Mrs. Dr. De San, Part 3

Newspaper illustration of a woman wearing glasses and hoop earrings. Her dark hair is swept up in a bun.
While on this topic, Madame De San wishes it distinctly understood that she is not conducting a cheap fortune telling business similar to that of clairvoyants and mediums formerly here. She caters only to the better classes and guarantees satisfaction.
- St. Joseph (Missouri) Herald, 21 November 1890.

Is Mrs. Dr. De San really Estelle? How angry were the St. Joseph, Missouri newspapers? What turned them against her, and did she receive the same reception in Illinois? Did Detective Locke bring her to justice?

Listen to the episode or access the transcript below. You'll also find a fabulous ad for Detective Locke's agency further down the page.

Next: Mrs. Dr. De San, Part 4

Transcript for Mrs. Dr. De San, Part 3

[00:00:04] Narrator: Estelle True-Nell was a remarkable woman. Our modern era has forgotten her, and I think that's too bad. I'd like to introduce you to her amazing life, one career at a time. Along the way, we might pick up a tip or two for ourselves, as we learn How to Be Estelle.

[00:00:25] Narrator: We're looking at what we now know is a confirmed Estelle sighting from late 1890 in St. Joseph, Missouri. Estelle left town quickly and quietly, leaving behind a series of unpaid bills. That becomes a problem when one of the groups you owe includes the local newspaper. The editors were happy to inform the public of Estelle's escape and her pursuit by Detective Locke.

[00:00:48] Newspaper: A Sleuth in Pursuit. A St. Joseph Detective on the Trail of the Bogus Madame De San. Madame De San, the revealer of past secrets and future fortunes, who played a brief and unprofitable engagement in St. Joseph some days ago, has been located at Kansas City, as was announced in The Daily News yesterday. The gay and festive madam when she took her departure from this city left no card upon the door of her late abiding place to inform her friends and far more numerous creditors whither she had gone.

[00:01:18] Newspaper: Several days were required to locate this gay and frisky mind-reader, but now that she has been apprehended there is trouble, and plenty of it, in store for her. Detective Locke, armed with a state warrant for the arrest of this "truthful and reliable" mind-reader, went to Kansas City this afternoon in search of the madam.

[00:01:37] Newspaper: When Mrs. De San left the city she owed printing bills to different publishing houses to the amount of $100, to say nothing of house rent and board bills. One or more of her creditors have had warrants issued for her arrest on the charge of obtaining goods under false pretenses. If the madam can be found, she will be brought back to this city to stand trial on the above mentioned charges.

[00:01:57] Narrator: It's not looking good for Estelle. She escaped St. Joseph, but Detective Locke is hot on her trail. An earlier account had claimed that she was arrested for public drunkenness in Kansas City, but authorities were later unable to locate her when she skipped out on her bail.

[00:02:12] Narrator: The accusations of fraud weren't a big surprise to me, but the report of drunkenness was. It doesn't fit with what I know of Estelle's earlier life or her career after that point. Now, she was accused of being “giddy” by a hotel owner who played host to her after she first left home during her divorce. She had just left her stick-in-the-mud husband, and her five children - FIVE children - were staying with her ex and with her family. This lady was on her own for the first time in a long time (or possibly for the first time, ever). Of COURSE she was giddy. But this later account of inebriation really doesn't sound like her.

[00:02:50] Narrator: Another report soon followed.

[00:02:52] Newspaper: Triple Mesdames De San. It now transpires that the Mrs. De San wanted in St. Joseph to answer for numerous fraudulent acts, is not the Mrs. De San that is now on the verge of insanity in Kansas City. There are three Madam De Sans, all fortune tellers. The first and original Madam De San - the great and only, as they say on the circus bills - is in St. Paul and has a reputation as a mind reader and fortune teller. The other two are unconscionable frauds.

[00:03:22] Newspaper: The one in Kansas City is a daughter of Madam James, and is a confirmed morphine eater, and has been driven insane from use of the drug.

