Tag Archives: Emily Hutchings

EMILY, JASPER and Patience Worth

HerronCoverThere is an interesting tale to be told concerning Pearl Curran’s best friend Emily Grant Hutchings.  Emily and Pearl were very good friends when the Patience Worth saga began to unfold as Pearl and Emily sat at the Ouija Board together on a hot July night in 1913.  But that friendship eventually soured when Emily was discharged as amanuensis and transcriber for the Patience Worth sessions by Pearl’s husband, John Curran.  This prompted Emily to strike out on her own to contact the spirit world with the help of medium Lola V. Hays and eventually to hook-up with the spirit of Mark Twain who transmitted several short stories to them, including “Up the Furrow to Fortune”, “A Daughter of Mars” andJap Herron.”

The following information was gleaned from a 42-page introduction written by Emily Hutchings to “Jap Herron”.

Emily had been invited to attend a small psychical research society meeting in St. Louis Missouri in March 1915 and it was there that she met Mrs. Irwin Hays (Lola Viola) who had the ability to transmit spirit messages by means of a planchette and “lettered board.”  Emily coyly admitted that the apparatus was familiar to her and that her name had appeared in connection with a “recently detailed series of psychic experiments.”  She acknowledged that, “it is true that I had taken part in another psychic demonstration, but it was in a remote part of the city  .  .  .  .”  Although Emily played a big role in initiating the contact with Patience Worth in 1913 with Pearl Curran using the planchette and lettered board, apparently, because of lingering hurt feelings, she did not wish to acknowledge her partnership in the Patience Worth dictation in her book.  Instead she spent 42 pages detailing her camaraderie with Mark Twain in the production of Jap Herron.  She gave little recognition to the more pivotal role of Lola Viola Hays who was the medium through whom the words of Mark Twain were spoken.

Mrs. Hays (Lola Viola Rodenmayer married Irwin Milton Hays in 1885) was gaining a local reputation in St. Louis as someone with the ability to transmit spirit messages by means of a planchette and a lettered board.  Emily met Lola by chance at a regular meeting of a small psychical research society in St. Louis.  At that initial meeting, Samuel L. Clemens, ‘Lazy Sam’ spelled out, through Lola, a few sentences on the board .  Emily’s heart skipped a beat when she heard the name Samuel L. Clemens since she had some interest in his writing and had grown up in Hannibal Missouri the childhood home of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) so, after the meeting she arranged a private meeting with Mrs. Hays hoping to have a personal conversation with Mark Twain.

Again, not mentioning the name of Patience Worth, Emily told Mrs. Hays that “in my former psychic investigation, it had been my habit to pronounce the letters as the pointer of the planchette indicated them.”  Mrs. Hays urged her to render the same service when she sat with her, because she (Lola) never permitted herself to look at the board, fearing that her own mind would interfere with the transmission.  Apparently, according to Emily, Mark Twain had told Mrs. Hays that he had carried with him much valuable literary material which he yearned to send back (from the spirit world) and that he would transmit stories through her, if she  could find just the right person to sit with her at the transmission board. (This person, according to Emily, of course was—Emily!)

“As far as possible, we sat twice a week on Mondays and Fridays,” Emily reported.  “We usually worked uninterrupted for two hours with no sound save that of my voice as I pronounced the letters and punctuation marks over which the pointer of the planchette paused in its swift race across the board.”  Emily stated that, “Three evenings in succession we had had trouble with the planchette.  It had seemed to me that Mrs. Hays was trying to pull it from beneath my fingers.  Meanwhile she had mentally accused me of digital heaviness.”  Emily said that Mark Twain wanted Lola to be passive and that it is up to the ‘Hannibal girl’ to receive the transmissions.

Although Mrs. Hutchings and Mrs. Hays were seasoned writers; Mrs. Hays having written short stories for one of the large religious publishing houses and Mrs. Hutchings was a well-known writer of articles of interest to women in St. Louis (See ‘That Hannibal Girl’),  Emily explained, “Neither Mrs. Hays nor I could have written the fiction that has come across our transmission board.  .  .  .  Our literary output is well known, and not even the severest psychological skeptic could assert that it bears any resemblance to the literary style ofJap Herron’ “  (This is in sharp contrast to Pearl Curran who had no writing credits to her name and stated that she never had any desires or inclinations to write anything at all!)

