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PUBLICATIONS :: NYSM RECORD :: Daniel & Floyd Hungerford

cover Daniel and Floyd Hungerford: Rocket Power, Interstellar Travel and Eternal Life

by Geoffrey N. Stein

Chapter 3: FAMILY

On August 7, 1918 Daniel Hungerford married Jessie May Hopkins (1892–1981), a former music teacher who since 1916 had served as a recording clerk at the County Clerk’s office.54 Her late father, Isaac N. Hopkins, had worked variously as a watch repairer, a manager of a second-hand store, and an operator of a storage facility. Jessie’s brother, Robert N. Hopkins, was a sign painter who resided with his mother.

Figure 9:
Jessie Hopkins Hungerford and Daniel D. Hungerford,
ca. 1918. Photograph courtesy of Mrs. John Schatz.

The newlyweds first made their home at the Hopkins’ residence at 106 Guinnip Avenue before moving to 361 Hoffman Street. On August 18, 1918 the Telegram reported that Mr. and Mrs. Daniel D. Hungerford had returned from their wedding trip to live at 362 [sic] Hoffman Street “until their new home on upper West Water street [sic] is completed.” The newspaper on October 5, 1919 said the Hungerford couple visited with her mother in Tarrytown, Maryland, but would “reside at No. 825 West Second street [sic].”55

According to directory listings, in 1928 Daniel and Jessie resided at 501 Edgewood Drive and in 1929 at 122 Cleveland Avenue.

A surviving photograph from the 1920s shows a pregnant Jessie Hungerford. A caption attached to the image says she was “pregnant with a baby she ultimately lost.”56 However, Jessie and Daniel later became the parents of Shirley Lois Hungerford, born May 21, 1923 at the Wilhelmina Hospital in Rochester.57   

Figure 10:
Shirley Lois Hungerford and a doll, ca. 1927.

The Hungerford marriage did not last. The 1930 census indicated that Jessie Hopkins Hungerford was divorced. She resided with her widowed mother, Jennie Hopkins, and her daughter, Shirley, in a South Avenue apartment for which the monthly rent was $30. City directories by 1930 showed Jesse M. Hungerford as a stenographer in 1930 and as a naturalization clerk in the County Clerk’s office in 1932. In both directories she was listed as  residing at 103 Underwood Avenue.

Meanwhile, Daniel, Floyd and their mother Mary (widow of William M. Hungerford) resided at 823 W. Second Street. The 1930 federal census actually listed three sons, machinists Daniel, Floyd and William J., as living with their mother at a house which was valued at $8,000. The oldest brother, the widowed William, who did not live long in that house,58 was employed by an auto manufacturer (likely Willys-Morrow) while the younger brothers operated the garage.

Figure 11:
Mary Ward Hungerford and her three sons, left to
right Daniel, Floyd, and William, probably were photographed
ca. 1940

In 1992, Shirley Hungerford Hyde wrote about her parents and the Hungerford family:

Daniel D. married Jessie M. Hopkins on August 7, 1918. I am their daughter. I was born on May 21, 1923 (so I was six years old [when the rocket car was built], not eight as reported by Mr. Marvin’s article.)59 They separated when I was about five and divorced when I was in my late teens. Neither ever remarried. It was not a traumatic family break for me since Dan and Floyd were always deep into some project at their garage or the house on W. Second Street [,] where Floyd and their mother lived (and Dan after the break-up). I never lived there as reported. During the five or so years of my life prior to the separation, Dan, my mother and my maternal grandmother always had a home of our own. I cannot remember the circumstances as to the time when he returned to live on W. Second Street. I have only vague memories of his ever having lived with us. I cannot remember his EVER being home to have lunch or dinner or participating in any family-oriented activities.

Both Dan and Jessie were soft-spoken people. He did not, as the articles indicate, ever swear, drink or smoke. There were never any harsh words between them in my presence and we saw him on occasion after the separation and divorce. Dan was a very handsome young man. This fact did not escape the notice of women other than my mother. Nor did he discourage them. I can remember one with whom he tried to promote friendship with me. I have a fine studio portrait of him taken probably in the ‘30’s.

