if anyone has a copy of the Al Mann book on Reese for sale, I'd be interested in it.

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Postby David Alexander » 06/07/05 10:27 AM

Heres what I can recall about Reese with just a quick consult in my library. It won't be complete, but should point you in the right direction.

I'll save you $50 and tell you what's in the Rinn book. Rinn claims that in 1897 Professor Hyslop came to him, saying that he'd found a "real psychic." (James Hyslop was a member of the Society for Psychical Research along with Joe Rinn, Houdini and others.)

Rinn, under an assumed name, visited Reese and had a reading. By his own admission, Rinn was fooled. He immediately had a second reading and claims to have "caught" Reese by numbering the papers Reese was supposed to read. (In this instance, Reese would step out of the room while the sitter wrote out his questions. From Rinn's description, Reese got one-ahead by shoving a billet into Rinn's pocket, switching it as he did. Each billet was "answered" and "verified" getting the info for the next billet to be read.)

Confronted, and with Rinn telling him who he really was, Reese supposedly admitted his fakery, begging Rinn to let him continue working as he was an "old man" and that was "all he knew."

Reese supposedly promised to work "only as an entertainer," and not make any claims of being "in contact with the spirit world," which was enough to satisfy Rinn. Rinn claims that Reese did that for the remaining 30 years of his life. In return, Rinn promised not to expose him but "gave the facts about him" to Houdini who exposed Reese in 1924 in "A Magician Among the Spirits." (I do not have a copy of that, so I cant comment on what is said there.)

I think Houdini claims the same story in Paper Magic, substituting himself for Rinn, at least that's my memory. Rinn and Houdini had been friends since boyhood.

Rinn claims that Reese died in New York. Mulholland (referenced below) says he died "abroad."

The major problem I have with the Rinn book is that Rinn recounts verbatim conversations that are 50+ years old and does it throughout his book. An amazing feat of memoryif true.


Mulholland, writing in "Beware Familiar Spirits," talked about Fulton Oursler - identified as Samri Frickell - being able to duplicate Reese's work exactly. Mulholland mentions an expose of Reese's methods to the German Psychological Society by Dr. Bruno Birnbaum and Professor Moll, but no date or details were given.

As Reese was viewed as an "entertainer" by Mulholland, he declined to expose Reese's methods, something that didn't bother Samri Frickell/Fulton Oursler (see below) or Houdini.

Fulton Oursler, writing as Samri Frickell, exposed Reese in 1926 in The Evening Graphic, but Reese was defended by Thomas Edison who denounced Oursler publicly for the expose. The Edison letter to The Evening Graphic is reprinted in Mulhollands 1938 book.

When you read that Reese did the "Foster pellet trick," the reference is to Charles H. Foster, a famous medium and billet reader who preceded Reese. Reese claimed to have worked with Foster, but unlike Foster, to the public he claimed that he did not contact the spirit world but had an ability to know what people wrote on small papers.

You might locate a copy of The Salem Seer, a book of the "reminiscences of Charles H. Foster" by George Bartlett. One is available for $125 at http://dogbert.abebooks.com/servlet/Sea ... r&sortby=2

I can't tell if my copy is a modern reprint or a re-bound original (1891), but it is interesting reading if only to give flavor and background to the times and the credulity of believers.

This article might be of interest as well - http://www.tricksterbook.com/ArticlesOn ... search.htm

The important thing about Reese's work is that he had a tiny repertoire of methods and effects, essentially two or three ways of doing one effect: the reading of pellets and billets.

In his Bert Reese Docimasy Al Mann talks about Reese using the pellet switch (see Germain's method recounted in "Germain's Gem" in The Jinx or Practical Mental Effects) and the Temple Switch. Al also believed that Reese was expert in the Center Tear, back when it was almost completely unknown to magicians and not at all to the general public.

Reeses simple and direct methods were honed to perfection and from descriptions of what he did, he wasn't in a hurry to do the "work," waiting for the correct moment to execute the switch. Accompanied by a quick mind, Reese was able to live well for decades.

It would be interesting to learn what you can dig up in Germany, should those records have survived WW II.

Good luck.
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Postby Torkova » 06/11/05 01:19 AM

David,

Great information - thanks so much. Very interesting about Rinn & Houdini. Will follow up and see where it leads. I recall reading somewhere that Houdini supposedly offered to enclose in each billet a $1000 bill (which presumably Reese could keep) but Reese rejected the challenge. I do have the NY Times obituray stating that Reese died in Hamberg while visiting his brother.

Thanks again, much appreciated.
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