Willie- The Wizard

From the book: "Strange People"

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Frank Edwards (1908-1967) wrote several books, one being "Strange People" published by Lyle Stewart, who died in June, of 2006. These books are out of print, but still can be found at certain onsite bookstores.

I'll take some liberties here due to the fact that this site is for educational purposes, and include the portion of Mr. Edwards book that pertains to me here: I'll paraphrase most of this excerpt for you:

"In 1940, when he was sixteen and already well known for his remarkable mental feats, Willis Dysart was hired as a special election night feature by an aggressive Minnesota newspaper. Their problem was how to assemble and present the torrent of election returns in order to keep ahead of their competitors—and as it turned out, they made the correct choice in hiring Willis." (Edwards, 1961, p. 69)

Edwards (1961) describes me as being part of a 'small, select group of unusual persons known as a mathematical marvel'. He had describes the fact that I had been investigated by many psychologists and mathematicians, not with the intentions of exposing any possible trickery or fraud on my part, as I didn't put any of this on, but with a desire to learning how my 'abilities' worked and, if possible, how I was able to do these 'amazing' computations: Which none ever figured out and I'm still waiting for someone to help me understand it.

He describes an 1940 election night when I was very young. I had been hired to stand before a 'battery of microphones and rattled off the incoming returns as fast as they were handed' to me (Edwards, 1961, p. 69). As Edwards described (1961) I would "instantly give the exact standing of any candidate on the board, including his current total, the percentage of votes counted at that point and the probable outcome of the contest on the basis of existing information". Needless to say, the paper that hired me that night had and advantage over their competitors that night: They, my competitors, 'were forced to rely on adding machines and ordinary calculators'(Edwards, 1961, p. 69).

All of this was pretty easy for me, and I decided to liven things up a bit by breaking the monotony of giving election returns and their projections (Edwards, 1961, pp. 69-70). I had the editors give me the birthdates of the various candidates, and then, as Edwards (1961, p. 70) describes:

"He would instantly reply, giving the years, months, hours, minutes and seconds the candidate had lived to that moment. Even this was no real problem to a man who could multiply any seven digit number by any six-digit number in five seconds or less".

Edwards also describes the time that I impressed a building contractor by telling him exactly how many bricks he would need to build a schoolhouse': I was off by brick. I'll let you read this, exactly as Frank Edwards described it:

"As a practical matter, a building contractor who was authorized to construct a large schoolhouse, once asked Willis to tell him how many bricks he would need for the structure. He gave Willis the dimensions, the number and size of windows and doors and stone trim, and in seven seconds Willis wrote down the answer. When the building was finished the contractor found that he had one-half a brick left over." (Edwards, 1961, p. 70)

...and, yest it is true: I only completed the 3rd grade--and the Bible is the only book that I ever completely read:

"Willis Dysart had little schooling and no training in figures beyond simple arithmetic. His family attested to the truth of his claim that the only book he had ever read in its entirety was the Bible." P. 70

Except taken from a book by Frank Edwards called: 'Strange People", published by Popular Library, (Strange people by Edwards, Frank, 1908-1967.New York, Lyle Stuart [c1961], pp. 69-70.


Willis Dysart- The Math Wizard
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