( The following information was recorded in October , 1985 in the last interview ever given by Walter B . Gibson ( 1897 – 1985 ), creator of The Shadow , and writer for Houdini , Blackstone , Thurston , Dunninger and Mark Wilson ).
I was in the middle of an ocean ; hardly knew which way to swim . With the help of an unparalleled team of writers and researchers , I was headed for publication of my first book in October of 1986 . I was 25 . My “ team ” consisted of Dr . Edwin A . Dawes and Dr . John N . Booth as editors . Larry White ( 1935 – 2008 ), the Director of the Needham ( MA ) Science Center and the head master magician at Watertown MA ’ s “ Magic Art Studio ” the great Ray Goulet were my co-author / guide and publisher respectively . Harry Anderson ( 1952-2018 ), the comedy club magician , then kicking down doors on TV ( Saturday Night Live , Cheers and his own series Night Court ), wrote the Foreword . The book ; TWELVE HAVE DIED – a history and how to concerning magic ’ s most dangerous effect , the bullet-catch . Chapter 3 is titled “ Annemann the Enigma ”— and this is where the story of Nightmare Alley really begins .
Theodore (“ Ted ”) John Squires Annemann ( 1907-1942 ) is perhaps the true doyen of twentieth century mind reading , sometimes called , mentalism . Annemann killed himself at age 34 in Greenwich Village , New York City , by deftly gassing himself . He wore his black bushy hair in a pompadour , began as “ Annemann — The Eternal Question ” and began publishing the now legendary “ Jinx ” magazine ( 4-pages offset ) when he was but 27 . Annemann toured with a small medicine show , married young , and produced a daughter who disowned her father later in life . His wife Margaret was known as “ Greta ” and Ted worked a crystal gazing act in sideshows and bottom-of-the-rung vaudeville all over New England . The act was not successful , the couple split . Annemann then found himself in Greenwich Village living on Perry Street with his second wife Jeanette Parr , a model who drove him crazy with jealousy .
He chain smoked filterless Lucky Strike cigarettes and drank vodka and rye whiskey to excess . He shook with stage fright when he read minds — the audience believed his manifestations were “ real .” The trappings of late 19th century mind reading included capes and turbans , an exotic Eastern setting sometimes accompanied a less-than-convincing escape into modern fantasy . In 1933 , a young magician in Nebraska named Orville Meyer , invented the modern version of catching a bullet in the teeth , which Annemann said was too good to put in The Jinx . He electrified the world four times bringing enormous fame , but when appearing live as a man of miracles , he sweat profusely , and was probably hung over . John Booth told me that he smoked marijuana with Ted in Canada at the Fort Erie bullet catch , in 1938 . Annemann , legend has it , not only was a genius , but played a genius . Exaggerating eccentricities — keeping bats in his 4th floor walk up .
By 1986 , I ’ d spoken with Milbourne Christopher , John Booth , Sid Lorraine , Gene Gordon ( one of the founders of the IBM ), Stewart James and Bob Weill , whose father Armand was the rifleman at the Fort Erie stunt . Bob Weill created my 1990 bullet catch . All knew Annemann well , and when my book came out , the owls of magicdom sought me out to correct my