Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Will Roberts
One may expect to find a variety of outdated magazines, floss, and needles in a medical facility, but not a picture of the devil.
The Crawford County Historical Society operates a museum in Robinson that is home to many local and global historical pieces. Originally a hospital named the Schmidt Clinic, the museum, with an entire room devoted to Abraham Lincoln and another to war artifacts, revisits the true roots of modern-day America.
While on a tour of the museum, guide and guide Mary Jo Billingsly, president of the historical society, expresses excitement as the topic changes to one that particularly interests her.
Near a wall of books and maps, the devil portrait sneers at visitors as if encouraging them to take a peek and swallow the moral behind it.
A closer look at the etching reveals a deeper meaning behind a simple picture. It actually contains a group of women gossiping, with their shape of the group forming a malicious, smiling devil.
Interestingly, the original etching was stolen years ago from the museum; no one is entirely sure of the reason for stealing it, but it was later replaced with another copy ordered online.
The artist, George A. Wotherspoon, an “optical illusionist,” drew pictures that tell two sides of a story.
“When I came here as a child, this picture hung here on this wall,” Billingsly said. “This was always scary because the devil was always there and I never saw anything different than that. But then after you look at it, it’s two women gossiping.”
The illusions depicted by Wotherspoon have frightened many patients and left a mark on children who had the misfortune of remembering it.