Also in contrast to the writing of Patience Worth, the writing of ‘Mark Twain’ through Emily and Lola required a lot of rewriting, with months of juxtaposing of words, sentences and paragraphs.  Mrs. Hays and Emily “discussed the plot at some length.”  Emily states that “I know nothing of Mark Twain’s habits; but in all the work we have done for him, the first draft has been rough and vigorous and sweeping changes have been made by him while the work was undergoing revision  The story had been virtually rewritten twice although a few of the chapters, as they now stand, are exactly as they were transmitted, not so much as a word having been changed.  .  .  .  Sometimes in the course of the revision, we have been interrupted by the jerkily traced words, ‘Try this,’ or ‘We’ll fix that better,’ or ‘I told Emily to take out those repetitions.’  It has happened that he used the same word four times in one paragraph, and in copying I have substituted the obvious synonym.”  Twain added that it was “up to Emily” to give this book to the world.

(Perhaps this kind of behavior on the part of Emily is what got her in trouble with John Curran, resulting in John’s decision to not allow Emily to transcribe the Patience Worth dictation.)

“The revision sheets covered a big table,” claimed Emily “and my husband found it very exasperating to make the corrections.”  “When next we met, we had no thought of any other work than the revision of the story on which we had been working at frequent intervals for about two months.”  According to Emily, Mark Twain stated that, “Emily will know where to fit the revisions in.”  “Once when I implored him to tell me where a certain brief but gripping paragraph belonged, he replied, Emily, that is your job.  I don’t want the Hannibal girl to fall down on it. .  .  .  the entire responsibility had been on me .  .  .  as Mark Twain had said that he didn’t want to be disappointed in the Hannibal girl.”

And so it continued.  Emily seemed to require center stage so she left Pearl Curran and Patience Worth in a huff because John Curran wouldn’t let her rewrite the Patience Worth dictation and then she subjugated Lola V. Hays to allow her to rewrite Mark Twain’s short stories ad libitum.

The following is an example of the writing in “Jap Herron.”  The book has been severely criticized as not worthy of the greatness of Mark Twain but I think if nothing else it does capture the flavor and style of Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”  The Clemons family of course didn’t like it and sued to prevent it from being distributed and sold,  They were successful and the book was quickly withdrawn from the marketplace.



“Run out and get a box of sardines,” ordered the boss of the Washington press.  “I’ve got a nickel.  I can’t let you starve.  I lived three months on them—look at me!”

Jap surveyed him apprehensively.

“I’d hate to be so thin,” he complained, “and I don’t like sardines nor any fishes.  My dad fed us them every day.  Allus wanted to taste doughnuts.  Can I buy them?”

Ellis Hinton laughed shortly, and spun the nickel across the imposing stone.  Jap caught it deftly.  An hour later he appeared for work, smiling cheerfully.

“Why the shiner?” queried Ellis, indicating a badly swollen and rapidly discoloring eye.

“Kid called me red-top,” said Jap bluntly.

“Love o’ gracious,” Ellis exclaimed, “what is the shade?”

“It’s red,” quoth Jap, “but it ain’t his business. If I am agoin’ to be a editor, nobody’s goin’ to get familiar with me.”

This was Jap’s philosophy, and in less than a week he had mixed with every youth of fighting age in town.

The office took on metropolitan airs because of the rush of indignant parents who thronged its portals.  Ellis pacified some of the mothers, out talked part of the fathers and thrashed the remainder.  After he had mussed the outer office with “judge” Bowers, and tipped the case over with the final effort that threw him, Jap said, solemnly surveying the wreck:

“If I had a dad like you, I’d ‘a’ been the President some day.”

Ellis gazed ruefully into the mess of pi, and kicked absently at the hell-box.

“I’ll work all night,” cried Jap eagerly.  “I’ll glean it up.”

