The Amazing History of 
S W Erdnase
From
“LIFE”

​​Cobb Crypt

The Expert at the Card Table

The following  are posts I have made on the Erdnase blog at www.geniimagazine.com.

Just to prepare you before you read the slide above in the PowerPoint presentation “A Horrible State of Affairs”:

1. He is writing in Slang.

2. He is writing a story from “life”, meaning he is creating the story from actual events but making it look like fiction.

3. During this period in history, the Victorian Era, Bucket Shops were in full swing. The shops would bribe journalists and illustrators throughout the U.S. to put hidden messages in their stories and illustrations. The hidden coded messages were used to transmit information used to manipulate the stock market. It was very similar to the modern day Internet. The bucket shop owners would subscribe to the newspapers and monthly journal magazines, collate the information and be able to determine the number of shares being bought and sold and manipulate the stock prices and many times corner the market. 

4. They would also transmit information via hidden codes using the telegraph. 

5. As you learn the code, a whole new world opens up when you read newspapers, magazines and books from that timeframe.

One more thing about secret codes. When the police searched Milton Franklin Andrews’ room they found a codebook. It is to bad that the book was not saved. The book probably had telegraph codes and / or the code that was used by the French Lick Dealers.

For example: One Lumberman’s telegraph code is 1869. When you read 1869, you know the code, which means “your counter offer is accepted”.

The French Lick Dealers also had a code. Think of it as a way to describe gambling cheating techniques. If someone said: Use a Pull Down, Third Degree, Fifth Degree, Top. It would mean do a Calculated Center Deal with a Pull Down to Third Degree, Transfer to Fifth Degree and Top for the Deal.


Note: The information at the top of the website concerning L. W. De Laurence helps establish the theory that the The Expert at the Card Table, Green Cover, 1902 Drake edition is NOT the true Erdnase first edition.

Tricks with Coins, T. Nelson Downs - Edited by Hilliar 1902.

Copyright by L. W. De Laurence prior to the Drake Copyright in 1902.

Later 1902 editions copyrighted by Frederick Drake & Co. including the Tricks with Coins Advertised in the March 1902 Sphinx Magazine.

Adapted from Expert at the Card Table, By Scott Edward Lane


It was a hard, dusty ride from Paoli to French Lick Springs, Indiana in 1895. Ten miles of rough terrain. For a gambler this ride is particularly perilous. With a pocket full of money fleeced from the crop of suckers at the Dead Rat Club, the rider lolled in his saddle with the rolling footsteps of his horse. His mind began to contemplate the “pretty money” he won in the last three days of playing the poker tables in the smoke filled room of the Dead Rat. He thought about the passion for play and decided that it was as old and enduring as the race of man. Some people are to timid to risk a dollar, but most people in this feverish nation enjoys the pleasures of winning. As a professional gambler, the riders passion culminates. He would rather play than eat. Winning is not his sole delight, making the hazard and risking the loss is what fuels his passion. 

To be successful at play, the gambler has to abandon other life’s pursuits. Lady Luck and the laws of chance are as immutable as the laws of nature. The rider knows that if all gamblers were to rely on luck alone they would break about even in the end. He knows the professional card player may enjoy the average luck but none would admit the fact. It is a marvel how mere chance or luck will at times defeat the strongest combination of wit and skill. It is almost an axiom that the first time novice player will win his first hand. As the story goes, a colored attendant of a gambling “club room” bathroom, after overhearing a discussion between two skilled gambling card sharps about running up two hands of poker, ensuring the position of the winning cards during the deal, ventured the following interpolation: “Don’t trouble ‘bout no two han’s, Boss. Get yo’ own han’. De suckah, he’ll get a han’ all right, suah!” Many old gamblers believe the same thing. However, the vagaries of lady luck, or pure chance, have instilled the most skilled professional card player with the knowledge that card manipulation is more profitable than pure speculation. So to make both ends meet, and provide a good living for the skilled gambler, card subterfuge and manipulation must be coupled with a bit of lady luck in order to shear the unsuspecting lambs as they come to market and sit down to try their luck at the gambler’s poker table.

