Some Missouri legends never die: Mark Twain lives from an Ouija board to a self-proclaimed medium

CJ Coombs

Legends don't die. That's why they're called legends.

Ouija boards have never been on my list to buy. It might be due to seeing one in a movie and it unnerved me causing me to think, yeah, I don't ever plan to have one of those. It was probably a thriller movie.

Several myths and legends in Missouri cause people to wonder or at least cause some intrigue. Some sound so far-fetched that you know it must only be a traditional story. When you dive into various subjects of the unknown, however, some don't want to believe or disbelieve.

One Missouri legend involves an established writer named Emily (nee Schmidt) Hutchings (1870-1960) who allegedly used a medium to transcribe a Mark Twain story. Hutchings's other work had also appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and Cosmopolitan.

During the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904, Mrs. Hutchings was on the staff of the General Press Bureau, writing a story a day for twenty four weeks, which were printed all over the world. (Source.)

As the speculative story goes, one's imagination has to go back to 1916 in St. Louis, Missouri. Some women, including Hutchings, sat around an Ouija board trying to reach relatives who had crossed over.

Instead of finding a relative, they got in touch with Mark Twain's spirit. It was communicated to them that there was another story he didn't get to share before he died.
Emily Grant Hutchings (ca. 1914; this may have been taken for the publication of "Notable Women of St. Louis").Photo byFind-a-Grave upload by E. Rolle.

Naturally, the writer, Hutchings, intended to write that story. Now, how she accomplished that by using letters, one by one, to capture a story sounds unbelievable. Can you imagine how long that process would take?

While Emily and her husband met Twain in St. Louis in 1902, I don't believe that's any kind of a sign that he intended to meet her again through an Ouija board to dictate a book from the spirit world. There are many who believe she simply lied to make a profit, as might have been the case with her friend, Pearl Curran.

In any case, Hutchings' book was about a character named Jasper Herron whose nickname was Jappie or Jap. The book was entitled Jap Herron, A Novel Written From The Ouija Board. Visit here if you want to read the book on Project Gutenberg. It's also available online for purchase. Seriously.

It's speculated Hutchings, a self-proclaimed medium, believed she was the one to transcribe Twain's story because she was from Hannibal also.

After the book was published, it had terrible reviews, and because the writing style was so similar to Twain's, his daughter, Clara, and Harper and Brothers Publisher sued Hutchings. Emily's publisher stopped printing the book. Clara filed her case with the Supreme Court because she had the sole rights to her father's stories, and rightfully so for years.

Hutchings either had to admit that the book wasn’t by Twain — and thus a fraud — or say that it was by Twain, and therefore property of his daughter. (Source.)

Previously, Hutchings had also allegedly been involved in another spiritual communication with her friend, Pearl Curran, and the Ouija board witnessing communications from Patience Worth's spirit in 1913. That's another story in and of itself. (See Ghost Writer: The Story of Patience Worth, the Posthumous Author.)

There's one suggestion of Hutchings being envious of the attention Curran was receiving from her writing involving the Patience Worth spirit. She apparently lived in the 1600s and was from England. There have been speculations and studies of Curran's writing as well.

Emily was married to Charles Edwin Hutchings. He died on June 6, 1955, at age 84. He was cremated on June 9, 1955, at the Missouri Crematory in St. Louis. It's unknown where his ashes are located. According to Find-a-Grave records, Charles had been incorrectly named Edwin Grant Hutchings in other material.

Visit here to read a biography piece on Emily Hutchings published in 1914 in Notable Women of St. Louis.

On one Find-a-Grave record, it indicates her birth, death, and burial records are unknown. However, another Find-a-Grave record indicates Emily Grant Schmidt Hutchings was born on January 30, 1870, and died on January 18, 1960, at age 89. According to the latter record, her remains are at Hillcrest Abbey Crematory and Mausoleum Memorials in St. Louis.

Over a decade ago, even the Riverfront Times wrote about how Hutchings' story in St. Louis refuses to die. That could be due to interest.

What I agree with are words purported to have been written by Hutchings to Samuel Clemons (Mark Twain) in November 1902, during their letter exchange.

It is much more difficult to get an oar in where so many other oars are fighting for place in the current. (Source.)

Thanks for reading. Have you ever heard the phrase, "only the shadow knows?"

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Multi-genre writer and author/publisher with a BA in Eng Journalism/Creative Writing. I worked in law firms for 30+ years and retired early to pursue writing. I was born into the Air Force, so you could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, research, history, true crime, reading, art, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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