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Is this book great or ghastly? Read my review and get the inside dope

The Bodie Book

Walford Bodie
The Caxton Press
Edition / Year
10th Edition, 1906
In the section labelled

Dr. Walford Bodie, the "Electric Wizard", was a stage magician who took determined steps into charlatanry, representing himself as  a healer, able to cure the sick through both quack electrical devices and his own mental powers. His admittedly impressive stage-villain moustache may not have made him appear more credible; and the title "Doctor" and first name of "Walford" were likewise affectations. (Perhaps some psychic intuition of the far future led him to adopt this particular name, a glimpse that it would one day be one of the most popular and famous in Britain.)

The Bodie Book, a paperback volume cheaply printed but containing some glorious photographs, first appeared in June 1905. If one can believe Bodie, it went through nine printings that same year with the tenth edition appearing early in 1906. As well as being an advertisement for his stage show it also attempts to defend him against the attacks by "the doctors". Many medical professionals objected to Bodie's bold claims about his electrical and mesmeric therapies, practices they regarded as mere quackery. In their eyes he was preying on the gullible, promising cures he could not deliver, for the benefit of his own pocket.

Bodie next to bare-chested young man
Before Treatment: The Patient Cannot Lift Half-an-Ounce
Bodie next to young man now holding a weight labelled 56 LB
After Treatment: The Patient Lifts Half-a-Hundredweight

Bodie was often heckled by medical students at his shows, and he gives an example of such an occurrence in a passage which one must hope is pure fantasy, and not the record of an actual event. According to Bodie, a group of students shouted that they didn't believe he really hypnotised his subjects, so he invited these sceptics onto the stage to experience his hypnotism and electric treatment for themselves. Their ringleader was particularly cocky:

"You can't hypnotise me, Dr.Bodie", says he, "And I'll bet I can stand as much electricity as you can."

Bodie's "treatment" apparently involved electric current passing from him into the patients, who, being in an induced trance, felt nothing. In a regular performance the patient at the end of the chain would hold an electric bulb that would light to demonstrate that the current was real, but this time it would be the most mouthy student who would show the audience that Bodie was no fake.

“Are you ready!” I say to the man who can put up with any amount of electricity.

“ Ready,” he replies. And for a moment he stands like Ajax defying the lightning. But only for a moment. I touch the knob, and he has the full force of the current through my body. The hypnotised subjects on each side of him stand like statues, feeling nothing, but he—well, I have never before in my life heard such awful yells as he utters.

He twists, and turns, and looks as if he has an engagement elsewhere. But the hands on each side of him grip like iron, and will not let him go. The current is strong — it is the most I myself can bear comfortably. And to him it must be terrible. “Do you admit that the current is passing through you?” I ask, “Yes,” he howls, and then adds with unconscious humour, “I think so.”

“Do you admit that the current passes through me and through the hypnotised subjects, though they feel nothing?” “Yes, but stop, Doctor — for heaven’s sake, stop!” 

That's entertainment, folks!

A side view of Bodie with one hand outstretched. No subject is visible
Dr. Walford Bodie Mesmerising a Subject

When not torturing medical students, Bodie was scaring children half to death in the name of science.

Once I waited an hour behind a screen with a big drum, surreptitiously watching a little boy who had been told by his mother to wait there, but not to touch some luscious peaches in a dish on the table. It was a long fight between conscience and appetite on the part of the boy, but at last, after counting the peaches and concluding that one less might not be noticed, he listened at the door, cast furtive glances around, and finally stretched out his hand for the fruit. Bang went the drum behind the screen, and the boy, giving a sudden start, remained fixed in catalepsy.

Bodie did not only use other people's relations as subjects for his occult powers. On one occasion his sister-in-law, "Mystic Marie" absconded before she was due to give a theatrical demonstration of telepathy. But the show must go on, so regardless of what might be troubling her, Bodie brought his own telepathic prowess to bear on the situation.

As soon as I found that she had gone, I came to the conclusion that she had taken a ticket for home. Knowing that the first stop on the journey was Crewe, I shut myself in my dressing room, before the performance, and concentrated my mind on Marie, throwing my magnetism in the desired direction. As I did so I willed strongly that she would get out of the train at the first stop and sit in the waiting-room till someone came for her.

Now, there comes a point in these experiments when you feel that you have established communication; that your thought and will are impressed on the other mind. I reached that point and at once rang for one of my attendants.

“Go at once,” I said to him, “ take the first train to Crewe. There you will find Miss Marie in a waiting-room. Bring her back as soon as possible.” 

