Psychiana Man: A Mail-Order Prophet, His Followers, and the Power of Belief in Hard Times

Washington State Univ. Pr. Mar. 2021. 344p. ISBN 9780874224047. pap. $24.95. CRIME
Schrand (The Enders Hotel) investigates the brief, fascinating career of charlatan Frank Robinson, who several weeks after the stock market crash of 1929 founded Psychiana, a mail-order religion with a “money back guarantee.” Through direct mail marketing, Robinson provided books and correspondence classes that promised “health, wealth, and happiness.” As the United States slipped into instability and economic depression, Robinson became immensely wealthy overnight, by preying on a vulnerable public. Combing through magazines, newspapers, archives, and letters that Robinson received from followers who said they found success through Psychiana, Schrand wends through Robinson’s turbulent early life, chronicling his alcohol addiction, his inability to hold a job, and his loose grasp on truth before the “religious awakening” that led to Psychiana.
VERDICT This bizarre, gripping, yet balanced account of a charismatic man and an enterprise that prospered under the guise of religion will appeal to true crime fans and those interested in religious cults, including readers of Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief.
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