Thursday, October 04, 2007

What the Ellis Going On?

Here’s something you don’t often see, a slice of Blackpool memorabilia dating from the mid 1930’s (courtesy, as always, of Phil Barker and his eclectic collection of Fylde Coast curios) in the form of two extraordinary booklets that just about sum up the Golden Mile.
Both were produced by the Ellis family, experts in crystal gazing, fortune telling, graphology, hypnotism, palmistry, phrenology, physiognomy, spiritualism and occultism, established 1891. (We’re not sure if the booklets were established in 1891, or the Ellis family were established in 1891, but either way that’s one heck of a list of qualifications.)
And both booklets were intended to be ‘filled up’ by the specific members of the Ellis family available for the occasion, all of whom, according to the inside cover, were ‘Fellows of the British Institute of Mental Science (Incorporated)’. (Yes…we’ve never heard of that particular institution either. But not to worry.)

As always, just click on the thumbnail above if you want to view the larger version. (Go on…you know you want to.)
The idea behind these highly scientific booklets was that, having crossed the Ellis family member’s palm with silver (or to be more precise 6 shillings…per book) you were then asked a series of delving and psychologically complex questions, a calculation was made by said Ellis family member and your character/ways to success/pitfalls to avoid etc. were analysed and written in pencil for your contemplation across the pages.
If that all sounds a little complex, imagine one of those questionnaire magazines you can buy nowadays from the local newsagents that tell you how great a lover you are or how likely you are to become famous and so forth. (Except, of course, that the Ellis family were qualified scientists and weren’t just making it all up.)
Here are a couple of example pages, as ‘filled up’ by Frank W. E. Ellis himself for one of his unnamed clients.

If you can’t be bothered clicking on the thumbnail (we realise it can be time consuming) beneath the title on the first page above: ‘Description of persons likely to be prove enemies according to the Laws of Polarity’ (or, to put it another way, ‘…somebody who looks the total opposite of yourself’) we find: “From a physiological standpoint, persons who are stout, fair and have a round chin.”
Well I’m convinced. It’s a good job the Ellis family had scientifically discovered that opposites don’t actually attract after all, otherwise their tall, dark haired, pointed chinned client might never have realised who his/her nemesis was going to be.
And under the ‘Description of persons likely to prove friends’ we find: “Plump rather dark women.”
Sounds good to me…all the client would have to do would be to find a ‘Plump, Dark Women’s Club’ (there must have been quite a few of those around) and he/she would have been away. On the other hand, you can’t help wondering whether this particular client had been seen hanging around outside the tent with a pint-sized, corpulent girl who was egging him on and a stout, round chinned, fair woman who fancied a donkey ride instead. We can only speculate...and if any descendants of the Ellis family happen to be reading this, we'd like to point out that speculating is all we are doing. (Especially with regard to the fact that you've got a good sense of humour and wouldn't want to take a couple of humble antiquarians to court for making light of your forebears.)
The booklets are so chock full of sound advice and in-depth character analysis that it’s a wonder the more highly paid Harley Street psychiatrists managed to survive into the twentieth century. The Ellis family themselves, according to the map in the back of the booklet, occupied an extremely grand building that nowadays (as far as we can tell) is either Louis Tussaud’s or the Doctor Who Exhibition…or possibly both. An amazingly handsome and extensive palace, considering that the usual gypsies, bump-readers, palmists and quack doctors hawking cure alls, were located on the beach, being forced to abandon their ‘Scientifically Advanced Stalls’ when the tide came in.

Not that we’re doubting the Ellis family’s word. After all, as the ever-diligent customer, whose life was being analysed by the highly trained individuals pictured above, is informed on the following page: “According to the rules laid down for reading the head, you like to have proof before you believe things and can easily mistake others. You are a poor judge of the character of other people.”
We can’t help thinking that Professor Frank W. E. Ellis was spot on with that observation. That’ll be six shillings. Please close the tent flap on the way out.

n.b. Getting back to descendants of the Ellis family, if you happen to be one yourself then we'd better point out that a.) we're extremely poor and therefore taking us to court for possible slander would be a complete waste of time, b.) we didn't actually mean anything derogatory by any of the remarks above...after all, fortune tellers and phrenologists are the characters that made Blackpool what it is, and c.) if you can forgive us for our slightly out of whack humour then we'd love to hear from you because, in all fairness, we don't have much history behind these booklets upon to which to draw.


Unknown said...


It sounds to me like you're a bit skeptical of the Ellis family and their works. After all, what are today's psychiatrists, if not people willing to listen to sad people's problems and offer advice... for a price. :0)

Maybe the Ellis family saw a way to help others while helping themselves?

Definitely an interesting bit of history, here, and please let us know if you learn anything else about the Ellis family.

As it stands, it sounds like they're offering sound advice for 6 shillings, and handing you a card that says " A fool and his money are now parted".

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


Me? Sceptical? I'd never dream of being such a thing. I know how intelligent gypsies/romanies/entertainers/mystics can be...especially when it comes to court I wouldn't suggest anything other than that they were acting in a professional, scientific advertised.

