Way before NYPL had their own foray into ghost busting, Baltimore’s own librarian-lawyer-journalist-mason-magic historian extraordinaire Henry Ridgely Evans (1861-1949) was on the scene. Ever interested in the paranormal (indeed, one newspaper account mentions that Evans “touched elbows and hobnobbed with spooks almost since infancy”), Evans embarked on a lifelong crusade to uncover fraud in the realms of slate writing, table rapping, and other pursuits by alleged spirit mediums. Evans also staged spirit photographs, and as seen in the accompanying image, he imbued them with quite a dramatic flair . . . though one wonders how effective a sword would be in combating the dastardly supernatural powers of his cloaked nemesis!
Evans, when not debunking jet-setting mediums, was also enchanted with magic and illusion and befriended the top prestidigitators of the day. Though he revealed the secrets to numerous tricks such as how to make a flying handkerchief, he nonetheless garnered a great deal of respect in the magic and occult communities, even receiving a medal of appreciation from the Society of Osiris, Magicians, Inc. in the 1930s!
While highly critical of spirit mediums, Evans believed that telepathy could prove real. He offered as proof an encounter he had while on a train to Baltimore. He claimed to have seen an old man with long white hair and long white beard standing in a pool of blood outside of a train depot. The next morning, Evans’ brother (who was not on the train) had a dream in which he witnessed the decapitation of an old man! It turns out that a man was in fact decapitated by train on the very route to Baltimore. Due to such a gory coincidence, Evans maintained that he telepathically transmitted his vision to his brother while they were both sleeping. Spooky! Scary!
Interested in learning more about our favorite member of the Masonic bibliophiles? Then you are in luck! The Sheridan Libraries own oodles of Evans’ books, and our snazzy electronic databases are also chock full of “Spooky” Evans’ articles. The George Peabody Library in particular has an enticingly diabolical collection of his works — they are all shelved on the dreaded sixth floor, in the darkest recesses of the library. MWHAHAHAHA!!!