September 16: “Insane” Christian Scientist nearly causes panic at the Bijou Theatre

On this day in Duluth in 1904, 19-year-old Hilda Olein, who the Duluth News Tribune described as “an insane girl,” nearly cause a panic at Duluth’s Bijou Theatre at 12 East Superior Street. Dressed in a white gown, Olein had entered the theater without purchasing a ticket, telling the manager “I’ll pay you tomorrow.” She then leaped upon the stage and dramatically exclaimed to the audience, “Now I’ve got you!” The only thing that kept the crowd calm, the manager reported, is that they thought she was part of the evening’s play, which had yet to begin. She was taken to police headquarters two blocks away where detectives tried to “prevent the girl from dashing her brains out against the wall. At one point, according to newspaper accounts, she “suddenly leaped into the air” and exclaimed “There’s the Chicago fire” before “breaking two panes of glass with her clenched fist.” She was unemployed and staying with a friend, who reported that she had been “acting queerly” for several days. The friend went on to report that two weeks earlier she began to meet with “the Christian science sect” and he suspected that the church’s doctrine had driven her insane. In jail she “kept up her ravings, mingling prayers with curses and calling down imprecations [curses] on imaginary persons who she believed had caused the death of her father.” She was examined by a probate judge who had her committed to the Fergus Falls State Hospital for the insane. Read more about the Bijou and other lost Duluth theaters here.

Duluth’s Empress Theatre, originally built in 1903 as the Bijou Theatre, stood at 12 East Superior Street until it was destroyed by fire in 1915. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

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