When John Vidumsky, a Philadelphia based rowing reporter went to the first floor restaurant of “The White Dog Café’ he was intrigued to find the place was steeped in History. In fact its owner, Judy Wicks, a west Philadelphia waitress who bought the place at # 3420 Sansom street in the city’s Ritten House square, seventeen years ago, was concerned when someone knocked at her door one night and enquired whether it was the very house that Madam Blavatsky stayed in 113 years ago. At that time she did not know either Madam Blavatsky or about Theosophy. But, then on finding a letter written by HPB about her gangrenous knee and how a white Dog that lay across her leg when she slept, brought about a miraculous cure. The Doctors had lost all hope and recommended to amputate. This miracle was also narrated by HPB to the iconic Irish Poet and Theosophist W B Yeats. It was this incident that inspired Judy to name her restaurant – The White Dog Café.
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky did in fact reside in this house in 1884. She had moved to Philadelphia to investigate the seances of Nelson and Jennie Holmes, who later in life were found to be conning the public by faking two mediums named John and Katie King, an old Spanish pirate and his pretty young daughter, whose graceful picture was a sellout and the monies collected were misused to buy a horse and a carriage. Initially though HPB was in support of them, subsequently on finding their fraud, she was forced to expose them to safeguard ‘Spiritualism’ which was gaining ground in America, with Philadelphia having as many as 300 odd members in this esoteric community. She described the Holmes as the biggest fraud of the age of spiritualists. In later years though HPB stayed away from these séances, being aware of the pitfalls. HPB at that point of time was living with her short term husband, the whimsical Michael Betanally, a Businessman from Georgia. It was upon her divorce that she left for New York, where in 1875 she founded the Theosophical Society together with Col Henry Steel Olcott.
The restaurant is now popular with students and heritage seekers. On White Lotus Day, the Death anniversary of HPB, around fifty enthusiasts had gathered; Professors and students from the University of Pennsylvania, members of the Theosophical Society and Ms Marsha Siefert a concert pianist who played the music of Alexander Scriabbin, a Theosophy inspired composer. As John Vidumsky remarks; “Though their numbers are few, Theosophists have an outsize influence on American culture as forerunners of the New Age Movement.”
Source: Philadelphia Times