New - The original Stanley Sokeitous display board in the picture above is for Sale. If you are interested you should send an email to the owner Roger Dreyer: email@example.com
Stanley J. SokeitousThe Boy PerformerbyJoy F. Sokeitous
"Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with genuine pleasure that I accept this opportunity to appear before you . . . ." When I was a child, that phrase was the beginning of the speech I heard my father, Stanley Sokeitous, practice before each performance. From the stories that I've been told, he was a showman since the age of nine.
As a child, after reading a book on hypnosis, he started hypnotizing the children in the neighborhood. The parents were not thrilled and put an end to that practice. Though he only went as far as the eighth grade in school, he had a diversified life in show business.
In his younger days, before my parents were married, he was an escape artist. He had a large steamer trunk full of handcuffs, straight jackets, chains, and other paraphernalia of the trade. This trunk would be brought to the living room of our home, and it's contents displayed to various special out-of-town guests. Obviously, many years after his last performance, he was well known by those who had shared interest in this craft.
Magic was another of his specialties. He was quite good at prestidigitation - rolling red balls between his fingers and making one ball disappear. Or, making a coin appear and disappear. He also had a collection of small stage magic tricks. He even taught me to be a magician. For a time, at the age of nine, I was the youngest stage magician in the country, when I first performed at a fundraiser for the local YMCA. His preference was for teaching magic rather than performing. He taught the magicians, such as Duke Rice, who performed the opening act for his hypnotic show. In his earlier days, he was also a booking agent for magicians and other artists, and had an office on Broad Street, in Philadelphia.
Hypnotism was his main passion when I was growing up. He performed mainly in the Chicago and the greater Philadelphia areas. Even after he got a full-time bank job, he performed on weekends. He once took me to a hypnotic club meeting where he performed for fellow hypnotists, and friends, such as Howard Kline. At 12, I was astounded to see him put someone in a catatonic state, and place the man's head on one chair and his feet on another, with nothing in between. Then, another man stood on the middle of that rigid body. Photographs also show him putting many pins in a person's face, or holding a flame under someone's hand, with no pain being experienced.
He also used hypnotism to help heal people with unusual problems. Since he was not a doctor, he could not hypnotize the person and give medical autosuggestions. Instead, he taught self-hypnosis and the clients would provide their own autosuggestions. I remember one woman who had to take public transportation to get to work, but was afraid of trolley cars. After a few sessions, she was able to get to work without fear.
Books filled one room in our home. He collected rare and out-of-print books on hypnosis, escape artistry, magic and the occult. He lovingly protected these books in large, floor-to-ceiling metal cabinets. Most Saturdays, he would peruse the dusty shelves of various bookstores, in search of additions to his collection. Later, he sold his books and equipment before retiring in Florida.
In the basement of our home, we had a large printing press and a small hand press. The small one was used for printing business cards and handbills. Many of the surviving handbills promote him as "The Boy Hypnotist". He hand-set the type and rolled the ink on the larger press to print his periodic publication on hypnotism, which he sold through the U.S. mail.
Stanley Joseph Sokeitous was born in Philadelphia, in the early 1900s, and lived for about 80 years. I say about, because, throughout his life, he would adjust his age, either up or down, for his needs. His Lithuanian surname is an abbreviated version of the much longer name of his foreign-born parents, which could not be transliterated into English. He always said that this unique name made it easy for people to remember him. I, too, like the unusual name, and have always kept it.
What a thrill it was to discover his name on the http://www.handcuffs.org/wwwboard/ site, while surfing the web. He did not live long enough to appreciate the World Wide Web. But, he would have been quite honored to be a topic of discussion on it. As a showman, he really appreciated publicity.
Picture of Staney Sokeitous provided by Houdini Collector, Roger Dreyer: firstname.lastname@example.org
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