Fulton Oursler

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"Anthony Abbot" redirects here. For the Roman Catholic saint, see Anthony the Great.
The grave of Fulton Oursler in Gate of Heaven Cemetery

Charles Fulton Oursler (January 22, 1893 Baltimore, Maryland - May 24, 1952 New York City) was an American journalist, playwright, editor and writer.[1] Writing as Anthony Abbot, he was a notable author of mysteries and detective fiction.[2]

Life[edit]

Oursler grew up in Baltimore, the poor son of a city transit worker. His childhood passions were reading and stage magic. He was raised in a devout Baptist family, but at fifteen he declared himself an agnostic. While still in his teens, he got a reporter's job for the Baltimore American and married Rose Karger. They had two children, but the marriage ended in divorce.[3]

Oursler moved to New York City to edit a music trade magazine. He freelanced for a variety of publications early on. His short stories appeared in The Black Cat, Detective Story Magazine, The Thrill Book, and especially Mystery Magazine. Many of his stories, like "The Magician Detective" (Mystery Magazine), incorporated magicians and magic into the plots.[4]

In the 1920s Oursler aided Harry Houdini in his crusade against fraudulent mediumship. He even crusaded himself, under the pseudonym Samri Frikell.[5] He was the author of the book Spirit Mediums Exposed (1930) which revealed the techniques of fraud mediums.[6] John Mulholland wrote that Samri Frikell, was the pen name of Oursler when writing on the subject of magic and spiritualism. He made it by combining the names of two magicians, Samri Baldwin and Wiljalba Frikell.[7]

He was Supervising Editor of the various magazines and newspapers published by Bernarr Macfadden from 1921-41. Macfadden urged him to drop the "Charles" from his name. He became editor of Liberty after Macfadden acquired it in 1931. In the fall of 1939, Fulton Oursler, when editor of Liberty, printed a piece in his magazine called "Alcoholics and God", which brought a rush of 800 frantic inquiries into the New York office of Alcoholics Anonymous (as it was to be known).[8]

Oursler left Macfadden Publications shortly after Bernarr Macfadden was ousted from the company. Ourler's tenure with the company was continuous from 1921–41, except for a brief period following the success of The Spider (1928).

Oursler wrote a number of novels, including Sandalwood (1925), Stepchild of the Moon (1926) and The World's Delight (1929). He also wrote detective stories and magazine articles under the pseudonym Anthony Abbot, as well as several plays, the most famous of which was the gimmick-filled The Spider (1928), co-written with Lowell Brentano and later filmed twice, in 1931 and 1945. The great success of the play attracted four plagiarism suits, which were successfully defended by Oursler's private attorney, Arthur Garfield Hays.[9][citation needed]

In 1925, Oursler married Grace Perkins, who had been raised Catholic, but had left the Church in her teens. They practiced no religion and did not raise their children in any faith.[10] Grace Perkins, a former actress, was a prodigious contributor to the Macfadden magazines. Several of her novels were made into films.[11]

In 1935, the Oursler family toured the Middle East and spent a week in the Holy Land. On the journey home, Oursler started writing a book titled A Skeptic in the Holy Land. "I started out being very skeptical," he wrote later, "but in the last chapter I almost converted."[12] He assumed that once the book was published, he would forget about religion, but perceiving the growing threat of Nazism and Communism, he found himself increasingly drawn to Christian ethics. Astounded at how little people knew about the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, he decided that he would write the story of Jesus and "try and make it as interesting as a serial story in a popular magazine". He would call it The Greatest Story Ever Told.[13]

In 1943, Oursler was received into the Roman Catholic Church. The following year, his son was converted to the Catholic faith, and his wife returned to the faith the year after that. His daughter converted in 1948. The Greatest Story Ever Told was published in 1949.[14] It was followed by The Greatest Book Ever Written in 1951, and The Greatest Faith Ever Known, completed by his daughter, April Oursler Armstrong, and posthumously published in 1953. The film, The Greatest Story Ever Told, based on Oursler's book, was released in 1965.

Oursler also wrote, as Abbot, the Reader's Digest article that was made into the movie Boomerang! (1947).