“We’ll have plenty of time,” said Ellis gloomily.  “We have to hit the road, kid.  Judge Bowers owns the place.  He has promised to set us out before morning.”

But luck came with Jap.  It was Friday again, and Bowers’s wife presented him with twins, his mother-in-law arrived, and his uncle inherited a farm.  There was only one way for the news to be disseminated, and he came in with his truculent son and helped clean up, so that the Herald could be issued on time.  More than that, he made the boys shake hands, and concluded to put Bill to work in the Herald office.  After he had puffed noisily out, Ellis looked whimsically at Bill.

“Are you going to board yourself out of what I am able to pay you? he asked.

“Oh, I don’t reckon Pappy cares about that,” the boy said cheerfully.  “He just wants to keep me out of mischief, and he said that lookin’ at you was enough to sober a sot.”

Months dragged by.  Bill and Jap worked more or less harmoniously.  Once a day they fought; but it was fast becoming a mere function, kept up just for form.  Ellis was doing better.  He had set up housekeeping, since Jap came, in the back room of the little wooden structure that faced the Public Square, and housewives sent them real food once in a while.

Once Ellis feared that Jap was going to quit him for the Golden Shore.  It was on the occasion of Myrtilla Botts’s wedding, when she baked the cakes herself, for practice, and her mother thoughtfully sent most of them to the Editor, to insure a big puff for Myrtilla.  Ellis was afraid; but Jap, with the enthusiasm and in-experience of youth, took a chance.  Bill was laid up with mumps, or the danger would have been lessened.  As it was, it took all the doctors in town to keep Jap alive until they could uncurl him and straighten out his appendix, which appeared to be cased in wedding cake.  This experience gave Jap an added distaste for the state of matrimony

“My dad allus said to keep away from marryin’,” he moaned.  “But how’d I know you’d ketch it from the eatin’s?”

The subscription list grew apace.  There was aload of section ties, two bushel of turnips and six pumpkins paid in November, Bill and Jap went hunting once a week, so the larder grew beyond sardines.  Jap acquired a hatred of turnips and pumpkins that was inafter years almost a mania.  At Christmas, Kelly Jones brought in a barrel of sorghum, “to sweeten ’em,” he guffawed.  Jap had grown to manhood before he wholly forgave that pleasantry.  It was a hard winter.  Everybody said so and when Jap gazed at Ellis across the turnips and sorghum of those weary months, he said he believed it.

“Shame on you,” rebuked Ellis, gulping his turnips with haste.  “Think of the wretched people who would be glad to get this food.”

“Do you know any of their addresses?” asked Jap abruptly.  “Because I can’t imagine anybody happy on turnips and sorghum.  I’d be willin’ to trade my wretched for theirn.”

Kelly said that Jap would be fat as butter if he ate plenty of molasses, and this helped at first; but when the grass came, he begged Ellis to cook it for a change.

When George Thomas came in, one blustery March day, to say that if the turnips were all gone, he would bring in some more, Ellis pied Judge Bowers’s speech on the duties of the Village Fathers to the alleys, when he saw the malignant look that Jap cast upon the cheery farmer.

Once a week Bill and Jap drew straws to determine which one should fare forth in quest of founds, and for the first time in his brief business career, Jap was glad the depressing task had fallen to him.  “Pi” was likely to bring on an acute attack of mental indigestion, and the boy had learned to dread Ellis Hinton’s infrequent but illuminating flame of wrath.

The catastrophe had been blotted out, the last stickful of tope had been set and Biill had gone home to supper when Jap, leg-weary and discouraged, wandered into the office.  Elllis looked up from the form he was adjusting.

“How did you ever pick out this town?”  the boy complained, turning the result of his day’s collection on the table.

Ellis turned from the bit of pine he was whittling, a makeshift depressingly familiar to the country editor.  He scanned the meager assortment of coins with anxious eye.  Jap’s lower jaw dropped.

“I’ll have to fire you if you have’t got enough to pay for the paper.”

“Got enough for that,” said Jap mournfully, “but not enough for meat.”

“Didn’t Loghman owe for his ad?” Ellis demanded.  “Did you ask him for it?”

