Who was Richards?

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.
observer
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Who was Richards?

Postby observer » March 31st, 2016, 9:36 pm

All I know is this intriguing fragment, from a Lee Jacobs article about Tommy Windsor in the March 1977 issue -

"in 1929, Richards the Wizard - a fine and almost forgotten performer - went broke in Marietta. The show, which was big enough to need a 70-foot railway baggage car for transportation, was taken over by Richards' agent."

Does anybody here know any more about Richards, before or after that?

Bill Mullins
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby Bill Mullins » March 31st, 2016, 10:22 pm

Ralph Richards. He billed himself as the successor to Lafayette. He was active during the 1910s and 1920s. There is a picture of him on the first page of this newspaper. Windsor had a big article about him in the Mar 1969 Linking Ring.

A classified ad from Diego Domingo in the May 2003 Genii suggests his real name was Ralph Ennis/Ennes, and he was released from Leavenworth Prison in 1950. I wonder what for? Maybe Diego will see this and let us know.

From Variety, Jan 13, 1922 is a short article:

GOLDIN STOPS RICHARDS
Chicago, Jan. 11.
Richards the Wizard must stop "sawing women in halves" for at least twenty days, according to an injunction granted by Judge Louis Fitzhenry in the United States District Court at Springfield, Ill., to Sam Margulies, secretary to Horace Goldin. Margulis claims the Richards act is an infringement and violation of a patent right held by Goldin.

observer
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby observer » March 31st, 2016, 10:40 pm

Interesting, thanks! I will try & check out the Linking Ring story.

Diego
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby Diego » April 1st, 2016, 3:59 am

Ralph Richards is an amazing story!
He did have an elaborate illusion/mentalism show that did well for years...the first half of the show illusions and smaller magic, then the 2nd part of the show was mostly his Q&A Crystal Gazing turn, with a few other mental/spirit effects included sometimes. Some patrons patiently sat thru the magic part, to hopefully have "Dr. Richards" answer their question.
(When some still ask if you can mix magic and mentalism, they don't realize the top mentalists of their day: Alexander, Raboid, Mel-Roy, and Richards, all did complete magic/illusion shows, with their mentalism as well.)

Radio pitchman Dallas Turner told me that Richards had a fine voice, and knew how to sell. By the early 1930's, like other mentalists, Richards had turned to the new medium of radio, doing their Q&A mentalism, to pull mail with questions for him to answer, with money enclosed. A LOT of money was being made, and like most Q&A artists, lived very large, spending it as the made it.
Richards eventually got very greedy and reckless with his radio pitches and investment schemes, (non-existent oil wells for example) and was first convicted of mail fraud in 1941, (after briefly being a fugitive) serving almost a year. He was later convicted again in 1946 for multiple counts of mail fraud, (raising money that was supposedly to help returning veterans from WW2), and spent over 3 years in Leavenworth Prison. George Marquis told David Price, that Richards visited him backstage in Atlanta, shortly after his release.

Richards had pursued a career of rampant, reckless fraud that was partially responsible for the formation of the Radio Control Act, that created the FCC, that banned fortune telling and questionable advice/medical shows for decades. Looking at the FRC/FCC files on Richards, you could tell the Fed wanted him very badly. In the Radio Control Act, listing names of those whose applications for radio licenses are to be denied, at the top of the list is Dr. John R. Brinkley, (the "goad gland" doctor) and Dr. Ralph Richards.
Mentalist dealer/perform Robert Nelson, ofter lamented that bad operators life Richards, killed a golden goose that had been making money for him and others.
I am still trying to find out what happened to Richards after 1950, and when/where he died.

observer
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby observer » April 1st, 2016, 1:51 pm

Wow.

Please let us know when you find out how the story ends.

Diego
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby Diego » April 2nd, 2016, 10:33 am

If anyone has any information/references to Ralph Richards, please let me know. Also be interesting to see what material pertaining to him is out there. His pitch books occasionally appear on eBay and sometimes his posters and broadsides, but haven't seem much else.

I spent days in the National Archives going thru the files of the FRC/FCC and the postal inspection service, going thru hundreds of pages of documents showing how the Federal government was tracking/monitoring his activities.

At one court hearing, the federal prosecutor questioned Richards regarding his "Dr." titles. Under questioning, he disclosed all FOUR degrees of Dr. were from the same, "school", and that he had obtained them all within a few months, at the same time. Under questioning, Dr. Richards acknowledged the one degree that he did not have, was a high school diploma!

Ted M
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby Ted M » April 2nd, 2016, 12:22 pm

Bob Cassidy might know something more about Ralph Richards.

This would be his area, where mentalism, history and law overlap.

Ted M
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby Ted M » April 6th, 2016, 2:56 pm

Sphinx Vol 22, p 133, Richard Van Dien reports in SAM minutes from Oct 6, 1923:
"Thurston recorded the name of Ralph Richards, as presenting without authority the Thurston special tricks."

Ah, those "Thurston special tricks"!

Sphinx Vol 32, p 15:
"Ralph Richards doing a mental act in Kansas which is relayed to Mexico and broadcast from there."

This mentalist/psychic radio fraud via Mexico sounds familiar to me, but where did I read about it? Maybe in Charvet's book on Claude Alexander?

Diego
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby Diego » April 9th, 2016, 1:28 pm

In David Charvet's fine books on Alexander, there is no mention of him using radio, except for maybe an occasional appearance, but not as a means to generate mail response and money.

The Sphinx article is no doubt referring to the station owned by "Dr." John R. Brinkley, in Milford, Kansas, KFKB, ("Kansas First, Kansas Best") that he used to promote his, "treatments". Besides Richards, Mel-Roy, Rose Dawn, P.T. Koran, and other mystics, demonstrated their mystic powers on the station, to generate mail with listeners questions, (and money).

When the Federal Government focused their attention on what was going on, Dr. Brinkley moved his broadcast studio to Del Rio, Texas, but brilliantly had the station, with a million watt tower, just across the Mexican border. The station was outside of the jurisdiction of the FRC/FCC and other agencies. A lot of money was made....and spent, by those involved.

David Charvet did briefly mention Mel-Roy and his work on radio, in his other fine book on Willard the Wizard.

observer
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby observer » April 9th, 2016, 3:12 pm

For background on the Del Rio radio tower and much much more, check out Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves, by Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford (University of Texas Press, 2002). And, ta-da: it includes several pages on Richards.

observer
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby observer » April 9th, 2016, 8:59 pm

Tricks You Can Do, by Richards "The Wizard", America's Master Magician
17pp., circa 1920

now on ebay, $35 BIN. Seller is Potter & Potter.

Diego
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby Diego » April 10th, 2016, 3:41 am

Border Radio, IS a great book. The edition Observer references, is the 2nd edition, which includes additional information and images, that I provided.

One of the authors of this book is working on a documentary on the subject.

Brandon Hall
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby Brandon Hall » May 31st, 2016, 7:02 pm

I remember Glen Faulkenstein finding peoples lost car keys and performing other miraculous feats of mentalism, on the radio, here in Los Angeles, in the early mid to late 70's.
"Hope I Die Before I Get Old"
P. Townshend

Diego
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Re: Who was Richards?

Postby Diego » June 5th, 2016, 4:33 am

The difference was Richards was making false claims to his listeners, that they could find health, wealth, and happiness, by investing in his schemes, and winding up in Federal prison, (at least twice), while Falkenstein during his day job as a speech therapist, was helping those in prisons and other institutions, to live a productive life to stay out of prison.


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