Throwback Thursday: “Clairvoyance for One Week Only!”

Posted by Holly Whitfield | May 8th 2014 410 0

In downtown Memphis in the 1860s, a gentlewoman named Cora James served as Memphis’ “clairvoyant, physician, and life reader”* and who knows what else. Today’s Throwback Thursday is the historic marker at Main Street and Gayoso Alley, on the north wall of Aldo’s Pizza Pies.

The placque says: “In the 1860s, Madame Cora James claimed to give psychic predictions, recover stolen goods, and cure insantiy and nervous diseases from her room around the corner on Main.”

A search on the Tennesee State Library and Archives site turns up a wonderfully dubious collection of advertisements for Madame Cora. Here’s an excerpt from the October 8, 1863 edition of the Memphis Bulletin:

MADAME JAMES has mastered all the science embraced in the glorious gift
of prophecy, and has astonished her many thousand visitors from the ranks of
the most respectable citizens, by revealing the Past, Present, and Future!
Unlike the many who flaunt their serric powers before the public, she
invariably gives satisfaction to all who may consult her, and all acknowledge
the truthfulness of the revelations made to them.

If you want to read the whole thing, or see the source, go here or follow the link at the bottom of this post.

I want to know more about Madame Cora. Where did she come from? Was she a showy, flamboyant clairevoyant, or a dark, mysterious one? What was she really doing in her “room around the corner”? Did she have any testimonials from her satisfied customers?

Another advertisment from the April 28, 1863 edition of the Memphis Bulletin is a bit creepier. It’s titled “Clairvoyance for One Week Only!” In it, the writer begs all those who want to know the “final result of this war” (the Civil War) to come at once to Madame Cora and beckons “Soliders, learn your doom!

Creepy. See the rest of that advertisment here.

*Source: Tennesee State Library and Archives, Memphis Bulletin October 8, 1863. Link: http://tn.gov/tsla/cwsb/1863-10-Article-86-Page120.pdf


Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

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  1. I love this! Memphis has so many great weird little historical quirks, and I'm a bit of a history nerd myself, so this is right up my alley. Thanks for the info, and I look forward to reading more of these posts in the future!

  2. Very interesting! Seems like a good question to ask historian Jimmy Ogle.

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