Breaking Out of Jail With a Ouija Board and Some Clever Methods

Sidelined for the harmony of the war, the prisoners of Yozgad turned their energies to killing time. A lot of the satisfaction of “The Self esteem Men” will come from the bewildering pluck of these youthful gentlemen of the empire. Shell and starve them within an inch of their lives, force-march the survivors across Asia Slight and before you can sing “Rule, Britannia!” they have arranged a discussion society and begun gown rehearsals for some mild comic opera (title: “The Fair Maiden of Yozgad”). Of program, somewhere outside the house the frame of Fox’s tale, there are an awful lot of enlisted gentlemen from each armies detained in much much less humane disorders. Not like the chaps at Yozgad, they had been most likely not procuring local greyhounds for the P.O.W. hunt club.

On a lark, Jones produced a Ouija board from polished iron and an inverted jar. The hardships of war and a wave of magical new technologies (the phonograph, radio, flight) experienced renewed general public curiosity in telepathy and the paranormal. It was a “liminal period,” Fox writes, “poised at the nexus of the scientific and the spiritual.” Jones, who analyzed psychology at university and possessed an astounding visible memory, identified that he could bamboozle his fellow officers, even blindfolded below near scrutiny. He uncovered a excellent accomplice in C. W. Hill, a pilot of the Royal Traveling Corps who had been lifted on a Queensland ranch. Hill experienced been captured soon after his biplane was shot down in Egypt. Like Jones, he had a knack for top secret codes and a willingness to possibility his existence for flexibility. He also transpired to be an accomplished phase conjurer.

Jones and Hill progressively ensorcelled the camp’s severe Turkish commandant, inserting him and two underlings underneath trembling obedience to a effective ghost named “the Spook.” Talking as a result of the two prisoners and their Ouija board, the Spook promised to direct the adult males to a hoard of buried Armenian gold. (The recent genocide experienced resulted in a large amount of buried wealth.) Jones and Hill prepared for the Spook to tutorial the treasure hunters to the Mediterranean coast, where by they could make their escape and maybe even turn around their captors to Allied forces in Cyprus. As it happened, points took a darker convert.

Fox, a former senior obituary author for The New York Occasions and the writer of three preceding guides, unspools Jones and Hill’s delightfully elaborate plan in nail-biting episodes that advance like a narrative Rube Goldberg equipment, gradually main from Yozgad to freedom by way of secret codes, a hidden digicam, buried clues, pretend suicides and a great deal of ingenious mumbo jumbo. At times, “The Assurance Men” has the higher gloss of a tale polished by way of decades of telling and retelling. Without a doubt, Hill and Jones every wrote lively chronicles of the escape. To make the substance her very own, Fox inserts a refreshing “mystery” into the drama, particularly: “How in the globe was this preposterous program really capable to thrive?” Without the need of breaking stride, she solutions that concern with brisk detours into brain manage, telepathy, mentalism and the like.