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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: A hypnotist and his volunteer caused a stir when someone unexpected saw her asleep and on display in a store window

 (S-R archives )
(S-R archives )

A vaudeville hypnotist’s publicity stunt took an odd turn in Spokane.

A young woman, Vera Russell, about 18, had answered an ad for a volunteer to be “put asleep” by a hypnotist named Alendale, and then awakened one night later, onstage. Vera had been selected over 50 other applicants.

A bed was installed in the window of a downtown clothing store, and she was hypnotized and put to bed. Crowds gathered outside the window to watch her sleep.

Some excitement occurred about midnight, when the night watchman came along outside and saw what he thought was a ghost. It was Russell, walking in her sleep in her nightgown. She was “put back to bed and stayed there.”

But the real drama came the next afternoon when a man pushed through the crowd of sidewalk gawkers, gazed at her, and shouted, “My God! That’s my daughter!”

He was A.E. Russell, a railroad switchman, and he knew nothing about the stunt. He had left his wife recently after a quarrel. He angrily demanded police remove his daughter from the window. After an argument, the store owner agreed to have her taken to the theater in an ambulance, where hypnotist Alendale awakened her backstage.

She was nonplussed at seeing her daddy standing there – and a bit annoyed she was not onstage, as planned.

“Why did you wake me now?” she asked. “But you’ll put me back to sleep won’t you? I want to wake up on the stage and see what it’s like. Please, Daddy?”

After some tears, her father consented and made an agreement with the hypnotist to put her back to sleep.

So during the 7:30 p.m. show, Vera Russell was awakened onstage as scheduled.

“The stage audience applauded when the girl walked sleepily down to the footlights in her nightgown and then was taken from the stage.”

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