I was told that Floyd was engaged to a girl as a young person but she died and, as far as I know, he was never involved with anyone else. His weakness WAS drinking, I guess. I generally could smell it. He was always very nice to me. I have the feeling that both he and Dan and their mother were amused by my occasional presence, but they were not involved in my life in any other way.

My mother was Deputy County Clerk of Chemung County and Naturalization Clerk. She was with the Clerk’s Office for over 40 years. She maintained her own apartment in Elmira until November of 1980 [,] when she came to Hendersonville [North Carolina] to make her home with us. She had a massive heart attack in January of 1981 and needed round-the-clock care until she died (on my birthday) May 21, 1981.60

Shirley Hungerford in 1945 married her “childhood sweetheart,” Norman R. Hyde, a fighter pilot in World War II. The Hydes left Elmira, although on visits to their home town, Shirley would “occasionally take essential supplies to Dan and Floyd on W. Second Street. It grieved me to see how they lived. Mother would go with me once in a while.”
David Smith, who in the early 2000s researched the Hungerfords with an eye to making a documentary movie, related to me that Shirley Hyde told him of her estrangement from her father. She said he was a handsome man, and the women in Elmira knew it. His philandering for which Shirley Hyde did not forgive him precipitated the failure of their marriage. When Daniel asked her for money to pay past-due real estate taxes, she refused him.61 In 1979 Schuyler Lathers related he knew Hungerford was “friendly” with Dr. Miller, a chemistry professor at Elmira College. He “kept her company some”.62 Lathers told another writer that he was attending the college, where the “woman science instructor with whom Dan was ‘keeping company’” introduced the two men.63 George Mapes related that after his father died Hungerford visited George’s mother, Gertrude W. Mapes, a few times. These “platonic visits” ended the relationship, he adds, since she had no serious interest in Hungerford. Still he was a good looking man.64

Shirley Hyde maintained an interest in aviation. For a number of years she worked as an associate editor for Flight Control, a publication of the Bendix Aviation Corporation, and wrote about aviation history. In particular, she recalled an article of Blanche Stuart Scott, a pioneer pilot, which Scott said was the “only accurate reporting ever done about her.” Ironically, Shirley Hyde never flew. She recalled that as a small girl “I was placed in the cockpit of a two-place plane while my father and someone spun the prop to get it started. I was VERY frightened.” Later she was preparing to fly with her husband “at Majors Field in Greenville, when a student crashed and went up in flames....I did not go up. I did have a brief ride in a DC-3 once when it taxied to refuel. That is the extent of my flight experience. Never left the ground.”65

Jon Elan Steen, the grandson of the third Hungerford brother, William, related in 1992 his memories of his great uncles on West Second Street. “I went there quite often as a child. Great uncle Floyd had the personality of a dumpling and said just about as much as one, but I guess he was almost as brilliant as great uncle Dan. Uncle Dan, now him I remember better, at least he seemed to have some personality, although he said little to me personally. I was only 8 or 9 years old at the time.”66

In 1979 Marvin stated that Hungerford “was an amazing man in many ways and was the first really solid clairvoyant I ever met. Mr. [Ralph L.] Hodge and I both visited him at his home...in 1964.67 A few weeks later, Marvin added, “...they [Daniel and Floyd] were regarded as eccentrics and rightfully so, but in Dan I believe there was true genius. Properly channeled and with the proper leadership, he might have gone far in his field.”68
Marvin also wrote

            Dan Hungerford was a wizard in the true sense of the word. He had a fully-developed sixth sense which, had I not witnessed this, I could not believe. There were many in Elmira with whom I talked who feared him because of this. His mathematical formulae was [sic] absolutely on target although when I showed this to mathematicians in colleges here, they asserted that they had never seen anything as perfect or highly developed. And this for a third grader!69

