Annie Abbott, the “Little Georgia Magnet,” was a noted performer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was a petite woman, weighing only 96 pounds, but offered a reward of $100 to any 20 men who could lift her from the floor. The reward was never claimed.
Abbott is in some ways as mysterious as her act. She was born Dixie Annie Jarratt in 1861 and married Charles N. Haygood when she was 17 years old.
Dixie was around 23 when she saw a performance by Lulu Hurst, another Georgia woman who billed herself as the “Georgia Wonder.” Hurst could make chairs, walking canes and other objects seem possessed of mysterious powers from her mere touch. Grown men were thrown to the floor when she touched a cane that they held tightly in their hands. Others found themselves unable to perform the simple feat of lifting a chair after she touched it.
People were baffled by Hurst’s performances. Scholars and scientists tried – and failed – to learn her methods. Dixie Haygood, however, succeeded where some of the most illuminated minds of the late 19th century had failed. In fact, she soon surpassed the abilities demonstrated by the “Georgia Wonder.”
Grave of the “Little Georgia Magnet” at Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville Georgia.
Haygood took the stage name “Annie Abbott” and began to perform her own act in 1885. Hurst retired that same year and Annie soon eclipsed her considerable fame. Her life, however, was not without tragedy. Charles Haygood, a deputy sheriff, was shot and killed at a prohibition rally on February 27, 1886. This left Dixie to support herself and her children by her performances as Annie Abbott. She was so successful that she became known as the “Little Georgia Magnet.”
The nickname grew from her apparent ability to defy the laws of physics. The petite young woman offered to pay a reward to any man who could lift her from the floor. This proved so impossible that she eventually challenged as many as 20 men at once to try to lift her. Although at least one man claimed to have successfully achieved the feat, no one ever did so on the stage to claim the reward.
Abbott allowed herself to be examined by physicians and other scientists but few could offer even a partial explanation of her remarkable feats. Her act grew more and more impressive and her apparent ability to defy the laws of gravity and physics grew as well. Many believed that she employed a combination of leverage, control over center of gravity and a well-honed power of suggestion to achieve her dramatic effects, but no one ever proved it.
Annie claimed that she was both a spiritual medium and a physical phenomenon. Spiritualism was a worldwide craze at the time of her performances.
The performer rests at the side of her husband, slain deputy sheriff Charles Haygood.
Newspaper accounts from the time indicate that her appearances were nothing short of astounding:
…One of the most remarkable exhibitions and incidentally one of the most puzzling was given last week by Annie Abbott the so-called Georgia Magnet. Miss Abbott has a wonderful control over animals as well as inanimate objects and without the least show of physical exertion overcame or rather nullified the efforts of from one to ten men. She couldn’t be lifted from the floor, if she so willed, although she weighs but 125 or 130 pounds. Ten men couldn’t force her against the proscenium arch, although she touched the frame with the tips of her fingers. She would pick out some child in the audience and successfully transfer this immobility to the little one. – (Pittsburg Post quoted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 13, 1911).
The Little Georgia Magnet became a huge success. She after touring the United States, she went on to Europe where she played before sold out audiences at London’s Alhambra Theater. She also performed in Paris, Russia and other European Countries. Her career withstood occasional media efforts to “expose” her as a fraud. Although newspaper writers offered ideas to explain her strange abilities, audiences remained unfazed.
Annie was still a popular performer after thirty years on the stage when she died on November 21, 1915. She is buried in Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia. The inscription on her tombstone reads:
DIXIE ANNIE JARRATT
DIED NOV. 21, 1915
AGE 54 YEARS
ALSO KNOWN AS ANNIE ABBOTT
“THE LITTLE GEORGIA MAGNET”
Her final resting place is on the self-guided walking tour of Memory Hill Cemetery. She is buried near other luminaries including famed novelist Flannery O’Connor, U.S. Senator Carl Vinson and Charles Holmes Herty, the first football coach at the University of Georgia. Herty also invented the “Herty cup” which was used across the South to collect rosin from pine trees during the days of the turpentine industry.
Memory Hill Cemetery is located at 300 W. Franklin St., Milledgeville, Georgia. It is open to the public daily during daylight hours. Click here to visit the cemetery website.