JahTeh said...

I believe Lord Sedgwick of Strathmore is a founding member of the Fellows of the Australian Institute of Mental Science which is quite right and proper since he's as mental as anyone I've ever met.

Brian Hughes said...

He's certainly well versed in palmistry...although not of the fortune-telling variety.

Lord Sedgwick said...

Leave my hirsute palms out of this!

I'm not a chronic prestidigitator. I'm a humid being. Live and sweaty, and hot to trot.

Brian Hughes said...

Obviously you've been having your bumps fondled too often Sedgwick. That image you've just created has made me feel ill.

JahTeh said...

'Live and sweaty, and hot to trot', he's having a senior's moment and talking about his horse. He gets confused, what with them being much alike in ways a gentlewoman shouldn't be thinking of.

Brian Hughes said... I really do feel sick. I know what some of these aristocratic women are like with their do you think Princess Anne ended up looking the way she did?

I reckon I'd better draw a line beneath this conversation now...before Blogger cancels my account and takes an injunction out against this board.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian,
No offence taken, but if you have any more information about my family I would very much appreciate it. Or maybe you could speak to my sister Jacky (a psychiatric nurse at Blackpool Vic) on 1253 313234 as she knows more about my Fathers line than me.
Best regards, Mark Ellis.

Brian Hughes said...


I'm glad you've got a sense of humour. (I really ought to be more careful what I write in these articles. One of these days an angry mob of insulted locals will turn up on my doorstep brandishing pitchforks and flaming torches.)

To be honest, I don't have any more information at the moment about your family, other than what's here, but I've taken down your e-mail and your sister's phone number, and if anything does crop up I'll let you know immediately.

slingshotposse said...

Not related to the Ellis family but have done research on them,email if you want to know more they were an interesting and important family of their time

Brian Hughes said...

Hi Slingshotposse,

Funny...somebody was asking me about the Ellis family not so long back. Can't remember who now. I'll drop you a line as soon as I get the chance.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sligshotposse,
If you have any info at all I would love to hear it.
Also is this correct?
The Blackpool New Fairground Company was formed by Albert Ellis, operating a “figure-of eight” Roller Coaster near T Nickson’s Star Inn.
Mayor Joseph Brodie at the time…..

Copyright Nick Moore, Blackpool
August 2009

Albert, Frank & Ida were my Dad's (Frank William Ellis)Uncles & Aunt.
Best regards, Mark Ellis.

Anonymous said...

Hi again Slingshotposse,
Can you post your email?

slingshotposse said...

Hi Mark
The Ellis family are a very hard Family to find info on! I work shifts so am just giving quick reply,Did you know that you have relatives in Australia?
Frank Raphaels decendants?
Really surprised that you are of the Ellis line, I have been researching Ida for about four years now, and saw this FWA entry about two years ago but thought it was just a local interest journal,you should always investigate every avenue! it was just that my friend re sent me the link that I decided to respond and here we are!
Good to hear from you

Anonymous said...

Hi Philip, yes, I am in touch (through facebook) with The Ellis family in Australia. Sonia's son Lou & wife Sue & their children also recently Jane, daughter of Frank Jnr. Some amazing stories.
Also have lots of info on Kevin Ellis who was murdered in Zimbabwe.
I own various books by Ida , Albert & Frank but not got the full collection yet....
Regards, Mark

slingshotposse said...

Hi Mark
Have you seen Idas entry in Two Worlds "Portrait Album Of Spiritual Workers And Celebrities" published in 1897?
Just Google it and it is available to read online her entry is on the last few pages or there is an Indian company that has done a reprint!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Philip, had the photo of Ida but not the Photo of the house in Kent Road,
Very much appreciated.
Regards, Mark.

slingshotposse said...

Hi Mark
No problem,I dont know which books and pamphlets you have? but I did some work with the Blackpool library a couple of years ago and they have some books there.
Why did Frank R go to the West Indies?
As i said before this is just a research project about Ida, with no interest in current generations.

Anonymous said...

Hi Philip
Replied to your email 15/11/09 but not sure if you got it...
Regards, Mark.

Anonymous said...

Hello there,

I am a descendant of the Ellis family, living in Melbourne Australia. My aunt and uncle were mentioned in the comments above (Lou and Sue) and my grandmother was Sonya, daughter of Frank Ellis, granddaughter of Albert. We will be travelling to Blackpool in January so I am doing some family research in preparation This was a fascinating read. Thanks!

Ashley Ellis

Katyb1990 said...

I have just came across 3 books in my grandads belongings from the ellis family, this is the only website with anything written about it, do you know where else I can find out more? I'm intrigued, my nan and grandad loved Blackpool, there are tons on Blackpool related items and postcards here with it

Katyb1990 said...

Just reading through them. They have been filled out by Frank Ellis signed, dated 13th of August 1927. Very hard to figure out more of the writing but this is very intriguing,