Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Palace of Wonders – Adelaide Arcade Waxworks



The Palace of Wonders – Adelaide Arcade Waxworks

Discovering the location and any information about the waxworks that were once housed inside the Adelaide Arcade have been a labour of love for me over the past few years. I first discovered a little information about the waxworks when researching the death of Sydney Byron Kennedy, and the subsequent aftermath that followed.

 The Kennedy’s lived in the upstairs section of shop 11 (now The Manhattan Drycleaners) and worked from a shop on the ground floor, showcasing their style of psychic offerings and phrenology. The Kennedy’s were not the perfect couple, and Michael soon absconded to Tasmania, leaving Bridget Kennedy distraught.
Bridget sent a private detective to retrieve her son, who returned without him, but with the location of where to find him. Only a month later, young Sydney would be found dead inside the living room of the Arcade residence, and seven months later in August 1902, Bridget Kennedy, would also be found dead in the Adelaide Parklands (you can read about the case in greater detail here: http://hauntedadelaide.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/adelaide-arcade-part-four-madame-kennedy.html)


The first advertisements for the Arcade Waxworks (sometimes referred to in the newspapers as "Kennedy’s Waxworks”) appear in local newspapers in December 1901. In The City of Adelaide: A Thematic History, (McDougall and Vines 2006), on page 104, it states that the waxworks were positioned in the basement.
 This would make sense, as the Kennedy’s lived on the top floor and held their psychic productions on the ground floor, so most likely utilised the basement, for other purposes. It being cooler, and out of site from onlookers who didn’t want to pay, made it the prime location for it to be housed.
After his scandalous affair and the death of his wife and child, Michael Kennedy returned to the Arcade and ran the waxworks, which had become a major attraction in the city. 

In a weird coincidence of the macabre, the Adelaide Wax Works, inside the Adelaide Arcade, in 1904 featured a wax effigy of convicted murderer Thomas Horton. Thomas Horton killed his wife, Frances Horton at the Rundle Street (Mall) end of the Adelaide Arcade on February 27th, 1904.
Thomas was hung for his crime in the Adelaide Gaol on May 12th, 1904, when justice was much swifter, and brutal than today’s standards.[1]

Professor Michael Kennedy ran the Arcade Waxworks until his death in 1908. The waxworks were then taken over by a lady, also a psychic, named Madame Phyllis.
Madame Phyllis had 75 wax figures displayed in her version of the waxworks, so one would think, that possibly, the collection was now housed on the ground floor and in the basement.
When a guest would arrive at the waxworks, a tour guide would show the guest around the displays and give a detailed explanation of the real person’s life, and why they had been chosen by Madame Phyllis to be put on display.
Notable waxworks from this period included Queen Victoria, Sir Hector McDonald, Ned Kelly and his sister Kate.

After Madame Phyllis, the next owner appears to be Mrs Brown. In a 1935 article printed in the local News, retiring caretaker of 50 years (who took over after the death of Francis Cluney), Mr Jonah Benjamin, stated of Mrs Brown:
"She was a queer old soul, some people didn't like her. She was hardy and independent, but she had a good heart and many a time I have seen her walk out of her works and give some poor fellow a couple of shillings to go on with."[2]

I believe the next owner, Mr A. Netter, either bought the waxworks or leased it from Mrs Brown in 1941, but at this stage in my research, this is hard to confirm.
In 1942, a visiting group of soldiers to the Adelaide Arcade Waxworks, stole a full-sized effigy of Adolf Hitler.[3]

In 1953, The waxworks were removed from the arcade, but they didn’t go without a fight! As Mr Yeend, a carpenter, was removing the lifelike figures, one fell forward and pinned him to the floor, in the wax effigies hand was a sharp blade, which landed on Mr Yeend’s throat – as it turned out, the effigy was one of a murderer. Mr Yeend survived, with an incredible story to tell his grandchildren![4]
Believe it or not, this is probably one the local, former Adelaide attractions I am most often asked about by news reporters, as there is so little information available about it in local history archives.

I am keen to continue researching this fascinating attraction in the Adelaide Arcade, and would love to know what became of the waxwork effigies, and if any still survive. If you have any information about the former waxworks, or a photo, please get in touch!

Researched and written by Allen Tiller ©2017



Bibiliography

1905 'Advertising', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 3 March, p. 2. , viewed 18 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5039998


1908 'AMUSEMENTS.', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 10 September, p. 14. , viewed 28 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5181306


1909 'AMUSEMENTS.', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), 3 March, p. 11. , viewed 18 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5178688


1909, The Express and Telegraph (Adelaide, SA : 1867 - 1922), 3 March, p. 3. (4 o'clock.), viewed 18 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page23039181 (Madame Phyllis photo)


1917 'WAXWORKS', Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924), 2 January, p. 8. , viewed 18 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article105384205


1935 'CARETAKER HAS WATCHED CITY ARCADE FOR 50 YEARS', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 4 April, p. 11. , viewed 18 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128824259


1942 '"HITLER" VANISHES', Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 - 1956), 23 May, p. 2. , viewed 18 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75890802


1953 'S.A. Waxworks Dismantled', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 31 July, p. 3. , viewed 18 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48272067


Find A Grave, 2012, Thomas Horton, Find a Grave, viewed 18 Sept 2017, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=90947852


McDougall and Vines 2006, The City of Adelaide : a thematic history, page 104, McDougall & Vines, Norwood, S. Aust
 




[1] Find A Grave, 2012, Thomas Horton, Find a Grave, viewed 18 Sept 2017, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=90947852



[2] 1935 'CARETAKER HAS WATCHED CITY ARCADE FOR 50 YEARS', News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), 4 April, p. 11. , viewed 18 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128824259


[3] 1942 '"HITLER" VANISHES', Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 - 1956), 23 May, p. 2. , viewed 18 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75890802



[4] 1953 'S.A. Waxworks Dismantled', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), 31 July, p. 3. , viewed 28 Sep 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48272067