During the 1920s, people had a taste for “Jackass”-style daredevil spectacles. Barnstorming pilots and wing walkers dazzled crowds at traveling aerial shows. Flagpole sitters, including Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly, perched atop poles for up to 49 days in a row.
Harry Kahne, “The Man with the Multiple Mind,” was a daredevil of the brain. Kahne performed as part of vaudeville acts, doing complex calculations while carrying on conversations with the audience and writing out news headlines backwards. Occasionally, he would write different words simultaneously with each hand and foot and with his mouth.
The trick depicted in the photo below—a crossword puzzle solved while hanging upside down—was developed as the result of a dare. Compared to some of Kahne’s other feats, it seems almost simple. In this clip from 1936, for example, Kahne demonstrates how he can write the alphabet upside down and backwards, while also reciting his A-B-Cs out loud—in the opposite direction.
In a 1925 interview, Kahne said that he started teaching himself to do two things at once after being chastised once too often for daydreaming during school. He consistently argued that anyone who was willing to devote time to “mental gymnastics” would be able to do the same things he could. You can find PDFs of his “Multiple Mentality” course, should you wish to try.
TODAY IN SLATE
Meet the New Bosses
How the Republicans would run the Senate.
The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.
Why all cracker names sound alike.
Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom
This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
- Protesters Take to the Streets to Sound Alarm on Climate Change in New York, Across the World
- Knife-Carrying White House Jumper is Vet who Feared “Atmosphere Was Collapsing”
- North Korea: American Sentenced to Hard Labor Wanted to Become “Second Snowden”
- Almost One in Four Americans Support Idea of Splitting From the Union
Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?
A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.