[00:03:30] Newspaper: Madam De San number three, who is a monumental fraud, is the one that recently victimized the people of St. Joseph. Her whereabouts are unknown, but in some not-far-distant city she is probably carrying on her nefarious tricks of the trade. Her first experience in the fortune-telling fake was in St. Joseph.

[00:03:48] Narrator: There it is! Another bit of confirmation for my theory. And then, there's this:

[00:03:55] Newspaper: She used to be with a theatrical troupe, and when that went to wreck and ruin she and the manager of the company went into the cheating business of delving into other people's futures.

[00:04:04] Narrator: Yep. I have the story of the theatrical disaster, and you know I'll share that with you. We look to the Daily Illinois State Register in Springfield, which has this to say on January 11, 1891:

[00:04:18] Newspaper: Professor Stein, advance agent and manager for Mrs. Dr. De San, mind reader and second sight seer, said to be the greatest predicter of coming events now traveling is stopping at the Revere. Their advertisement will appear in the State Register this week.

[00:04:33] Narrator: Two days later, the truthful and reliable forecaster, Mrs. Dr. De San, has arrived in Springfield and secured parlors at 215 South Sixth Street. She's advertising the Transmitter of Thought - Edison's Latest - as a Mind Reading Machine. The next day, the Magic Mirror makes its first appearance in Springfield.

[00:04:54] Narrator: I told you earlier that in happier times, a St. Joseph newspaper reported that a local photographer had taken Estelle's picture, and an artist had turned it into a woodcut that would be printed in the next day's paper. Things fell apart right after that, and it looks like that ad never appeared.

[00:05:08] Narrator: But - good news - it did appear in the Illinois State Journal in Springfield. There she is, wearing her signature hoop earrings and her glasses. Her hair is done up in a sort of Gibson Girl style, and this woman in this drawing does resemble the one in the only known photograph I've seen of Estelle. It's glorious.

[00:05:28] Narrator: The Springfield ads announce Mrs. Dr. De San's presence in Springfield as "the dawn of a new era in fortune-telling,” and there's a bonus. One ad says,

[00:05:39] Estelle: Developing and instructing mediums a specialty.

[00:05:43] Narrator: That's right. Estelle is ready to develop the next generation of life readers.

[00:05:48] Estelle: The world's greatest mind-reader and fortune-teller, patronized by the best class, who never call on other fortune tellers. If there are those among us who would know what the future holds in store for them, this looks like the golden opportunity."

[00:06:00] Narrator: She advertises the Magic Mirror, Transmitter of Thought, and her new medium-training line of business through January. Then, on February 7:

[00:06:10] Newspaper: Detective P. T. Locke is expected to arrive in this city this morning from Springfield, Illinois, having in charge the notorious Madame De San, who so adroitly swindled a large number of people here a short time ago. The "Madame" will meet with a warm reception here, as a number of charges will be preferred against her, any one of which will be sufficient to send her to the penitentiary for a long term.

[00:06:31] Narrator: Oh, no! Fear not. Here's the next chapter of the story:

[00:06:36] Newspaper: Didn't get the Madam. Detective Locke Fails to Cage the Bogus Fortune Teller. Detective Locke returned yesterday afternoon from Springfield, Ill., whither he went some days ago to apprehend the much-wanted Madame De San. The detective located the wily madame in Springfield, and found her enjoying an immense practice in the fortune telling and charm selling business.

[00:06:57] Newspaper: Madame De San refused to come to St. Joseph, however, without a requisition, and Detective Locke was forced to return without his fair prisoner. He will, in all probability, ask Governor Francis for a requisition, and, should it be issued, the "madame" will undoubtedly be in the hands of St. Joseph authorities before many days.

[00:07:15] Narrator: The St. Joseph Gazette tells more of this story. The paper reported that the prosecuting attorney's office had been flooded with people making complaints, and a warrant was sworn out charging her with having obtained money under false pretenses. Several ladies became part of the complaint, saying that they had sought Estelle's advice on matters of the heart. They were told to wear a piece of silk from Estelle's dress underneath the northeast corner of their corsets, next to their hearts. If they did this, said Mrs. Dr. De San, they were to look up at the next full moon and they would see the face of their true loves.

