THE EARLY YEARS OF PAUL TWITCHELL
Determining a Birth Date
There are five contrasting accounts of the birth date of John Paul,
the second and last son of Jacob and Dorothy ( Effie ) Troutman Twitchell.
October 22, 1922
[This birth date appears on Twitchell's death certificate, dated September 27, 1971. The informant to the Ohio Department of Health (Division of Vital Statistics) was Gail Atkinson. See appendix for a photocopy.]
The later, more unreliable sources, which include Gail Atkinson (second wife of John Paul Twitchell), Jack Jarvis (the late reporter for the Seattle Post Intelligencer), and Brad Steiger, place Twitchell's birth date in the early 1920's. Jack Jarvis in an article entitled "Paul Twitchell, Man of Parts," wrote that Twitchell, "a mild-mannered guy", had just turned forty years old. Jarvis wrote the article for the Seattle Post Intelligencer in July, 1963.
Brad Steiger, although he does not give an actual birth date, bases Twitchell's biography, In My Soul I Am Free, on the premise that Twitchell was still within his teens at the outbreak of World War Two. [Brad Steiger, In My Soul I Am Free (San Diego: Illuminated Way Press, 1974), page 54.] The 1920 or 1922 date (as put forth by Gail Atkinson) cannot be accepted, however, in light of Twitchell's college record. Stephen D. House, Registrar at Western Kentucky University, writes that John Paul Twitchell entered college in September 1933 at the recorded age of twenty-two. [Personal letter from Stephen D. House dated November 29, 1977, to the author.] If this record is to be rejected and Gail Atkinson's accepted, it makes John Paul Twitchell ten years old on entering college. Steiger, coincidentally, makes no reference whatsoever to Twitchell's college career in his biography.
October 22, 1912
[This birth date is found on Paul and Camille Ballowe Twitchell's marriage certificate, dated September, 1942. It also appears on Twitchell's delayed birth certificate which was compiled by his father, Jacob, on September 17, 1941.]
It would appear as though October is the correct month for John Paul's
birth date as all reliable documents mention it. The year 1912 which
appears on John Paul's first marriage certificate and on his delayed birth
certificate, [They were married on August 12, 1942 in Providence, Rhode
Island.] however, cannot be substantiated because the birth record for John
Paul in Paducah, Kentucky (his place of birth), was compiled three decades
later. Moreover, Twitchell's birth record is inconsistent with other facts
relating to his earlier life, such as his entrance in college.
Nevertheless, these two documents do summarily indicate that the "1922"
birth date was a fabrication made years later by Paul, presumably to
convince his young wife, Gail, that he was not too much older than
October 23, 1909
[This birth date is recorded in the book, Genealogy of the Twitchell Family: Record of the Descendants of the Puritan--Benjamin Twitchell (Dorchester, Lancaster, Medfield and Sherborn, Massachusetts: 1632-1927), compiled and edited by Ralph Emerson Twitchell of Santa Fe, New Mexico (New York: Privately published for Herbert K. Twitchell, 1929). ]
According to the Genealogy of the Twitchell Family compiled and edited by Ralph Emerson Twitchell, John Paul (known as Paul in the book) was born on October 23, 1909. This work (which was privately printed for Herbert K. Twitchell), though, was published in New York in 1929. [Ibid.]
[Library of Congress [biographical information on authors].
As there are apparently no birth records for Paul Twitchell in Paducah, Kentucky, prior to 1912, I owe this information to Professor John E. Sutphin, Chairperson of the Philosophy and Religion Department, at Mississippi State University. Furthermore, some Eckankar officials do not accept any of these dates. Instead they propose that Paul Twitchell was really born as Peddar Zaskq before the Great Southern Earthquake of 1812. This is by far the most unusual account--and subsequently, the most difficult to prove--concerning Twitchell's birth date and birthplace. The source for this story comes from Twitchell himself in one of his later books, The Spiritual Notebook (San Diego: Illuminated Way Press, 1971) wherein he writes on page 195: "Following him (Sudar Singh) is Peddar Zaskq (the spiritual name for Paul Twitchell) who was born on a packetboat in the midst of the Mississippi River, a few minutes after a great earthquake shook the mid-south and formed a great lake in this region..."
