Edward Cyril De Hault Laston, “The Memory Mystic”

On this day was born the music hall memory man Edward Cyril De Hault Laston (1883-1951).

Originally from Brixton, educated in India, Laston was rejected for service in the army after a bout with rheumatic fever. In 1907 he chanced to catch a memory act in a Dublin music hall and reckoned he might be able to do such a performance himself. Within a year he had mnemonically memorized tens of thousands of important (and less important) dates of events from world history, and began pursuing booking himself as a variety act. The famous mentalists the Zancigs were helpful to him in getting the act off the ground. Billing himself as “Memora” and “the Human Encyclopedia” he offered £100 to any comer who could best him at his skill. (No one ever did.) From 1908 through 1923 he played the music halls of Britain and India, and American and Canadian vaudeville. In 1914, with the assistance of his mother, he wrote the book Memora: An Ideal Memory Trainer (Aids to Memory. Why We Forget and How We Remember).

In the mid 1920s, Laston retired from show business and moved to the seaside community of Asbury Park, New Jersey where he went into the hotel business with his wife. The Jersey Shore was bustling with growth in these years; while a sensible life choice, it was probably almost as exciting as show business. He seems to have loved living near the ocean; following World War Two he moved to Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, which is where he died in 1951.