[00:07:50] Narrator: This advice was reported to cost some of them up to $50. At the next full moon, when all the ladies looked up to see only the face of the man in the moon, they decided to file complaints.

[00:08:01] Narrator: The Gazette reported that Sheriff Spratt commissioned Detective Locke to "go and fetch the lady" from Springfield to St. Joseph, but Prosecuting Attorney Vories declined to ask for a requisition, and "Mr. Locke went on the mission to do the best he could under the circumstances."

[00:08:17] Narrator: The Herald reported the next day:

[00:08:20] Newspaper: Detective Locke returned from Springfield, Illinois, without Madam De San. The bogus fortune teller refused to return without a requisition.

[00:08:28] Narrator: That's right. He didn't have the paperwork, and Estelle said "no."

[00:08:33] Narrator: I did a little digging, and I found out what Estelle evidently knew. Detective P. T. Locke was a private detective, not a policeman. He had Locke's Western Detective Agency, operating out of room 8 of the Public Library building at Sixth and Charles streets in St. Joseph. He advertised “All branches of detective work performed with professional skill,” including local and foreign collections.

[00:08:57] Narrator: During that same time period, Locke was involved in an attempt to stop two medical college students from grave-robbing. He also helped to solve a case involving the theft of a flock of 30 geese.

[00:09:09] Narrator: I'll put one of his ads in the show notes for this episode. It's very detailed, and maybe a little bit creepy.

[00:09:15] Narrator: His obituary in 1915 said, "Locke's real calling during his residence in St. Joseph was that of a musical instrument agent, and the detective business was a sort of a side line.”

[00:09:25] Narrator: So, what have we learned from Estelle this time? It's what ladies have known for generations. Check their credentials, and if the paperwork isn't in order, refuse to go.

[00:09:35] Narrator: More potentially helpful advice - and a potential reason why we have more than one Madame De San - next time on How to Be Estelle.

Next: Mrs. Dr. De San, Part 4

Does this look like the advertising of someone for whom detective work was a "side line"?

Ad begins, 'Our Eye is Ever On You.' text of ad follows.

This ad for P. T. Locke's Western Detective Agency in St. Joseph, Missouri, from the newspaper The Eye (24 October 1890, p. 4), reads:

"Our Eye is Ever on you. Locke's Western Detective Agency. P. T. Locke, Chief. Central Office: Room 3, Public Library Building, Sixth and Charles, St. Joseph, Mo. Telephone __. All branches of detective work performed with professional skill.

Our purpose is: Investigation of all classes of criminal and civil cases, including murders, robberies, assaults, burglaries, forgeries, thefts; embezzlements and financial irregularities by those holding responsible positions; acts of incendiarism or malicious mischief; anonymous correspondence; libel and slander; blackmailing schemes, frauds committed against life, fire and marine insurance companies, railways, express, banking, mercantile corporations or private individuals; mysterious disappearances; the antecedents and daily habits of suspected persons; infringements of patents suspected jury panels; dishonest employees, defalcations; trace and prove authenticity of deeds, wills, and rights of heirs; look up evidence in all cases of fraudulent sales and transfers of property; tracing and ascertaining the whereabouts of absconding debtors or missing friends. Detectives available day or night. Correspondents all over the world. Large experience in civil, criminal, railroad and steamship detective service. Will guard stores, manufactories, railroads, dwellings and persons in any part of the United States.

Local and Foreign Collections Promptly Attended to.

General Advice. When a crime has been committed, do not discuss the matter with your neighbors, or any one but communicate immediately with us, giving all facts and incidents of the case in your possession, and do not allow any one to know that you have done so, as such information to the public might interfere with our plans. All Business Strictly Confidential. Charges reasonable. Correspondence solicited. Enclose stamp for reply."