Sunday, August 14, 2011

Prince Lazuli: A Footnote to Sensationalism

The murderous and seedy culture in Detroit of the 1920s demanded that every underhanded thug or charlatan have an alias or an alibi, sometimes two. Having a criminal record necessitated such an existence especially when one made his living billed as the "World's Master Mind" as did Prince Lazuli.

Lazuli, known to police and court transcribers as William F. Jones, was foremost a clairvoyant but added Vaudeville actor to his billing in the early 1920s while setting up shop on the eastern seaboard.

In 1922 during a stint with a small theatrical troupe on the East coast he crossed paths with the modern day Adam and Eve, a husband and wife team that not so ironically performed the hackneyed side show act of a cocksure funnyman shooting an apple off the head of an underwhelmed and surly bint. As with all playacting there is a modicum of truth which belies  fictional humor and lends to it gravitas. In this instance Adam might as well have been firing off a tommy gun at his beloved Eve because the salvo of bullets she was shooting back with her eyes were meant to kill.

Mr. and Mrs. Carl A. Sutter, as they were known to the public at large, concocted their vision of Eden to coincide with the summer of 1922. In their estimation they would prove to the world that a man and wife could blissfully subsist on the naturally granted gifts of the Earth without the modern contrivances and luxury of a home or occupation. So they set off for the northern woods of Maine with merely the clothes they wore, which they would also shed at their entrance into the forest, and of course, a Boston Globe reporter to document the sojourn in daily increments which oozed with drama and sensationalism.


After a month of hardship, both public (they were arrested, jailed and fined for poaching partridge and deer out of season) and private, they left the woods to join the aforementioned theatrical troupe of which Prince Lazuli was a member. After a few months on the Vaudeville circuit Eve -- her real name being Margaret Sutter -- turned up missing as did the group's bankroll and one suspicious Prince Lazuli.

Not to be outdone Adam followed the pair back to Houlton, Maine and had Lazuli arrested for suspicion of larceny, misconduct and alienation of the feelings of Eve, among other things. He was brought before a magistrate and whether he served time or probation is not known but he disappeared from the eagle eye of the newspapers for several years until he turned up in Detroit attempting to aid police in solving the Benny Evangelista murder case.

Meanwhile, the Sutters had a very public spat in the newspapers with Carl crying abandonment by his wife in favor of the affections of the Prince. She shot back that there was no clandestine affair between her and Lazuli and furthermore that she left the traveling show because he couldn't shoot an arrow straight, not to mention a rift stemming back to the days of their Eden affair. Apparently their marital bond had come unraveled while in the woods as "Eve" stated, "I'd dare storms and hunger, but not Adam's supercruelty [sic]." Which was a departure from their sunnier days as a married couple in the modern world but so it was the ending of their marriage as Margaret sued for divorce in early 1923 having sworn off all men, Prince Lazuli included.

Having failed to make a name for himself in Vaudeville, the Prince, along with his bride Princess Lazuli, craved to solve the Evangelista murder. With police stumped by the savage slaying of the cult leader and his family in July of 1929 -- they were hacked to death with an ax and Benny was beheaded -- they sought help from all avenues of thought. When Lazuli offered his services the befuddled and blundering police department eagerly obliged. His wife performed a "seance" of sorts as she assumed Evangelista's posture in the same chair that he was murdered in, admonishing the dead Italian immigrant to explain the details of his demise in English because she couldn't understand Italian. By his own admission Lazuli called the seance a failure and nothing new was uncovered about the slaying which still remains unsolved to this day.

In August of the same year the police department wracked with several so-called unsolved "witch killings" and "voodoo murders" began a crackdown on crystal gazers, astrologers and practitioners of occult sciences, who they felt contributed to the culture of ritual murders. Aided by famed magician Harry Blackstone they raided some two dozens establishments seizing paraphernalia and questioned the suspected evil-doers. Whether Lazuli was one of the investigated is not known but he did appear in Detroit's Recorder Court before Judge Donald Van Zile on a count of "pretending to predict future events" which he was found guilty of by a jury on August 12, 1929.

The courtroom erupted in laughter several times during the three day trial as Lazuli explained that "the air is filled with thought waves and that a sensitive intellect may pick them up, just as music circulating through the air is picked up by radio instruments." This was a common belief held by many mystics and still is. The good witch Gundella, a columnist and local celebrity in the Detroit area from the 1970s until her death in 1993, believed just such a thing and was beloved for it. Unluckily for Lazuli he held the belief in an age of radical change where technology had advanced the human mind beyond it's previous constrictions though religious and political traditions were slow to lose their firm grasp on the public's psyche. In that age of gangsterism, prohibition and religiosity, all affronts to public morality were dealt with a harsh reality check via the judicial system with fines and incarceration. Astrologers and mystics were no exception despite the sideshow amusement aspect of the profession. At worst William F. Jones would be punished with 60 days in jail or a $100 fine and a minimum of 10 days and $10. For Prince Lazuli the penalty was seemingly steeper as he faded deeper into obscurity and never earned the national attention he seemingly strived for.


FURTHER READING

1922

Couple To Live Cave-Man Life; The Schenectady Gazette, May 19, 1922

New Adam And Eve To Summer In Woods; The Buffalo Express, May 19, 1922

Like Adam And Eve; The Buffalo Express, May 23, 1922

Imitating Adam And Eve; The Easton Free Press, May 25, 1922

Playing At Adam And Eve; The Evening Telegram, May 25, 1922

The Once Over; The Binghamton Press, June 1, 1922

'Adam And Eve' Face Jail; The New York Times, June 8, 1922

'Adam And Eve' Arrested; The New York Times, June 9, 1922

"Adam And Eve" Arrested; The Reading Eagle, June 9, 1922

'Adam And Eve' Arrested In The Woods Of Northern Maine; The Providence News, June 9, 1922

'Adam' And 'Eve' Are Fined; The New York Times, June 10, 1922

'Adam And Eve' Strike A Snag; The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 9, 1922

The Fall Of Adam And Eve; The Evening Tribune, June 10, 1922

Eden A La 1922; The Evening Leader, June 20, 1922

Adam's Advantages; The Albany Evening Journal, June 22, 1922

Man And Wife Lead Adam And Eve Existence; The Woodville Republican, June 24, 1922


1923

1922 Eve, Of Maine Eden Fame, Takes French Leave From Her 'Adam'; The St. Petersburg Times, January 9, 1923

Adam And Eve Seek A Divorce - And It's Over An Apple, Of Course; The Evening Leader, January 18, 1923

The Adam And Eve Experiment That Ended In Court; The Sunday Morning Star, February 25, 1923


1924

Sutter Couple Again On Page One; The Batavia Times, November 15, 1924


1929

War On Crystal Gazers; The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, August 7, 1929

'Helpful' Seer Found Guilty; The Border Cities Star, August 13, 1929

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