Fulton Oursler

Charles Fulton Oursler (January 22, 1893 – May 24, 1952) was an American journalist, playwright, editor and writer.[1] Writing as Anthony Abbot, he was an author of mysteries and detective fiction.[2] His son was the journalist and author Will Oursler (1913–1985).

Fulton Oursler
Fulton Oursler magician
Charles Fulton Oursler

January 22, 1893
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
DiedMay 24, 1952 (aged 59)
New York City, United States
Other namesAnthony Abbot (pen name), Fulton Oursler Sr.
Known forThe Greatest Story Ever Told (1949)
Spouse(s)Rose Karger (divorced)
Grace Perkins
Children3, including Will Oursler


Oursler was born and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of a poor city transit worker. His childhood passions were reading and stage magic. He was raised in a devout Baptist family, but at 15, he declared himself an agnostic. While still in his teens, he got a reporter's job for the Baltimore American.[3]


Oursler moved to New York City to edit The Music Trades. He freelanced for a variety of publications early on. His short stories appeared in The Black Cat, Detective Story Magazine, The Thrill Book, and especially Mystery Magazine. Many of his stories, such as "The Magician Detective", incorporate magicians and magic into the plots.[4]

In the 1920s, Oursler aided Harry Houdini in his crusade against fraudulent mediumship. He himself crusaded under the pseudonym Samri Frikell.[5] He was the author of the book Spirit Mediums Exposed (1930), which revealed the techniques of fraud mediums.[6]

John Mulholland wrote that Samri Frikell was the pen name of Oursler when he wrote on the subject of magic and spiritualism. He made it by combining the names of two magicians, Samri Baldwin and Wiljalba Frikell.[7]

He was supervising editor of the various magazines and newspapers published by Bernarr Macfadden, from 1921 to 1941. Macfadden urged him to drop the "Charles" from his name. He became editor of Liberty after Macfadden acquired it in 1931. In the fall of 1939, Fulton Oursler, as editor of Liberty, printed a piece in his magazine called "Alcoholics and God," which brought a rush of 800 frantic inquiries into the New York office of Alcoholics Anonymous, as it was to be known.[8]

Oursler left Macfadden Publications shortly after Macfadden was ousted from the company. Oursler's tenure with the company was continuous from 1921 to 1941, except for a brief period following the success of The Spider (1928).

In 1944, he became a senior editor for Reader's Digest (where his son eventually became managing editor).[9][10][11][12]

Oursler wrote a number of novels. These include Sandalwood (1925), Stepchild of the Moon (1926) and The World's Delight (1929). He also wrote detective stories and magazine articles under the pseudonym Anthony Abbot, as well as several plays, the most famous of which was the gimmick-filled The Spider (1928), co-written with Lowell Brentano and later filmed twice, in 1931 and 1945. The great success of the play attracted four plagiarism suits, which were successfully defended by Oursler's private attorney, Arthur Garfield Hays.

Personal life

While still in his teens, Oursler married Rose Karger. They had two children, but the marriage ended in divorce.[13]

In 1925, Oursler married Grace Perkins, who had been raised Catholic but lapsed in her teens. They practiced no religion and did not raise their children in any faith.[14] Perkins, a former actress, was a prodigious contributor to the Macfadden magazines. Several of her novels were made into films.[15]

In 1935, the Oursler family toured the Middle East and spent a week in the Holy Land. On the journey home, Oursler started writing a book titled A Skeptic in the Holy Land. "I started out being very skeptical," he wrote later, "but in the last chapter I almost converted."[16] He assumed that once the book was published, he would forget about religion. However, perceiving the growing threat of Nazism and Communism, he found himself increasingly drawn to Christian ethics. Astounded at how little people knew about the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, he decided that he would write the story of Jesus and "try and make it as interesting as a serial story in a popular magazine." He would call it The Greatest Story Ever Told.[17]

In 1943, Oursler was received into the Roman Catholic Church. The following year, his son was converted to the Catholic faith, and his wife returned to her childhood faith a year later. His daughter converted in 1948. The Greatest Story Ever Told was published in 1949.[18] It was followed by The Greatest Book Ever Written in 1951, and The Greatest Faith Ever Known, completed by his daughter, April Oursler Armstrong, and posthumously published in 1953. The film, The Greatest Story Ever Told, based on Oursler's book, was released in 1965.

Oursler also wrote, as Abbot, the Reader's Digest article that was made into the movie Boomerang! (1947). Another book was Father Flanagan of Boy's Town, 1949, the story of Father Edward J. Flanagan's work with young men. The book was co-authored by Fulton's son Will Oursler, also a noted writer.

