James A. Roday, 61, of Dundalk, prestidigitator and mentalist He used hypnotism to help people overcome fears

March 06, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

James A. Roday, a prestidigitator and mentalist who used hypnosis to help people stop smoking, control their weight and reduce nervous tension, died of cancer Saturday at Franklin Square Hospital. The lifelong Dundalk resident was 61.

At his death he was also a data processing supervisor in the Maryland Department of Social Services, where he had worked since 1990. He previously worked for USF&G and Commercial Credit Corp.

In May, he and a son, Timothy Roday of Dundalk, opened the Baltimore Better Life Hypnosis Center in Dundalk, where he treated clients who often were referred by doctors and dentists.

"He was always more interested in the professional application of hypnosis and not the carnival or sideshow aspect of it," Timothy Roday said. "He used hypnosis as a professional tool to help people overcome their fears and phobias. He always tried to present and push the ethical side of what he was trying to do. The magic side was nothing more than a hobby to him."

Referring to himself as a hypno-technician, the elder Mr. Roday services sometimes helped Maryland State Police solve crimes through interviews with crime victims and witnesses.

Despite appearances on local radio and TV stations and public appearances at charity benefits, nightclubs and private parties, he remained an enigmatic, private person who was uncomfortable with publicity, according to friends.

For 40 years, he was well-known to magicians, audiences and patients in the Baltimore area. He was a commanding figure with swept-back black hair, beard and dark pin-striped suits. He spoke in a voice that was described as being "deep, clear and hypnotic."

Said Denny Haney, a semiretired magician and co-owner of an Essex magic shop: "When Jim walked on stage people, looked. When he spoke, they listened. When he performed, they watched."

Ed Sweeney, a professional magician who often worked with Mr. Roday and called him "The Great Bearded One," said: "Jim was a real gentleman, a standout in a crowd, that's for sure. All magicians want to find real magic, and Jim did."

A lifelong Dundalk resident. Mr. Roday graduated from Dundalk High School in 1953. He served in the Navy from 1955 to 1957.

He became interested in magic in the 1940s when he saw Blackstone, who billed himself as "The World's Greatest

Magician," perform at the old Ford's and Hippodrome theaters. Blackstone considered himself the heir to Hermann the Great, Kellar, Houdini and Thurston.

Mr. Roday studied hypnosis at the Maryland Institute of Applied Hypnology and the Henry Arons Ethical Training Center in New Jersey.

He was a member of the Association for the Advancement of Ethical Hypnosis and the American Guild of Hypnotherapists.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today at Duda-Ruck Funeral Home of Dundalk, 7922 Wise Ave.

He is survived by another son, Richard A. Roday of Ashville, N.C.; and his fiancee, Maria Kreller of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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