Ann O'Delia Diss Debar

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Ann O'Delia Diss Debar
Swami Laura Horos.jpg
A portrait of Ann O'Delia Diss Debar
Editha Salomen (probable)[1]

1849 (1849)
Died1909 (aged 59–60)
Other namesAnn O'Delia Salomon[2]
Della Ann O'Sullivan
Vera Ava
Editha Lola Montez
Madame Messant (or McGonn)
Swami Viva Ananda
Laura Horos[3]
Laura Jackson[3]

Ann O'Delia Diss Debar (probably born Editha Salomen,[1] c. 1849 – 1909 or later) was a late 19th- and early 20th-century medium and criminal. She was convicted of fraud several times in the US, and was tried for rape and fraud in London in 1901. She was described by Harry Houdini as "one of the most extraordinary fake mediums and mystery swindlers the world has ever known".[1]


Although many sources claim that Ann O'Delia Diss Debar was born as Editha Salomen in Kentucky in 1849, no documentary proof exists.[1] Another commonly reported birth name is Ann O'Delia Salomon.[2] She herself claimed to have been born in Italy in 1854, the daughter of King Ludwig I of Bavaria and his notorious mistress, the dancer Lola Montez,[4] and that she was raised by foster parents from a young age.[5] Her actual father, Prof. John C.F. Salomon, was a Professor of Music at Greenville Female Institute, also known as Daughters' College and now exists as the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

Ann O'Delia Diss Debar (also spelled Ann O'Delia Dis Debar[3]) is the most frequently referenced of the many names used by her in her lifetime, including Editha Lola Montez, Della Ann O'Sullivan, Vera Ava, Madame Messant (or McGoon), Swami Viva Ananda, Laura Horos (or Swami Laura Horos) and Laura Jackson.[3][6] British occultist Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (1854–1918) briefly believed that she was Anna Sprengel.

She apparently became involved with Victoria Claflin and Tennessee Claflin, popular exponents of spiritualism, in the 1860s and 1870s, and was a disciple of Madame Blavatsky. She claimed to be the wife of West Virginia statesman Joseph H. Diss Debar, and produced "spirit paintings" by Old Masters. She was prosecuted several times for fraud.[7] One notable example was the case of Luther R. Marsh, a wealthy and distinguished lawyer who had studied in the law office of Daniel Webster. Diss Debar persuaded the elderly Marsh to give her his townhouse on New York's Madison Avenue;[4][5] for this she was imprisoned for 6 months in June 1888 on Blackwell's Island.[4] The magician Carl Hertz appeared at the prosecution for the Horos trial in New York. Hertz helped send Horos to jail by duplicating in court the tricks she had used in her séances.[8]

Under the name Vera P. Ava, she was convicted of larceny in Illinois and sentenced March 24, 1893 to the Joliet Correctional Center (then Joliet Penitentiary) for two years.[9][4][5] According to the New York Times, during the trial she claimed not to be the "famous spook priestess" though the article continues to say, "that she is Dis Debar (sic) no one doubts."[9] Soon after she emerged from prison, she married William J. McGowan, who "had considerable money. He died soon afterward."[4]

She married Frank Dutton Jackson in Louisiana in 1899,[5] calling herself Princess Editha Lolita. As Editha Loleta Jackson, she was expelled from New Orleans in May 1899 as a swindler[5]. She was imprisoned for 30 days later that month.[10] After 1899, she spent some time in South Africa, calling herself Helena Horos of the College of Occult Sciences.[4]

Diss Debar and Jackson went to England, calling themselves "Swami Laura Horos" and "Theodore Horos".[11] They set up a "Purity League" at the Theocratic Unity Temple, near Regent's Park in London, and worked as fortune tellers and diviners, advertising their services in newspapers, such as The People and the now defunct Western Morning Advertiser.[5] They were arrested in Birkenhead in September 1901, and charged with obtaining property by false pretenses, rape and buggery. The charges seem to have arisen from decadent sexual practices at their temple in London. The couple defended themselves,[9] but Diss Debar was sentenced to 7-years imprisonment, and her husband to 15 years.[4] She was held in the prison in Aylesbury,[5] released on parole in July 1906 and immediately went missing,[4] apparently leaving England for the United States. Thereafter, she was wanted by Scotland Yard.

She was next found in Cincinnati in 1909, under the name Vera Ava.[5]

In August 1909, Diss Debar attempted to start a new religious cult called the New Revelation in New York City, but abandoned the plan at the School of Mahatmas on 32nd Street one week before it was to open after journalists revealed her true identity.[4]

A biography is included in the 1938 book Beware Familiar Spirits by the American magician John Mulholland (reprinted in 1979).[10]

See also[edit]

Fortune telling fraud


  1. ^ a b c d Harry Houdini. (1924). A Magician Among the Spirits (via
  2. ^ a b Michael Cantor. (2015). Herrmann the Great - A Journey through Media. USB 978-1329084834
  3. ^ a b c d "GRAVE CHARGES AGAINST ANN O'DELIA DIS DEBAR.; English Government Officials Expect that She and the Man Jackson Will Get Life Sentences". New York Times. 1901.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "DIS DEBAR FOUNDS A NEW CULT HERE; Ex-Priestess of Fake Spiritualism Returns as Teacher in a "School of Mahatmas." SNARED LUTHER R. MARSH Got Lawyer's Property Years Ago, but Had to Disgorge -- She Quits City When Identity Becomes Known". Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h December 2004, 3. "Fraudulent fortunes | News". Law Society Gazette. Retrieved April 17, 2019.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Lewis Spence. (2003). Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. Kessinger Publishing. p. 439. ISBN 978-0766128156
  7. ^ "He Is Still Her Friend.; Mr. Marsh". The New York Times. December 25, 1888. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  8. ^ Milbourne Christopher. (1969). Houdini: The Untold Story. Crowell. p. 160. ISBN 978-0891909811
  9. ^ a b c "Dis Debar Found Guilty; and Sentenced to Two Years in the Penitentiary". The New York Times. March 25, 1893. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  10. ^ a b John Mulholland (1938). Beware Familiar Spirits. Scribner. pp. 251-260. ISBN 0-684-16181-8
  11. ^ "GRAVE CHARGES AGAINST ANN O'DELIA DIS DEBAR.; English Government Officials Expect that She and the Man Jackson Will Get Life Sentences". The New York Times. October 11, 1901. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 16, 2019.


  • Harry Price. (1939). Rape and Rhabdomancy, The Law and the Medium. In Fifty Years of Psychical Research. Longmans, Green and Company.

External links[edit]