Angelica Cottin,girl torpedo fish,torpedo fish girl,


 Medium Angelica Cottin 


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  Angelica Cottin Medium

But, as we have already seen, matters do not usually attain to such a height of audacity, and quite often fraud only intervenes when the genuine powers have become enfeebled. This well appeared in the accounts of the "girl torpedo-fish," Angelica Cottin, who attained a good deal of notoriety.

On the 15th of January, 1846, in the village of Bouvigny, near Perriere (Orne), a young girl thirteen years old, named Angelica Cottin, light and robust, but extremely apathetic in physical temperament and in morals, suddenly exhibited strange powers. Objects touched by her, or by her clothing, were forcibly repelled. Sometimes, even on her mere approach, people were thrown into commotion and excitement, and pieces of furniture and household utensils were seen to move and vibrate. With some variations in intensity, and with intermittences, sometimes, of two or three days, this curious virtue held good for about a month, then disappeared as unexpectedly as it had appeared. It was authenticated by a large number of persons, some of whom submitted the little girl to genuine scientific experiments, and embodied their observations in formal reports, which were collected and published by Dr. Tanchou. This gentleman first saw Angelica on February 12 (1846), in Paris, where she had been taken to be exhibited. The manifestations (which had decreased from the day when the

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basis, or usual course of her habits had been altered) were on the point of disappearing altogether. Yet they were still distinct enough to enable the investigator to draw up the following note, which was read to the Academy of Science, on February 17, by Arago, an eye-witness of the facts.

I saw the young "electric" girl twice (says Dr. Tanchou).

A chair which I was holding as hard as I could with my foot and both hands was forcibly wrenched from me the moment she sat down in it.

A little slip of paper which I held poised on one finger was several times carried away as if by a gust of wind.

A dining-table of moderate size, though rather heavy, was more than once displaced by the mere touch of her dress.

A little paper wheel, placed vertically or horizontally upon its axis was put into rapid movement by the radiations which darted from this child's wrist and the bend of her arm.

A large and heavy sofa upon which I was seated was pushed with great force against the wall the moment the girl came to seat herself by me.

A chair was held fast upon the floor by strong men and I was seated on it in such a way as to occupy only the half of the seat. It was forcibly wrenched away from under me as soon as the young girl sat down on the other half.

One curious thing is that every time the chair is lifted it seems to cling to Angelica's dress. It follows her for an instant before it becomes detached.

Two little elder-pith balls or feather-balls, suspended by a silken thread, are set in motion, attracted to each other and sometimes repelled.

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This girl's radiations of psychic force (emanations) are not permanently present during all the hours of the day. They are especially strong in the evening, from seven to nine o'clock,---which leads me to surmise that perhaps her last meal (taken at six o'clock) is not without its influence.

The emanations are given forth only from the front part of the body, especially at the wrist and at the bend of the arm. They only occur on the left side, and the arm of this side is of a higher temperature than that of the other. It gives off a gentle heat, as from a part where a lively reaction is going on. The arm trembles and is continually disturbed by unusual contractions and quiverings which seem to be imparted to the hand that touches it.

During the time I observed this subject, her pulse varied from 105 to 120 pulsations a minute. It seemed to me frequently irregular.

When she is isolated from the common reservoir of electric or magnetic power, either by being seated upon a chair without her feet touching the floor or when placing them upon the chair of a person in front of her, the phenomena do not take place. They also cease when she is made to sit down on her own hands. A waxed floor, a piece of oiled silk, a plate of glass under her feet or on the chair, all have the effect of antagonizing and destroying for the time the electro-dynamic property of her body.

During the paroxysm she can touch scarcely anything with her left hand without throwing it from her as if it burned her. When her clothes touch the articles of furniture in a room she attracts them, displaces them, and overturns them.

One will understand this more easily when it is realized that at every electric discharge she runs away to escape the pain. She says "it pricks" or "stings" her in the wrist or bend of the elbow. Once when I was feeling for her pulse in the temporal artery (not having been able to locate it in the left arm) my fingers chanced to touch the nape of the neck. She uttered a cry and drew back quickly from me. I several times assured myself of the fact that, near the cerebellum, at the place where the muscles of the upper part of the neck are joined to the cranium, there is a spot so sensitive

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that she allows no one to touch it. All the sensations she feels in her left arm are here echoed or repeated.

The electric emanations of this child seem to move by waves, intermittently, and in succession through different parts of the anterior portion of the body. But be that as it may, they are certainly accompanied by an aeriform current which gives the sensation of cold. I plainly felt upon my hand a quick puff of air like that produced by the lips.

