Who was Dr. Harry E. Dunlap?

Mary Ann Wise may have thought she had met the man of her dreams on a train coming from Toledo, Ohio in 1919.  A distinguished doctor by the name of Harry E. Dunlap had been fascinated by the 25-year-old Mary who, according to her, had never had the chance to have young men call on her as other girls her age had.  Mary wanted to find out more about the 35-year-old doctor (though his age was probably closer to 40) and, when asked, Dunlap said he was an Osteopath and a Christian.  The doctor asked her what more she could want and assured her he could support her.  The young couple got off the train and went to Mary’s sister, Edna Irene DeHart’s, home.  The next day, Mary accompanied Dunlap to the interurban station where he was intending to go back to his home in Bucyrus.  Before reaching the station, Dunlap proposed marriage and Mary accepted. The couple was married on Valentine’s Day, 1919, only 43 hours after they had first met.

The honeymoon phase of the relationship was even shorter than the courtship.  The newlyweds returned to the DeHart home and Mary told her sister the news.  Edna suggested having a belling, a custom where family members would ring bells and bang on pots the night of the wedding.  The custom dates back to the middle ages and was intended to keep evil spirits away from the newlyweds.  This is when the doctor had his first “fit,” as Mary called it, saying they were going to get the police and detective on his tail.  That night Mary stated Dunlap put a revolver and knife under his pillow and “made a proposition to me, so terrible, I can not repeat it.”  She said he then choked her and said he was going to take her to Canada, where she would be kept in a house and forced to live with other men.  Dunlap threatened to kill her and she screamed. Edna came into the room, staying with the couple the remainder of the night.[1]

Later, when they went to Mary’s mother’s home, Mary said Dunlap got down on his knees and begged for forgiveness. She also claimed that he offered to give her $1000 if she would not tell everything she knew of him.  When pressed further, the doctor told Mary and Edna he always prayed with his patients and then had them disrobe.  Mary accused Dunlap of being a “white slave crook,” and said one million dollars would not persuade her to go to Canada with him.  Dunlap left for Bucyrus alone, but continued to write and send Mary packages, usually containing references to Spiritualism, which Mary believed to be the work of the devil.

Who was Dr. Dunlap?

Harry Emory Dunlap was born on April 2, 1878, in Butler County, Pennsylvania to John Dunlap and Susan Marvin, one of at least 10 children.  Before coming to Ohio, Dunlap was married in Butler County to Lillie Christy on April 17, 1905.  Like Mary Wise, it was said the couple fell in love at once and quietly got married.  Also, like Mary, the marriage was short-lived.  While returning home on June 1, 1905, Dr. Dunlap, referred to as a “faith curist” by the Pittsburgh Press, found his wife leaving their home with her father William Christy.  Lillie claimed that Dunlap was jealous and threatened to chastise her if she looked at other men.  She also could no longer stand the scanty living conditions.[2]  Dunlap appears to have left the area a short time later.  In 1910, Lillie filed for divorce from Harry Dunlap.[3]

The next we hear of Harry Dunlap is his second marriage to Mary Amelia Bellamy, a Canadian native, in Huron County, Ohio on February 7, 1917.[4]  The marriage would last 14-months and was by all appearances a happy one.  Mary, or Millie, would die on April 12, 1918 of tuberculosis.  In Millie’s obituary, in the Bucyrus Evening Telegraph, Harry Dunlap is referred to as a clairvoyant medium.[5]  The death of his second wife was quite a blow to the doctor.  During his divorce proceeding from Mary Wise, he mentioned that Millie Bellamy was the “purest and sweetest woman that ever lived.”

Further events in 1919 would explain the doctor’s aversion to police and detectives.  On January 29, 1919, Mrs. Rose Scranton was murdered in Marion, Ohio.  On June 3, 1919, Dunlap, along with James Steel, were arrested for the murder.  Was this the reason the doctor was worried about police showing up to the house after his marriage to Mary Wise, fourteen days after the murder?  Could this also be the information that he offer a $1000 to Mary not to divulge? The answer my never be known. Mary never connected the doctor to the murder and Dunlap and Steel were exonerated as the judge declared “not one scintilla of evidence” connected them to the crime.  Though another clue to the life of Harry Dunlap was discovered during the trial.  While searching his room, a trunk was found containing letters from women from all over the state.  Also included in the trunk was a large collection of photographs of women and girls.[6]  Dunlap dismissed the letters and photos, saying they were all from female relatives.[7]

Mary Wise was granted a divorce for Dunlap in August of 1919 and refused the alimony she would have been awarded, saying the money was tainted.  Little is heard from Harry Dunlap after that.  In 1942 he shows up in Fostoria, Ohio on a World War II draft registration card.  At that time, he lists his occupation as Osteopath.  He again disappears until his death in Cleveland, Ohio on January 28, 1966.  Harry Dunlap is buried in an unmarked grave at Hillcrest Memorial Cemetery in Bedford Heights, Ohio.