            In the spring of 1964, Hungerford wrote to Marvin about “automatic writing”, a means of

extrasensory communication with entities both living and deceased. So Hungerford noted that:

I...have had a copy of Basil King’s – the abolishing of Death – 1919 for a long time but couldn’t read it until my brother Floyd passed away – so suddenly at last Xmas time.
            In the book a young lady – is furnishing material thru a process of automatic writing.
            I’m hoping you’ve had some experience along this line, and I’m enclosing a copy of article from local paper – and for the first time in my life – am trying several nights in a row. I sleep sitting up in a chair – girls picture in one had Pencil in the other – Paper on a board in front of me. It was scarry [sic] the first two or three nights. So far is only – chicken tracks – yet some what intelligible. I’m hoping I can get a picture of the murder – maybe you can help...
            You will notice I’m living Floyd’s life Too.70

Ritchard E. Lyon, minister at the First Baptist Church in Elmira, officiated at the funerals for both Daniel and Floyd Hungerford. Yet their later adult lives appear to have been mostly non-religious. To be sure, church-going would have been expected in rural Pennsylvania in the late nineteenth century. Hungerford later referred to Jesus in his writings, since Christian thoughts were part if his life. For example, in a September 1966 letter to Henry G. Budd, a minister whose protest against legalized gambling was published in the Star-Gazette, Hungerford displayed a comprehensive knowledge of Biblical stories.71 But in a statement titled “Our Philosophy of Life” dated August 23, 1962 he wrote “...we are here for no reason of our own -? – why not make the best of it? And recognizing the destiny of man – as – involving the conquest of space – occupation of the stars – and the attainment of eternal life – on this side of the grave...”72

Hungerford professed to possess extrasensory perception. In a letter to Marvin, he told of attending a funeral in Syracuse in January 1929. After witnessing a “dispute between a man and his sister” there he returned to Elmira by car. Rain and an icy road made his return trip a terrible experience. “That night at home I dreamed I saw an army plane crash over Pennsylvania – 8 men died, the next day the paper carried the story just as I had seen it.”73


Late in his life Hungerford wrote of a conversation with his friend Russell Barr, who had driven him to a hospital in Montour Falls, returning in a rainstorm.

I had talked to Barr about mental powers. He laughed at me for years about that. I was so dam [sic] mad about the whole thing [eviction from his Second Street house] I said to Barr – I hope lightning strikes the Star-Gazette – They have been against me all thru this thing – I – made it stronger than hope. I – practically demanded it. It did – Lightning struck the Star Gazett [sic] in that storm- Smashed a power transformer in the basement and filled the building full of smoke.- Every body ran out of the building in to [sic] the rain it was pouring – Barr – was amazed – Said Dan I’m convinced you have something I don’t.
            For weeks and weeks I’ve been clinching my left fist and saying to my self – I want terrible power from where ever. I look to the sky – smashing of city hall and the Star – Gazett [sic]. And the quicker the better. The authorities would send me to Binghamton [to the state psychiatric facility] if they knew...74

Certainly the closeness of the Hungerford brothers is remarkable. They lived together for almost twenty years after sharing their house with their mother for a decade and a half before. Marvin claimed that if a client requested a repair from Daniel, “and Floyd happened in while Dan was out, he’d know instinctively what to do and then do it, or vice versa.” Marvin said a “clairvoyant understanding between the two brothers, which astounded many and frightened others, manifested itself in everything that concerned them.” Marvin said that letters signed after Floyd’s death “Daniel D. and Floyd S. Hungerford by D.D.H.”, were aware that his brother is dead, but [he] maintains that through some sort of extrasensory perception, Floyd lives on in him.”75

Two months after Floyd’s death, Daniel Hungerford wrote in a small notebook:

            This was Floyd’s book....About midnight Feb.15-16-1964 awake – in a bad state of mind – and indigestion – hot flashes & chills – then three (3) knocks – in close succession come – like on the kitchen door – waited no more knocks
            2-16-64 about a week ago I dreamed Floyd –Bill H. were sitting on a bench somewhere – I came and sat down between them my first dream of Floyd, since he passed away.

