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The Enduring Occult Mystery of
LEWIS de CLAREMONT,
LEWIS de CLAIREMONT,
LOUIS de CLERMONT,
GODFREY SPENCER,
HENRI GAMACHE,
JOE KAY, JOSEPH SPITALNICK,
BLACK HERMAN, BENJAMIN RUCKER,
and the elusive Mr. YOUNG

Joseph W. Kay was born Joseph Spitalnick on the 25th of December, 1889. An American Jew, during the 1930s, he was a part-time jazz musician and a part-time publisher. He later became a full-time occult publisher and the operator of an occult supply company. In time, his son, Ed Kay, took over the publishing business and relocated it to Texas, where it continued.

As the founder of the company, Joe Kay told his son Ed -- who in turn told Carolyn Morrow Long, the author of "Spiritual Merchants" (University of Tennessee Press, 2001) -- that the author of several books published by Kay's Dorene Publishing Company of New York City, was actually a man named Young -- his first name forgotten by Ed Kay, who would have been a child when his father and Young did business together.

According to Kay family memories, Mr. Young had owed Joe Kay money and so in 1937 he gave Joe the "manuscript" to an occult book he had written in payment for the debt. The book sold well when Joe Kay took it door-to-door to psychics and palm readers in New York, and its success eventually led Kay to buy more "manuscripts" from Mr. Young and, in 1948, to found a spiritual supply company called Fulton Religious Supply, which also acted as a book publisher. Joe Kay did not manufacture the spiritual supplies he distributed, but bought them from other manufacturers. Along the way, Kay also owned two other publishing concerns in addition to Dorene Publishing and Fulton Religious Supply -- Empire Publishing and Raymond Publishing.

Meanwhile, in 1940 Joe Kay's brother, Max Spitalnick, known in the jazz music business as Joe Martin, took his bother's success as a cue to also leave the jazz music world and found an occult supply house in new York City. Joe Martin's outfit, Ineeda Incense, was neither as long-lived nor as successful as Joe Kay's Dorene Publishing and Fulton Religious Supply.

Joe Kay died in April 1967 and his son Ed split the business in half.

He sold the New York based Fulton Religious Supply company to his father Joe's long-time associate Moe (Morris) Trugman (June 15, 1920 - March 1, 1995) and his wife Mitzi Trugman. The Trugmans ran Fulton Religious Supply until Moe's death and Mitzi's retirement to Florida in the 1990s.

After the split, Ed Kay, with his wife Mary, took Dorene Publishing to Arlington, Texas, and founded a spiritual supply company there called Mysteria Products, fronted by the fictitious persona of Shana Maidela -- which Kay told Carolyn Long was selected as the company's house-name because it was Yiddish for "Pretty Lady," Kay's pet name for Mary. Upon Ed's and Mary's retirement, management of Mysteria and Dorene passed to their daughter and granddaughter.

This is the story as Ed Kay tells it -- and he probably believed it to be true when he related it to Carolyn Long -- but there are some major inconsistencies and impossibilities in the tale, and they revolve around the mysterious Mr. Young -- the man who owed a debt to Joseph kay.

According to Ed Kay, as part of the agreement between Young and his father, Young allowed Joe Kay to copyright a "manuscript" and to hold the reprint rights. Mr. Kay then copyrighted Young's writings in his own name and published them under the imprint of Dorene Publishing Company. Among these works, according to the Kay family, were the occult books attributed to Lewis de Claremont and Louis de Clermont (both spellings continued to appear side by side for several decades) and Henri Gamache, as well as the ghost-written autobiography of Black Herman, an African American stage magician who was born Benjamin Rucker. Ed Kay also told Carolyn Long that he believed that his father Joe Kay had met Benjamin Rucker in 1938 and at that time acquired the rights to publish the Black Herman autobiography, titled "Secrets of Magic, Mystery, and Legerdemain."

Copyright searches will indeed turn up renewal claims by Joseph W. Kay in which Kay stated that he was the author of all books attributed to both Henri Gamache and Lewis de Claremont.

This story may, however, be a bit skewed by Kay family memories.

For one thing, Black Herman (Benjamin Rucker) died in 1934 when he collapsed on stage during his magic act. So Joe Kay could not have met him in 1938, after he had founded Dorene Publishing -- and indeed, the book itself contains an introduction by Black Herman dated 1925, which indicates that it had been in print long before Dorene existed. From internal evidence, it is obvious that "Secrets of Magic, Mystery, and Legerdemain" was intended for sale at Black Herman's stage shows and was in no way intended to be a posthumous tribute.

The Lewis de Claremont / Louis de Clermont books also were not originally published by Kay's Dorene Publishing Company. Rather, they were published by a manufacturer whose main business seems to have been producing and distributing hoodoo occult supplies for root doctors, including herbs and roots, lucky charms, amulets, and talismans, a lengthy list of essential oils and anointing or dressing oils, and Young's Chinese Wash. The name of this concern was the Oracle Products Company, also known as The oracle Craftsmen. The earliest book titles from the OPC were copyrighted in 1935 and 1936, before Dorene Publishing appeared on the scene in 1937. All of the Oracle books carried advertisements for OPC products in the back pages -- with label art hand-drawn the same skilled amateur pen and ink artist -- S. Quinlan -- who illustrated the books. All of them also displayed the OPC logo on the back cover. At least one of the OPC books was not typeset in its first edition: "Legends of Incense, Herb and Oil Magic" by Lewis de Claremont was originally printed from pages of reduced typewriter type.

