On the Boardwalk

7 May

Bradley Lewis of Columbus, Ohio did not travel to Atlantic City in June of 1910 simply for the pleasures of summer.

He only pretended to be one of the vacationers on the famous Boardwalk. His real intention was serious researching in what could be termed an arcane area.

After registering and occupying the room he had arranged a reservation for at the United States Hotel that took up an entire block between Atlantic, Pacific, Delaware, and Maryland Avenues, Bradley went out for a stroll along the crowded Boardwalk. The tourists were already out enjoying the friendly sun and the endless series of attractions.

Men in navy blue, yellow, white, and silver gray blazers had flat straw boaters, skimmers, and Panama hats on their heads for protection. Women wore large feathered hats and turbans. Kimonos represented the current craze for the Oriental.

As he strolled along with the walkers, Brad heard from calliope organs the popular melodies of “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland”, “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”, “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine”, and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”.

He stopped at the edge of the pier and gazed out at the ocean, feeling the balmy, watery breeze.

Had it been a mistake to come to Atlantic City? He hoped with all his heart that he would find what he was after here.

The desk clerk told him there had been a telephone message for him while he was out. “A Mr. Marion Davis said that he would meet you in the outer lobby, by the main door, at seven. He will be wearing a striped coat and looking for you there, sir.”

That being that, Brad went to his room and lay down in bed for an afternoon nap. His mind, though, was preoccupied with the stranger he only knew through letter correspondence. Would Davis prove to be the telepathic master who could bring him into communication with the wife he had only a year before lost to tuberculosis?

This evening would provide him his first indication.

The wait for his mentor-to-be lasted less than three minutes.

Marion Davis proved to be a tall giant with thick, black eyebrows and a large, reddish nose. He caught the identity of Brad instantly, grabbing and shaking his right hand.

“I am so glad that you got my message and are here precisely on time, my brother. But let us not stand about in the open. I made arrangements at a Boardwalk eatery that I consider excellent. Let me take you there. Miss Shaw is going to meet us for dinner in a short while.”

“Miss Shaw?” said that startled Brad Lewis.

“Miss Marta Shaw from New York City. I always make my preliminary introductions in groups of at least two. She is going to be your training partner. Do not be concerned to any degree, she is sincere and dedicated to our mental learning. Marta will, I promise, be of great help to you.”

Brad forced himself to smile as he accompanied Marion Davis out to the Boardwalk, then to a German restaurant where he was to meet the third member of the psychic trio that he was now a part of.

She was an elegantly dressed young woman of tiny size in white dimity. Her natural freshness and beauty were topped with a strangely dark turban. No female had ever impressed Bradley Lewis on first meeting as this New Yorker named Marta Shaw.

The threesome retired to a secluded room that Marion Davis had reserved ahead of time for them. He ordered the popular Wienerschnitzel of the place for all of them, and they proceeded to get acquainted through the pleasantries of casual conversation.

“My father was a dedicated Theosophist,” mentioned Marta, her clear blue eyes set on Brad, across the table from her. “He passed away only last year and he promised that he would attempt to contact me from over the great gulf of life and death.”

Marion assaulted this gloom with a laugh. “I take it that you have a very scientific motive for seeking telepathic contact, Brad,” he smiled broadly. “It is commendable that you aspire to winning popular acceptance for the claims that have long been made by psychic adepts. When you have become one of us in actual practice, a public career will then lie open before you, my friend.”

A waiter and serving girl appeared with their dinners and their talking was interrupted a short time. When it resumed, Davis outlined the schedule he had set for them.

“I shall be out of Atlantic City for the next three days. That will provide plenty of opportunity for the two of you to relax and enjoy the wonders of our Boardwalk. Get to know each other and get used to the ocean air and the shore. That will help both of you to bring forth and develop the telepathic potential that I have recognized you hold. Then, when I am back, we can explore the special properties of the Boardwalk’s psychic atmosphere.”

The leader was first to leave. Brad walked Marta to the Traymore Hotel, where she was staying. The two arranged to meet and explore the Boardwalk the next morning. Brad returned to his hotel with his spirits uplifted and soaring by the new acquaintances he had made, especially the surprise of the radiant Marta Shaw.

