Helen Haring was famous, and then she wasn’t. It was said that one of her books made Glen Haven famous, but today there is only one copy left in the United States. She wrote stories as Helen Haring and Marguerite Evelyn; she read palms as Helen Haring and Mademoiselle Revere. Her identity varied by place: In Skaneateles, she went by Helen Haring, and in Auburn, as Marguerite Evelyn. It’s as if she never settled on who she really was.
It was simpler at the start. Helen Haring was born in Johnstown, N.Y., in 1863, the daughter of James H. Haring (1827-1874) and Margaret S. (Sammons) Haring (1832-1893). She had four siblings, but only one lived past 1891. When her mother died in 1893, she left Johnstown. She was already famous there, having published her first short story, “The Adventures of a Quartet,” in the local newspaper.
In 1894, the Cortland Standard noted that she was at Glen Haven, and was the author of several stories for newspapers and magazines. The next year, A Romance of Three Bachelors was published, set at Glen Haven. Its first-person account of the water cure may explain why the only copy in the U.S. is in the Harvard Medical School’s library. The narrator writes:
“Doctor has just called on me at 10:30 a.m. ‘Good morning, Miss.’ He sits down, gazes at me with keen, inscrutable eyes, notes my pulse. His hands are remarkably strong, white and plump. ‘Complete nervous exhaustion,’ he says briefly. ‘Insomnia, tired of everything.’ He is perfectly correct. Doctor C. utters these words next: ‘Half bath, 102, seven minutes; thorough massage. Nap. Afternoon sitz-bath, ninety-four. Evening, douche, one hundred and two. Eighty-eight, nap. Good morning, Miss.’ He vanishes…
“Here we are initiated into the ‘Order of the Bath.’ There is a large, pleasant room, with curtained alcoves. We all disappear into these. Anna, the mistress of the bath, calls out, ‘Bath ready, Miss.’ I open a swinging door into a small room. Here is a bath tub full of warm water. Anna tests it with a thermometer. I drink first, from a glass of cold water. My head is bathed also, then I sink into the soft, warm water. ‘Time’s up, Miss.’ The water is turned off and I am deluged with cool water. I shiver, slightly, then, under Anna’s vigorous rubbings, feel all in a glow. What strong, magnetic hands she has. I know what a douche is now. Anna pours a huge pail of warm water over you, then comes a deluge of cool water; you catch your breath like a naughty child who has cried for a whipping. Your teeth chatter. Then under Anna’s vigorous rubbing you are all of a glow. You hasten to your room and your eyes close in refreshing slumber. You are at peace with everyone… You wake up in the morning and wonder if you are somebody else.”
In December 1897, the Cortland Evening Standard, reporting on an upcoming fair to benefit the local hospital, noted:
“On Saturday evening, Mlle. [Mademoiselle] Marguerite Revere, a celebrated palmist from New York will be present. She has been a student under St. Jermain, Cheiro, the celebrated Egyptian palmist, Niblo, and a number of other celebrated palmists of the world. She is visiting in central New York, and through a friend of the hospital her services have been secured. The number of tickets sold for this purpose will be limited to 30.”
This was Miss Haring. As for her studies, “St. Jermain” was actually Comte de Saint-Germain who was, in fact, Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont, who ran a “College of Palmistry” in Chicago, wrote a newspaper column from 1884 to ’97, and published a book, The Practice of Palmistry for Professional Purposes (1897), that was mostly plagiarized from Adrien Adolphe Desbarolles, which paradoxically made it better than if he’d written it himself. In 1907, his College had a booth at the Ohio State Fair; it was apparently a nomadic campus.
“Cheiro” was not Egyptian. He was an Irishman, William John Warner, who took the name Count Louis Hamon (or Count Leigh de Hamong) but was primarily known as Cheiro, derived from the word cheiromancy, meaning palmistry. He published Cheiro’s Language of the Hand (1894), and many similar titles. He read palms and told the fortunes of Mark Twain, Sarah Bernhardt, Mata Hari, Oscar Wilde, Grover Cleveland and Thomas Edison, but is said to have done really well with wealthy women.
“Niblo,” a.k.a. Professor Niblo, I could write about all day. He was the author of Niblo’s The Complete Palmist: A Practical Guide to the Study of Cheirognomy and Cheiromancy, Adapted from the Works of the World’s Most Renowned Palmists (1900). Niblo was actually Marshall Clark. In Chicago, he worked with his wife, a fellow mystic who went by “Madame Mizpah.” Each sent their clients to the other, passing along client secrets via telephone while the client was in transit. This practice made them both look like seers and doubled their profits.