The mysterious rider pulls the reins and stretches up in his saddle as he reaches the peak of the tallest burn overlooking the small town of French Lick Springs. He looks down at the glowing lights of the two largest and grandest hotels in the valley, the West Baden Springs hotel and the French Lick Springs hotel. He can faintly hear the hoots and hollers of some drunken men as they make their way to the nearest saloon and bathhouse. The horse gives a neigh of relief knowing that it is only a short matter of time before she can relax in the livery stable and eat a fresh bucket of oats.

The rider gives the horse a gentle tap with his spurs propelling the horse forward to complete their journey. As the stars shine overhead, the rider returns to his reverie of thought and contemplates how the hazards of gambling play carries sensations that once enjoyed are rarely forgotten. The winnings from the gambler’s card table are known as “pretty money” and is spent as freely as water. The knowledgable gambler who is successful at his own game will, with the sublimest of unconcern, stake his entire bankroll on that of another’s, though fully aware that the odds are against him. He knows little of the real value of money, and as a rule is generous, careless and improvident. He loves the hazards of play rather than the stakes. The principle difference between the professional gambler and the occasional gambler is the professional gambler is actuated by his love of the game and the occasional gambler by cupidity. The professional rarely “squeals” or “bellyacks” when he gets the worst of a hand; the man who has other means of livelihood is always the one who is the hardest loser and laments in frustration and anger. 

Advantage play is bound to give the professional gambler a favorable percentage of the winning odds and is essential to his existence. The means employed at the gambler’s card table to obtain that result are thoroughly elucidated in his work and engrained in his methodology. The professional will not be impelled to the task by the qualms of a guilty conscience, nor through the hope of reforming the world. Man cannot change his temperament and few care to control it. While the passion for hazard exists it will find gratification. There is no grievance to the gambling fraternity nor sympathy for so called “victims.” All professional card sharps sorrowfully admit that they earned their degree in advantage play  at the usual excessive costs of the uninitiated. 

The mysterious rider knows full well that advantage play is not essential to the proprietors or managers of the gaming houses. The percentage in their favor is a known quantity, and can be readily calculated. Their profits can be surmised much the same as any other business enterprise. Even though the civil authorities and the morally righteous outlaw gaming establishments in these parts of the country, they are generally owned and operated by men of well known standing in the community. The card tables pay a percentage or a “rake off” and the proprietors provide protection to the patrons. When gaming rooms must be conducted in secret the probabilities and chances of the uninitiated patrons of winning are greatly diminished. The initiated gambling card sharp understands these truths. This is what enables the professional to make a good living. This is what drives the skilled professional to deep understanding and expert levels. 

The mysterious rider’s horse instinctively begins to trot as they approach the edge of town. The rider pulls his coat together to keep warm in the cool autumn evening. He returns to his reverie and begins to contemplate the vast difference between the methods and techniques employed by the card conjurer in mystifying and amusing an audience and those practiced by a professional card sharp at the gaming table. The card sharp’s methods must be practiced in perfect harmony with the usual procedure of the game. No actions or techniques employed to manipulate the odds can appear to be irregular or out of place. No efforts should be made to distract attention. No tactics that card conjurers use to misdirect an audience should be employed. The first unnatural movement will create suspicion in the other players at the table. Even mere suspicion will deplete the playing field. No one but a simon-pure fool will knowingly play against more than ordinary chances. The rider knows first hand that the only way to protect oneself against unknown advantage play is to never play with money. He also knows that even an intimate knowledge of the modus operandi of card table artifice does not necessarily enable one to detect the card sharper’s manipulation. The true professional card sharp will always avoid even the suspicion of having skill with a deck of cards so the other players don’t get suspicious and develop cold feet, emptying the field of play. Many card players have been shot or hung because they have not fully mastered their vocation of artifice, ruse and subterfuge at the card table.

The rider reaches the livery stable and instructs the attendant to brush down his faithful horse and give her a double order of oats. The mysterious man then dismounts his horse and wonders if there is a juicy card game going on at the hotel casino.






L. W. De Laurence Works

The Bible Defended - Drake Publishing 1902

Book of Magical Art - 1902 or 1903 Self Published

Medical Hypnosis - 1902

Plagerized - The Master Key, The Great Book of Magical Art, The Great book of Secret Hindu

Plagerized both Waite and Rider & Co. of both test and Tarot Card artwork.

L. W. De Laurence 

Shared office space with Frederick Drake & Co. in Chicago. (Houdini Magic Shop Press Release)

Self Published many books.

