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Connecting curious minds with uncommon, undeniably Northwest reads

Psychiana Man

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

Brandon R. Schrand

$24.95

This full-length biography of Psychiana creator and mass-marketing genius Frank Bruce Robinson traces the improbable rise and fall of a flamboyant false prophet during the Great Depression. The voices of his unwavering followers—from a desperate dust bowl farmer to a former heavyweight boxing champion—paint an intriguing, intimate view of the power of belief in hard times.

“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.”—Library Journal

“A tour de force of research, Brandon Schrand’s Psychiana Man examines the life of Frank B. Robinson, a charismatic spiritual figure and ‘pathological liar and conman’, who nevertheless commanded love and total loyalty from his followers.”—Mary Clearman Blew, author of All But the Waltz and Sweep Out the Ashes

For a quick overview of Robinson and Psychiana, watch this PBS Access Northwest video from 2017.

Read an excerpt

Illustrations / notes / bibliography / index / 6″ x 9″ / 414 pages  (2021)

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Description

Six weeks after the 1929 stock market crash, Frank Bruce Robinson created a self-help religion he called Psychiana. An ingenious mass-marketing pioneer, he sold a correspondence course promising health, wealth, and happiness to those who believed in the “God Power.” In the midst of the Great Depression, his mail-order religion with a money-back guarantee swept the United States and spread to some sixty-seven countries—or so its founder claimed—to become one of the most successful twentieth century New Thought religions.

Facing charges of passport fraud in May 1936, an immaculately dressed Robinson arrived at the federal building in rural Moscow, Idaho. A person of considerable local and regional significance, he was Latah County’s largest private employer. Throngs lined the streets and sidewalks waiting for him. He exited his sleek green Duesenberg, waved to the crowd, and smiled for pictures. His son later wrote that the charismatic leader possessed “an insatiable appetite for publicity.” Central to the investigation was Robinson’s true identity. He was not all he claimed to be, and his small-town trial captivated the country and made national headlines.

A full-length biography of Robinson combined with an in-depth historical examination of Psychiana, this book traces the improbable rise and fall of a master charlatan while also giving voice to his unwavering followers—from a dust bowl farmer to a former heavyweight boxing champion—who clung to their beliefs despite ongoing financial and emotional costs. Their stories reveal how adversity can galvanize faith in a false prophet, and paint an intriguing, intimate portrait of a nation challenged by a brutal depression and war.

Brandon R. Schrand is the award-winning author of The Enders Hotel: A Memoir, and Works Cited: An Alphabetical Odyssey of Mayhem and Misbehavior. His nonfiction has appeared in Sports Illustrated, The Utne Reader, North American Review, and numerous other publications. He holds an MFA in creative writing, nonfiction, and an MS in American studies.

“I always have Brandon Schrand’s The Enders Hotel on my list of favorite books about Idaho, and Psychiana Man is similarly compelling. Indeed, I think its primary strength is his powerful writing.”—Keith Petersen, former state historian and associate director for the Idaho State Historical Society

Illustrations / notes / bibliography / index / 6″ x 9″ / 414 pages  (2021)

Recognition

“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.”—Library Journal

“A tour de force of research, Brandon Schrand’s Psychiana Man examines the life of Frank B. Robinson, a charismatic spiritual figure and ‘pathological liar and conman’, who nevertheless commanded love and total loyalty from his followers.”—Mary Clearman Blew, author of All But the Waltz and Sweep Out the Ashes

“In meticulous and mellifluous prose, Brandon Schrand writes a fascinating biography that appeals not only with its curious tale of a mail-order religion, its charlatan founder, and their improbable success despite or because of egregious deceptions, but also with its just plain gripping writing style. Schrand’s approach gathers and guides and ultimately lets the strange story tell itself. ”—Patrick Madden, author of Quotidiana, Sublime Physick, and Disparates.

Additional information

Dimensions 6 x 9 in
Format

eBook, Paperback