Fulton Oursler
The grave of Fulton Oursler in Gate of Heaven Cemetery

He died in New York City in 1952, while halfway through writing his autobiography.



As by Fulton Oursler

  • Behold this Dreamer! (1924)
  • Sandalwood (1925)
  • Stepchild of the Moon (1926)
  • The World's Delight (1929)
  • The Great Jasper (1930)
  • Joshua Todd (1935)
  • The Greatest Story Ever Told Series:
    1. The Greatest Story Ever Told: A Tale of the Greatest Life Ever Lived. Doubleday. 1949. Reissue: Image Books, 1989, unabridged ISBN 978-0-385-08028-6
    2. The Greatest Faith Ever Known: The Story of the Men Who First Spread the Religion of Jesus and of the Momentous Times in Which They Lived. Doubleday. 1953.

As by Anthony Abbot

  • Thatcher Colt Detective Mystery Series:
    1. About the Murder of Geraldine Foster (1930) a.k.a. The Murder of Geraldine Foster
    2. About the Murder of the Clergyman's Mistress (1931) a.k.a. The Crime of the Century, The Murder of the Clergyman's Mistress, The Mysterious Murder of the Blonde Play-Girl
    3. About the Murder of the Night Club Lady (1931) a.k.a. The Night Club Lady, The Murder of the Night Club Lady
    4. About the Murder of the Circus Queen (1932) a.k.a. The Murder of a Circus Queen
    5. About the Murder of A Startled Lady (1935) a.k.a. The Murder of a Startled Lady
    6. About the Murder of A Man Afraid of Women (1937) a.k.a. The Murder of a Man Afraid of Women
    7. The Creeps (1939) a.k.a. Murder at Buzzards Bay
    8. The Shudders (1943) a.k.a. Deadly Secret
  • The Flower of the Gods (1936, with Achmed Abdullah)
  • The Shadow of the Master (1940, with Achmed Abdullah)

As by Arnold Foutain

  • Heart's Desire (1929-1930). Novella

As by de Samri Frikell

  • The Man With Miracle Mind (1921). Novella

Short story collections

As by Fulton Oursler

  • The Magician Detective and Other Weird Mysteries. Off-Trail Publications. 2010.; ISBN 978-1-935031-12-3

As by Anthony Abbot

  • These are Strange Tales (1948)

Short stories

As by Fulton Oursler

  • "A String of Blue Beads" (1913)
  • "The Man Who Didn't Do It" (1915)
  • "Chief Bob Carter, Foe of Gamblers" (1916)
  • "The Thousand-Dollar Thumb" (1917)
  • "Three Who Were Deformed" (1917)
  • "The Sign of the Seven Sharks" (1918)
  • "Shadowing the Blue Triangle" (1918)
  • "The Magician Detective" (1918)
  • "The Evil Eye" (1919)
  • "The Mystery of the Seven Shadows" (1919)
  • "The Whispering Head" (1920)
  • "The Clue of the Red Lamp" (1920)
  • "The Hand of Judas" (1920, with John Irving Pearce Jr.)
  • "Perkins Cans a Louis Quinze" (1920)
  • "The Spirit Bell" (1920)
  • "The Jeweled Pipe of Persia" (1920)
  • "The Spirit Witness" (1921)
  • "Professor Satan" (1921)
  • "The Man in Room No.7" (1921)
  • "The Trance Detective" (1921)
  • "Counterfeit Clues" (1921)
  • "A Man from Siam" (1922)
  • "A Whispering Mummy" (1922)
  • "The District Attorney's Secret" (1922)
  • "Charged with His Own Murder" (1922)
  • "The Flying Turk" (1922, with John Irving Pearce Jr.)
  • "The Stone Yard of Satan: A Story of Horror" (1922)
  • "He Fell in Love with a Ghost" (1922)
  • "The Mystery of Ten Mummies" (1922)
  • "Fear: the Arch Enemy" (1922)
  • "A Master of Millions" (1923)
  • "The Hand in the Dark" (1923)
  • "Forever and Forever, Amen!" (1923)
  • "Go and Sin no More!" (1923)
  • "One Clue Missing" (1923)
  • "The Kind of Man That Ought to Be Shot" (1923)
  • "The Footprints on the Ceiling" (1924)
  • "The Thrill Is Gone" (1942, with Rupert Hughes)
  • "The Wager" (1944)