The 1908 birth date of John Paul, as put forth by the Library of Congress and Paul Iverlet (Twitchell's brother-in-law; Kay Dee's husband), cannot be proved.
October 23, 1910
According to George Tipton Wilson, author of From Paducah to Eckankar: A Kentuckian's Strange Odyssey and a personal friend of Paul Twitchell since the 1930's, Twitchell's family Bible lists Paul's birth date as October 23, 1910.
Wilson's article was published in the Courier Journal Magazine in Kentucky on January 10, 1982. The article is replete with valuable information on Paul Twitchell's early life.
It also lists his first name as "Jacob" (apparently after his father) and not "John". [The 1912 delayed birth record also lists Twitchell's first name as "Jacob" not "John."] The reliability of this document, though, is questionable. Even family documents can be filled with errors, since they often rely on memory. Regardless, it should be seriously entertained as an important piece of biographical information, as Camille Ballowe--Paul's first wife--indicated that her first husband was born "around 1910."
The 1922 birth date, as we have noted, is untenable, and the 1912 birth date does not have a birth record made during that year to support it. Hence, it seems likely that both dates are of John Paul's making. However, the 1908, 1909, and 1910 birth dates fit in chronologically with the real life events of John Paul; thus making them stand as the most reliable dates for Twitchell's actual birth date. Nevertheless, it is safer to assume that John Paul's birth took place somewhere between 1908 and 1912 .
According to the Genealogy of the Twitchell Family, [Op. cit.] the first son born to Jacob and Effie Twitchell was named Rupert. His birth date was November 24, 1901. Katherine (otherwise known as Kay Dee ), who was the first and only daughter of the Twitchell's, was born on July 8, 1904. [Ibid., page 512]. This birth date also appears on Katherine Iverlet's death certificate.
Howard Clyde (known simply as Clyde in Steiger's biography of Twitchell) was born in either 1906 or 1907. Paul Iverlet, Katherine Twitchell's husband, places Howard Clyde's birth date in the year 1906. The Genealogy of the Twitchell Family, however, places it in 1907 (March 24); [op. cit.], page 512.
Rupert, Katherine and Howard Clyde were born on the Westside of Paducah, Kentucky. Although there is agreement on the birthplace of Jacob and Effie's first three children, there is some discrepancy concerning the birthplace of John Paul, the fourth and last child born to the Twitchell's. All accounts, except those connected with Eckankar (such as Brad Steiger's) agree that John Paul was also born on the Westside of Paducah, Kentucky.
Both Paul Iverlet and The Genealogy of the Twitchell Family agree on the birthplace of John Paul Twitchell.
Steiger writes that Twitchell was born out of wedlock to a Mrs.
Folger , who was allegedly having an extramarital affair with
Jacob N. Twitchell. (It is unclear in Steiger's book what actually
took place.) Yet, John Paul does not consider Jacob to be his
legitimate father, as evidenced by the fact that he calls him "my
Paul Iverlet, however, strongly disagrees with Steiger's account of
the Twitchell family and calls it an "atrocious lie."
Further substantiation comes from Mattie Twitchell, widow of Paul's
brother, Howard Clyde, who knew Paul's place in the family. According to
her account, almost all of what Steiger wrote was a fanciful yarn
developed over the years by Paul himself. Indeed Mattie's son warns: "It's
a good thing my daddy [Howard Clyde] wasn't living; he would have beat the
hell out of him (Paul) for telling lies about his early life."
Steiger himself admits to having changed the real names and places
in Twitchell's biography, which he adds is a common practice in the
biographies of famous people.