Sources:

  1. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, OH). 31 July 1919, p. 4.
  2. The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA). 02 June 1905, p. 10.
  3. The Butler Citizen (Butler, PA). 26 January 1910, p. 7.
  4. Ancestry.com. Ohio, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.                                                             
  5. The Bucyrus Evening Telegraph (Bucyrus, OH). 12 April 1918, p. 5.
  6. The Marion Star (Marion, OH). 09 June 1919, p. 3.
  7. The Marion Star (Marion, OH). 11 June 1919, p. 7.

The Rise and Fall of Spiritualism in Mansfield

Spiritualism’s popularity grew wildly in the second half of the 19th century, in large part, due to the loss during the Civil War.  Loved ones felt a need to know that their relatives were at peace and those claiming to have the ability to contact them prayed heavily on that need.  Spiritualism is the belief that the spirits of the dead not only exist, but also feel a need to communicate with the living.  Most scholars agree that the movement started in 1848, with the Fox sisters in Hydesville, New York.  The young sisters claimed they were communicating with a spirit through a series of knocks, asking it to count or answer yes or no questions.  They determined this was the spirit of a murdered peddler.  The sisters would tour the country claiming to be able to communicate with the dead.  Spiritualist Emma Hardinge estimated there were 8 million converts to the religion by the 1880s, but a damning blow was delivered in 1888 when one of the Fox sisters, Maggie, denounced the religion and called their part in it a “horrible deception.”  Despite this, Spiritualism remained popular and Mansfield, like other cities across the country, couldn’t resist its charm.[1]

May 2, 1860, p. 3, The Richland Shield and Banner

Inspired by the Fox Sisters, Ruban Buckman Claflin began advertising two of his daughters as mediums in 1852: Tennessee Claflin and her sister, Victoria.  Ruban, or “Buck” as he was called, was an abusive father and in 1853 Victoria married Dr. Canning Woodhull.  Victoria C. Woodhull became an early follower of Spiritualism and a women’s rights activist, running for president in 1872.  She too denounced Spiritualism in 1875.  Her sister would continue to tour the midwest and made an appearance in Mansfield in May of 1860.  A number of other spiritualists, mind readers, fortune tellers, and clairvoyants, like the ones shown below, would make appearances in Mansfield through the 19th century and early 20th century.

One Mansfield man, named Charles Adams, claimed to be skilled in these areas and, in 1895, traveled to Detroit and gave a spiritualist exhibition in front of 5,000 people.  It was reported his skills were so impressive that the manager of the hall where he performed offered him a $75 cash guarantee to do another show.  Adams declined and returned home.  The next month here in Mansfield, Adams took the stage name The Boy Demon and held a show at the Memorial Opera House showcasing his skills in mind reading, second sight, and legerdemain, better known as sleight of hand.

May 15, 1895, p. 8. The Mansfield News

In time these fortune-tellers and clairvoyants began setting up permanent locations in Mansfield. The News reported that there was “hardly a street in the city that does not have a palmist or fortune teller’s sign somewhere.”  Many of these were located along Fourth Street.  One incident, in particular, seemed to spark outrage in the community in March of 1905.  A group of nine girls, “some of whom [were] barely out of high school and all of whom belong[ed] to respectable families”, entered the establishment of Madame Ventley on Fourth Street a few doors down from The News building.  The first girl paid one dollar and went behind a curtain to have her fortune told. She was wearing a large engagement ring and Madame Ventley told her about the wonderful life she was about to have with her new husband.  When she left she passed the ring to the second girl, who in turn heard a similar story.  The second girl, having not really been engaged, told the other seven it was a scam and not to waste their money.  It’s unclear what happened next, but the police were called either when Ventley demanded money from the other seven or the two girls demanded their two dollars back.  The madame was promptly asked to leave town. [2]

March 15, 1905, p. 5, The Mansfield News

Despite this, there was enough interest in Mansfield to start a church and, around 1915, the Progressive Psychic Spiritualist Church began holding services.  The church was run for a number of years by a local woman, Mrs. Clara A. Conley, who had gained some notoriety in 1915 when she used her “gift,” as she called it, to describe the murderer of a wealthy Lima man named John Hauenstein.  She claimed he was 5’ 10” tall, well dressed, and had the first name Henry.  The murder was never solved.  The church met regularly above Hebler’s Bakery and later in Mrs. Conley’s home at 65 South Willis St., approximately where Shiloh Baptist Church is located today. 


  1. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-fox-sisters-and-the-rap-on-spiritualism-99663697/
  2. The Mansfield News, 15 March 1895, p. 5.