Every time the mysterious force strikes through her frame and materializes in an act, terror and dismay fill the mind of this child, and she seeks refuge in flight. Every time she brings the end of her fingers near the north pole of a piece of magnetized iron, she receives a severe shock; the south pole produces no effect. If I manipulated the iron in such a way that I could not myself tell the north pole on it, she could always tell it very well.

She is thirteen years old and has not yet reached the age of puberty. I learned from her mother that nothing like menstruation has yet appeared. She is very strong and healthy, but her intellect is as yet little developed. She is a peasant cottager (villageoise) in every sense of the word; yet she knows how to read and write. Her occupation is the making of thread gloves for ladies. The first electric phenomena began a month ago.

It is desirable to add to the foregoing note extracts from other reports. Here, for example, is a citation from M. Hebert:

On the 17th of January,---that is to say, the second day of the appearance of the phenomena,---the scissors suspended from her waist by a cotton tape, flew from her without the cord being broken, and no one could imagine how it got untied. This circumstance, incredible from its resemblance to the pranks of lightning, makes one think at once that electricity must play an important role in the production of such astonishing effects. But this way of looking at the thing did not last long. For the miracle of the scissors only occurred twice, once in the presence of the cure of the village,

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who guaranteed to me upon his honour the truth of the statement. In the middle of the day almost no effects were obtained, but in the evening, at the usual hour, they redoubled in intensity. It was at that time that action without contact took place, and effects were produced in organic living bodies. These latter made their first appearance in the form of violent shocks felt in the ankles by one of the women labourers who happened at the time to be facing Angelica, the points of their sabots being about four inches apart.

Dr. Beaumont Chardon, a physician of Mortagne, also published similar notes and observations,---among others the following:

The repulsion and attraction, hopping about and displacement, of a rather solid table; of another table six feet by nine, mounted on casters; of another four-feet-and-a-half square oak table; of a very massive mahogany easy-chair,---all these displacements took place through contact with the Cottin girl's clothes,---contact either involuntary or purposely brought about by experiments.

There was a sensation of violent prickings when a stick of sealing-wax or a glass tube suitably rubbed was placed in contact with a bend in the left arm or with the head, or simply when brought somewhat near there. When the sealing-wax or the tube had not been rubbed, or when they were being wiped dry or moistened, there was a cessation of effects. The hairs on one's arm, made to slope or lie flat by a little saliva, rose up again at the approach of the child's left arm.

I have already remarked that this young girl was brought to Paris as a subject of scientific observation. Arago, at the Observatory, in the presence of his colleagues MM. Mathieu, Laugier, and Goujon, established the truth of the following phenomena:

When Angelica held out her hand toward a sheet of paper laid near the edge of a table, the paper was strongly attracted by the hand. Approaching a centre-table, she

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grazed it with her apron, and the table drew back from her. When she sat down on a chair and put her feet on the floor, the chair was thrown back violently against the wall, and she herself was thrown forward to the other side of the room. This last experiment, repeated several times, always succeeded. Neither Arago nor the astronomers of the Observatory were able to hold the chair down. M. Goujon, who had sat down in advance upon one half of the chair which was going to be used by Angelica, was upset at the moment when she came to share the seat with him.

Following a favourable report of its illustrious perpetual secretary, the Academy of Science named a commission to examine Angelica Cottin. This commission confined its efforts exclusively to the task of determining whether or not the electrical force of the subject was similar to that of the machines or that of the torpedo-fish. They could not come to any conclusion, probably on account of the emotion excited in the girl at the sight of the formidable apparatus of experimentation; and then her peculiar powers were already on their decline. Thus the commission hastened to declare all the communications on this subject made to the Academy previous to this to be null and void.

Upon this topic my old master and friend Babinet, who was a member of the commission, wrote as follows:

The members of the commission were not able to verify any of the features announced. There was no report made, and Angelica's parents, worthy people of the most exemplary probity, returned with her from Paris to their own locality. The good faith of this couple and of a friend who accompanied them interested me very much, and I would have given anything in the world to find some reality in the wonders that had been proclaimed about the girl. The only remarkable thing she did was to rise from her chair in the most