“Says you owe him more ‘n he’s willin’ for you to owe,” Jap ventured.

Ellis sighed.

“Meat’s not healthy this damp weather,” he suggested.  “Cook something light.”

“It’ll be darned light,” said Jap.  :”There’s one tater.”

“No bread?” asked Ellis.

“Give that scrap to the cat,” Jap returned.  “Doc Hall says she’s done eat all the mice in town and if we don’t feed her she’ll be eating’ off’n the subscribers.”

“Confound Doc Hall,” stormed Ellis.  “You take your orders from me.  That bread, stewed with potato, would have made a dandy dish.”  He shook the form to settle it, and faced Jap.

“How did I come to pick this place?” he said slowly.  “Well, Jap, it was the dirtiest deal a boy ever got.  I had a little money after my father died.  I wanted to invest it in a newspaper, somewhere in the West, where the world was honest and young.  I had served my apprenticeship in a dingy, narrow little New England office, and I thought my lifework was cut out for me.  I had big dreams, Jap.  I saw myself a power in my town.  With straw and mud I wanted to build a town of brick and stone.  Dreams, dreams, Jap, dreams.  Some day you may have the, too.”

He let his lean form slowly down into a chair.  Japbraced himself against the table as the narrative continued:

“In Hartford I met Hallam, the man who started the Bloomtown Herald.  I heard his flattering version.  I inspected his subscription list and studied the columns of his paper, full of ads.  I bought.  The subs were deadheads, the ads—gratuitous, for my undoing.  It was indeed straw and mud, and, lad, it has remained straw and mud.”  He leaned his head on his hand for a moment.

“That was the year after you were born, Jap.  I was only twenty-one.  For a year I was hopeful; then I dragged like a dead dog.  OYou will be surprisedwhen I tell you what brought me to life again.  I tell you this, boy, so that you will never despise Opportunity, though she may wear blue calico, as mine did.

“It was one dark, cold day.  No human face had come inside the office for a week.  That was the period of myh life when I learned how human a cat can be.  We were starving, the cat and me, with the advantage in favor of the cat.  She could eat vermin.  I sat by the table, wondering the quickest way to get out of it.  Yes, Jap, the first and, God help me, the only time that life was worthless.  The door opened and a plump woman dressed in blue calico, a sunbonnet pushed back from her smiling face, entered.”

To jap, who listened with his heart in his throat, it seemed that Ellis was quoting perhaps a page from the memoirs he had written for the benefit of this townsmen.  His deep melodious voice fell into the rhythmic cadence of a reader, as he continued:

” ‘Howdy, Mr. Editor,’ she chirped.  ‘I’ve been keenin’ for a long time to come in to see you.  I think you are aprintin’ the finest paper I ever seen.  I brought you a mess of sassage and a passel of bones from the killin’.  It’s so cold, they’ll keep a spell.  And here’s a dollar for next year’s paper.  I don’t want to miss a number.  I am areadin’ it over and over.  Seems like you are agoin’ to make a real town out of Bloomtown,’ and with a friendly pat on the arm, she was gone.”

Ellis brushed the long hair from his brow, the strange modulation went out of his voice and the fire returned to his brown eyes as he said;

“Jap, I got up from that table and fell on my knees, and right there I determined that starvation nor cold nor any other enemy should rout me.  Jap, I am going to make Bloomtown a real town yet.  My boy, that blue calico lady was Mrs. Kelly Jones.”



may-1-1920-saturday-evening-post-the-ouija-boardPearl Curran and Emily Hutchings were best friends in the summer of 1912 although some might say they were as different as night and day.  Emily was a vivacious, social “woman about town“, known, according to Emily,  to all of the “big” women in St. Louis.  She was from a middle class family with seven brothers and one sister raised in Hannibal Missouri, childhood home of Mark Twain.  She was college educated, well travelled having lived in Germany for a year,  and known in St. Louis as a lecturer, arts librarian, and magazine and newspaper writer of topics of interest to women. She had a lot of writing credits to her name and had met and personally communicated with Mark Twain several times before he died.  Emily was married to Charles Edwin Hutchings and had no children.

