A ghastly publicity stunt by a mindreading couple

"In the early hours of the morning, however, 
a bulky sack was retrieved from the depths..."

This is from the 1920's book Sensational Tales of Mystery Men, which contains stories about magicians, or, in this account, a publicity-hungry couple who claim to see into the future:
The Cornells and their ghastly publicity stunt
Some artists will go to drastic lengths in order to secure publicity, but the plan of the Cornells, two American thought readers, for roguery and debasement far exceeds any other story I have heard.

When the Zomahs (who were rival performers) were touring America, their fame spread with lightning rapidity, and they became so famous that imitators experienced the greatest difficulty in obtaining engagements. The Cornells, a couple who had met with moderate success, found their bookings dropping off alarmingly.

Driven to desperation, they concocted a great publicity scheme. Fortunately for the good of the profession, and unfortunately for the couple, the plan misfired.

They had obtained an engagement in a small hall in the Chicago suburbs, and it was here that they decided to put their idea into operation. During the performance, Madame Cornell, who was sitting blindfolded in the centre of the stage, gave a piercing scream, and made as though to fall from her chair.

"What is it? " shouted Cornell, playing the part of the distracted husband with no mean ability. "What do you see?"

"Away! away!" cried the woman, motioning her partner to keep his distance. "I have seen a murder! Two youths flung themselves upon an old man, and battered his face in. I can see them now. They are tying his body in a sack. Yes, they are putting weights in. Now they are on the banks of the river." Here she gave the exact location of the scene she was witnessing. "They have dropped the sack into the water, and are hastening away." And with these last words, Madame Cornell rolled off her chair in a well simulated faint.

Her words created great excitement amongst the audience. The performance was stopped, and several people rushed from the building to the spot she had described in her "vision." Some of them went to fetch policemen, whilst others informed the river authorities.

It was an eerie scene by the river bank. For several hours during the night, the water was dragged, and nothing brought to light. In the early hours of the morning, however, a bulky sack was retrieved from the depths. The police hurriedly opened it, and the crowd gathered round with an air of suppressed excitement. But they drew away when they saw what the sack contained. It was the mutilated body of a man.

The Cornells received more publicity than they needed. It was the wrong sort of publicity. Somebody disclosed the whole despicable plan. The pair had purchased the body from a mortuary, and, having disfigured it beyond recognition, sewed it up in the sack, and dropped the gruesome bundle into the river. It was a well-thought-out plan which, but for the fact that they had to take others into their confidence, might well have succeeded. Happily for us, such people as the Cornells are few and far between in the profession.
The book Sensational Tales of Mystery Men was written by Will Goldston in 1929. Mr. Golston was an English magician, writer, magic dealer and creator of magical illusions. Readers can assume this story is true, inasmuch as Mr. Goldston was a professional liar and seeker of publicity himself.

- A scan of this book and many other magic books is found at The Learned Pig Project>>
- The photo is from a real murder scene - The Kingsbury Run Murders or Cleveland Torso Murders, from TruTV>>

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