The pair met next morning in the giant lobby of the Art Deco Hotel Traymore and walked onto the Steel Pier for breakfast at a ham-and-eggs eatery. They then strolled the Boardwalk, exploring and choosing which attractions to spend time on. Neither of them had any interest in sun-bathing on the sandy beach with thousands of other tourists. It was Marta who boldly suggested that they take a ride on one of the roller-coasters she had heard a lot about. From initial apprehension, the experience turned into a thrilling sensation of fun for both of them.

Marta climbed out of the coaster car laughing and excited. She suggested that they find and try the famous Atlantic City salt water taffy, which both of them found a delight to their tastes.

At the end of the Steeplechase Pier, the pair watched the famous Razzle-Dazzle ride. Those brave enough to try it sat facing inward on the edge of a large-diameter wheel that tilted and spun them around in circles. Marta dared Brad to take a ride on it. “I would never dare myself, but I think it would be fun to watch you spinning about like that,” she laughed.

Her companion accepted the challenge and courageously went onto the Razzle-Dazzle, impressing and amusing Marta more than he had anticipated.

The two visited the Heinz Pier that afternoon, viewing kitchen displays and art exhibits, then trying free samples of the 57 varieties being advertised.

Marta suggested that they see the show featuring the diving horse. Both of them were startled at seeing horse and rider plunge from a 40 feet high platform into a pool of water twelve feet deep. She revealed to Brad how sorry she felt for the horse made to perform such a fearsome trick.

“What about the poor rider?” grinned Brad with a wink.

After a quick, light dinner at a sandwich shop, they attended a vaudeville show on the Garden Pier.

Brad asked Marta if she would like to go to the Palace of Dancing and was surprised when she told him “I have never learned how to dance. My father did not approve of it at all.”

It was after he took her back to the Traymore Hotel and they sat down on comfortable chairs in a corner of the lobby that she began to make a surprising confession to him.

“I suspect that I have come to Atlantic City under false pretenses,” she said, lowering her voice to nearly a whisper. “Let me explain. “My father was a leading Theosophist and telepathic pioneer in New York City. He came to be well known as one who exposed what he called “psychic fakers” who claimed powers and abilities that they only pretended to possess. He could not tolerate the fraudulent operators who stained the reputation of those who actually could communicate with the unseen.

“My father taught me all the skills and methods that he had acquired over his lifetime. His wish was that I continue his crusade to clean our profession of the falsifiers and mountebanks who made money from gullible individuals whom they fooled and hoodwinked.

“Before he died, he made a sort of pact with me. His entire spirit being was going to be mobilized for the sake of contact with me. I was meant to hear from him, and I soon did so. We have had numerous messages sent and received between us.

“He became aware of the lying claims made by Marion Davis about his capability of reaching dead loved ones of clients. My father recognized the signs of a “psychic faker” who used microphones and mirrors to convince his followers to believe and support him.”

Marta paused a moment to study the face of Brad, then continued her confession.

“So, I have not come to the Boardwalk to learn a talent and skill that I already have in a genuine form. No, my journey here is aimed at exposing and ruining a man who sees telepathy as a false doctrine that can be the means of enriching himself.”

Brad waited a time before he replied to all she had said.

“You astound me, Marta. No, I do not doubt the truth of what you are saying, but it is difficult to swallow and absorb all the ramifications of what you have revealed to me. It will take me awhile to adjust to the shock that you have created in my mind. I must now make a great effort to locate and adjust to all the implications of your candid statement to me.”

She gave him an intense stare. “We you help me entangle and entrap this liar?” asked Marta.

“Yes, of course I will.”

When Marion Davis returned to town he telephoned each of the pair and invited them to another dinner at the German restaurant on the Boardwalk.

Marta walked to the site with Brad at her side. They stopped and looked at each other just before entering the establishment.

“You understand what I have been instructed by my father to do?” she asked a last time. “We must not interfere with Marion until the right moment, when I am to concentrate all of my mental force and summon the voice of my father from out of the other plane.”

