The Strange Case of Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce Pictured in His Bowling Green Photograghy Studio

Edgar Cayce was a world-famous clairvoyant born in Christian County Kentucky on March 18, 1877. The Cayce family moved to Hopkinsville Kentucky in 1893. Cayce received only an eighth grade education, but this was not uncommon at the time, and was considered adequate for pursuing a working-class career. Much of Cayce's early life was spent experimenting with various forms of employment. But most important to Cayce was his spiritual pursuits. He was very active in his church, teaching Sunday School and recruiting missionaries. He is also said to have read the entire Bible every year of his adult life.

An incident that occurred during Edgar Cayce's early years was described by Dan Cowherd, who's mother attended Cayce's Sunday School class in Hopkinsville: "Cayce was attending school at Beverly Academy, and his dad was trying to help him with a spelling lesson, and Cayce just couldn't learn it. And I suppose along about 10:30 or 11:00 his father said 'It's too late. We're not getting anywhere. Let's just quit and try again tomorrow.' Well the father goes in the kitchen and gets a drink of water. And comes back and finds young Cayce asleep on the couch, and the spelling book is on his head. And when he woke the boy up, the boy knew all the words in the book."

Edgar Cayce Pictured With His Wife, Gertrude.

One event in particular may have led to Cayce's lifelong career as a clairvoyant: In 1900, while working as an insurance salesman, Cayce developed a case of severe laryngitis and completely lost his voice. Unable to sell insurance without a voice, Cayce lived at home with his parents and took up a new career in photography.

In 1901, a traveling hypnotist, Hart - The Laugh Man, who was performing at the Hopkinsville Opera House, heard about Cayce's conditions and offered to help. Desperate for a cure, Cayce accepted the offer. The ceremony took place in front of a live audience at the opera house. Amazingly, while in a hypnotic trance, Cayce's voice returned, but upon awakening his voice was gone again. The hypnotist tried to remedy this with post-hypnotic suggestion, but this was unsuccessful.

After Hart left town, the cause was taken up by a local hypnotist, Al Layne. Layne suggestion that Cayce describe his condition while in a hypnotic trance. During one of the readings with Layne, Cayce revealed that the laryngitis could be healed if blood flow was increased to the voice box. Layne suggested that the blood flow increase to afflicted area, and it is said that Cayce's throat and chest turned bright red. When Cayce awoke from this trance, his voice was back to normal.

Over time, Cayce discovered that his trance healings were not limited to himself. With encouragement from Layne, Cayce became to offer free trance readings to local townspeople. With great accuracy, he diagnosed and suggested cures for many ailments. Amazingly, the person who Cayce was reading for would not be present. Cayce would only be told the name and address of the person. Cayce would loosen his shoes and clothing and go in a trance. He would begin a reading by saying, "Yes, we have the body." He would then go on to describe the person's illness and the cure for it. A stenographer would record everything he said. Upon awakening, Cayce would have no memory of the reading. These readings were so draining to Cayce that he was only able to perform two a day.

Cayce soon became famous and was frequently offered money by people who wanted to use his abilities for monetary gain. Cayce believed his talent was a gift from God and should only be used in a way that was helpful to others. In 1910 a reporter stole a picture of the media-shy Cayce from Cayce's parents' house. The picture, along with an article about Cayce, appeared on the front page of The New York Times, spreading his fame even further.

During his career Cayce also lived in Texas and Virginia Beech, where he founded the Cayce Hospital in 1929. He performed his last known reading in September, 1944. He died on January 3, 1945. His body was brought back to Hopkinsville and was buried in the Hopewell Cemetery.

There is an Edgar Casey exhibit at the Pennyroyal Museum in downtown Hopkinsville. The Staff there were very helpful in providing information for this article. Some information was also obtained from

An Early Twentieth-Century Poster Advertising a Play About Cayce's Life.