In 1905, Niblo looked into the future and saw great profits to be made by encouraging his clients to buy stock in The Drummer Boy Gold Mining Co. of Capt. E.W. Emmons, whose offices were conveniently placed across the street. Among the victims were several women who were induced to invest their savings in an opportunity that surpassed “anything described in the Arabian Nights.” After collecting $23,000 from investors, the pair skipped to Chicago. Emmons, at least, was arrested and brought back to San Francisco, where he solicited further investments from the county jail, running afoul of the federal laws against mail fraud. Emmons got six years at San Quentin but Niblo apparently escaped judgment.
In 1909, Antoinette Elizabeth Gazzam, an heiress, came to Niblo in Los Angeles to find her soulmate. The Professor said, “How much are you worth?” She told him. He said, “I am your soulmate.” Actually, that happened over the space of a week, but you get the picture. Niblo’s wife was understandably put out, and sued Miss Gazzam for alienation of affections, scoring a $50,000 settlement in 1910. Niblo, on the other hand, went from famous palmist to famous rogue.
I’m not saying the books Haring studied were in any way inaccurate, but personally a number of their authors were not to be trusted. Among other books on palmistry Helen Haring could have read were The Grammer of Palmistry (1893) by Katharine St. Hill, The Laws of Scientific Hand Reading (1900) by William G. Benham, and Zancig’s New Complete Palmistry (1902) by Professor and Madame Zancig. But I appear to be off on a tangent.
In 1899, Haring was working as a palmist in Syracuse, and under her given name had written two novels: Point Vivian: A Romance of the Isles, set in the Thousand Islands, and A Modern Prophetess, a book in which palmistry figured prominently. The two titles were bound as one volume. In an interview, she said that 10,000 copies had been sold in five weeks. (Today, four copies survive in U.S. libraries.)
In 1901, the Syracuse Evening Herald reported:
“Miss Helen Haring of La Concha [208 East Jefferson St.] left Wednesday for Home Rest cottage, Glen Haven. Miss Haring is a novelist. Gen. Lew Wallace [author of Ben Hur] has sent her a letter complimenting her on ‘Camp Vivian’ [Point Vivian], a novel dealing with that interesting summer resort of the Thousand Islands. The letter was accompanied by a signed photograph. Miss Haring will complete her latest novel, ‘The Awakening of a Soul,’ while at her summer home. The book is said by authorities to be the best from this author’s pen. It deals with society and modern problems.”
We can be fairly certain she summered annually at Glen Haven during this time; her brother, Robert Earle Haring, had a cottage, “Home Rest,” and she was also reported as staying at “Eagle Crest.”
In 1906, she was still working as a palm reader in Syracuse, and sent this defense of palmistry to the Syracuse Daily Journal:
“Knowledge is power, and the greatest power today is the pen, which is mightier than the sword. On behalf of science I strongly object, on scientific and professional grounds, that the word mountebank or fortune teller be removed entirely from palmistry. Palmistry is a legitimate scientific profession. It means the mystery of the hand. It means character reading, character building. The hand reveals disposition, talents to be cultivated, faults to be eliminated, physical constitution. Sir Herbert Ward of London, England, in the Medical News, declared “that certain lines of the thumb indicated insanity and was an infallible proof, where other methods failed.” Plato, Aristotle and other celebrated philosophers followed its teachings. Phrenology fails, for there will often exist bumps which no textbook can name or classify. Physiognomy fails for strong will power will mask the real nature. In fact all signs and sciences fail on certain grounds. None are infallible. But a hand is tangible.
“Many a weary school girl plodding over musical exercises would make a happier and more useful woman were her real tastes understood and cultivated. Many an unfortunate speculator would be a richer and happier man if he understood that he did not possess the attributes of a successful dealer. Every athlete who is desirous of winning a prize trains every muscle to respond to the will at the crucial test, as the soldier drills for battle. So we who are running our race in life desiring to win its prizes should train our powers to their highest perfection.
“That is what palmistry teaches. It means the training of every power to the highest perfection. It means a noble manhood, a beautiful womanhood. Gold cures [for alcoholism] and temperance pledges, the entreaties of the wife, the supplication of the children have failed to reform a drunkard and always will till every person cultivates sufficient will power. So therefore let us always associate palmistry with the stars of astrology, the highest, the noblest science for the enlightenment and improvement of mankind. It is the X-ray of mental science, casting its light on humanity for their benefit. Only the ignorant doubt Its truth as they who behold the stars yet know nothing of astronomy. As they who learning Greek or some foreign language are skeptics because they do not understand it.”