“He will make his presence known to us?” inquired Brad with his nerves inflamed.

“My father has not revealed all the details to me, but I believe that he will make himself known to the three of us.”

“Including Marion?” persisted Brad.

She answered him with an affirmative nod.

The pair entered the restaurant and a waiter led them back to a private room that Davis had reserved for them that evening.

The “psychic faker” was in an ebullient mood, but said nothing about what he had been up to in New York City. He presented the theory he had concocted on his own about why the Boardwalk and the ocean were conducive to telepathic communication with the dead.

“It appears logical to me that water is a superior medium of psychic waves from the other side. And the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are the optimum aquatic receivers that can be found on the planet Earth. Our Atlantic City Boardwalk enjoys exposure to an extremely wide range of watery area that can serve as a mirror that absorbs what is being sent here from the realm of the deceased spirits.

“One need not possess extraordinary powers of reception to be capable of hearing the messages of loved ones and close friends. Those over there on the second plane of existence know that the Boardwalk is a most favorable location for constructing links of the mind and there make augmented efforts to reach those attempting to hear them here on the Atlantic shore.

“That is the truth of the matter, and we shall witness it tomorrow at dawn, when we three take a stroll out on the empty pier in order to find out what those who are gone mean to tell us. We shall meet in the lobby of the Traymore and proceed outside from there. Are there any questions, my friends?”

Brad and Marta exchanged glances, but neither said anything at that point.

Davis found both of his clients sitting and waiting for him. Neither of them had enjoyed much continuous sleep that night. Both were uncertain how this adventure with the man they distrusted was going to end.

“Follow me, please,” their guide and leader said to the pair. The trio found that the Boardwalk was covered with a light mist that created only a slight impediment to their vision. With leisurely steps, Marion led Brad and Marta down the Steeplechase Pier, past the empty arcades and the motionless amusement park. The sky had increasing light and the mist was quickly disappearing. At the far end of the pier, Davis halted and turned to his two companions.

“It is about time for the rising sun to become visible over the Atlantic,” he said. “Let us join our hands together in a circle and wait to catch what is being directed to us from over there on the opposite side.”

Within seconds, the three were linked to each other.

Immediately, the voice of her departed father struck the mind of Marta Shaw. “Be careful with this deceiver, my daughter. He is a lying ventriloquist who can impersonate a distant spirit and convince the gullible that his hidden voice is that of the dead. He is about to do so before you, but you must not trust what you hear from his unmoving lips, not at all.”

Brad was astounded that he could also hear and understand this warning from the father of Marta. The one not receiving these words was Marion Davis.

“I shall now show this evil man that his trickery has been uncovered and he must pay for all the harm he has caused to others.”

Both Marta and Brad could hear what the father’s spirit was transmitting into the surprised and unprepared mind of the “psychic faker”. For the first time in his career, Marion Davis was the receptor of a genuine message from the dead.

“I know how you deceive by throwing your voice!” said the distant voice from afar, repeating the sentence over and over without stopping.

All of a sudden, Marion broke the circle of hands holding to each other.

Brad and Marta, both of them hearing what was echoing through the mind of their psychic guide, looked down at the pier as the figure collapsed and fell in a swoon.

His lips and mouth seemingly still, the ventriloquist continued to babble without sense as the circle of the orange sun appeared over the eastern ocean.

Brad turned and spoke to the astounded Marta, her father’s voice having stopped its violent communication over the waves. “Let’s get some medical aid for him. There should be some life guards down at the beach hospital by now.”

The pair hurried away, leaving their companion lying on the cold surface of the pier.

A medical officer spoke to Brad and Marta in a solemn tone at the tent station an hour and a half later, in the full, clear light of morning.

“This man has suffered an unusual type of seizure. I doubt that he will ever recover from what appears to be total madness and insanity. There can be no question but that his mind is now gone and can never be restored.

“There is no hope or future for this unfortunate person.”

Brad turned to Marta and murmured. “There is nothing we can do now. It is best that you and I return to our hotels.”

The two of them left Atlantic City before the day was over, neither communicating with the other.

Marta and Brad never saw each other ever again.


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