Published many books with Frederick Drake & Co. Publishing

Quick Facts for James M (W) Andrews: Scott Edward Lane's Candidate for S. W. Erdnase


1. He was a known casino owner, operator and expert card dealer.

2. His name is the correct backwards spelling.

3. He is the correct age and timeframe.

4. He would have known and done a lot of business with Edwin Hood and H. C. Evans.

5. He had associates and relatives that did business with James McKinney, Jamieson & Higgins, Drake and Galloway.

6. He had family ties to Koffman (Coffman), who is listed as a creditor in the McKinney bankruptcy files.

7. His one daughter married into the McKinney family.

8. His second daughter married into the Adams family who was related to the first wife of William Golden Mortimer. Mortimer was the first president of the Society of American Magicians and close friend of Dr William Elliott who contributed to New Era Card Tricks, invented the Back Palm and first identified the Mexican turnover move found in the Expert at the Card Table. He was also good friends of Houdini. Dr Elliott was known as the “Boston Kid” to the gamblers in the area.

9. His family was related to the Milton Franklin Andrews family.

10. His business associate, co-owner of the casino and family relative was related to Eva Howard, the woman killed by Milton Franklin Andrews.

11. His business associate, co-owner of the casino and family relative was related to Campbell, who Alvin Andrews hired as an attorney to represent Milton Franklin Andrews.

12. He was an associate of Dr Ellis who owned the nearby Claxton boarding house and casino and was related to William “Friday” Ellis, the man Milton Franklin tried to kill with a hammer.

13. He was related to Louis Dalrymple and had relatives that worked for The Puck, The Judge and Life Magazines.

14. He had associates that wrote and illustrated The Thompson Street and Mott Street Poker Club Books.

15. His brother owned a Lumber supply company and was an associate/relative of Benj. F Cobb, who wrote the books illustrated by M D Smith.

16. He was associated with the author of the Wizard of Oz. Martinka Magic Shop secretly helped with the special effects. 

17. He was also the president of the First National Bank in Louisville and Chicago. The check written to M. D. Smith may have been written against that bank.

18. His relatives owned the shop across the street from the hotel where M D Smith met Erdnase to do the drawings.

19. He was related to people who had the same names as the aliases Milton Franklin Andrews and Eva Howard used during their troubles.

I would like to thank Google for providing amazing search capabilities and digitizing historical books preserving our history.

L. W. De Laurence started two “cults”, the White Willow and the Black Rose.
Was arrested in 1904 and 1912.
His court testimony stated he was was born in Cleveland OH, was not a doctor and had never left the United States.
In the trial, it was stated that Negros and Indians were intermingling with “white woman”, The cult was engaged in “lurid” activities including public nudity, self flagellation and forays into the “dark arts.” 
It was reported that the “chief deity” of the temple was found to be a regular cigar store Indian.   

L. W. DeLaurance

 The History Of S W Erdnase

By Scott Edward Lane, Robb and Mary Pat Fischer

Documentary Trailer

Most of the French Lick and West Baden Springs, IN hotel/casino owners were bank presidents. Hiram E. Wells, co-owner of the French Lick Hotel/Casino with James M (W) Andrew, was a Stock Broker of the bucket shops and the treasurer of Orange County, IN. He was also president of the Citizens’ Bank and the president of the Stone City Bank. In fact, he was the largest stockholder of each of those banks. Remember, Hiram Wells was related to both Andrew and Cobb.

Lee W. Sinclair, owner of the West Baden Springs Hotel/Casino was the president of the State bank of Salem and the president of the West Baden Springs National Bank. 

I believe that it facilitated in the stock market manipulation and possibly money laundering.

Erdnase did note, that he published the book because he “needed the money”. This is very possible because at that time, Andrews probably WAS a “reformed gambler”. This could have been the result of the West Baden Springs Hotel burning down in 1901 and being rebuilt by Sinclair, reopening in September 1902. Coincidentally (?), this was the same month William J Hillier suddenly left as editor of the Sphinx Magazine moving with his new wife not to far away from Jeffersonville, French Lick and West Baden Springs.​

Information Concerning MD Smith:

​Bob Rath and Scott Lane recently went to the cemetery to find MD Smith's Gravesite.  We had to dig up the covered tombstone at his grave.  We also completed researching his family and discovered amazing facts concerning his family connections to the French Lick Casino owners and Dealers, the New York Press Club and the magician Harry Houdini.