As by Anthony Abbot

  • "The Mystery of Geraldine" (1931)
  • "The Perfumed Trail" (1932)
  • "Shivering in the Dark" (1932)
  • "Ghost Girl" (1932)
  • "The President's Mystery Story" (1935)
  • Thatcher Colt Detective Mystery Series:
    1. "About the Disappearance of Agatha King" (1939)
    2. "About the Perfect Crime of Mr. Digberry" (1940)
  • "The Perfect Case" (1945)
  • "The Face From Beyond" (1946)
  • "The Girl Who Plotted Her Own Murder" (1948)
  • "The Ship of Sleepless Men" (1958)

As by Arnold Foutain

  • "The Physical Culture Detective" (1926)
  • "The Burglar Girl" (1928)

As by de Samri Frikell

  • "The House of Whispering Shadows" (1922)
  • "The Mystey of the Spirit Portrait" (1923)
  • "The Strangest Woman in the World" (1923)
  • "The Mystery of the Flying Dagger" (1926)


  • Sandalwood (Original, Play, Drama) September 22 - October 1926 [19]
  • The Spider (Original, Play, Mystery, Melodrama) March 22 - December 1927
  • Behold This Dreamer (Original, Play, Drama) October 31 - December 1927
  • The Spider (Revival, Play, Melodrama, Mystery) February 27 - March 1928
  • All the King's Men (Original, Play, Comedy, Drama) February 4 – March 4, 1929
  • The Walking Gentleman (Original, Play) May 7–12, 1942


  • Class Loyalty and Its Part in Success (1923)
  • Is Hollywood More Sinned Against than Sinning? (1932)
  • I Am Looking for a Writer (1934)
  • Strange Stories that Jafsie Told (1936)
  • Could Landon Keep Us Out of War? (1936)
  • China's Strong Woman Talks (1937)
  • Women and Children First (1937)
  • "I Want Only Peace! I Am Not a Dictator!" Says Mussolini (1938)
  • Police and Press: An Invincible Partnership (1939)
  • Inked Out (1939)
  • The Lady Suggested Sabotage (1940)
  • The Duke of Winsdor Talks of War and Peace (1941)
  • Winston Churchill Writes About the U-Boat Menace (1941)
  • Whose Business Was It? (1948)
  • The Mistake (1950)
  • Why the Sun Stood Still (1950)
  • Lights Along the Shore. Hanover House. 1955.. Colection of 41 stories and articles
  • Spirit Mediums Exposed. New York: Macfadden Publications. 1930.
  • A Skeptic in the Holy Land. Farrar & Rinehart. 1936.
  • The Precious Secret. John C. Winston. 1947.
  • Father Flanagan of Boys Town. Doubleday. 1949. (with Will Oursler). Biography
  • The Happy Grotto. Declan X. McMullen. 1949.
  • Why I Know There Is a God. Doubleday. 1950.
  • Modern Parables (1950)
  • A Child Life of Jesus (1951)
  • The Greatest Book Ever Written: The Old Testament Story. Doubleday. 1951.
  • Behold this dreamer!: An autobiography. Little, Brown. 1964.. Autobiography


  1. ^ Fulton Oursler (1893-1952), Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  2. ^ Anthony Abbot profile, gadetection.pbworks.com. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  3. ^ Lorene Hanley Duquen, A Century of Catholic Converts. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003, p. 129.
  4. ^ Oursler, Charles Fulton. The Magician Detective: and Other Weird Mysteries, Off-Trail Publications, 2010; ISBN 978-1-935031-12-3.
    Book includes Oursler biography in addition to an anthology of stories.
  5. ^ Fulton Oursler and Houdini
  6. ^ Earle Jerome Coleman. (1987). Magic: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Press. p. 120
  7. ^ Mulholland, John. (1938). Beware Familiar Spirits. C. Scribner's Sons. p. 138
  8. ^ Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition, page xviii, lines 1 to 14
  9. ^ Taft, William H. (2015). Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Journalists. Routledge.
  10. ^ "Miss Oursler, Nurse, Bride". The New York Times. February 1, 1981. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  11. ^ Blundell, John (2015). Waging the War of Ideas. Do Sustainability. p. 135.
  12. ^ "The Fulton Oursler, Jr. Papers". Georgetown University. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Lorene Hanley Duquen, A Century of Catholic Converts. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003, p. 129.
  14. ^ Duquen, A Century of Catholic Converts, p. 129.
  15. ^ Grace Perkins profile, Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  16. ^ "Milestones", Time, June 2, 1952.
  17. ^ Duquen, A Century of Catholic Converts, p. 130.
  18. ^ Duquen, A Century of Catholic Converts, p. 131.
  19. ^ Fulton Oursler on Broadway

External links

Ada Besinnet

Ada Maud Besinnet Roche (1890–1936) also known as Ada Bessinet was an American spiritualist medium.

