Mechanical Man Exposed; Talks Freely – (Source – Fitchburg Sentinel, 18 Feb 1935.)
The "Mechanical Man" isn't.
"It" or "he" is a human being, adept at impersonating a mechanical man, robot or some similar electric device.
This was disclosed last night at the Oyster Bar when he was publicly "opened," the act consisting of the transformation of a rigid, stiff-jointed, jerky, expressionless nameless "thing" that looked like an armoured man, into a regular fellow, glad of the opportunity to relax after five strenuous days in this city in which he deceived thousands. Sponsored by the Fitchburg Motors, Inc, Ford distributors, the Fitchburg Hardware Co, Firestone Service Stores, Inc , and the Oyster Bar, the "Mechanical Man" attracted huge crowds to the headquarters of each of these organizations. He is Ray A. Willis at St Louis, Mo., one of Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not marvels at the Chicago exposition. He has toured the country for 19 years— starting many years before a robot was even dreamed about He has mystified millions and has caused many arguments While he was in this city, the "Mechanical Man" was operated, by a woman standing behind him or sitting alongside of him when he was driving an automobile, by means of buttons on his back. These were supposedly connected with electrical magnets which controlled "its" movements. These buttons, it developed, do not mean a thing other than delusion or deception. 'Incidentally the operator is Mrs. Willis, wife of the mechanical man.
The exhibit caused a traffic tie-up near the Fitchburg Hardware Co. Saturday afternoon, when hundreds viewed it So big were the crowds in the store, Mr. and Mrs Willis decided to drive the Ford V8 longer than they were scheduled to remain on the street.
An onlooker at Fitchburg Hardware expressed a desire to stick a pin in the mechanical man as a test Mrs Willis agreed to allow it to be done. She consented so readily that the dubious one was quickly convinced that he was not a human being.
"They have stuck pins into my flesh," said Mr Willis after the expose "What do I do? I just take it. That is part of the job.
"At the Firestone station Saturday afternoon a fellow cracked me on the head with his fist. It was quite a blow, I just took it nonchalantly. I had to, or reveal myself as a man.
"But that's nothing. I got away easily in Fitchburg. The toughest was when I was thrown out an automobile, going 35 miles an hour, into a ditch, just to prove to a Doubting Thomas that I was mechanical 'Twas quite a toss, believe me or not, but I got away with it because I steeled myself for the contact with the ground.
"Once in Westbrook, Me., a man threw pepper at me. I got very little of it, yet I did not quiver a bit However, the worst part of the incident was that most of the pepper got into my "wife's eyes, causing her to endure intense pain for a week or more.
"Once a woman took a hatpin and attempted to scratch my arm. She did not do it because, to my good fortune, she selected a spot on my arm that was bandaged and the head of the pin was dull. I have had many other lucky breaks.
"It takes me an hour to make up. I use a powder over the grease on my face and neck to create the wax appearance. I make up alone, chiefly by touch. To get my eyes set so that they do not move a bit when I am on exhibition, I have to work an hour. You know, when I am working I am really the fellow who can not bat an eye. I claim the world's record for these eyes of mine—six hours and 52 minutes without batting an eye."
Mr. Willis, who has showed in nearly every state in the union, Canada and Mexico, says that he has many imitators and that only three others in the world have successfully impersonated the mechanical man.
He will be in Leommater this week. Regarding publicity being given to the expose he said that it does not keep down attendance at his performances.
"Only those actually present at the expose are convinced that I am a man," he said "More than half of those who have seen me have read and heard about robots and they insist I am an electrically-operated mechanical device. They come a second time to get another look at me".
Note: At the Chicago Exhibition, the mechanical man was named "Robota".