L. W. De Laurence

Wrote Practical Lessons Hypnotism - Magnetism - Mysteries of Occultism Unveiled

Alhambra published and stole all the royalties. Fred Drake was the company president at the time.

Dedicated his book to Frederick J. Drake “In admiration of his genius.”


Before I post more on the Andrews, Dalrymple, MFA, Campbell, Howard and Houdini connections I wanted to post this from Case Western Reserve University. It is an excerpt from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland and describes some early business connections between the Cobb and Andrews families:


Cobb and Andrews, Co.

COBB, ANDREWS & CO. was Cleveland's leading bookstore from the 1860s to the 1880s. It began as J. B. Cobb & Co. in 1852 when Junius Brutus Cobb and two of his brothers, Brutus Junius and Caius Cassius, bought the controlling interest in their half-brother, Moses Younglove's, bookstore.

The first store was at 36 Superior St. near what is now W. 9th St. In June 1861 the company moved to larger quarters at 241 Superior St., across the street from the present-day site of STOUFFER RENAISSANCE HOTEL.

In 1864 Junius Cobb opened a store in Chicago under the name Cobb, Pritchard & Co. Another Cobb brother, Lucius Marcius, also had a store in Chicago at that time, called Cobb's Library. (The rest of the "Roman" Cobbs were: Cassius Caius, Marcius Lucius, Marcia Lucia, and Lucia Marcia. There was also a brother named Daniel.)

The Cobb stores did well in Chicago until 1871, when the famous fire caused their destruction. The Cobbs tried to carry on for another year or two, but the fire loss was too great, so they quit Chicago to devote their energies to the Cleveland store.

In 1865 the company's name became Cobb, Andrews & Co. when Theodore Andrews, Caius Cobb's brother-in-law, joined the firm. Ten years later the store moved to 315-317 Euclid Ave., near E. 6th St., while the old store on Superior was kept as a "downtown" outlet.

On 2 May 1888, a local newspaper announced the sale of Cobb, Andrews & Co. to BURROWS Bros. Although six sons and nephews of the owners were employed by Cobb, Andrews & Co., none showed any interest in perpetuating the firm.

The History of S W Erdnase

De Laurence was a pioneer of mail order catalog of occult books fraudulent perfumes, oils, sachets, candles incense, talismans and herbal medicines. 

His products shipped all over the world and were banned in Jamaica.

In 1902 he started the Institute (school) of Hypnotism, Hindu Magic and Eastern Indian Occultism.

Contact Information: scottlanemagic@gmail.com

I have done extensive research on James Harte (Harto) and Steele is related to their family tree. 

The research for Dalrymple started with a story “from life” that may have been referring to Louis Dalrymple and his first wife Carpenter. She married poor Louis and almost immediately filed for divorce and kept the house and $75 a month.  

I did find some members of the Steele family that are from Janesville, WI and related to the magician “Rufus” Steele. According to The Man Who Was Erdnase, Rufus knew of the original EATCT manuscripts and said they were located in upper state New York “tied together with a string”. I have traced them to Albany, NY, the location of the Cobb burial crypt. The original land in that area, I believe, was owned by W E S Fales.

Interestingly, Rufus Steele’s family was located in the same area as our old friend M D Smith. 

These are “dots” that are crying out for more research!

I have established, in previous posts, that James M Andrew IS related to the Cobb family, who did work for The Puck and Judge magazines.

This does puts into question the validity/accuracy of M D Smith’s testimony concerning the Dalrymple relationship and the man he met in the hotel room to do the illustrations. 

Remember, he was doing work for Cobb during the same timeframe he met with the man in the hotel.

M D Smith stated the person he met (Erdnase?) in the Chicago hotel room to do the TEATCT drawings declared he was related to Louis Dalrymple who illustrated for The Puck Magazine. At that time, he was also doing work for Benj. Franklin Cobb, illustrating the Jack Henderson series. The books Smith illustrated spanned from 1902 with Jack Henderson Down East to around 1905 with Jack Henderson Down South, Out West, On Tipping and On Experience. Benj F Cobb was related to Bert “Andrews” Cobb and, along with Dalrymple, also worked as an illustrator for the Puck Magazine. 