Later in 1906, she was injured when alighting from a street car on Salina Street and sued the transit company. She said the car lurched; the conductor said she stepped off while it was still moving. She lost the suit.
At the time, it was said that the writing of her latest book, The Mysterious Inn, was delayed by the accident. No trace of such a book survives. Other items which have since disappeared are the stories “Marion’s Secret” and “A Modern Undine” (also cited as “A New Undine”) published in Boston’s Waverly Magazine; a serial, “The Wooing of Queen Eleanore” in the Boston Journal and a novel, Silent Witnesses, based on “the Crouse murder” in St. Johnsville, N.Y., both from 1900; The Awakening of a Soul, promised in 1901; Marguerite and Other Poems, a book of verse, and a song, “My Chinese Girl,” both published in 1907; unnamed plays for film studios written in 1912; three movie photoplays entitled “The Golden Helmet,” “The Black Knight,” and “The Magic Crystal,” purchased by The Los Angeles Scenario Company in 1917; and a serial entitled “The Hermit,” which was to have run in a New York City newspaper in 1918.
She did not hesitate to share her opinions. In December of 1908, while living in Auburn, she wrote a letter, as Marguerite Evelyn, to the Auburn Citizen in support of the work of the Salvation Army, and while on the theme of “Charity Begins at Home,” noted:
“The heathen have been placed by a wise Providence in a region wherein tropical fruits abound, where the climate does not require fuel or warm clothing, and yet immense sums are expended on them by foreign missions.”
In April of 1911, Helen Haring was listed among authors who “found inspiration” at Glen Haven, along with Harold McGrath, Kate Field and Christine Terhune. The article noted that she shared her “Home Rest” cottage with her brother, Robert Earle Haring, and “dispensed most charming hospitality.”
In 1912, the Auburn Citizen noted:
“Miss Marguerite Evelyn, who has been visiting friends at Skaneateles Lake, has returned to Auburn. Miss Evelyn is the nom-de-plume of a distinguished New York novelist, a popular society woman, and the author of several plays and musical compositions. Miss Evelyn has been a resident of Auburn for several months and has made a large circle of friends by her charming personality. Miss Evelyn at present is writing plays for moving picture theatres and a novel of local interest.”
From 1921 to 1934, she lived primarily in Auburn, N.Y., but occasionally wintered in New York City or Washington, D.C. In July of 1925, she wrote this letter to the Skaneateles Press:
“The traveler, who has made many delightful trips through the Finger Lakes region of New York State, finds the most exquisite scenery at Skaneateles lake. The rippling turquoise blue of the lake ‘where the hills eternal rise, till their summits reach the skies’ has been immortalized by the superb skill of Artist Barrow. The art gallery at Skaneateles is like a collection of rare jewels, depicting the exquisite coloring of the lake, with its setting of majestic hills, crowned with trees, like sentinels mounting guard.
“And of all beautiful places, Glen Haven holds the foremost rank. It is with infinite regret one recalls the destruction of the Glen Haven hotel, where multitudes of people found health and peace and home-like hospitality under the management of Dr. Thomas and John Mourin. Commercial reasons made a graveyard of Glen Haven; but the time will come, not far distant, when the need of people becomes so great for a valuable sanitarium, that another hotel will be built upon the shores of Skaneateles lake.
“It was a crime without any tangible reason whatever to destroy Glen Haven. There never has been a sanitarium or hotel which benefited so many people. The pure air, the beautiful surroundings, inspiration for noted artists, the hygienic routine and choice food, the complete rest of mind and body, effected more cures than all the medicines in physicians’ lists.
“The Kan-ya-to Inn [today’s Sherwood Inn] is a modern hostelry, but Skaneateles needs more inns. The former guests of Glen Haven, who came thither years ago, would gladly journey thither if more inns were provided – and were widely advertised.
“On the main street of Skaneateles is a stately old mansion, falling into decay. There are beautiful grounds where flowers grow, a rockery, ferns and mosses, which Nature has made beautiful, as if trying to hide with fairy fingers Time’s decay. Why doesn’t someone make a wayside inn of the place where travelers could find rest and refreshment. There is an excellent movie theater open three nights a week. The new road on Onondaga Street is worthy of admiration and will bring tourists thither.