The Oracle Products Company logo was comprised of the monogram

   O
  P C
with a hand holding a lighted candle emerging from a banner that read "Antiqvvs Literae Esoteric." The candle flame was surrounded by rays that filled the letter "O" in the monogram -- and above this there was a winged Egyptian scarab.

The OPC logo imprint appeared on the back covers of the early editions of several books published by Dorene, and inside those books, the copyrights read as follows:

Copyright [e.g.] 1936
by ORACLE PUBLISHING CO.
Copyright assigned 1940 to Dorene Pub. Co, Inc.

Among the earliest books published by Oracle and later picked up by Dorene were "The Ancient's Book of Magic" by Lewis de Claremont, The Ancient Book of Formulas by Lewis de Claremont, "Legends of Incense, Herb and Oil Magic" by Lewis de Claremont (now fully typeset, but with its final chapter lopped off due to space constraints), and Black Herman's "Secrets of Magic, Mystery, and Legerdemain" -- in a 1938 "revised" edition that appeared about four years after Benjamin Rucker's death.

There is very strong circumstantial evidence in the "Black Herman" book that Mr. Young was the actual author -- for although he was completely unknown, "Young" is mentioned by name in the text as a famous occult author alongside Arthur Edward Waite and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, whose books are recommended by Black Herman. Not too surprisingly, Black Herman also advises his readers to use Young's Chinese Wash for spiritual cleansing -- the first mention of this OPC product in print outside of an OPC catalogue page.

This evidence would seem to indicate that Mr. Young, a spiritual supply manufacturer, ghost writer, occult book publisher, and the owner-founder of Oracle Products, was the author of "Secrets of Magic, Mystery, and Legerdemain" as well as the Louis de Clermont and Lewis de Claremont books and that he assigned not a "manuscript," but the publication rights to all of his books to Joe Kay's Dorene Publishing to settle a debt. In other words, Young, not Kay, was Lewis de Claremont and Louis de Clermont. As the proprietor of Oracle Products, Young may also have been the otherwise unnamed "manufacturer" whom Ed Kay recalls as actually making the products his father and uncle sold through their Fulton Religious Supply and Ineeda Incense companies.

In 1938, as "Lewis de Clairemont" this author wrote a book on lottery numbers called "How to Get Your Winning Number: The Magic Power of Numbers." The pubisher was Empire Press Books Company, one of the publishing houses owned by Joe Kay. Because this book deals with fortune-telling through numbers, it may have been the original "manuscript" that Joseph Kay "sold door-to-door" to psychics and palm readers in New York.

Whoever was concealed behind the pseudonyms Lewis de Claremont and Louis de Clermont, he also had a third pseudonym -- Godfrey Spencer. Under this name he wrote a book on Numerology, but although the cover and title page credit Godfrey Spencer as the author, what seems to be strange typographic error finds the book internally signed on the last page by "Lewis de Claremont"!

In the 1940s, another author entered the ranks of Kay's Dorene Publishing stable. This was Henri Gamache, whom Joseph Kay also later claimed as one of his official pseudonyms when renewing his copyrights. There is no way to dispute Kay's authorship of them -- except that Ed Kay told Carolyn Long that the Gamache books may also have been written by the mysterious Mr. Young and, a few years later, he told me that Henri Gamache may have been a third person, "a young Jewish woman who did the research and wrote the books." He was only a child at the time these events occurred, so his memory is, of course, that of a family member, not the company owner or publisher.

The original publisher of the 1945 Gamache book titled "The Master Key to Occult Secrets" was Sheldon Publications in Highland Falls, New York, leading one to suspect that someone with the surname Sheldon was involved. This book was printed in the form of duplicated typewriter type, just as was done with "Legends of Incense, Herb and Oil Magic" by Lewis de Claremont, before the Spitalnik / Kay family purchased the rights to "Mr. Young's" books.

Many of the illustrations in the Gamache books are "pick-ups" -- copies from older books, run without credit -- including images picked up from earlier OPC catalogue pages. However, the Gamache books also contain original illustrations as well, made by a surer hand than those in the De Claremont / de Clermont books.

Despite Kay's claim to ownership of all of the books, a close reading of the texts will bring up some doubts that the man who wrote the Gamache books of the 1940s is the same as the 1930s author Young / Herman / de Claremont / de Clermont / Spencer. The Gamache writing style is more lively and the overall subject matter is different, for Young covered a combination of rehashed 19th century occultism and New Thought uplift material, while Gamache wrote redactions from early 20th century books on world wide folk magic and then-contemporary newspaper accounts of folk lore, spiced with original material of a highly practical nature. De Claremont approached his material from an occult and self-help perspective, and his writing was often preachy. Gamache wrote as a folk magic researcher or amateur scholar, always using material that can be traced to holdings in he New York Public Library, always adding bibliographies to his books in good scholarly form.

Interestingly, the de Claremont / de Clermont / Spencer / Black Herman books (by Mr. Young) have all gone out of print, but Young's Chinese Wash is still manufactured to this day, albeit no longer under Young's name. Meanwhile, Gamache's Protection Against Evil (Terrors of the Evil Eye Exposed) and most of his other books are out of print, but his Master Book of Candle Burning continues to be a best-selling title, well into the 21st century, albeit no longer published by Dorene.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that:

Further text and illustrations demonstrating the inter-relationship between cosmetics companies and the manufacturers of hoodoo and conjure spiritual supplies during the pre-World-War-Two era can be found on these "Hoodoo in Theory and Practice" pages by cat yronwode:

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Carolyn Long, whose private correspondence and published book "Spiritual Merchants" have helped shed some light on this still murky corner of hoodoo history.


Order the Master Book of Candle Burning by Henri Gamache from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.

Order Chinese Wash from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.

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