The Jack Henderson books consist of a series of letters “From Life” written and addressed to “Billy”. It is speculated by researchers outside the magic community “Billy” refers to William E. S. Fales. I have a first edition and it is signed on the cover by W E S Fales. with an arrow pointing to the illustration of Jack Henderson. This is supporting evidence but certainly not conclusive. 

We do know that W E S Fales and Dr Oliver Victor Limerick (Billy Burgundy) were founding members of the Blue Pencil Club and Cobb along with Kemble were club members.

The stories in the book, Jack Henderson Down East ,contain events that actually happened in French Lick. If you study French Lick and West Baden Springs history you will recognize the stories. It is speculated that, “Down East” refers to French Lick Springs. One of the letters describes traveling by train from Chicago, through what seamed like total wilderness, arriving in town, which seemed more like New York City than the town of French Lick Springs.The porters were dressed in tuxedos and looked like “penguins”. The hotels were opulent and expensive. The restaurants were also high classed and expensive. One letter talked about the inflated tips that were expected by the porters and waiters. If you were scammed by one of the staff, there was nothing you could do about it because the employees, police and judges were all corrupt. Remember, the hotels and casinos were run by powerful politicians. The West Baden Springs hotel was a Republican stronghold (Sinclair) and the French Lick Springs hotel was a Democrat stronghold (Taggart). Both hotel owners secretly financed and supported illegal gambling by owning and running casinos throughout the valley. This created the famous rivalry, which was widely known and publicized in the area. 

The theory states that Jack Henderson Down East refers to traveling “Down” from Chicago and ending up in the “East”: Down East.  

At that time, two trains were running daily back and forth between Chicago and French Lick. The trains continued to Louisville, KY, the home of the Kentucky Derby. Many famous race horses were bred and/or stabled in the French Lick, West Baden Springs area.

So in a nutshell, M D Smith may (1) not have been completely upfront or (2) may have remembered incorrectly or (3) Met with an associate of Andrew.

There is evidence that M D Smith did not completely disclose his full family history. Gardner stated that Smith did not want to give his date of birth. This will be addressed at a later time.

First, I will provide Internet links that connect James M (W) Andrew to the Cobb Family and then I will show evidence that supports James Andrews may have been related to the first wife of Louis Dalrymple.

This alone will not prove EATCT authorship but will help establish a pattern of facts supporting the case for authorship. I have been researching Erdnase since 1968 when my great aunt first gave me relevant information/artifacts. This year marks the fifty year mark, which is important to me because my great aunt asked me not to disclose some of the information for fifty years. I have collected a mountain of research and it will take time to explain. I broke down in 1992 when I published Gambling Card Sharps, How to Beat a Cheater. I limited the content to describing only some of the card work developed by the French Lick Dealers. The book was heavily edited prior to printing and only describes a small amount of the information passed down in the family, which spans five generations. It does have the distinction of being the first book on gambling slights with illustrations generated using a CAD (Computer Aided Design) software package.

Before I comment on family histories and the citizens of Orange County, Indiana, it must be noted the actual populations of the area were rather small. Most of the people in the area were there on vacation or for the medical quackery “cure all” benefits claimed by drinking the mineral spring water. “Pluto” water was marketed by the French Lick Springs hotel/casino owners and “Strudel” water was marketed by the West Baden Springs hotel/casino owners. This is why so many Doctors and Dentists established residency in the area. The mineral water also attracted visiting customers/patients from all over the world. Many of them famous actors, sports figures, politicians, writers, artists, musicians, business owners and criminals. 

As time went by, it was hard for the citizens of the area to find husbands and wives who were not already related. When analyzing family histories, it seems everyone was related to everyone.

One more thing I need to explain prior to publishing the family tree.

James M Andrews
S W Erdnase = E S Andrews

Sorry to do this to everyone but ….

If you use the Bucket Shop code sometimes used in transcribing hidden names, instead of saying the letter, E and S, as in E S Andrews, pronounce the SOUND of the letters E and S. 

That would put the name:

H(e) I(s) Andrews.

Perhaps that is why James Andrew dropped the JAM when reversing his name. Of course this is pure speculation but his business partner, Hiram Wells, was a bucket shop stock broker when they co-owned the French Lick Hotel.