Saturday, December 8, 2018

Meredith Beyers (1899-1996)-Part Three

Now, finally, going back decades, we get to Meredith Beyers' stories and poems. There are only a few of them in this list from the early twenties (and from Beyers' early twenties):
  • "Dance of Destiny" in Top-Notch Magazine, March 15, 1921
  • "The Dark Brown Dress" in The Black Mask, December 1921
  • "Bit of Curls" and "Fat Man" (poems) in Poetry Magazine, June 1922
  • "The Last Entry" in Weird Tales, May/June/July 1924
"The Last Entry" may have been his last published entry in a national magazine. I can't say for sure, but I don't think that the six books that he was working on late in life were ever published. However, Beyers may have done other creative work and creative writing in his thirties and forties. Now enters another remarkable personality.

Meredith Beyers was born Meredith D. Sleep. His father, Wilbert D. Sleep, was gone from the household in which Meredith lived by the time he was eleven years old. Meredith Beyers' mother, Jean Meredith, had by then married a man named Henry W. Beyers. It was from that man that Meredith Beyers took the surname that he would use as his own for the rest of his life. Henry Beyers didn't last very long as Jean's husband, either, for in 1922, when her only son was twenty-two, she married Charles A. Ransom and moved to Pasadena, California. In short, men--father figures--came and went during Meredith Beyers' youth. It should be no wonder to us that he would seek out another or that he would attempt an enduring relationship with such a man. Thus Joseph A. Sadony.

Joseph Alexander Sadony was born on February 22, 1877, in Montabaur, Germany. He came to the United States in 1884 and became a naturalized citizen on June 24, 1891, in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. On June 8, 1897, he married, presumably for the first time, in Chicago. His new wife was the former Lizzie A. Mielke. In the U.S. Census of 1900, her Christian name was again given as Lizzie. The two had had a daughter by then, Mercedes, born in November 1898 in Illinois. I'm not sure where the name Lizzie came from, as Sadony's wife and Mercedes' mother was later named (in 1908) as Lola P. Sadony. Oddly, Sadony's presumed second (and future) wife, then aged thirteen, was also enumerated in the 1900 census under the name Lizzie. She was Lizzie Kochems, aka Kochem, Kotchem, or Kochen. It wouldn't be long before she would cross paths with Joseph Sadony.

In that census of 1900, Joseph Sadony was counted at 1624 Wrightwood Avenue in Chicago. The handwritten entry for his occupation is hard to read, but I think it says "Character Reader." Now I find that "character reader" is an actual occupation. I guess it's akin to psychic, clairvoyant, palm reader, or fortuneteller. In any case, according to a biography by Hilda Duell on the website Find A Grave, Sadony claimed to have developed psychic powers in his childhood and is supposed to have helped Chicago police solve crimes using these powers. The only association I have found between Sadony and the law in Chicago, however, is when they were after him for running a scam and a cult (two words that mean mostly the same thing), like a real-life Svengali, or more recently, like a Keith Raniere.

The story broke in February 1908, a week after Sadony's thirty-first birthday. On February 29--yes, February 29, a day with folkloric implications for the relations between men and women--Sadony's wife, Lola P. Sadony, sued her husband in a Chicago courtroom for divorce and custody of their daughter Mercedes, whom Mrs. Sadony claimed he had kidnapped two years before.
If the tales be true [reads a contemporary account], this tall blonde man, hypnotist and healer, the originator of a cult known as the Society of Psychological Science or the Institute of Mental and Athletic Development has ruled his votaries with a rod of iron. (1)
Sadony's cult or society was headquartered in a three-story house located at 432 Winthrop Avenue in Chicago. (An article from a couple of days later gave the address of Sadony's "House of Mystery" as 62 Cass Street. [2]) Although his wife was never admitted as a member, Sadony had from two to ten "votaries" living with him. These votaries were a mix of divorced men and single women, some quite young, some older, who worked for Sadony for years and turned over to him "every cent that they earned." They all lived together on the first two floors of the house. On the third floor was a tabernacle, "marvelously decorated by hand" and housing an organ. (That's a pipe organ, people.) It was here that Sadony and his followers carried out their rites and ceremonies "from nightfall till daybreak[,] and some of the suggestions that are made make you shudder and grow chilled." (3)

All of that came crashing down, though, with Lola Sadony's suit of divorce. An article from March 2, 1908, described Sadony's house as being deserted, with the windows boarded up and "[t]he 'professor' of the free love institution [. . .] reported as missing." (4) He had had his fun for a while. Now it was time for Sadony to pull up stakes and go searching for a new home. It didn't take him long, nor did it take long for him to start a new family or to begin assembling a new household, away from Chicago and its prying eyes.

To be concluded . . . 

(1) "Founder of Religion Faces Grave Charges." Jackson Daily News (Mississippi), March 1, 1908, page 3.
(2) "Colony's Chief Closes Home." Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1908, page 10.
(3) "Founder of Religion Faces Grave Charges."
(4) "Colony's Chief Closes Home."

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

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