FOOTBALL'S “SECRET WEAPON"
FINDS NEW CALLING
One Medium’s Mysterious Mishap Leads to Life in the Limelight
From The New New Jersey News, September 12, 1928
They were an unbeatable team, often scoring a dozen touchdowns before their opponents could make it past the 20-yard line. By 1917 Warren County had become a football mecca, with fans arriving by train from all over the Eastern Seaboard to see the Badgers play. But how did this ordinary varsity team of ordinary farm boys rise to be the talk of the nation?
Suspicions abounded that some tomfoolery lay underfoot: that perhaps a wealthy backer had, out of regional pride, bribed all competitors to wither before the mighty Badgers. Detectives were called upon to investigate and the verdict was that the Badgers’ impeccable streak was won fair and square. Suspicion turned to superstition when sources revealed that the Badgers players would perform certain “rites and rituals” before each and every game. Was Beattystown Boys School a warren of occultist activity? And if so, who was their ringleader?
The answer lay in an extraordinary boy: a straight-A student rumored to possess the power to predict the future.
“I knew Monty Medium as a pupil,” says superintendent Schöenhorn who has been with the district for 33 tears. “He wasn’t particularly hard-working in either academics or athletics, it’s just that he always knew what was about to happen.”
Montrose “Monty” Medium arrived in New Jersey an orphan and survivor of the Titanic disaster of 1912. He’d been a cabin boy while his parents worked in the commissary before their tragic death by drowning when that ship ran up against an iceberg. A prominent New York family took him in and enrolled him in boarding school near their summer home. Not wanting to dwell on his tragic past, Monty Medium looked toward the future, so much so that he could even predict it.
“We ran tests on the boy,” recounts Dr. Sheldon Synapstein of Princeton University. “Psychologically the trauma of losing his parents blocked his memory. Physiologically, it may be that he suffered a concussion when boarding the lifeboat, resulting in a neurological condition that science has yet to understand.”
Whatever the cause, the benefits outweighed the losses, as right before things happened, the young Medium knew what would occur—from presents opened at Christmastime, to answers to classroom quizzes, to football plays.
“He was never athletically inclined,” says Schöenhorn, “he was just watching a school game one day and named every play 20 seconds before it happened, so the coach recruited him.”
But even with a winning team in its midst, not all stayed rosy in Warren County. Beginning with the rumored occult activity around the Beattystown Badgers, the team’s mystique attracted some unsavory doings. With the crowds of football fans came the gambling syndicate. And crime.
“There were all these people coming through here we didn’t know,” says Gela Macungie whose family has lived around the Lehigh Valley for as long as she can remember. “Bad people who were always making noise, leaving trash and causing trouble.”
That trouble apparently bore down upon young Montrose. For even though he could, by all accounts, predict the future, he found himself the target of an opposing team’s clever play.
“They ambushed him,” remembers Schöenhorn. “They’d studied the Badgers’ strategy, sliced it every possible way and came up with an offensive tackle he couldn’t avoid.”
Some suspect foul play on the part of the crime bosses’ influence over the game, others speculate the Monty Medium had grown weary and wary of the attention he had garnered and so threw the game. But the price he paid was dear: a second brain injury, inflicted on the football field, put the boy into a vegetative state for 99 days. When he recovered, he was not quite the same.
End of Part One. Click here to read Part Two.