Pearl Curran on the other hand was an only child, somewhat lonely at times and from a comparatively poor family living in Podunk towns in Texas, Missouri and Illinois, had a limited formal education, had not traveled much out of Missouri and Illinois but was an accomplished singer and piano teacher.  Before the arrival of Patience Worth she spent most of her time attending to household chores, cooking for and entertaining her husband, John H. Curran, stepdaughter, Julia Curran, mother Mary Pollard, father George Pollard and grandfather John Cordingley. The 1920 census also records Julia Davis and Joe Davis as members of the household.  (Mrs. Curran said she had one maid.)  Pearl would eventually have two children of her own; an adopted daughter Patience Worth Curran and her biological daughter, Eileen.   Pearl had no interest in writing or reading literature and was content with going to movies, playing the piano and singing.

John H. Curran

John H. Curran

Dr. Walter Franklin Prince in his book The Case of Patience Worth published in 1927, noted that in July 1912 Emily and Pearl, “were making a call on a neighbor who had an Ouija board, and during the call there came what purported to be a message from a relative of Mrs. Hutchings.  Thereupon the latter [Mrs. Hutching bought a board and took it to Mrs. Curran’s house with the idea of continuing these curious experiments.”  Pearl Curran’s father George Pollard was ill at the time and passed away about two months later.  “For a time Mrs. Curran refused to have anything more to do  with the board, but finally allowed herself to be persuaded.  Then (the deceased) Mr. Pollard and Mrs. Hutchings’s mother purported to communicate through the board.”  No record was kept of these sessions but Mrs. Hutchings or Pearl Curran’s mother, Mary Pollard would write down the words as they came from Pearl through the Ouija Board and, according to John Curran,  Emily Hutchings “would then take the notes home and rewrite and punctuate them.  Also she would make interpolations of her own in the record and, we found since, she would add to and take from and change ad libitum.”

Eventually, John Curran would take over the job of transcribing the notes thereby removing Emily from this task.  He states that “At first Mrs. Curran believed in the idea conveyed by Mrs. Hutchings that it was absolutely necessary for Mrs. Hutchings to be at the board with Mrs. Curran in order that anything might come.  At this date (January 5, 1915 ) this has been entirely disproven and the following people have already sat with us, there being no difference in the character or quality of the result no matter who sat.  (He then named 14 people in addition to himself and Mrs. Hutchings who had sat with Mrs. Curran and obtained good results.)

James H. Hyslop

James H. Hyslop

Apparently the relationship between Emily and Pearl  deteriorated somewhat after this and by early 1915, Emily is absent for a few months from the notes recorded  by John Curran.  Daniel Shea, in his book The Patience of Pearl  documented through letters written by Emily Hutchings  to James Hyslop, chief psychical researcher for the American Society of Psychical Research (ASPR) that Emily complained to Hyslop about the Currans that she was being replaced by a “copyist” and she was politely ignored when she offered to continue as stenographer.  Her dismissal, she wrote, resulted from her “uncompromising honesty” when she and her husband refused to agree with the Currans that it would make a better story if all supernormal communications were attributed to Patience Worth.

Soon after Emily stopped participating with Pearl Curran she began her association with Lola V. Hayes another medium who channeled spirits.  With Lola’s help Emily contacted the spirit of Mark Twain and began receiving his dictation of a couple of short stories and a short novel titled Jap Herron.  It is interesting that with Jap Herron, Emily assumed dominance over her medium, something Pearl Curran would not let her do with Patience Worth.   Even though Lola V. Hays channeled the book by Mark Twain, Emily claimed the credit and published the book along with a 42-page introduction about how she (Emily) accomplished the feat of writing for Mark Twain

