Old Print Article: “Dis Debar Founds A New Cult Here,” New York Times (1909)


“After a number of escapades in her early career here she ended up in Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for a short term.”

The Swami Laura Horos was a Kentucky-born religious swindler of regal countenance, innumerable aliases and great talent, known as a medium who created short-lived sects aimed at separating the devout from their dollars, often selling “spiritual paintings” of little value for exorbitant fees. A serial bride, her husbands were likewise scammers or the unfortunately scammed, and she was frequently arrested in New York City and other points in America. She faced her most serious criminal trial, however, in England in 1901, when she and one of her spouses were charged with (and found guilty of) fraud and rape. Her vagabond life continued when she was released from custody in 1906. A New York Times article in the August 26, 1909 edition covers her return to the city, as she practiced her dark art under the name Ann O’Delia Dis Debar. An excerpt about her career, as it were:

“…Ann O’Delia Dis Debar has been in the papers for years. When she came to New York some thirty-eight years ago she was a handsome young woman, who claimed to be Princess Edith, Countess of Landsfelt, daughter of Ludwig I, King of Bavaria, and Lola Montez. Others say she was the daughter of a Kentucky school teacher named Salomon. 

After a number of escapades in her early career here she ended up in Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for a short term. She married Paul Noel Massant, who died soon after; then she turned up in Baltimore. She married Gen. Joseph Dis Debar, and soon afterward was giving spiritualistic séances.

It was about 1885 that she met Luther R. Marsh in this city. He was a wealthy and distinguished lawyer, who had studied law in Daniel Webster’s office. He came entirely under her influence. She gave séances in his Madison Avenue house, which he gave to her, and then bought many paintings which she claimed had been made by spirits. His friends took up his case, had Ann O’Delia Dis Debar indicted, and made her disgorge some some of Mr. Marsh’s property. She spent some time on Blackwell’s Island in 1888. 

After her release she went to Europe, returned to Chicago, where she was known as Vera P. Ava and Ida Veed-Ya, and was sent to Joliet Penitentiary for two years. When she got out she married her third husband, William J. McGowan, who had considerable money. He died soon afterward.

In 1899, she was in New Orleans with Theodore Jackson, whose wife she professed to be. They were driven out of New Orleans and turned up in Florida next. Later they were heard of in Africa doing a religious turn under the name of Helena and Horos. In London, in 1901, her husband was charged with luring young girls into a new cult. He was sent to prison for fifteen years and Dis Debar for seven years. She was turned out on parole in August, 1906, and immediately decamped. For this Scotland Yard is looking for her.

Next she descended upon Michigan at the head of a new cult called the ‘House of Israel,’ or the ‘Flying Rollers.’ Then David Mckay became her secretary. She called herself Elinor L. Mason.

She and Mackay disappeared in 1907 after her identity became suspected and neither had been heard from since up to yesterday. It was learned that they have been working quietly in New Jersey and New York.

The Detective Bureau would like to know where Dis Debar is right now.”

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