Another of his well-known books was Father Flanagan of Boy's Town, 1949, the story of Father Edward J. Flanagan's work with young men. The book was co-authored by Fulton's son Will Oursler, also a noted writer.

Fulton Oursler died in New York City in 1952, while halfway through writing his autobiography.

Works[edit]

  • Spirit Mediums Exposed. New York: Macfadden Publications. 1930. 
  • A Skeptic in the Holy Land. Farrar & Rinehart. 1936. 
  • The Precious Secret. John C. Winston. 1947. 
  • The Happy Grotto. Declan X. McMullen. 1949. 
  • Father Flanagan of Boys Town. Doubleday. 1949. 
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told: A Tale of the Greatest Life Ever Lived. Doubleday. 1949.  Reissue: Image Books, 1989, unabridged ISBN 978-0-385-08028-6
  • Why I Know There Is a God. Doubleday. 1950. 
  • The Greatest Book Ever Written: The Old Testament Story. Doubleday. 1951. 
  • The Greatest Faith Ever Known: The Story of the Men Who First Spread the Religion of Jesus and of the Momentous Times in Which They Lived. Doubleday. 1953. 
  • Lights Along the Shore. Hanover House. 1955. 
  • Behold this dreamer!: An autobiography. Little, Brown. 1964. 
  • The Magician Detective and Other Weird Mysteries. Off-Trail Publications. 2010.  ISBN 978-1-935031-12-3

As Anthony Abbot[edit]

  • About the Murder of Geraldine Foster (1930) aka The Murder of Geraldine Foster
  • About the Murder of the Clergyman's Mistress (1931) aka The Crime of the Century, The Murder of the Clergyman's Mistress, The Mysterious Murder of the Blonde Play-Girl
  • About the Murder of the Night Club Lady (1931) aka The Night Club Lady, The Murder of the Night Club Lady
  • About the Murder of the Circus Queen (1932) aka The Murder of a Circus Queen
  • About the Murder of A Startled Lady (1935) aka The Murder of a Startled Lady
  • About the Murder of A Man Afraid of Women (1937) aka The Murder of a Man Afraid of Women
  • The Creeps (1939) aka Murder at Buzzards Bay
  • The Shudders (1943) aka Deadly Secret

Plays[edit]

  • Sandalwood (Original, Play, Drama) Sep 22, 1926 - Oct 1926 [15]
  • The Spider (Original, Play, Mystery, Melodrama) Mar 22, 1927 - Dec 1927
  • Behold This Dreamer (Original, Play, Drama) Oct 31, 1927 - Dec 1927
  • The Spider (Revival, Play, Melodrama, Mystery) Feb 27, 1928 - Mar 1928
  • All the King's Men (Original, Play, Comedy, Drama) Feb 4, 1929 - Mar 4, 1929
  • The Walking Gentleman (Original, Play) May 7, 1942 - May 12, 1942

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fulton Oursler (1893-1952)
  2. ^ Anthony Abbot profile at the Golden Age of Detection; retrieved January 15, 2011
  3. ^ Lorene Hanley Duquen, A Century of Catholic Converts. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003, p. 129.
  4. ^ Oursler, Charles Fulton. The Magician Detective: and Other Weird Mysteries, Off-Trail Publications, 2010. ISBN 978-1-935031-12-3. Book includes Oursler biography in addition to an anthology of stories.
  5. ^ Fulton Oursler and Houdini
  6. ^ Earle Jerome Coleman. (1987). Magic: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Press. p. 120
  7. ^ John Mulholland. (1938). Beware Familiar Spirits. C. Scribner's Sons. p. 138
  8. ^ Book "Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition, page xviii, lines 1 to 14
  9. ^ Fulton Oursler at IMDb[unreliable source?]
  10. ^ Duquen, A Century of Catholic Converts, p. 129.
  11. ^ Grace Perkins at IMDb
  12. ^ "Milestones", Time, June 2, 1952.
  13. ^ Duquen, A Century of Catholic Converts, p. 130.
  14. ^ Duquen, A Century of Catholic Converts, p. 131.
  15. ^ Fulton Oursler on Broadway

External links[edit]