Groucho [Marx] could always go unrecognized in public, thanks to the painted-on mustache he wore onstage. This allowed him to, as he put it “go anywhere and mingle with the common man in all his dreariness.” Back then, there was a prominent trance medium holding forth, and her devoted disciples (sometimes spelled s-u-c-k-e-r-s) solemnly offered to take the man born Julius Marx with them to a séance. Always intellectually curious, Groucho was glad to be asked along — though he told me he was “vaguely insulted” when his new friends solemnly cautioned him to show the proper reverence. “I’m not a clown 24 hours,” he said. “I can also be serious.”
The séance was held in the darkened parlor of some wealthy believer’s apartment. Groucho reported a heavy air of sanctity about the place, “and not entirely from the incense.” Lights were low and the faithful conversed in hushed tones. The medium began to chant unintelligibly, and then to emit a strange humming sound (I can’t help seeing her as Margaret Dumont), eventually achieving her trance state. “I am in touch, I am in touch with the Other Side,” she intoned. “Does anyone have a question?”
Groucho arose and asked, “What is the capital of North Dakota?”
He recalled being chased for several blocks, but escaped injury.
February 8, 2007
If you have TimesSelect, you can read Dick Cavett's blog, which has a long post today about ghost stories. Here's an anecdote: