The Celebrated Materializing Gold of Calaveras County

Forgive me for including this episode even though it occurred just outside the 19th century.  But the events described began in 1903, so I decided it was close enough.  The ponzi scheme (pre-Charles Ponzi) described here has a naive, simple dream-like quality in that the materialization of “interest” on the principle is represented to the marks as a veritable—not a metaphorical—materialization, occurring in the dark after they placed their money on a chunk of gold ore.

The Examiner, of course, was the first newspaper of William Randolph Hearst.  The main headline for the day this story began was “Hearst Asks Congress to End the Crying Evils of the Trusts,” describing Representative Hearst’s introduction of a bill into the House of Representatives.  Other stories on this day—in the “American Magazine” section of the paper—included the following:

“How Melvina Slade, Spinster, Fluttered Too Near the Flame of Love and Like the Moth Got Singed: The Ridiculous Plight of a New England Old Maid Who Wanted to See How It Seemed to Be Loved, and Hired a Bankrupt New York Society Man to Court and Propose to Her.”

“Count Boni De Castlellane Tries to ‘Get Even’: Anna Gould’s Worthless Ex-Husband Becomes a Paris Journalist and Writes Mean Things about American Men, Habits & Especially Shocking Revelations of American Women.”

“The Mystery of the Drugged Glove: Who Is the Well-Dressed Young Man Who Lurks in the Shadow of Newport Mansions, Waiting to Pounce upon Unescorted Girls, and Steal Away Their Senses with the Drug-Soaked Glove Which He Presses upon Their Mouths and Nostrils?”

“Demented Wealthy French Count Has Wax Figurines of His 7 Dead Wives Brought in to Dinner Every Night in Full Evening Dress.”

“Can You Waltz the ‘Jiu Jitsu’?  This is the New Craze for London and Paris Ballrooms, Which Compels Its Devotees to Learn the Science of Japanese Self-Defense, Set to Music and Adapted to Dance Movements—Illustrated Here by a Remarkable Series of Photographic Poses.”

The articles on the fake séances fit well into this company.—JB

Fake-Spiritualist Frauds

San Francisco Examiner, March 3, 1907

“Mystic Fake-Spiritualist Frauds of Stockton Ring Exposed.  ‘Treasurer of Heaven’ Gone, and $35,000.  Barber Medium Vanishes, and Confederates Confess to Huge Swindle.  Millionaire and Doctor Prove Victims.  Hotelman among Prominent Dupes Who Fall Prey to Astounding Conspiracy.  Plot Bared by Son of Credulous Physician.”

The mystery of the marvelous spiritualistic séances conducted at Stockton by a barber named Frank La Mott during the past two years has been solved.  They were a series of frauds conducted by unscrupulous men.  But so well arranged were the fake materializations that Dr. Hyslop of the Columbia University and several other eminent and sincere investigators of psychic phenomena became interested.  A millionaire, a doctor and a capitalist are among the victims of La Mott and his confederates.  So desperate were the conspirators that the murder of Mrs. M. L. Sims, wife of the proprietor of the Yosemite Hotel of Stockton, was planned because she tried to awaken her husband to the danger of attending La Mott’s séances.  The marketing of bogus mines was another specialty of the fake medium.  Wealthy dupes were sought and found on all sides.  These facts are set forth in a series of confessions made to “The Examiner” by the leaders of the band operating under the guise of spiritualistic mediums.

Gigantic frauds and conspiracies to take human life that have had birth in the mystic darkness of fraudulent spiritualism, have just been brought to light in the city of Stockton to astound and amaze with their tangled details of trickery, deception and unscrupulous plotting.  It is the most remarkable expose of the methods of schemers, operating under the mask of spiritualism, that has ever been published in this State and with the uncloaking of the plots there have been revealed the names of the victims, men who stand high in financial and business circles.

The list of dupes includes among the principals Daniel C. Gamer, a millionaire; Dr. A. L. Foreman, a physician, and M. L. Sims, a hotel proprietor.  The conspirators and alleged perpetrators of the frauds were Frank La Mott, a barber, Frank Newcome, a broker, and N. W. Mahaffey, a former minister of the gospel.  The amount of money secured from the victims ranges between $40,000 and $50,000.  The plot to commit murder was only a means to accumulate more wealth.  It was not carried out merely because of the refusal of one of the fake spiritualistic mediums to be a part of such a scheme.


From the twilight land of the spirits came the inspiration for all the schemes which were made possible by the almost infantile faith of the victims.  Spirit mines served to lure gold from the pockets of the eager and believing speculators.  A “treasury of heaven” was the depositary for moneys that vanished in the darkness of the séance, to be returned with 50 per cent interest (so it was promised) by spirit hands.  Confucius was drawn from his spiritual abode and made to materialize into a stone idol to guile his “friends” in “profitable” investments.  Wonderful physical phenomena performed in dark séances convinced the credulous investors that they were in close communion with the spirits.

And now comes the light, and with it a rude awakening.  Frank La Mott has vanished, carrying with him, it is said, the capital of the “treasury of heaven.”  Frank Newcome and N. W. Mahaffey are self-confessed frauds, now living in fear of the very shadows that they conjured to deceive their innocent victims.  As for the victims, they realize that they have been duped.  They have been changed from believers to rabid unbelievers.  Their eyes, that were dimmed to the truth, have been opened to see the magnitude of the impositions to which they have been subjected.


The physical manifestations from the spirit realm that have appeared to that select circle in Stockton have been the wonder of the psychic world.  The marvels accomplished by the mediums of the San Joaquin county metropolis have furnished food for discussion in the psychical centers of this continent.  Professor James H. Hyslop, formerly of Columbia University and now a leader in spiritualistic circles, received word of the unusual manifestations, and he wrote to one of the members of the circle asking for details.  The facts asked for are now contained in the surprising confessions of Frank Newcome and N. W. Mahaffey, both of whom admit that their spiritualistic séances were frauds.

It was several years ago that mortal hands brought together in Stockton a number of people, eager and anxious to converse with the spirits of their departed friends and dear ones.  Frank La Mott, a barber, was the founder of the mystic circle.  He discovered suddenly one day in July of 1903 that he was possessed of mediumistic powers.  This fact he communicated to Joseph Denz, a jeweler of Stockton, and a séance was held at which he endeavored to prove his psychic powers.

Then came the formation of the circle.  Nine solemnly sworn members pledged themselves to secrecy.  The oath administered by La Mott contained vows of dark meaning that carried fear to the hearts of the hearers.  Dr. A. L. Foreman, former member of the Assembly of this State, and his wife were among the first to join the circle.  M. L. Sims, proprietor of the Yosemite Hotel in Stockton, also became a member of the circle with his wife.  Later on Daniel C. Gamer, the vice president of the Olympia Brewing company of Tacoma, came to commune with the spirits.  N. W. Mahaffey and his spouse were taken in with the privileged.

With this gathering La Mott started to demonstrate his mediumistic powers.  In the dark séances he materialized objects from the misty nowhere; spirit voices spoke to the assembled believers.  An auto-harp, strummed by spirit fingers (so he said) sounded harmony for delighted ears.  Water was turned to wine.  Frogs and gold fishes were materialized, and all these wonders were worked during the tense moments of the dark séances.


Frank La MottThus La Mott, the barber medium, became ambitious.  His circle believed in him.  He must show them more wonders.  And there were wonders in store, as was proved by subsequent developments.  One night whisperings came from the darkness that told of wealth to be obtained from a mine of fabulous riches.  It was the spirit of Rufus Choate, a former judge of Boston, who spoke, interpreted by La Mott to the awed and hushed listeners.  The voice counseled that investment be made near Glencoe, Calaveras County, in a mine.  Then the dark séance gave place to light and before the eyes of the astonished circle there appeared on the table papers that had been drawn by a “spirit lawyer” and stock lists that had been furnished by an unseen hand.

And then!  Without sound there was materialized upon the table a boulder of quartz weighing at least 75 pounds.  The spirits brought it from the mine near Glencoe, was the explanation given by La Mott.  The explanation sufficed.  In fact, it more than sufficed, for the members of the spiritualistic circle tumbled over each other in their eagerness to get a block of stock in the “spirit mine.”  The investors included nearly all the members of the circle, but the money did not flow into the “spirit” coffer in sufficient quantity to satisfy La Mott.


At the juncture Joseph Denz, the jeweler, who admits that he acted as an accomplice of La Mott, withdrew from the circle and N. W. Mahaffey, preacher and carpenter, was brought in to take his place.  La Mott then contrived the idea of forming a “treasury of heaven” and the success of this spiritual financial institution was attested by the fact that within a short period the mundane depositors had fully $25,000 to their credit.

The mystic rock that had been brought from the “spirit mine” served as the earthly vault for the gold coin.  Voices from spirit land advised that the money deposited would be repaid by spirit hands with 50 per cent per annum in interest.  In the dark séances, the money was placed on the rock.  The lights would be turned on and lo, and behold, the coin had been whisked away.  Where?  To spiritland, thought the deluded depositors.  La Mott and his accomplice Mahaffey had a more definite idea of the location of the coin.

That the “treasury of heaven” was financially sound the depositors never for a moment doubted.  Why should they doubt?  Did not the promised interest, paid by spirit hands, appear on the table in regular weekly installments?  And were not the shining gold pieces that were left in the darkness, of the coinage of the United States?


Daniel Gamer, the millionaire businessman, was not afraid to trust his coin to “spirit hands,” and he put up $5,000.  Dr. A. L. Foreman, the physician deposited $1,300.  M. L. Sims, proprietor of the Yosemite Hotel, could write his check on the “spirit bank” for $5,000, and the fabulous interest earned induced Lewis McCuen, captain of the yard at the Stockton Insane Asylum, to hoard his savings of $500 in the concern.

La Mott had the airs of the “treasurer of heaven” running smoothly, and so turned his mind to other marvels.  He wanted M. L. Sims to invest in “spirit mines,” but objection came from the wife of the hotel man, who was beginning to lose faith in the unearthly projects.  It was then that Mahaffey avers a plan was suggested whereby Mrs. Sims could join the spirits and cease to influence her husband.  According to Mahaffey, it was suggested to invoke the spirits to induce Sims to give his wife medicine that would poison her.  Mahaffey avers that he refused to be a party to such a scheme.  There was no poisoning, but one night, when Sims and his wife failed to appear at a séance held at the house of Dr. Foreman, they were apprised that morning that the spirits had tied crepe to their chairs.  Sims and his wife took this as an omen that they were soon to die, and they hastened to attend the meetings to propitiate the evil spirits.


In Daniel Gamer, the Tacoma brewer, La Mott had a subject that was more malleable.  Gamer was more obedient to the counselings of the spirits and when La Mott in a private séance informed the brewer that there were mines in Siskiyou county that were rich, he hastened north and bought interests.  How much was invested by Gamer in these spirit mines, none but he and La Mott and the medium knew.  It is estimated that the vaults of the “treasury of heaven” contained about $35,000 when of a sudden, the “spirit” playing teller ceased performing the actions of such an official and the interest was no longer paid.  Simultaneous with this state of affairs, La Mott and his family left Stockton.  Prior to his departure, however, he informed his flock of “trustfuls” that the spirits were calling him east.  He promised to return.  He is yet to keep his promise.

In the meantime the spirits have refused to reveal the whereabouts of barber La Mott, the medium and the leader grows where he can be.  The solvency of the “treasury of heaven” is now questioned by those who were its faithful supporters.  There would plainly be a run on the bank if its promoter, La Mott, were in the State to point to its doors.


But the loss of La Mott to the spiritualistic community of Stockton, strange to say, was not accompanied by a loss of faith in his teachings.  All they wanted was a leader to be the connecting link between their souls and the spirit sphere.  A leader appeared in Frank Newcome, the stock broker.  With the departure of La Mott came the advent of Newcome into the head of material manifestations.

But Newcome was a new sort of leader.  He was young, highly educated and possessed of a mind capable of devising more tricks than originated in the fertile brain of his predecessor.  And no lowly spirits were controlled by the mediumistic powers of Newcome.  None other than the spirit of the great Confucius was in the beginning of the mediumistic endeavors of Newcome.  In the end the spirits speaking through himself and Mahaffey counseled the purchasing of mining stock which Newcome had for sale.

It was Dr. A. L. Foreman who discovered Newcome.  He believed that in the young mining stock broker he had a hypnotic subject.  Subsequent events, however, proved that he was the subject and the young man his master.  When Newcome discovered the trend of Dr. Foreman’s mind he immediately attended séances at which Mahaffey and himself were the principal actors.  In fact, they are self-confessed confederates.


Clinging on the hope that La Mott and the “treasury of heaven” would return, Dr. Foreman and M. L. Sims sought to prop up their faith by communion with the spirits that Newcome said controlled him.  Confucius appeared to take a fancy to Dr. Foreman and in the whispered advice that came in the dark séances he constituted the guide of the physician.  The belief of Dr. Foreman in the genuineness of this representation was cemented when the image of the Chinese teacher was materialized as one of the physical phenomena of his spiritual communion.

So, when Dr. Foreman was informed that he should invest in mining stock then possessed by Newcome, he did so willingly.  M. L. Sims was moved by similar counselings to invest several hundred dollars in the mining stocks.  Mahaffey, acting as confederate and when controlled by the spirits, as he says, played upon the credulity of Louis McCuen, the attendant at the asylum, and he, too, visited the office of Newcome and deposited $475 for mining stocks.

The climax of these wonderful spiritual manifestations came at a séance held at the offices of Newcome, the broker.  Mahaffey, Newcome, Sims and Dr. Foreman were the only ones present.  Lights were turned out, spirit voices came from the dark, and of a sudden, in sepulchral tones, it was announced that N. W. Mahaffey would materialize through a brick wall.  In the darkness there was a crash and Mahaffey fell limp and fainting into the arms of Dr. Foreman.  And the deluded doctor and his friends were really convinced that the bulky form of Mahaffey had been hurled by spiritual force through the brick wall.


Now it is all over.  The deception practiced by the ring of alleged mediums is at an end.  Frank Newcome confesses that he is a fraud.  He admits that he materialized the image of Confucius from his pocket and that he, assisted by Mahaffey, duped the credulous into buying the stock.  He is penitent and is trying to repay that which he obtained under false pretenses.  And Mahaffey, too, has confessed.  And in his remarkable confession to “The Examiner” he recounts the long series of tricks and devices by which he assisted La Mott and Newcome to work upon the fancies of their victims.  As an excuse Mahaffey offers the statement that after he realized that wrong had been done and men robbed of their money he wished to right the wrong of influencing them to make investments that would net returns.

As for the victims, M. L. Sims sums the situation up by saying: “A fool and his money are soon parted.”  Dr. Foreman realizes that he has been duped and he has removed his home to Sacramento to forget his experience.  The McCuens have recovered part of the money invested in Newcome’s mining stock, but they are still the creditors of the “treasury of heaven” in quite a sum.  Millionaire Gamer’s eyes are wide open, and his son A. C. Gamer, has been in Stockton trying to recover in part his father’s unprofitable investments.  He has even gone so far as to threaten Mahaffey with arrest.


The expose of the manipulations of the spiritualistic medium ring of Stockton was brought about through the efforts of B. S. Garrison, who is himself versed in the philosophy of spiritualism and conversant with all the tricks employed by “fake mediums.”  Garrison was sent to Stockton by B. H. Foreman of Tacoma, Washington, who is the son of the physician formerly of Stockton.  He went to the San Joaquin County seat with specific instructions to undeceive his father and make him realize the manner in which he was being victimized.  Garrison, under an assumed name, proceeded to work himself into the confidence of Dr. Foreman.  In a dark séance he compelled the old man to the belief that he, too, was controlled by the spirits.  In this manner he secured from Foreman a full statement of the deals and schemes that had been put through by La Mott, Newcome and Mahaffey.

Armed with these facts, he confronted Newcome and compelled him to reimburse those who had invested in his stocks under the delusion that they were receiving divine direction.  The victims, glad to receive their money, refused to bring either civil or criminal action against the stock broker or his accomplice, fearing the publicity that would result.  Newcome remains in Stockton, secure in the knowledge that he is immune from arrest because of the return made by him to the stockholders.


Frank Newcome is the son of an Episcopal minister of England.  He received his education in the English universities, and came to this country with ideals, but no profession.  He drifted West and finally located in Stockton, and there he took his wife and child to live.  To “The Examiner” Newcome made a full confession of the part he played in the deception of Sims, McCuen and Dr. Foreman.

When confronted with convincing evidence of his deeds, Newcome shivered spasmodically, in spite of his efforts to maintain his self-possession.  His eyes took on a hunted look.  He glanced about nervously, as if looking for some avenue of escape.  Then he collapsed into a chair, his head bowed, his hands hanging nerveless at his side.  A few pointed questions and he roused himself and cried excitedly:

“I had to do it or starve.  We were without money, without food and my wife and child were hungry.  I had to get money and I used this means to do it.  Mahaffey dragged me into this.  I had no idea at first of the means employed by him.  Later, however, I became a party to his methods.

“I first met Mahaffey at séances held by La Mott.  Later he came to me, bringing me clients.  Then, finally, he told me the methods he employed to get these clients and I became a party to the scheme.  It was the only thing that I have ever been associated with that was in any way wrong, and I have tried to right the wrong.


“It was when Foreman came to me saying I was a hypnotic subject that I took up with him.  The old man annoyed me so much that at first I took it up only for fun.  Then I went to the séances.  I had to do something, so I pretended that I was a Chinese priest, and that Confucius spoke through me.  It was I who brought the stone image of the Chinese god to the séance and placed it on the table in the dark.  Mahaffey and I acted as confederates, but I never left my chair at the séances.  I never pretended that I was the spirit of anybody’s relative, and I do not consider that I used undue influence.  It is true that Foreman believed that Confucius was his guide, and I let him believe it.

“Again, there was a humor about the affair that I enjoyed.  The members of the circle were so easy to deceive.  They were almost childlike in their faith.  The night that Mahaffey materialized through a brick wall I was present.  It was really laughable.  He merely opened the door with a key which he had.  But the fear only served to strengthen the beliefs of Foreman and Sims.  Then came the sale of the stock, in which Mahaffey and I acted together.  The stock itself was legitimate.


“The demands made by Garrison, the man who was sent here by Foreman’s son, it is true, frightened me, and I hastened to buy back this stock that I had sold.  I have had to scrape together every cent I could get to do it and I still owe.  I do not see what I am going to do.  I am ruined here forever.  It is true that I was present when crepe was placed on the chair of Mrs. Sims to frighten her.  I also heard of the plot to give her medicine that would cause her death.  I had nothing whatever to do with that.”

Here is the signed statement made by Frank Newcome for “The Examiner”:

“I had no idea at the beginning of the means that were to be employed in making the sale of the stock.  Later, however, I became a party to their methods.  It is the only questionable affair with which I have ever been connected with in my life and I have tried to avoid criticism in every way by making a return in full of the money which was invested by those influenced through this spiritualism.  I attended only a few of the séances and I admit that the physical phenomena that took place at any of them were to the best of my knowledge and belief, produced solely by human agencies.
    “(Signed) FRANK NEWCOME.”

Added to the signed statement of Newcome is a confession made by Mahaffey and signed by him in the presence of witnesses.  This signed confession is in the possession of “The Examiner.”  Here it is:


I take this means of making known my connection with the so-called séances held in Stockton, California.  The man La Mott is a fraud and trickster and I acted the part of accomplice to him.  I am a fraud so far as physical phenomena are concerned.  Frank Newcome knows this and assists in the deception.  I do not believe that Confucius came to any of the séances we held.  I was afraid of my life if I gave them away (referring to La Mott séances only).  They threatened me, but I would not consent to the murder of Mrs. Sims, if they had killed me right there.  So I put the crepe and flowers in their chair to warn them, but they took it another way.  I believe it is better for them to lose a little money than their lives.
    “(Signed) N. W. MAHAFFEY.”

Mahaffey supplements this signed confession with the detailed account of the manner in which he and La Mott and Newcome managed to induce their victims to invest in mining propositions.  Mahaffey is now a carpenter, employed at the glass works near Stockton.  He lives with his wife and his family of four children in a little cottage just on the outskirts of the town.  He is a tall, powerfully built man, and seems to have been putty in the hands of La Mott and Newcome.


“There was a time when I did believe that I was spiritually endowed,” Mahaffey began in recounting his story to “The Examiner.”  “I got into the philosophy of spiritualism until I believe that I would have committed suicide if the spirits had told me to do so.  Later I got into it so deep that if I had quit others would have been killed.

“When I went into the La Mott circle I took my wife with me.  La Mott at the dark séances, had us stand round a table, place our hands upon the stone which he claimed had been materialized, and then he administered an oath binding us together in secrecy.  Then La Mott came to me and asked me to assist him in his séances.  He would put up money on the rock and it would be dematerialized.  This was what they called the “Treasury of Heaven,” and the depositors were to get interest from the spirits.  I was not a member of the circle when this rock was materialized.

“I went into the mining scheme in Glencoe in this manner: La Mott came to me one day and asked me if I knew of a good mine for sale.  I told him I did and named the one in Glencoe.  He asked me to get samples of quartz from that mine, which I did.  That quartz appeared one night at the séance and La Mott informed the circle that it had been materialized from the land of the spirits.
Materializing Ore at the Seance, and Cameo Photo of Mahaffey and Daughter

“Daniel C. Gamer, the Tacoma brewer, was here at that time on a visit.  He was a relative of Dr. Foreman and they both became enthusiastic members of the circle.  Foreman made arrangements with a spirit named Pat Morgan, to put $2,500 in the mine.  The money was put on the table and the lamp was turned out.  It was placed on top of the rock.  When the light was turned on again the money was gone; in other words, it had been dematerialized.  I understood, however, that Foreman and Gamer only put up $250 and Gamer later bought out Foreman’s interest in the mine, which was called the ‘Rufus Choate’ mine, named after an old Boston Judge.  Joseph Denz also had an interest in the mine.

“Then the ‘Treasury of Heaven’ came into existence.  All of those poor, deluded creatures put their money up on the table and it was dematerialized.  I wanted to warn them, but La Mott threatened our lives if we said a word, and the McCuens, Gamer, Foreman and the rest sincerely believed the money paid in the dark séances was interest given by spirit hands.  At one time La Mott paid as much as $600 in interest from this spirit bank.  I asked him what he intended to do and he said that he intended to be paid for his trouble.  ‘I am making them happy,’ he said, ‘and I am going to be paid for it!’


“I knew all along that it was a fraud, but I was afraid of La Mott.  I assisted him in séances to materialize objects.  Gamer was the man that La Mott was after, because he was the wealthiest one of the crowd.  He told me that Gamer was worth between $20,000 and $40,000 easily.  And then he set to work to get Gamer.  He introduced a new spirit in one of the séances to prevent Gamer from putting money into the ‘Rufus Choate’ mine.  It was the spirit of a man named Berry, who appeared at the séance as a roaring lion.  Berry stated in a hollow voice that all the gold had been taken from the Rufus Choate mine and that he had done it.  Then he got Gamer to buy an interest in a mine in Siskiyou.  He took Gamer up there after a private séance and he placed a notice on a claim which he induced Gamer to believe was placed there by spirits.  And the old man bought in; how much I do not know.

“La Mott took Gamer to Siskiyou a second time.  He suggested that we give him medicine to weaken him, and stated that we would then be able to get all his money.  I would not hear to the proposition and tried to get Gamer from going to Siskiyou with La Mott.  But he did go, and he invested in a second spirit mine.  I figured that La Mott got $13,000 out of Gamer alone.  Mr. Sims got back $1,400 and Mrs. Sims $250 of the money they invested.  When La Mott skipped he said he would be back to show Gamer some ‘new ones.’

“After Sims put up his money in the proposition Mrs. Sims thought he ought no longer to control the hotel and that she should be given charge of the business.  That made La Mott angry.  He told Mrs. Foreman that it would not be long before she should ‘pass out.’  He said ‘the spirits will take you.’  There was a scheme to get Sims to give his wife some medicine, but I refused to be a party to it.  I told them that they could force me to sit there and see them rob the people, but I would never help do a murder.  La Mott went so far as to try to give us some ‘spirit money.’  In a dark séance he put $60 in front of my wife and told her the ‘spirits had been there.’  He couldn’t get us to believe that, nor would we accept the money.

“When La Mott went away old Dr. Foreman was really dying for the sound of his voice.  He met Newcome and was led to believe that he was a hypnotic subject.  Newcome asked him to lend him some money to buy stock with, which I did.  Then he got me to sell some.  It is true that I put Newcome up to the trick on the McCuens.  They believed the spirits counseled them to invest in the stocks.  Newcome had as much as I to do in deceiving these people.  We were both fake mediums.


“The night I materialized through a brick wall, I wanted to do something so ridiculous that it would open the eyes of both Sims and Dr. Foreman to the deception.  I swear I was disgusted at myself.  And then I was possessed of an insane idea to try to get back the money that Sims and Foreman and Gamer lost through La Mott, and I asked Newcome to sell them some good stock, hoping to influence them by the spirits to buy it.  But he sold them worthless stock.

“God knows I have regretted the part I played in these affairs.  It has almost driven me mad.”

Louis McCuen, who, with his wife, placed the $500 in the “Treasury of Heaven,” told of his experience with the fake mediums in the following words:

“I was a believer of spiritualism when I first attended the meetings of La Mott, and he induced my wife and myself to put up $500 on the “Treasury of Heaven.”  We got some interest on the money, but we did not get it all back.  Then one day someone came to our house saying that they had a message from the spirit of our dead daughter Minnie.  We held a private séance and when the stranger left he told us that Minnie had left a love token for us.  That love token was a five-dollar gold piece, which was left on the table.  We then went to see Mahaffey.”

Of the dealings with Mahaffey and Newcome McCuen makes the following written statement:

“This is to certify as to the methods employed by Frank Newcome and N. W. Mahaffey to induce us to buy 5,500 shares in Princess Maud Mining stock (certificate 832).  On or about December 16, 1905, Mrs. A. L. Foreman came to our house and told us that Dr. A. L. Foreman had hypnotized N. W. Mahaffey and they had a message for us, or that our daughter, who is deceased, wished to communicate with us through the subject.

“Believing in spirit return as we did at that time, Mrs. Lewis McCuen went at once with Mrs. A. L. Foreman to Mrs. Foreman’s house and found Dr. A. L. Foreman and N. W. Mahaffey together with the said Mahaffey in a supposed hypnotic trance.  Under the suggestion of the said Dr. A. L. Foreman, who told the supposed subject, Mahaffey, to deliver the message to Mrs. McCuen as follows:

“Mr. Mahaffey was then controlled by the supposed spirit of Minnie McCuen who said she was glad her mother had come as she wanted to help her all she could in a material way, and she wanted her to buy a certain piece of paper, showing the size with the hands of Mahaffey, telling her to go at once to Frank Newcome’s office, Wilhoit Building, rooms 14 and 15, on East Main street, Stockton, California, and get a piece of paper and the numbers on it were 832 and for us to do all that the said Frank Newcome advised and that we would make a large amount of money by buying the said paper.

“We did as the supposed spirit told us to do, and invested in 5,500 shares of Princess Maud mining stock, paying $475 for the same.
    (Signed)  “LEWIS MCCUEN,
                    HARRIET MCCUEN.”


In Sacramento yesterday Dr. A. L. Foreman told “The Examiner” of the means used to deceive him.  “Why, I believe they could fool anyone,” he said.  “I realize now that La Mott and the rest were frauds.  I bought stock in the Rufus Choate mine, but sold it. Sims and Gamer put up money in the ‘Treasury of Heaven.’  The whole scheme was fraudulent, and I want to forget all about it.”

M. L. Sims, the capitalist and hotel proprietor, lives in Pacific Grove.  Sims was repaid by Newcome for the money he paid for the stock he induced him to buy.  In a letter Sims writes of the affair in the following words:

“On January 31st Frank Newcome came here to see us in regard to this miserable affair.  He said that he had done wrong to some extent, as an instrument, not knowing the enormity of the means used at the time.  But since Mahaffey’s confession he wished to make amends as far as lay in his power.  I have greatly dreaded publicity in this affair.  I told him I would rather lose the money than have it get into the papers.  I feel disposed to drop the the whole affair, and charge it to ‘A fool and his money are soon parted.’
    (Signed)  “M. L. SIMS.”

Joseph Denz, the jeweler, who was the first to be with La Mott, states that he severed his connection with the fake medium as soon as he commenced his fraudulent work.  “When they dragged in rocks with a mule team and then prevailed upon people to believe that spirits had brought them, I got sick of the affair,” said Denze, “and I quit.  For I did not want to get into any trouble.”

W. H. Briggs assisted in uncovering the frauds that were perpetrated by La Mott and his accomplices.  Briggs often witnessed the séances in which La Mott imposed upon his unsuspecting followers.  “La Mott always had accomplices,” said Briggs.  “He did such things as to materialize frogs, which his followers put in their pockets until they died.”

San Francisco Examiner, March 4, 1907.

“Summons the Spooks to Court.  Exposer of Fraud Sues Dupe He Rescued.  Tells of Unmasking ‘Mediums.’  Victims Poured Golden Stream into Spirit Bank.  B. S. Garrison Who Uncovered Stockton Spiritualist Ring Pictures ‘Fake’ Séances.  Brings Action to Keep Trickster from Escape.”

A legal séance in the Superior Court of San Joaquin county is to follow on the heels of the expose of the frauds perpetrated by the ring of fake mediums who operated so successfully in the city of Stockton.  Suit has been instituted by B. S. Garrison, who exposed the fraudulent mediums, against Frank Newcome, stock broker and self-confessed fraud, and Dr. A. L. Foreman, one of the victims, to recover $400 alleged to be due him for services rendered to both defendants.

The sensational expose made by “The Examiner” of the remarkable methods employed by unscrupulous men masquerading as spiritualistic mediums, is to be supplemented by testimony regarding the sale of “spirit mines,” the purchase of mining stock under the direction of spirits, and the many tricks resorted to in order to impose upon the credulity of believers in spiritualism.

The story thoroughly exploited the fake séances held in Stockton, which for several years have been the wonder not only of the State, but of psychics the world over.  The trustful members of the circles who were unaware of the deception practices upon them by La Mott, Mahaffey and Newcome, have spread the news of the marvelous psychical manifestations throughout the country.  Sincere spiritualistic periodicals have had mention of the Stockton séances.  Scientists have taken it up.  The famous Dr. James Hyslop of national reputation as a psychic was apprised of the alleged psychical phenomena that had their birth in the city of Stockton, and he was eager for details of the affairs.  In letters he has asked information, and it has been given him by Dr. A. L. Foreman, who was one of the dupes of the fake mediumistic ring.


Daniel C. Gamer, the millionaire brewer of Tacoma, Dr. A. L. Foreman, the physician, and M. L. Sims, capitalist and hotel proprietor, learned for the first time yesterday the details of the trickery practiced to separate them from their money.  The “treasury of heaven,” the “spirit mines,” the materialization of men through brick walls, all these marvels have been stripped of their mystic significance.  The victims know now that these alleged spiritual manifestations are the result of the plotting of human agencies.

But they have still to learn the carefully planned details of the schemes whereby they were induced to trust their fortunes to spirit control operating through human agencies.  These details include secret panels that existed in houses where séances were held, trap doors and spirit hands that were but lifeless things covered with luminous paint—all the tricks of the fake mediums.  J. Hansell, a jeweler of Stockton, tells of some of the methods employed to inspire faith in the following words:

“I joined the spiritualistic circle at first for the fun of it.  At no time did I believe in the wonderful materializations that were accomplished.  In fact, during the first few séances that were held here I played the part of a fake medium, but merely for the sport there was in it.  When matters got serious and the people began to tell of the marvels accomplished in all seriousness, I dropped out of it, as I did not want my name connected with such doings in any way.


I attended a séance in the house of Dr. Hiram Cameron, where secret sliding panels existed in the wall.  The windows and doors were sealed, but substances were materialized through the secret passageway.  This was done to dupe M. L. Sims and Dr. A. L. Foreman.  At one séance I myself acted as a “fake” medium, and, putting phosphorus on my arms and shoes, made the others believe they saw “spirit lights.”—J. H. Hansel.

I shall never forget how easily these people were duped.  At one séance, I tied small vials of phosphorus to my coat sleeves and also to the tops of my shoes, and when the dark séances came the members of the circle were under the impression that the floating lights were material manifestations of the spirits.

“Things came to a serious pass with the beginning of the séances held in the house of Dr. Cameron.  The house in which the séances were held was equipped with sliding panels in the walls and traps in the floor.  With the assistance of these devices objects could be materialized in the dark to completely baffle the credulous.

“Dr. A. L. Foreman and M. L. Sims were the two who were most easily duped.  At one séance they were instructed to seal the doors and windows of the room to make sure that no material bodies could enter.  The two busied themselves in placing pasters over the doors and windows and then the lights were turned out.  Of course the sliding panels served to admit the earthly substances that appeared on the table, but when the darkness was dispelled and the seals were found to be unbroken, the belief of the trusting members of the circle was as firm as adamant.


“Not only were earthly substances materialized at these fake séances, but even greater wonders were performed, which savored of the ridiculous.  Dr. Foreman was divested of his clothing at one séance, as he believed, by spirit hands.  On another occasion in a dark séance he was accidentally struck in the eye by human hands.  He was made to believe, however, that the blow was administered by a spirit fist.  It was the spirit of a man who had been in the penitentiary, the doctor was told, and he was satisfied.”

The entering wedge which served to open up and expose the frauds perpetrated by the fake medium was driven by Bishop S. Garrison, who is now the plaintiff in the suit against Newcome and Foreman.  Garrison held séances in Stockton in which a mystic spirit hand, which was in reality a stuffed glove covered with luminous paint, served to draw from Dr. Foreman admissions that led to the uncovering of the entire plot concocted by La Mott and his successors.  Garrison succeeded in recovering some money that had been invested by the dupes in mining stock under “divine” direction.  Here is the complaint that he has filed with the County Clerk of San Joaquin to recover for the work he alleged he has done:

“That at and in the County of San Joaquin, State of California, within two years last past and prior to the commencement of this action, the plaintiff performed work and services for defendants, for their and each of their uses, and at their special instance and request, in recovering and collecting moneys foolishly expended in bogus and worthless mining stocks, under the advice of spooks and faking mediums, given at séances in the city of Stockton, California, at the residence of various people in said city, who were present and took part therein, which said work and services, so rendered for defendants, were and are reasonably worth the sum of $400 and which said sum defendants promised to pay plaintiff out of the money so recovered.

“That the plaintiff collected and recovered for defendants the sum of about $800 on or about the first day of February, 1907, and that ever since said date said defendants have refused, and still continue to refuse to pay plaintiff for the aforesaid services; that the sum of $400 is now due and wholly unpaid.

“Wherefore plaintiff demands judgment against defendants for the sum of $400 damages and cost of suit.”


Foreman, of course, is the real defendant in the case.  Garrison had some fear that Newcome would leave town, and, so began suit and had a summons hastily served upon him.  Newcome, however, declares that he has nothing to fear and that he will stay and meet the issue.

The story of how the smooth fraud, La Mott, made his dupes do his bidding at the supposed command of the “spirits” and through fear of death kept them in line to aid him in his get-rich-quick schemes, is the talk of the community in which the “ring” existed.

The consensus of opinion is that it will be a long time before another harvest of easily gotten money will be reaped in this State by those claiming to communicate with the great throng on the other side of the grave to the advantage of the living.  Quite naturally there are a great many “I told you so” people in Stockton to-day, and those who “knew it all the time” are many.

A. I. Wagner, lessee of the Yosemite Hotel, Stockton, of which L. M. Sims, one of the victims of the La Mott séances, is the owner, said to-day that he believed Sims had parted with something like $20,000 at the command of the spirits.

