I wanted to write this up because when I went to find additional information, I found very little online. I first came across this in Grimoires: A History of Magic Books by Owen Davies. It’s a wonder read, the books it discusses are interesting as is their cultural impacts, but it is the conmen and tricksters that are my favorite parts. Now, Davies rarely identifies them as such, he is a tactful historian, but the way he tells the stories. . .you just know. Anyway, most of the facts come from that book, as Davies has done a great job collecting this little tale.
William Lauron DeLaurence was an interesting man who ran a publishing company (De Laurence, Scott & Co.) and spiritual supply mail order service from Chicago around the turn of the 20th century. He is most known to occultist today for his tendency to copy other people’s works and slapping his name on it, but plagiarism wasn’t viewed the same way in the past and it was harder to prove. Products from his company are still banned in Jamaica, which naturally means his brand of ‘science’ has a certain prestige there. Still, those aren’t the story I wish to tell you about.
The story I want to tell you about is his leadership of a cult, The Order of the Black Rose, intended to elevate African-Americans by worshiping a perfumed cigar-store Indian and whose sister cult only allowed white women to join and then only after they had been weighted in the nude. (Oh, look I buried the lead two paragraphs in)
Knowledge of the cult came to light after DeLaurence told an initiate of The Order of the White Willow that she was, “too fat to be an angel.”
Now, at the time, there was another more well known cult in the city founded by Otoman Zar-Adusht Hanish founded around Zoroastrianism and fad diets. It continually had issues with the police and press in no small part due to the rumors about the sexual activities they took part in combined with claims it targeted wealth women and young boys. I’m sure everyone can guess what people are going to assume when DeLaurence’s organization comes to light in such an atmosphere.
After hearing the complaint of Augusta “too fat to be an angel” Murie, the Chicago police raided the headquarters of the Orders and arrested a number of white women, black men, and Delaurence himself for offences under the White Slave Traffic Act (Mann Act). This was doubly bad timing as the world heavyweight boxer, Jack Johnson, was awaiting trial for “crimes” under the same act for taking a white woman from Minneapolis to Chicago for “immoral purposes.”
At trial, the prosecution elected to only go after the orders for fraud, and Murie testified about how DeLaurence had hidden dictographs to record his disciples so he could later pretend to read their minds. DeLaurence was fined $200 and everyone was released. DeLaurence seems to have walked away at this point.
The cult was supposed to have been disbanded, but in 1923 Helen La Maie said her husband tried to sell her in exchange for a gambling debt:
Charging that her husband, Elsier La Maie, motion picture and theatrical man, tried to sell her to a negro for $500,000, Mrs. Helen La Maie of Long Beach, today filed a sensational divorce complaint in court here.
Mrs. La Maie said she was supposed to take a black lover and become queen of the Order of the Black Rose in order to equalize the rights between ‘Caucasians and Ethiopians’. Of course, money might have had something to do with that claim.
Source: reddit post