Much of the legend surrounding Twitchell's unusual birth story has its roots in Paul's later writings concerning the Eck Masters. Twitchell has stated that Eck Masters are always born near a large body of water and in strange circumstances. Virgin births and other uncommon phenomena are simply accepted as facets of the process of how Eckankar masters make their advent into the physical world.
Most of the stories concerning Twitchell's unusual birth can be
traced directly to Twitchell's own writing, in either book
or discourse form.
The Teen Years
Brad Steiger writes that Paul Twitchell was fifteen-years old when
he visited his supposed half-sister, Kay Dee, in Paris, France,
where she was studying art. Yet Paul and Kay Dee had to return
almost immediately to China Point (cover-name for Paducah,
Kentucky) because their mother, Effie, was dying. According to Steiger, it was
on their subsequent return to Paris, France, that Kay Dee introduced
her brother to an Eastern adept proficient in bilocation
(out-of-body experience) named Sudar Singh.
[Brad Steiger, In My Soul I Am Free. Ibid., page 51.]
Concerning this period of his life, Twitchell writes:
"Years later while in Paris visiting my half-sister who was studying
art, I found her seriously interested in an Eastern Adept, Sudar
Singh from Allahabad, India, who taught the ways to the higher
consciousness was via soul travel. Fortunately, the two of us were
able to follow him to India and lived for a year in his ashram
learning much about out-of-body traveling."
Steiger later mentions that Kay Dee and Paul arrived home in China
Point shortly before World War Two. Conversely, Paul Iverlet and
friends of Kay Dee deny that she ever visited Paris, France, much
less Allahabad, India. Interestingly, Iverlet (Kay Dee's husband)
states that his wife never left the United States in her entire life.
Also, he claims that John Paul never left North America until the
Second World War.
A research librarian at the Paducah Public Library, who worked with Katherine Iverlet for many years, told me in a telephone interview (1977) that to her knowledge Katherine never went to France or India.
In confirmation of Iverlet's statements, Steiger's dates seem
chronologically out of order with the real life events of John Paul.
For some reason, Twitchell has led Steiger and others (including
Gail Atkinson and Jack Jarvis) to believe that he was born in the
early 1920's (specifically October 22, 1922),
when in actuality he was born much earlier (1908-1912). Thus, when Steiger writes that Twitchell visited France at fifteen, the year is somewhere between 1936 and 1939. And on Paul's subsequent visit to India and return to the United States, he is just approaching his twenties. But, as our earlier research indicates, the registrar at Western Kentucky University has Twitchell as being twenty-two in 1933; thus, making John Paul thirty in 1940.
If we accept the 1908-1912 range of birth dates for John Paul, it places his visit to India between 1923 and 1927. But Steiger writes that after a year's stay in India (making the year 1924-1928), Paul and Kay Dee returned to the United States shortly before the outbreak of World War Two. This would make a gap of eleven to fifteen years before World War Two. If Twitchell visited India, as Steiger claims, the question arises: Does Steiger consider eleven to fifteen years to be "shortly before" the outbreak of World War Two?
In the book, The Kandjur: The Words and Wisdom of Paul Twitchell (Las Vegas: Illuminated Way Press, 1968), Twitchell claims that he gave a talk in Dublin, Ireland, in August 1928. An excerpt from that talk reads, "My greatest problem with people is dealing, not with skeptics or non-believers, but those with failure consciousness..." . Presumably, if the 1922 birth date is accepted, Twitchell was remarkably intelligent at six years old. Even if the 1908 birth date is accepted, there is no proof to support Twitchell's claim that he was in Ireland or India.
Effie Troutman Twitchell died on April 26, 1940, of a liver disorder.
[Death record, Department of Human Resources; Franfort, Kentucky, Registrar of Vital Statistics.]
