Tag Archives: pseudo-sceptics

Alter Ego by Jastrow

JosephJastrowNow here comes the oft- quoted old-time skeptic, Professor Joseph Jastrow, Ph.D.  He was a founding member of the American Society for Psychical Research and was a respected psychologist and educator.   He published a book titled Wish and Wisdom in 1935.  In that book he has, in Chapter XV, some thoughts about Patience Worth.  The chapter title is “Patience Worth: An Alter Ego”.

(Now you know where this is going, don’t you?)

He doesn’t state anything brilliant in this chapter and of course provides no references.  I do give him credit for a short summary of the of Patience Worth case seemingly taken from Dr. Prince’s book The Case of Patience Worth and from Casper Yost’s book Patience Worth, A Psychic Mystery. Jastrow is very subtle in his presentation of Patience Worth as an ‘Alter Ego’.  He chooses his words like a passive-aggressive writer trying to convince by suggestion and association rather that evidence.  He says that Pearl Pollard’s story (meaning her early childhood) provides some clues. After that, he mixes somewhat factual selections about Pearl Curran’s early life with his opinions, unsupported by any hard evidence and no references.

For example, he says that Pearl Curran’s father was “of English-Welsh extraction”—well, yes but according to the 1930 census he was born in the United States (New York)  and lived his entire life there.  Pearl said that she knew little of her father’s side of the family other than he was English and Welsh.  She remarked that she had ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War and that her “Mother’s people came over generations ago; I don’t know where they landed.” ( The 1930 census lists Illinois as the birthplace of her mother.)  Jastrow says, speaking of Pearl, that “Inevitably she absorbed some knowledge of English ways from her parents.”  How does he know that?  Pearl’s parents might have been of English extraction but they were not from England.  Jastrow says her father “was editor of a small newspaper;…”  Well, yes but in small mining towns in Potosi and Irondale Missouri and in Charleston Illinois for a relatively short time.

Pearl said that her father, George Pollard, was educated at a military school in Ithica,     N. Y, and that he tried art a while after graduating, then sold his studio and went to Texas  He had been employed at a railroad company at Mound City Illinois and  “had been with the Courier” a newspaper in Charleston, Illinois. (The Pollards—George, Mary and Pearl— left Illinois for Texas when Pearl was an infant.)

After the Pollards moved from Texas to Missouri, George Pollard edited a couple of  country newspapers in Potosi and Irondale Missouri.  He also reportedly worked as a Secretary of the Renault Lead Company in Palmer, Missouri.   Jastrow thinks that Pearl’s father’s “editorial offices”  may well have been a center for miscellaneous information for Pearl.  Jastrow says of Pearl that “She spent part of her childhood in the Ozark region with her mother’s relatives.”  Well, her mother’s relatives lived in St. Louis Missouri; while close to the Ozark mountains, St. Louis was and still is a major metropolitan city in Missouri and was the site of the 1904 World’s Fair.   Potosi, Irondale and Palmer Missouri, where Pearl spent her teenage years, are close by.    Jastrow brings-up the Ozark reference since some people accuse Patience Worth of using a dialect found in the people of the Ozark Mountains.  However, it was shown that the dialect of Patience Worth and the Ozark dialects were not similar and Jastrow implies this in his last paragraph of the chapter.

Jastrow states that Pearl had ‘strong religious interests’.  Well that would be news to Pearl since her parents took her as a child to several religions denominations until finally she was confirmed in the Episcopalian church.  Because Pearl did spend many years training her voice, she reports that she sang in the church choir but she did not display “strong religious interests” as evidenced by statements made by her family and friends.  The following quote from Pearl Curran is taken from The Case of Patience Worth by Dr. Walter Franklin Prince in response to questions from Dr. Prince:

“Never a Bible reader.  Neither father nor mother went to church.  I was in Sunday-School because they were ashamed not to send me.  A Methodist school, I think—I don’t remember much about it.  Father was essentially religious, but didn’t talk it or go to church.  If I asked ‘Is there a God?’ he would say: ‘My dear, I don’t know.’  Mother went to church only by fits and starts.  She did not talk of religion until Patience Worth started her.  I just graduated with the class into confirmation.  I had no inward experience.  Was taught at home to say: ‘Now I lay me’ —-that was all.  No, I didn’t think much on religious subjects, and don’t now.  The longest period of church-going I had was in St. Louis, after I began to write for Patience Worth.  The first volume of the record was done while I was singing in the choir.  The preaching did not seem to affect me;  I was there to sing. 