Alec Harris

Alexander Frederick Harris (1897–1974) was a Welsh Spiritualist medium.

Boomerang (1947 film)

Boomerang! is a 1947 American crime film noir based on the true story of a vagrant who was accused of murder, only to be found not guilty through the efforts of the prosecutor. It stars Dana Andrews, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Arthur Kennedy and Jane Wyatt.

The film was directed by Elia Kazan, based on a story (written by Fulton Oursler, credited as "Anthony Abbot") in Reader's Digest and was shot largely in Stamford, Connecticut after Kazan was denied permission to film in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where the actual events occurred. This semidocumentary also contains voice-overs by Reed Hadley. The film was entered into the 1947 Cannes Film Festival.

Charles Bailey (medium)

Charles Bailey (1870–1947) was an Australian apport medium who was exposed as a fraud.

Einer Nielsen

Einer Nielsen (1894–1965) was a Danish physical medium and spiritualist.

Ethel Post-Parrish

Ethel Post-Parrish (died 1960) was an American Spiritualist medium.

Harold Hersey

Harold Brainerd Hersey (April 11, 1893 – March 1956) was an American pulp editor and publisher, publishing several volumes of poetry. His pulp industry observations were published in hardback as Pulpwood Editor (1937).

Heinrich Melzer

Heinrich Melzer (born 1873) was a German spiritualist medium.

Melzer was born in Dresden, Germany. For thirty years he gave séances and claimed to have the ability to materialize stones and flowers. In the séance room he would only materialize the flowers under the table, and as the table was not checked skeptics accused him of simply hiding the flowers under the table before his séances. When the room was checked and scientific controls were introduced no flowers appeared. In 1926 Melzer was exposed as a fraud as he was caught with small stones attached to the back of his ears by flesh coloured tape.

International Spiritualist Federation

The International Spiritualist Federation is a society dedicated to supporting spiritualist churches around the globe, with particular emphasis on those based in countries which do not support spiritualism as a religion. The federation was first proposed at an 1888 conference held in Barcelona, but was officially established in 1923. Every year since then they have run courses and held lectures for one week which attempt to raise awareness of spiritualism. Particularly notable was the 1925 conference attended by then head of the organisation, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who blamed ectoplasm for his faulty slides during his presentation.

List of Spiritualist organizations

This is a list of Spiritualist organizations:

Agasha Temple of Wisdom

Arthur Findlay College

Camp Chesterfield

International Spiritualist Federation

National Spiritualist Association of Churches

Spiritualist Association of Great Britain

Spiritualists' National Union

Night Nurse (1931 film)

Night Nurse is a 1931 American pre-Code crime drama mystery film produced and distributed by Warner Bros. and directed by William A. Wellman. The film stars Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Lyon, Joan Blondell, Clark Gable and Vera Lewis. It was based on the 1930 novel of the same name, written by Grace Perkins, later Mrs. Fulton Oursler (under the pen name Dora Macy). The film was considered risqué at the time of its release, particularly the scenes where Stanwyck is seen in her lingerie. Gable portrays a vicious chauffeur gradually starving two little girls to death.


Oursler is a surname.

Percy Haswell

Percy Haswell (30 April 1871 – 14 June 1945), frequently billed as Miss Percy Haswell or Mrs. George Fawcett to clarify her gender, was an American stage and film actress.

Percy Haswell was born in Austin, Texas, the daughter of George Tyler Haswell, a politician and businessman, and Caroline Dalton. She was educated in Washington, D.C., and while still a child she first appeared on the stage in March 1885. She appeared with the Lafayette Square Theatre in Washington and acted in New York City at Augustin Daly's Theatre. Her stage career also included appearances in Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Toronto and other locales, as well as New York, where she first appeared on Broadway in 1898, returning periodically through 1932.On 2 June 1895, at Bridgeport, Connecticut, she married to fellow actor George Fawcett. In 1901 at Baltimore she formed the Percy Haswell Stock Company but later took a secondary role to her husband, her company forming a constituent part of the George Fawcett Stock Company. In 1925, she directed the Broadway play, The Complex. She also appeared in two silent films in 1919 and one in 1929.She died in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the mother of one daughter.Writer Fulton Oursler commented, in describing his infatuation with her, that she was "so blonde, so blue-eyed, with voice so throaty sweet. She was a lass from Austin, Texas, but to me she seemed to belong to some other world altogether. She was my first Rosalind, and Juliet, and Ophelia, and a dozen other heroines, sacred and profane."