Hence, when Kay Dee and Paul flew home from Paris, France, to attend to her the year would have been 1940. According to Steiger's account, it would have been late 1941 before Kay Dee and Paul would arrive home from India. It is evident, therefore, that Steiger uses the "1922" birth date of John Paul Twitchell as a working base. Noting that the birth date is a fabrication, Steiger's whole account of Paul and Kay Dee's travels becomes highly questionable.
Brad Steiger, in a personal telephone conversation with the author (1977), mentioned that all the files at the Eckankar office were open to him. Steiger also claimed that he had an assortment of pictures of Paul Twitchell. Some of these pictures were supposedly taken at various spots around the world, thus supporting Twitchell's self-claimed travels. However, one note should be added here: Steiger makes no references to Twitchell's first marriage with Camille Ballowe, his association with Kirpal Singh, nor his membership in Scientology. Evidently, these files were not open to him.
Finally, there is no evidence--documentary or otherwise--to support Steiger's claim (given to him by John Paul) that Twitchell visited Paris, France, or India before World War Two. As for the master Sudar Singh, there are numerous discrepancies concerning his age, his actual whereabouts and, for that matter, his very existence. We will deal with him at length, however, in the third part of this book.
The War Years
Very little is known of Paul Twitchell's life from 1935 to 1940,
except for the fact that he published two small books of poems,
entitled Green Memories and Coins of Gold in 1939 in
Coins of Gold was republished by Illuminated Way Press (owned by Eckankar). According to George Tipton Wilson's article, From Paducah to Eckankar,Twitchell was a prolific writer in the 1930's and 1940's. Writes Wilson: "Not since Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb graduated from knee-pants had Paducah produced a writer whose words turned up more regularly in print." Ripley's "Believe It or Not"--probably in response to Twitchell's own publicity drum-beating--heralded the amazing fact that he sold an article every day. The Courier-Journal Magazine, where Twitchell's byline appeared with some regularity, increased his purported output, reporting that he had sold "some 1,800 stories and articles in three years. . . ." The Hardin County Independent in Elizabethtown, Ill., reported on Aug. 10, 1939, that a New York publishing house had accepted Twitchell's novel "Broken Petals," though no one today knows the fate of the book. Almost as a footnote, the newspaper added that his recent volume of poetry, "Coins of Gold, has pushed him into the limelights." This 36-page offering of lackluster poems was printed by Press Publishing Co. Inc. in Paducah, probably in exchange for some of Twitchell's commercial word wizardry.
John Paul (we shall henceforth refer to him as Paul as he was
commonly called) enlisted in the Navy in early 1942. Shortly after
entering the Navy as a "Chief Specialist", Paul married Camille
Ballowe, a native of Paducah, Kentucky, in Providence, Rhode Island,
in August 1942.
According to Ms. Ballowe, Paul received his commission as a Ensign in 1942 and then later became a full lieutenant. He was up for Lieutenant Commander when he requested to be released from the Navy shortly after V.J. day.
Ms. Ballowe writes that Paul and she went to New York City after the war. There, Twitchell embarked on a literary career. He later became associated with Our Navy magazine as a correspondent; a job which, in December of 1945, took him to Washington, D.C. Concerning this period, Ms. Ballowe writes:
Later he worked for the Navy (going back to uniform and writing
manuals for them). He also worked for the National Home Builders
Association, National Chamber of Commerce. And did some promotional
work for several companies and a hospital...
During the post-war years, Ballowe and Twitchell attended many churches and religious ceremonies. Recollects Ballowe:
"He was always interested in spiritual matters. Spent much of the time in meditation, read everything he could find on spiritual subjects. In New York we attended many churches and religious services. Only as visitors...I have always thought of Paul as a seeker of religion."After several different jobs, Twitchell and his wife joined the Self Revelation Church of Absolute Monism in Washington, D.C. It was upon entering the Self Revelation Church compounds that a new phase began in Twitchell's life. This phase separates Paul's early life (student and war years) from his years as a neophyte of mystical religions.