No, I never wanted to be a missionary or do good in any particular way.  I wanted to go on the stage and sing.  I went to Sunday-School off and on, from seven to fourteen.”

Jastrow implies that Pearl Curran benefited by the “constant association with Mr. Yost, editor, voracious reader with a large fund of general knowledge.  He says that Yost’s knowledge encouraged the development of Patience Worth. Well yes, Casper Yost was a very literate man, except that Patience Worth appeared before Yost’s association with Pearl Curran.

You get the picture.

Jastrow goes on and on with these kinds of insinuations and opinions which were I to quote and rebut them, they would take up way too much space on an internet blog.  My point here is that if the reader sees quotes from Jastrow, used by pseudo-skeptics to provide evidence that they have figured out that the Patience Worth persona was an alter ego of Pearl Curran, I suggest reading The Case of Patience Worth by Dr. Walter Franklin Prince  in which Dr. Prince provides much first-hand information about his meetings with Pearl Curran and Patience Worth.

Here’s a selection on page 190 of Wish and Wisdom by Professor Jastrow.

“One may well question whether Patience Worth is worth so much patience.  The linguistic product is plainly antiqued, monotonously and ostentatiously so.  We are accustomed to antique furniture and examine it closely in order not to be deceived, even as to the worm-holes produced by bird-shot.  Patience Worth’s use of a’ o’. the me o’ me, a-down, a-stopped, a-wing, o’hand, not all a-yet, is so much verbal bird-shot.  To suggest that the model is a recollection of Ozark does not mean that she speaks that dialect, the similarity is only that of an older and quainter diction made familiar in her childhood.

He continues;

 “To suppose that Mrs. Curran in any sense is in touch with a Devonshire lass of three hundred years ago brings no illumination and adds much confusion.  How could Patience know or write the tale of the Christ with that fullness of setting which actually appears?  How can she spread her personality from then until now?  I know nothing of the habits or the psychology of discarnate personages; but their habit of behaving so much like the persons they inhabit is both disconcerting and revealing.

“I do not depreciate the quality of Mrs. Curran’s performance, nor its value as a contribution to the psychology of creative literary activity; but I cannot subscribe to the independent reality of Patience Worth, whether in the reserved sense in which Mrs. Curran maintains her faith in her inspiration or in that of those who go so far as to find the authentic voice of a real once living person.  My analysis gives Mrs. Curran the credit for the merit of Patience Worth.  The performance is significant not as trick authorship, but as an interesting form of release, which is not likely to be duplicated—not with the same setting.  To Mrs. Curran, Patience Worth has been worth the patient devotion she has spent upon it.  Many a writer, including the present one, would gladly adopt a mythical ghost, if in compensation he received the fluency of output along the directions of his desires, and thus became his own ghost-writer.

Well, Jastrow was a prominent psychologist during the lifetime of Pearl Curran.  Dr. Prince documents in The Case of Patience Worth that on February 12, 1921 Professor Joseph Jastrow was present at a session with Patience Worth and “asked for a poem about his adopted son and other verses, and there had been much questioning on his part,  .  .  . “  so apparently he had met Patience Worth at least one time.  He is probably not considered a big-time player in the case of Patience Worth but he does ask the right questions however.  It’s just that he is referenced and quoted so much by pseudo-skeptics who try to debunk Patience Worth and Pearl Curran.  They rely on this chapter of opinions by Jastrow rather than ferreting-out the real evidence from those who met Patience and Pearl and studied them first-hand.