“It would have been better had the exposure been made about two years ago; it would have saved some people in Stockton considerable money,” said Mr. Wagner.  “Sims is out about $20,000.  His wife got him away from here to rescue him from these influences.”


Joseph Fife, president of the San Joaquin Valley Bank, in discussing the “Examiner’s” expose, said:

“I am not surprised that the thing was finally exposed.  I always regarded the manifestations as fraudulent, and told these people so.  Sims and others of the circle frequently asked me to come to the séances, declaring that they could convince me of the genuineness of the manifestations.  I went a few times out of curiosity, but I was never convinced that any supernatural influence was at work.  Sims and others parted with considerable money, I guess.  Sims is a wealthy man, probably worth $100,000.  He is a fine fellow, and I am sorry that he was defrauded.  The expose is a good thing.”

Rev. R. H. Sink, pastor of the First Congregational Church, Stockton, is only one of those who commends the “Examiner” for its work in exposing this gigantic fraud.  He said:

“It is a fine thing; this expose.  It was a grand thing for the “Examiner” to do.  Anyone who exposes fraud does a good thing for humanity.  The work of Mr. Garrison in this matter is also to be commended.  He accomplished what others failed to accomplish—he made Dr. Foreman realize that he was being made sport of.  The doctor sees the error of his ways.  People are reluctant to admit that they have been fooled.”


N. W. MAHAFFEY, who was seen by a representative of the “Examiner” to-day, had little to say.  He reiterates his declaration given in the “Examiner” that he was an unwilling participant in the fraud, and only kept on in the work in an endeavor to devise ways and means to recoup the losses of the others.  He declares that he is financially out on the proposition, and expresses great regret that he is not able to make good the losses of those who purchased stock at his solicitation.  He said:

“In a general way the “Examiner’s” story is true, though there are some statements which I would like to correct.  I was a participant with La Mott under protest, after I discovered him to be a fraud, but as I have said before, I was powerless to stay him.  Why, he offered me $500 if I would undertake to expose him, intimating that I dared not do so.  I tried to warn the others, but their faith was as firm as the rock upon which they took their oaths.  La Mott did most of his chicanery and gave his spiritual advice at private séances with his victims.  At the circle séances I often fell asleep, having worked hard all day—La Mott made capital out of that.  In my operations with Newcome, it was as I have already stated, in the hope that I could recoup the losses of the others.


The expose of the operations of the fake mediums of Stockton had its inception in Tacoma, where Dr. B. H. Foreman undertook to bring light to the deluded eyes of his father regarding the trickery of which he was one of the victims.  Acting upon this desire young Dr. Foreman sent Bishop S. Garrison, himself skilled in the arts and devices of the “fake mediums,” to the San Joaquin valley town.

Garrison arrived in Stockton under the assumed name of B. S. Clark.  He worked among the fraudulent mediums and their dupes until he obtained all the facts regarding the frenzied financial dealings of the barber, the broker and the carpenter who claimed the power of spiritual materialization.  Here is his signed story of the work he accomplished:

By Bishop S. Garrison

A public entertainment in Tacoma, Wash., at which I exposed the methods of fake mediums, formed the beginning of the narrative which I am about to relate.  Among those who attended the entertainment were Dr. Brady Hugh Foreman and wife, his father-in-law, Daniel Gamer and wife, and A. C. Gamer, a son.  Daniel Gamer is vice-president of the Olympia Brewing Company, and Dr. Foreman is a son of Dr. A. L. Foreman of Stockton.

After the entertainment I was communicated with by Dr. B. H. Foreman, who expressed a desire to engage my services in weaning his aged father at Stockton away from the evil influences which had been thrown upon him by his association with the spiritualists of Stockton.

When I arrived in Stockton early in January, under the name of B. S. Clark, I nosed about a little and made myself known to Dr. A. L. Foreman as a medium and hypnotist.  I held séances with him and some of his cronies, and in this manner I became acquainted with the situation in Stockton.  I encountered the members of the secret circle of nine, and under the name of B. S. Clark I ingratiated myself into their favor and learned of the gigantic frauds they were perpetrating upon unsuspecting victims.


The founder of this mystic circle, the arch-conspirator, was Frank La Mott, a barber of Stockton.  La Mott first discovered his alleged mediumistic powers when sitting with Joseph Denz, a jeweler, of Stockton, and Dr. A. L. Foreman, in the latter’s office, during July of 1903.  A few others were cautiously taken into the circle, the spirit voices speaking through trumpets, deciding on each member, all being pledged or sworn to absolute secrecy.  The circle was said to be complete when there were nine solemn, believing members.  They were Mr. and Mrs. Matson, both since deceased; T. Y. Read, Mr. and Mrs. Weatherwax; Dr. and Mrs. A. L. Foreman, Joseph Denz and La Mott.  The
“mediums” were La Mott and Denz in the beginning.  Some of the specialties introduced by the mediums were the playing of an auto-harp on the table in the dark, and speaking and singing through a trumpet in many and divers voices.  There was hardly any limit to the ingenuity of La Mott.

They also have an eye to business, because the “spirits” could not be prevailed upon to play the auto-harp until $5 was put on the table.  With the aid of phosphorus, lights (floating spirits) were produced, and with the aid of luminous paint the “spirit” hands of “dear Julia,” or “father” or “sister” were made to appear.  Anything could be “materialized” from money to ore.  Small pieces of money placed upon the table by members of the circle were doubled, in the dark, of course.  Water was turned into wine, gold fish were materialized, together with flowers, and even frogs.


All these “wonderful” manifestations paved the way for real frauds.  Presently “spirit” voices began to make mining propositions, the pretense being that the “poor, beloved members” were to be benefited.  They were going to be let in on the “ground floor.”  To help this along a man named Pile was taken into the circle.  He was old and had money.  At one sitting the dupes places upon the table nearly $2,000 in gold at the command of the “spirits,” who would not take anything but gold.  This money was for the purchase of a mine on a stock basis.  The mine was the Rufus Choate, near Glencoe, Calaveras county.  A large piece of ore from this mine, weighing from 75 to 100 pounds was also materialized on the table without sound, having been brought by the spirits from the mine.  All this was done at the one meeting, during a period of two or three hours.

