The announcement appeared on the entertainment page of the Tribune, just below the ad for the Four Marx Brothers. Emile Coue would be presenting a lecture at Orchestra Hall on February 6, 1923. The Miracle Man was coming to Chicago!
Coue was a 65-year-old French pharmacist. In the course of his business, he had made a startling discovery--patients responded better when he praised their medicine. He concluded that their imagination was the reason. It all had to do with thinking positive thoughts.
Coue claimed any person could develop this power. He called his method "autosuggestion," and it was easy. Just keep repeating a simple phrase--"Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better." The unconscious would do the rest. You could transform your health, your life, everything!
Now Coue was touring the United States. He was describing his system to vast audiences, selling his books, setting up Coue Institutes to promote autosuggestion. Rumors circulated that he had even cured people of physical ailments.
His Chicago appearances did not disappoint. Each session packed Orchestra Hall with over 3,000 people. At the conclusion of his final lecture, Coue approached a group of five crippled people. One by one, he put his hands on their legs, and mumbled. Then he shouted the command--"Now walk! You're better! You're cured!"
The five cripples dropped their canes and crutches. They took tottering steps forward. They walked.
The audience exploded in cheers. Coue remained calm. He again declared he was not a healer, only a teacher. "I teach people to cure themselves," he said. "It is not a miracle." These people had not really been crippled. They'd merely had "psychic paralysis."
Coue moved on from Chicago, then returned to France. The next year he made a second American tour. He died in 1926.
In more recent times, his ideas on positive thinking have influenced such luminaries as Norman Vincent Peale and Marianne Williamson.
Autosuggestion itself turned out to be a fad. Even before Coue's death, there were jokes about it.
One of them was about a woman who sought Coue's help. She told Coue her husband always thought he was sick and was constantly complaining. Coue told the woman to go home and have the husband repeat the "day-by-day" phrase.
A few days later the woman returned. Coue asked if the autosuggestion had worked. The woman shook her head. "Now my husband is worse," she said. "Now he thinks he's dead."