“Skaneateles has a fine library, many beautiful residences, a priceless art gallery, but it needs new buildings, new life, enterprise. Nature has given Skaneateles exquisite surroundings—historical traditions, legends of great value; but it needs the infusion of new life for development. There should be a big steamer on the lake, for people to enjoy the wonderful scenery. People whose business confines them in cities need the absolute rest and relaxation of beautiful scenes, which Skaneateles lake gives. Skaneateles has wonderful possibilities for business.
“We all love the traditions of history, of the pioneer days, as true Americans. But we should not allow these old traditions to be covered and hidden by the gray moss of stagnation. God has given us a beautiful world. We should share these beautiful places with those who need and can appreciate them, as an inspiration to better work in the crowded cities, as a star to lift us upward to beauties celestial, to grant temporary oblivion to earthy trials or sorrows.”
The following year, she contributed this bit of verse to the Skaneateles Press:
“Lake Paradise (Skaneateles Lake on a Rainy Day)
“Today thy turquoise blue is veiled in silver mist;
The stately hills by storm clouds are kissed;
There is a moaning of the waters, like a soul in pain.
Dashing, beating against the shore, a sad refrain,
Like a restless spirit, striving to be free,
And the winds are shrieking, calling in a symphony.
Mist, like smoke from council fires, rises from the hills.
A strange moaning the valley fills;
Once the Red men roamed the valley round,
And built their lodges, and wild beasts found.
There was a handsome young princess,
Who loved a chieftain brave,
Who lost his life in a stormy wave;
And the princess mourned her life away,
And her spirit haunts the valley to this day.
And the waters beat the rocks with an angry roar,
Like lions seeking to devour.
The rain is falling on the leaves,
Like tears from beloved eyes, resting in Paradise,
From sad eyes which grieve.
The trees are bowed in the dust,
Their bright hues turned to rust.
The clouds are breaking,
A star gleams brightly,
Like hope in a darkened sky,
A rainbow gleams in crimson and gold,
A miracle of glory manifold.
In July of 1928, she let the Skaneateles Press know she would be visiting Inglenook at Star Lake, to be the guest of Mrs. G.R. Van Rensselaer of New York City. “A number of distinguished guests will be entertained there, including: Carlos De Mille, Paris, France; Mr. Lyman Marceau, artist of Berne, Switzerland; Major De Celle, aviator, and Miss L. Strange of Boston, Mass.”
But in September, a less upbeat message – one which suggests that she was without family or friends – appeared in the Morning Herald of Gloversville, N.Y.:
“Information on Woman Wanted — Mrs. Mattie Fuller, 40 Lincoln street, Auburn, communicated with Chief of Police Peter Joyce asking for information relative to a woman giving the name of Helen Haring, also known as Marguerite Evelyn, who is said to have arrived there recently and is now in a hospital in that place. She is believed to have friends or relatives in Johnstown and anyone who can supply any information is asked to notify Chief Joyce.”
We hear from Helen Haring one last time, in the Skaneateles Press, in November of 1933. Two of the lines in this poem were quoted in her letter from 1926, which suggests the newspaper was reprinting an older poem, and that her illness of 1928 was her last:
“Autumn at Glen Haven
“The leaves are falling, the wild geese calling
Their mates to their southern flight.
The sun shines brightly
As if a fairy wand touched lightly
The tinted Autumn leaves
Russet and crimson and gold
Painted by the Master hand
In beauty manifold.
There is a fragrance sweet
As they rustle under our feet.
Skaneateles, jewel of the Finger Lakes,
Of the autumn glory partakes
Like a sapphire in a silver setting
Of a marvelous beauty, beyond forgetting.
While the hills eternal rise
Till their summits reach the skies.
Glen Haven, with its hills of green,
A fit abode for a fairy queen.
A faint blue haze fills the valley
As if the Indians were smoking their pipes of peace,
A calm, like a benediction, where all troubles cease.
The squirrels chatter merrily
As they gather their winter store
And flit nimbly from branch to branch.
The ripples beat against the shore
And echo in our hearts.
The days which come no more.
Only a stone marks the place,
An empty desert space
Where the temple of healing stood
A memorial to Dr. Thomas
Who weary hearts understood
But as long as memory lasts
Grateful hearts will hold enshrined
Blessed, beautiful Glen Haven of the Past.”
I can find no obituary.
* * *
I could not have written this piece without the help of Bethany Harris of Harvard University, who found the last copy of “A Romance of Three Bachelors” in existence, and sent me a PDF that I could read. Thank you Harvard and thank you Bethany.