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October 31: Archives Month - Mediums in North Dakota

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October is Archives Month, and Halloween! Is a perfect time to discuss mediums and psychics. Their unorthodox work found its way into reports in various newspapers around the state, and these newspapers can be accessed through the North Dakota State Archives.

In 1910, the Williston Graphic carried an ad for a “Clairvoyant, Trance Medium, and Psychic Palmist” who would be available at the Columbia Hotel. She had been in Minot for about 12 weeks and was coming to Williston soon. A coupon in the paper offered a half-price reading for those interested in gaining their “greatest wish in business, love, health, and investments.”

Another example comes from Bismarck in 1917. Professor Edwards, called “America’s Eminent Occult Scientist, Palmist, Clairvoyant and Magnetic Healer,” had office space in Bismarck at the McKenzie Hotel. His ad in the Bismarck Tribune promised answers to “many things you may wish to know.” The ad included some suggested questions: “Will I succeed in business? Will my home be happy? How can I control anyone?” and “Have I psychic powers?”

In Grand Forks, Dean Jospeh Kennedy, who was with the department of education at the University of North Dakota, told the Fortnightly Club there about his experiences with Madame Chenoweth, a medium in Boston. He concluded that she was able to receive “mental impressions to a much higher degree than was the case with most people” and he “discounted the theory that there was any supernatural agency at work ...”

And then there were psychics who appeared in acts. In 1915, the Great Zartoons appeared at the Orpheum in Bismarck. Dr. Zartoon and his wife were described as “so far above the average mind-reading and clairvoyant act that a comparison is truly odious. They correctly answer questions that you have previously written on your own paper at your own home and which you are not even asked to remove from your pocket or purse.”

In 1889, the Jamestown Weekly Alert reported that “hypnotism, mesmerism, and tranferance of thought” had entered into a court case in the state of Michigan, where a young bride said her husband had controlled her via hypnotism and that she wanted a divorce. As the paper opined, “Whatever may be the decision [of the judge], there will be this result: Investigation into this class of psychic phenomena ... and new light thrown on the matter.”

Happy Halloween!

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


  • Williston Graphic, April 21, 1910, p12
  • The Bismarck Tribune, January 25, 1917, p2
  • Grand Forks Daily Herald, February 15, 1916, p7
  • Williston Graphic, March 24, 1910, p4
  • Bismarck Daily Tribune, November 11, 1915, p4
  • Jamestown Weekly Alert, April 18, 1889, p4

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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