Rita Goold

Rita Goold was a British psychic and spiritualist medium from Leicester.

Second Wife (1930 film)

Second Wife is a 1930 American drama film produced and released by RKO Pictures. It was directed by Russell Mack, written by Hugh Herbert and Bert Glennon, based on the play All the King's Men by Fulton Oursler. The film stars Conrad Nagel and Lila Lee, two silent film veterans moving into talkies.A print of this film is held by the Library of Congress.

The Circus Queen Murder

The Circus Queen Murder is a 1933 American pre-Code mystery film directed by Roy William Neill and starring Adolphe Menjou, Donald Cook and Greta Nissen. It is the sequel to the 1932 film The Night Club Lady in which Menjou had also starred as Thatcher Colt. The film is based on a story by "Anthony Abbott", a pseudonym used by Fulton Oursler.

The Greatest Story Ever Told (disambiguation)

The Greatest Story Ever Told is a 1965 film based on

The Greatest Story Ever Told (novel), a 1949 publication by Fulton Oursler, in turn based on

The Greatest Story Ever Told (radio program), a 1947-1956 series inspired by the GospelsThe Greatest Story Ever Told may also refer to:

The Greatest Story Ever Told (The Lawrence Arms album), 2003

The Greatest Story Ever Told (David Banner album), 2008

"The Greatest Story Ever Told" (song), a song on Bob Weir's 1972 album Ace

"The Greatest Story Ever Told", a song on Five Iron Frenzy's 2000 album All the Hype That Money Can Buy

"The Greatest Story Ever Told", the final episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force

The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far: Why Are We Here?, a 2017 book by Lawrence M. Krauss

The Thrill Book

The Thrill Book was a U.S. pulp magazine published by Street & Smith in 1919. It was intended to carry "different" stories: this meant stories that were unusual or unclassifiable, which in practice often meant that the stories were fantasy or science fiction. The first eight issues, edited by Harold Hersey, were a mixture of adventure and weird stories. Contributors included Greye La Spina, Charles Fulton Oursler, J. H. Coryell, and Seabury Quinn. Hersey was replaced by Ronald Oliphant with the July 1 issue, probably because Street & Smith were unhappy with his performance.

Oliphant printed more science fiction and fantasy than Hersey had done, though this included two stories by Murray Leinster which Hersey had purchased before being replaced. The most famous story from The Thrill Book is The Heads of Cerberus, a very early example of a novel about alternate time tracks, by Francis Stevens. Oliphant was given a larger budget than Hersey, and was able to acquire material by popular writers such as H. Bedford-Jones, but he was only able to produce eight more issues before the end came. The last issue was dated October 15, 1919; it was probably cancelled because of poor sales, although a printers' strike at that time may have been a factor.

Although The Thrill Book has been described as the first American pulp to specialize in fantasy and science fiction, this description is not supported by recent historians of the field, who regard it instead as a stepping stone on the path that ultimately led to Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, the first true specialized magazines in the fields of weird fiction and science fiction respectively.

Will Oursler

William Charles "Will" Oursler (July 12, 1913 – Jan. 7, 1985) was an American author, lecturer and radio commentator, and the son of noted novelist and playwright Fulton Oursler. He frequently wrote and spoke on religious and inspirational subjects.

Born in Baltimore, his family soon moved to New York City, where Will grew up and attended school. After a brief stint at art school (Oursler attended the Art Students League of New York), he decided to complete college and graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1937. After graduation, Oursler worked on the staffs of various Boston newspapers and began writing in earnest. His first book, The Trial of Vincent Doon, was published in 1941, followed by Folio on Florence White in 1942.

Oursler served as a war correspondent for Fawcett Publications during World War II. After the war, he began contributing numerous articles and short stories to well known magazines such as Collier's and Reader's Digest. Oursler also wrote non-fiction as well as novels and mysteries; non-fiction titles include Father Flanagan of Boys' Town about Father Edward J. Flanagan's work with young men (in collaboration with his father), The Boy Scout Story, The Murderers (with Harry Anslinger), and The Road to Faith. N.Y. N.Y. is perhaps Oursler's best known novel.

Over the course of his career Oursler wrote more than 45 books including 12 mystery novels. He was vice-president of the Mystery Writers of America, a founding commodore of the Overseas Yacht Club, and president of the Overseas Press Club from 1970 to 1972. His autobiography, Family Story, was published in 1963.

Oursler also wrote under the names Gale Gallagher and Nick Marino.

He also co-wrote "My Life with Edgar Cayce by David E. Kahn, as told to Will Oursler", Doubleday ed., 1970.

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