Emily continued to elicit Hyslop’s sympathies through additional correspondence revealing that she had contacted Patience Worth, with Hyslop in return saying that he too had contacted her.   Hutchings did not think that Hyslop’s  Patience Worth ringed quite true and that her Patience Worth had told her that she (Patience) had not written Telka, the first long work from Curran’s Ouija board.  Instead Hutchings’s Patience Worth told her that “the man who composed it had chained her (Patience) and compelled her to send it across.”  Emily kept this communication going with Dr. Hyslop, behind Pearl’s back.  Emily stressed with Dr. Hyslop, her need for privacy “trusting you not to permit this letter to fall into other hands” since she “would not, for the world, have my dear friend, Mrs. Curran , offended or wounded by my recital of her mental or educational shortcomings”  .  Emily proposed to Hyslop that Jap Herron be conveyed to the ASPR, with the not-so-subtle bribe that Twain had offered to give 25 percent of the profits from the book to the cause of psychic research (presumably to the ASPR). Apparently Emily was successful in priming Dr. Hyslop  to rail against Pearl Curran and her Patience Worth in that he subsequently provided a scathing review of Casper Yost’s book about Patience Worth.  (Hyslop had not yet met Patience or Pearl at the time of his review.) However, Hyslop found Emily’s book, Jap Herron to have “abundant, indisputable, evidence that Mark Twain was behind the work.

However Clara Clemens, Mark Twain’s daughter was not impressed with Dr. Hyslop’s evaluation of the book.  In a New York Times article published on February 11, 1918  she is quoted as characterizing Professor Hyslop’s assertions as “silly, foolish, stupid and crazy,” and announced that she had asked her attorney, Charles P. Lark of New York, to prevent the publication of Jap Herron through an injunction.

Pearl eventually telephoned Emily and wondered aloud with her why Hyslop had “so bitterly attacked Patience Worth” attempting to discover the source of Hyslop’s information about Patience Worth.  Emily evasively said to Pearl “I don’t know,” even though she had been writing to Hyslop about the whole Patience Worth affair.  Interestingly, according to Irving Litvag in his book “Singer in the Shadows”  he states that as a result of additional  verbal and written attacks on Patience Worth and Pearl Curran initiated as a result of the Hyslop condemnation, Emily [perhaps feeling guilty for what she had spawned stood up to defend Mrs. Curran by claiming “We who have worked with Patience Worth cannot lie supine while the skeptic annihilates her with so absurd a bludgeon as the Chaucer-and-Ozark theory.  (It was mistakenly claimed by some that Pearl Curran had picked up English archaisms from reading Chaucer and living in the Ozark mountains of Missouri.)  I have known Mrs. Curran long and intimately and I know to an ultimate certainty that she never read Chaucer in her life.  I know, too that the only reading of Chaucer that her husband did was in my home fully a year after the Patience Worth dialect had been coming. . .their argument has not a leg to stand on.”

Patience Worth commented upon the criticisms by saying “Ye art yet for to learn there ne’er wert a bloomed field, greened and sweet o’ grasses, but some ass seeked to browse therein.”

According to Daniel Shea, Pearl Curran was unaware that Emily had begun her own Ouija board communications with Patience Worth , Mark Twain and with Pearl’s deceased father, George Pollard, who according to Emily, readily discussed his daughter’s shortcomings with her as he dictated assurances to Emily that she “had been more a daughter to him than she of his flesh [Pearl ever was.”  Then revealing her insecurities, Emily queried Pearl’s father whether or not Pearl was planning to eliminate her from the Patience Worth sessions.

Four years before she died in 1960, Emily told a St. Louis Post Dispatch writer that she still believed completely in the reality of Patience Worth and that she never had doubted that Patience was truly the spirit of a woman who had died long before.

One might say that if it were not for Emily Grant Hutchings purchasing a Ouija Board and forcing Pearl Curran to use it with her, Patience Worth might never have found her voice in Pearl Curran.  In many ways I think that Emily Grant Hutchings was everything that Pearl Curran wanted to be but wasn’t.  Perhaps Patience Worth was Pearl’s way of “besting” her good friend Emily at her own game—writing. But regardless of the motive for Patience Worth and regardless of why the relationship between Emily Hutchings and Pearl Curran eventually soured, and whether or not the writing of Patience Worth was really from the subconscious mind of Pearl Curran, I think we can all say with much appreciation, “Thank you, Emily!”