54 Undated newspaper clip reports she began work at the county clerk’s office on January 18, 1916. She was deputy county clerk from 1937.

55 October 5, 1919.

56 The image and a caption were given to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum by researcher David Smith, who did not indicate a source for the photo or the data.

57 A “geocities.com/smithistory” website notes that the Wilhelmina Private Maternity Hospital operated from 1919 to 1947 at 1259 Lyell Avenue in Rochester. A ViaHealth website states that the hospital provided “private maternity” and adoption services.

58 His wife was Grace Little, according to William’s granddaughter Joan Hungerford Schatz.

59 The index to New York State vital statistics records Shirley L. Hungerford’s birthday as May 21, 1923 in Rochester. Keith Marvin in a1974 taped reading of a draft of his first history of the Hungerford brothers and their rocket car claimed Shirley was Daniel’s adopted daughter. Perhaps this explains the Rochester birthplace. Marvin in a September 20, 1992 letter to Geoffrey Stein wrote, “Actually, she was Dan Hungerford’s adopted daughter....”  Shirley Hyde in correspondence with this author always identified herself as Daniel’s daughter with no qualifiers before the noun. Marvin’s data likely came from conversations with Daniel Hungerford in 1964.   

60 Shirley H. Hyde to Geoffrey Stein, September 9, 1992.

61 David Smith to Geoffrey Stein via telephone, September 13, 1992.

62 Schuyler Lathers to Geoffrey Stein in conversation, August 9, 1979. 

63 Peg Gallagher (“Moonstruck”, New York Alive, March/April 1986, p. 52) noted that Lathers lived in Elmira Heights from 1935 to 1940.

64 George Mapes to Geoffrey Stein via telephone, November 9, 2009. Gertrude Mape’s sister was Emma D. Dickson, who lived on First Street next to the Hungerford house on Second Street.

65 Shirley H. Hyde to Geoffrey Stein, September 9, 1992.

66 Jon Elan Steen to Geoffrey Stein, July 30, 1992.

67 Keith Marvin to Geoffrey N. Stein, “Easter Day, 1979.” On February 22, 1992, Marvin wrote to Kevin R. Hungerford, a distant relative of Daniel, “He was one of the only two actual clairvoyants I ever met and the fact that he did have supernatural power in this line cannot be refuted to anyone who knew him and my own personal experience changed a good deal of my beliefs on the existence of this sixth sense. His late brother, Floyd, was similarly endowed, but he had passed on before I went to Elmira to visit Dan.”

68 Keith Marvin to Geoffrey N. Stein, July 3, 1979.

69 April 4, 1995.

70 Daniel D. Hungerford to Keith Marvin, May 26, 1964. Marvin on May 28, 1964 wrote in reply that he “didn’t know very much about” automatic writing.
W. B. Basil King (1859–1928) was a Canadian-born, Episcopal priest who lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Abolishing of Death (New York City: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1919)deals with communication by deceased individuals who guide pencils held by living persons serving as passive messengers. King suggested that from the earth, people move to another plane of existence. Furthermore, with appropriate understanding and approach, the living can communicate with those who have left their mortal lives.

71 Daniel D. Hungerford to Henry G., Budd September 28, 1966.

72 A copy of the handwritten statement was made available to the author by Linda Hungerford Lathrop.

73 Daniel D. Hungerford to Keith Marvin, July 15, 1964. The crash of the triple engine Fokker C-2 occurred at Royalton, Pennsylvania on January 11, 1929. See unidentified newspaper clip at www.arlingtoncemetery.net/hrangell.htm

74 Daniel D. Hungerford to “Ed & Helen”, August 26, 1966. 

75 “Wizards of West Second Street”, p. 195.



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