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John Elbert Wilkie

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John Elbert Wilkie
DiedDecember 13, 1934

John Elbert Wilkie (1860–1934) was an American journalist, head of the United States Secret Service from 1898 to 1911, and an amateur magician. He used the pen name Fred S. Ellmore when writing an article about the Indian Rope Trick for the Chicago Tribune.


Under the name "Fred S. Ellmore" ("Fred Sell More"), Wilkie wrote of the "Indian Rope Trick" while working at Chicago Tribune in 1890. The Tribune piece received wide publicity, and in the following months and years many people claimed to remember having seen the trick as far back as the 1850s.


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  • John Elbert Wilkie obituary. Time magazine
  • Staff report (December 14, 1934). John E. Wilkie dies. Traction Official; Former United States Secret Service Head and Officer of Chicago Surface Lines Co. LONG WITH TRIBUNE THERE. Served as City Editor. Fought Spies During War With Spain While in Washington. New York Times
  • Norman Ansley. The United States Secret Service. An Administrative History. The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science, Vol. 47, No. 1 (May - Jun., 1956), pp. 93-109
  • Peter Lamont (2005). THE RISE OF THE INDIAN ROPE TRICK. How a Spectacular Hoax Became History. Thunder's Mouth Press.
  • Wilkie sworn in as Chief. The New York Times, February 28, 1898.
  • Wilkie brought in fresh blood. The New York Times, January 29, 1911.
  • Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones (2002). Cloak and Dollar: A History of American Secret Intelligence. Connecticut: Yale University Press
  • Wilkie, John. The Secret Service in the War. The American-Spanish War: A History by the War Leaders. Connecticut: Chas. C. Haskell & Son, 1899
  • WILKIE, FORMER HEAD OF SECRET SERVICE, IS DEAD. Surface Lines Official in Recent Years. Chicago Tribune Dec 14, 1934