It is fair to state here that Denz refused to attend this séance, as it was getting to be a rather too serious matter for his ideas of right and wrong.


This was but the beginning of a list of frauds perpetrated upon others who were taken into the circle later—people with much means.  They were Daniel Gamer and wife of Tacoma, Mr. and Mrs. M. L. Sims of Stockton, Lewis McCuen and wife of Stockton and Mrs. Pile.  Denz was out of it, and so N. W. Mahaffey was taken in by La Mott as his accomplice and confederate.

After Denz left the circle and Mahaffey joined as the right-hand man of La Mott, the so-called “heavenly treasury” was formed.  No get-rich-quick scheme ever equaled this for financial daring.  Large sums of money were placed upon the table by the new members, they having heard of how small amounts were doubled for other brothers and sisters.  At the direction of the spirits all this was done.  The controlling spirit was the shade of Rufus Choate, though Pat Morgan—or what was formerly the life-principle of Morgan—assisted.  There was also a full assortment of Hindoos, Indians and a few Chinese.  The promises of 50 per cent interest for life to themselves and their children, proved very alluring to the Gamers, the Foremans, the McCuens and the Simses, and during a series of séances covering a period of a year or more, the persons mentioned put up something like $35,000 in gold as capital in the “heavenly treasury,” of which La Mott and Mahaffey were all the officials—president, cashier and board of directors.


To make the play good they actually did pay this enormous profit—50 per cent, per annum, making the payments weekly for a short time.  In every case the money was materialized at dark séances, the amount coming to each person being laid in front of him or her on the table, ostensibly by the spirits, but really by the deft fingers of La Mott of the “Heavenly Treasury Bank,” since suspended.

Here is the official “bank statement” for four séances, showing the deposits and the depositors:

Dan Gamer, $5,000; Dr. A. L. Foreman, $1,300; M. L. Sims, $5,000; Mr. and Mrs. McCuen, $500; Mrs. W. H. Pile, $400; W. H. Pile, $600.

In August of 1905 the Bank of Heaven closed its doors and ceased payments.  President La Mott levanted with a good share of the funds.


But these deposits did not form the entire “getaway stake” of La Mott.  The figures given are for four séances only.  These amounts were duplicated at other séances.  Besides this, La Mott and Mahaffey got Gamer into a mining scheme, fleecing the old man out of a large sum of money—how much Gamer will not say.  Mrs. A. C. Gamer, his daughter-in-law, declared, however, that it was accomplished.  In my investigations I learned that Mrs. M. L. Sims was to have been poisoned.  La Mott informed the members of the circle that one of their number was about to “pass out.”  Mrs. Sims was aged and far from well, and her demise was not unexpected.  The plot was to materialize some medicine which Sims was to give his wife.  In this “medicine” there was to have been sufficient poison to have made Mrs. Sims one of the heavenly band.  Mahaffey revolted.  “I refused to be a party to this plot; I told them they could kill me on the spot, if they wanted to,” he said to me.  This statement is also made in his written confession.  Bound by the terrible oath that La Mott exacted of each member, terrified and possessed by the uncanny atmosphere of the séances, Mahaffey was like a child in the hands of La Mott.


At this juncture, Frank Newcome, a mining stock broker, came into the game.  He injected new ideas into the séances, and it was he who materialized the little graven image of Confucius, whom he introduced as his “guide.”  The shade of Confucius very kindly consented to act as “guide” for Dr. Foreman.  He did some very startling things.  One night at the ostensible direction of the spirits, Newcome took Foreman out, walked him to a churchyard, showed him a board on the ground and told him to turn it over.  Foreman did as bidden, and there was a $10 gold piece.

On the strength of what Foreman told them had been revealed to him by the spirits acting through Newcome in a hypnotic or clairvoyant state, with the added testimony of the “unseen” at the dark séances, Sims purchased $1,000 worth of Lone Mountain mining stock and Princess Maud mining stock.  The latter mine is supposed to be in Nevada, somewhere near Tonopah.  The Lone Mountain “mine” is also there.  Both Mahaffey and Newcome admit that the Lone Mountain stock is worthless.  The other stock has a prospective value only.

In landing the McCuens, Newcome operated by the hypnotic route.  He could not prevail upon them to come to the séances, so he had Mahaffey go into a hypnotic trance at Dr. Foreman’s house, adjoining the McCuen home.  The McCuens were sent for, and in their signed statement they declare that they found Mahaffey supposedly under the control of the spirit of their deceased daughter, Minnie.  She said she was glad to see her mother and wanted to help her in a material way.  The mother was directed to buy a piece of paper which Mahaffey, acting for Minnie, described with his hands.  The paper was at the office of Frank Newcome, in the Wilholt building, and the number on it was 832.  If the McCuens would take the advice of Newcome and buy the paper they would make a lot of money.  They bought the stock—5,500 shares in the Princess Maud Mining Company—paying $475 for it.


I could tell many more details, and relate many more of the wonderful manifestations, but I have told enough to indicate to the reader that the whole thing was a fraud from start to finish.

Being armed with much information from Dr. B. H. Foreman of Tacoma regarding his father, I was able to make the latter think I was a wonder.  It wasn’t long before I was in a position to go to the conspirators, confront them with the facts I had obtained and secure from them admissions and confessions of their connection with the whole nefarious scheme.  These confessions and statements tell the story in other words than mine.

I have accomplished my mission and much more, and I believe I have broken up one of the greatest bunco games in the country.

I must say that some of them, with a deep feeling of contrition, are doing all in their power to restore to the victims what was secured by fraud.  Newcome has made such financial amends as he has been able.  I succeeded in getting back several hundred dollars for Foreman.  He has gone to Sacramento to begin life anew—a broken-hearted man.  Mr. and Mrs. Sims are at Pacific Grove, anxious to forget it all.  Mahaffey and wife are still here, both more than anxious to make amends.  Perhaps Gamer and Mr. and Mrs. Sims owe him their lives.


[ Ephemera Home] [ Discovering Wealth ]