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Marion, Frederick (1892-?)

Marion, Frederick (1892-?)

Stage name of Josef Kraus, famous European performer of stage telepathy and clairvoyance during the 1930s, who also claimed paranormal powers. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, October 15, 1892, he was the son of a businessman and grew up in a practical atmosphere. When he manifested psychometric and clairvoyant talents, his family was annoyed rather than impressed, and prescribed castor oil for an oversensitivity. At school, however, the boy became adept at games of locating hidden objects and sometimes enlarged this talent by giving detailed descriptions and information relating to the owners of the objects. Towards the end of his school days, he found it expedient to present his psychic abilities in the form of so-called "tricks" at school concerts and other entertainments. He passed his final examination in mathematics, not because he understood the principles involved, but because he had the unusual talent of being able to memorize the test volume of problems and formulae from beginning to end.

After enrolling for university studies, he saw a newspaper report about a Viennese performer named Rubini who claimed special powers of finding concealed objects. Stimulated by his student friends, Marion issued a challenge that he could rival Rubini's feats. The story was taken up by a local newspaper, and a committee was appointed from among the Prague police and personalities of the city. Marion undertook to find, in a stipulated time, several objects hidden by the committee in different parts of Prague and described in a sealed envelope deposited at police headquarters. Marion later stated that his spectacular success was due to the fact that he established telepathic communication with the chairman of the committee, and indeed, there seems no other way in which he could have obtained access to the sealed information.

He became an overnight celebrity, and at the age of 19 was invited to perform at music halls throughout Europe. He was billed as "The Telepathic Phenomenon" or "The Man with Six Senses." In 1913 he appeared in Moscow on the same bill as Fred Karno's "Mumming Birds," a show that included Stan Laurel and a little clown who later became world famous as Charlie Chaplin. In England Marion was sometimes billed as "The Human Bloodhound," since he helped the police in various European countries to unravel crimes through his telepathic powers.

During World War I, Marion served in the Austrian Army, and while stationed in Albania, he tried his hand at water dowsing. He rapidly became so well known for his successes that the military authorities commissioned him as an officer and sent him to different areas to find water for the troops. He found traveling around the country somewhat arduous and experimented with what has since become known as "teleradiesthesia," holding his divining twig over a large-scale map instead of visiting the area (see radiesthesia ).

He was remarkably successful, and this gave him more time to spare, which he spent in giving shows to entertain the troops. After a bullet wound and a bout of malaria, he was sent back to base at Innsbruck in the Tyrol.

After the war, he returned to his music hall demonstrations, and in 1920 met the remarkable stage clairvoyant Erik Jan Hanussen, who combined extraordinary talents with blatant trickery. Marion warned Hanussen that his growing preoccupation with black magic would have disastrous consequences, but the warning was not heeded. According to Marion, it was Hanussen who instructed the inner circle of the young Nazi Party in the power of signs and words and first proposed the swastika as the party symbol. Hanussen was murdered by Nazi thugs in 1933, for disclosures that were embarrassing to the party.

In his later years Marion appeared less frequently at music halls and confined his talents chiefly to lecture demonstrations and private consultations. In 1934 he visited England and gave impressive demonstrations of his psychic talents. During a lecture at the Aeolian Hall, New Bond Street, London, he was challenged by Lady Oxford, who stated that his reconstructions of past incidents in the lives of members of his audience were too precise to be genuine and must have involved confederates. Thereupon Marion correctly reconstructed an incident in the life of Lady Oxford's husband, Lord Asquith, in August 1914, which no other person could have possibly known. Lady Oxford was tremendously impressed and made a public apology, acknowledging that Marion's talent was genuine.

In 1934 Marion submitted to a long series of scientific experiments directed by S. G. Soal at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, London. Soal was skeptical of Marion's ESP but concluded that Marion had unusual hyperaesthesia, or unusual acuity of the senses. Soal stated: "My laboratory experiments show that Marion performs his amazing feats by the aid of remarkable powers which are probably possessed by not one man in a million. There can be no question of either collusion or trickery in his public performances, judging from what I have seen him do single-handed in the laboratory."

However, this hardly did justice to Marion's amazing feats outside the laboratory, including precognition, clairvoyance, and telepathy.

Marion was also tested by noted psychic researcher Harry Price, chiefly in locating hidden objects. Price, like Soal, concluded that Marion somehow gathered imperceptible indications from the other individuals present who had seen the objects hidden. But he could not say how minute indications were possible, since Marion had no physical contact with the audience (as in the famous "muscle reading" technique by which some stage performers make contact with a spectator and can interpret imperceptible movements of their muscles towards or away from objects). Price even attempted to limit Marion's view to only one member of the audience, the others being screened by curtains. Then the single agent's body was further screened off progressively by a box with adjustable panels, so that at times only a fifth of his body was visible to Marion, and eventually only his feet. Even under such extraordinary conditions, Marion had a high rate of success.

After two years of laboratory experiments, R. H. Thouless and Dr. B. P. Wiesner stated: "We can say definitely that we are satisfied that Marion shows paranormal capacities of an unusually high order under strictly controlled experimental conditions."

During World War II, Marion joined ENSA (the British troop entertainment service) and traveled around army camps, demonstrating his ESP talents at troop concerts. On May 23, 1946, he took part in a BBC radio program investigating his psychic abilities, one of the first British radio presentations of a subject that was not deemed respectable.

Sources:

Marion, Frederick. In My Mind's Eye. London: Rider, 1949.

Preliminary Studies of a Vaudeville Telepathist. Bulletin III. London: London Council for Psychical Investigation, 1937.

Price, Harry. Confessions of a Ghost Hunter. 1936. Reprint, Causeway Books, 1974.

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