And so the penitent runaway was apprehended.

An formal photographic portrait of Mystic Marie
Miss Bodie (Mystic Marie)


Should you be wondering how Bodie could cure his patients, he helpfully answers this question in a chapter titled "How I Cure My Patients". Firstly, he says, he has "the natural gift of healing" - which is handy - and he increases its power "by training and by mechanical aids". Then there is his special relationship with electricity:

Through long and constant assimilation of electricity, and the effort to bring it into combination with my vital forces, which I may call the cogeners of electricity, I have developed a faculty for imbuing or colouring a strong current of the fluid with intelligent healing power. This, then, acts of itself, being taken up by the patient’s vital forces in the same way as the chemical constituents of food introduced into the system are taken up, first by the blood and then by the tissues. 

However, to simply pass the current from himself into the patient would not be enough. No, what is needed now is Bodieism:

And this is where Bodieism comes in. ‘The electric current of itself would do no more than it does in the Hospitals. It must be coloured and tuned, so to speak, to correlate with the patient’s vital forces. Coming in contact with my Odic force it requires a certain selective power and passes to the patient like an invisible hand which I have stretched out to feel, and probe, and readjust his nervous machinery by the sense of magnetic touch. Then, moreover, it possesses the patient, instinct with healing force, which is taken up and used, while the electricity passes on in its circuit. See, now, I approach the toe of my shoe to the patient’s leg. The sparks flash. That is clearly electricity PLUS something I have to give away out of a redundant constitution, Well, I may have explained it satisfactorily, or I may not, but at all events there is something operating in my cures—a something which is not the electric fluid, though it may be connected with it just as the man-part of the centaur was connected with the horse-part,

Bodie is understandably proud of this method, which he compares favourably with the innovations of Benjamin Franklyn and Samuel Morse. This, combined with hypnotism and something called The Magnetic Touch is the secret of his ability to bring about cures. With great power comes great responsibility, though, as he learned in his youth when testing out his faculties on a humble member of the animal kingdom:

Toads, frogs and tortoises are not easily hypnotised, but they are susceptible to a strong magnetic influence. When I was quite a boy I practised my eye on toads. I had read about the effect of the human gaze upon them, and resolved to see what I could do.

Accordingly I selected a large toad from the wood heap, and, placing him in a little cage, sat down to mesmerise him. For a long time I fixed my eyes upon his, but he did not wince. I actually felt an opposing influence. Then I redoubled my efforts for fully ten minutes, determined to put him to sleep. At last I was aware, in a way that I cannot describe, that I had broken the back of his resisting power. Then presently his eyes grew dim and the lids closed down.

I thought at the time that I had merely sent the toad to sleep. It was not until after I had kept him for several days, trying in vain to revive him, that I knew I had actually killed the reptile. It is undeniable that the toad has a strong influence of its own, and it is possible that when this is overcome, the re-action on its heart is such as to produce death.

Am artists rendition in which Bodie in a cage with several uncertainly drawn wild beasts subdues them with mesmeric passes
Dr Walford Bodie Hypnotising Wild Beasts in the Zoo


Apart from much rather repetitive material about occult subjects, the book contains several chapters which respond defensively to common criticisms against him. Thus there is one on "Doubting Doctors" which is a series of counterattacks against the medical profession; another, "Personal Explanation", which is a spluttering defence of his supposed professional qualifications. Bodie had been called out for pretending to have medical qualifications, to which he responded that his was an American doctorate, and in this chapter he goes to some length to demonstrate that American degrees are as good as British ones. He fails to mention that his American doctorate was also bogus, "sold to him by a Dentist in Bradford", according to Wikipedia.

But the most clever and surprising piece of defensive work comes in a chapter entitled "Motherhood and Magnetism", the inclusion of which may puzzle the reader, as it seems to concern itself with antenatal influences and how the experiences of the expectant mother during pregnancy may affect her baby, a subject which seems to have nothing to do with Bodie's stage performances. The key which unlocks the riddle, however, may be found in the following passage:

[...] many a woman who is the soul of fidelity has been accused of faithlessness because one of her children resembles a friend of her husband’s. It is no argument for infidelity at all. It may simply mean that the friend’s face has impressed the woman’s imagination, and for reasons hard to explain, has taken possession of it before the birth of the child. 

This seems to be aimed at all those husbands around the country who found themselves, nine months after Bodie had been through town, staring at miniature replicas of the Electric Wizard - moustache or no - cradled in the arms of their wives. 

"Oh, darling, it's just the effect of the Bodie Book!"

Poster for "The Beautiful Mystic Marie"

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