Alan Sands Entertainment


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
by Celia Storey - ActiveStyle Editor | June 14, 2021

Edited by Alan Sands

OPINION | OLD NEWS: Hypnotized and buried alive in downtown Little Rock

On June 13, 1921, the Arkansas Gazette reported that throngs of people were jostling one another off the sidewalk outside the Fourth Street display window of the Gus Blass department store in downtown Little Rock. They were watching a woman sleep.

Even more exciting had been watching her get put to bed by a hypnotist:

"The fair prospective sleeper wore merely an enveloping wrap over a nifty pink negligee made for sleeping wear and topped by an equally nifty pink boudoir cap. The officiating hypnotist gently removed the wrap, and the pretty young woman stood revealed in her nightie-nighties."

His stage name was Albertus, and he was a member of Vaudeville's moustachioed tribe of mesmerizers. He wrote a book titled "Entertaining: Conjuring, Hypnotism, Muscle Reading, Mind Reading." He may have started in vaudeville as a juggler. Possibly he almost drowned in 1909 while trying to escape from handcuffs underwater in New Jersey.

He put her to sleep at 5 p.m. on a Sunday and then:

"With the subject in bed and the mosquito bar drawn, the hypnotist began his incantations. He talked and gesticulated vehemently, apparently impressing the girl that it was up to her to sleep until he waked her. In the course of several minutes, she yielded to slumber and slept the sleep of the just and the hypnotized."

Her mosquito bar was a net apparatus "barring" mosquitoes. See the John Singer Sargent painting at

About 24 hours later, she was transported bodily, still snoozing, to the stage of the Gem Theatre, a vaudeville house at 113 W. Third St. (This Gem is sometimes confused with a later Gem that stood at 712 W. Ninth St. and served Black moviegoers. But we need not be confused. The Central Arkansas Library System's Roberts Library has created a bee-utiful Storymap of historic Little Rock movie houses: See

The next afternoon's Arkansas Democrat reported that the girl survived her awakening, mind intact, which was the main thing you worried about with hypnotists.

For his next trick, Albertus would use a sledgehammer to break a 200-pound rock resting on the chest of a hypnotized woman. He would compel a boy to pedal a stationary bicycle at Kempner's shoe store for eight hours. Then he would induce a woman to work at a sewing machine for eight hours. He would answer written questions passed up from the audience at a ladies-only matinee without looking at the questions first.

All of his efforts should have seemed ho-hum by 1921. Travelling hypnotists had staged far grander "experiments" at Little Rock over the decades. Acts came and went: The Knowles, America's foremost hypnotists; Prof. H.B. Railey, an eminent magnetic healer with an office on Main Street; The Griffiths, "scientific hoodoo hypnotists"; Mrs B.L. Butler, "queen of laughter and the most expert lady hypnotist in the world."

Vaudeville-style hypnosis was spooky stuff. In 1895 at Ardmore — not yet in Oklahoma but rather in the Indian Territory — a man named J.H. Forcline, 26, shot a hypnotist in the head twice for using his art to lead Mrs Forcline wholly astray while boarding at their home. Before he transitioned from travelling hypnotist to dead, Prof. Dixon had been a well-known phrenologist who phrenologized the heads of Texans, as The Ryan (Texas) Record newspaper put it in 1894.

More sadly telling, only a few months before Albertus entertained at Little Rock in 1921, a Fayetteville man killed himself after telling people he despaired escaping a hypnotist's spell. Nov. 27, 1920, Democrat reported on the death of Arch O'Neal, 30, who drank poison at a hotel in Rogers:

"O'Neal, who had lived at Rogers several months, on several occasions said that he was under the spell of the hypnotist whose name he did not know, but to whom he referred as 'the big brute.'"

Among the travelling hypnotists whose ambition excelled the little we know of Albertus, one Professor C.S. Cary suspended some fellow between the backs of two chairs in March 1897 at Little Rock and loaded him with a stone supposedly weighing 580 pounds. A Gazette review of his show reported that he also suspended "cataleptic" audience members between the chairs and then had Dr. G.W. Hudspeth and another gentleman — combined weight, 363 pounds — sit on the sleepers.

The Gazette remained skeptical (no fault of the hypnotist; not all people allow themselves to be hypnotized):

"He worked diligently last night upon several men and boys who were not in the least affected, and this fact evidently gave birth to the belief that those who were 'influenced' were paid subjects."

But a subject hypnotized during the show continued sleeping in a store window the next day and needed police officers to keep sightseers in check. One citizen jabbed the sleeper with a pin. The main effect of that was a fight between the pin-poker and one of Cary's assistants.

But Cary also influenced George McBride, 19, a well-known Gazette newsboy, to quit smoking. A week later, the sight of a cigarette still made him sick.

In January 1902, a different hypnotist calling himself Professor Pipp purported to bury Miss Annie Gertrude Lemars alive — for five days — near Third and Center streets.

Undertaker P.H. Reubel's crew dug her grave "in the centre of the vacant lot between the Little Rock laundry and the old Gibson house."

Under a tent 10 feet tall, a wooden frame was erected over "a real grave exactly six feet in depth." Behind it was a platform on which were several chairs, a camera and a coffin. Electric and gasoline lights illuminated the whole. Citizens, including newspaper journalists, were invited to sit in the chairs.

Lemars was "outwardly" dressed in a dainty white-satin negligee. Still, underneath, she was more comfortably attired to endure the postulated frigidity of the underground — she wore what seemed to be several suits of heavy woollen underclothes and several pairs of stockings.

After Pipp waved his hands in front of her a few times, she flopped and helped the coffin. A doctor took her pulse. Then Reubel fastened the lid. By the way, Reubel had only been an undertaker for six months.

There was no glass in this lid but two four-inch cutouts on either end of the coffin through which air and viewing tubes were to be fed.

The coffin was moved off the platform and lowered into the grave using straps; the tubes were inserted, and planking was laid over the coffin to keep dirt out. After Reubel's men filled in the hole, the audience could peer through the viewing tube and so, by the aid of incandescent light somehow, watch Miss Lemar's snooze peacefully.

All of that happened on a Tuesday. She was "unearthed" in the best of health Saturday night before a crowd of nearly 1,000 human sardines with other citizens peering down from roofs and windows and dangling from trees. One man almost fell to his death from a tree.

Pipp was amazing in 1902.