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matter of fact way in the world and hurl it behind her with such force that often the chair was broken against the wall. But the supreme experiment,---that in which, according to her parents, the miracle was revealed of motion produced without contact,---was as follows: She was placed standing before a light centre-table covered with a thin silken stuff. Her apron also made of a very light and almost transparent silk, rested on the centre-table (though this last condition was not indispensable). Then, when the electric force appeared, the table was overturned, while "the electric girl" maintained her usual stupid impassivity. I had never personally seen any success attained in this particular feature of the girl's performances; nor had my colleagues of the commission of the Institute, nor the physicians, nor certain writers, who, with great assiduity, had attended all the seances appointed at the headquarters of the girl's parents in Paris. As for myself, I had already overstepped all the bounds of friendly complaisance, when, one evening the parents came to beseech me, in virtue of the interest I had shown in them, to attended one more sťance, saying that the electric force was going to declare itself anew with great energy. I arrived about eight o'clock in the evening at the hotel where the Cottin family was staying. I was disagreeably surprised at finding a seance intended only for myself, and the friends whom I brought with me, overrun by a crowd of physicians and journalists who had been attracted by the announcement of the prodigies which were to begin again. After due excuses had been made I was introduced to a back room which served as dining-room, and there I found an immense kitchen table made of oak planks of an enormous thickness and weight. At the moment when dinner was being served the electric girl had, by an act of her will (it was said), overturned this massive table, and, as a necessary result, broken all the plates and bottles that were on it. But her excellent parents did not regret the loss, nor the poor dinner that resulted from it, on account of the hope that animated them that the marvellous qualities of the poor idiot were going to manifest themselves and receive the official stamp of authenticity. There was no possibility of doubting the veracity of these honest witnesses. An octogenarian who accompanied

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me (M. M.---, the most sceptical of men) believed their recital as I did; but, after entering with me the room full of people, this distrustful observer took his stand in the very entrance-door, alleging as a pretext the crowd in the room, and so placed himself as to have a side view of the electric girl with her centre-table before her. The crowd that faced the girl occupied the farther end and the sides of the room.

After an hour of patient waiting, and all in vain, I withdrew, expressing my sympathy and my regrets. M. M. remained obstinately at his post. He pointed the electric girl with his unwearied eye, as a crouching setter does a partridge. At last, at the end of another hour, when the attention of the company was distracted by innumerable preoccupations and several centres of conversation had been formed---suddenly the miracle occurred: the centre-table was overturned. Great amazement! great expectations! They were just beginning to cry "Bravo!" when M. M., advancing by warrant of age and the love of truth, declared that he had seen Angelica, by a convulsive movement of the knee, push the table that was placed before her. He drew the conclusion that the effort she must have made before dinner in the overturning of the heavy kitchen table would have occasioned a severe contusion above her knee,---a matter that was investigated and found to be true. Such was the end of this melancholy affair in which so many people had been duped by a poor idiot, who yet had enough crafty cunning to inspire illusion by her very calmness and impassivity. We have still to account for the singular facts observed near Rambouillet (see the Reports of the Academy), at the house of a wealthy manufacturer, all whose vases and other vessels of pottery-ware burst into a thousand pieces at the moment when least expected. Kettles and other large vessels cast in metal also flew into fragments, to the great loss of the proprietor, whose troubles, however, ceased with the discharge of a servant, who had come to an understanding with a man who was to occupy the factory so that he might get it at a better bargain. Nevertheless, it is to be regretted that the matter ended before it was discovered what fulminating powder had been employed to produce such curious results, so new, and, apparently, so well proved.

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Babinet adds farther on in the same volume the following remarks on Angelica Cottin:

In the midst of wonders which she did not perform there was seen a very natural effect of the first relaxation of muscles which was curious in the highest degree. The girl, of slight figure and torpid physique, who was correctly styled the "torpedo-fish," being first seated on a chair and then rising very slowly (in the midst of the movement she was making in the act of rising) had the power of throwing backward, with terrifying suddenness, the chair she was leaving, without anybody being able to perceive the slightest movement of the trunk of the body, and solely by the relaxation of the muscle which had been in contact with the chair. At one of the test-seances in the laboratory of physics at the Jardin des Plantes, several amphitheatre chairs of white wood were hurled against the walls in such a way as to break them. A second chair, which I had once taken the precaution to place behind that in which the electric girl was seated (for the purpose of protecting, if need were, two persons who were conversing at the back part of the room) was drawn along with the propelled chair and went with it to arouse from their absent-mindedness the two savants. I will add that several young employees at the Jardin des Plantes succeeded in performing---although in a less brilliant way---this pretty trick in bodily mechanics. In order to get a good idea of this play of the muscles by a similar effect, you have only to gently squeeze that part of the muscle of some one's arm that is most developed, at the same time that he makes the motion of opening and closing his fist several times. You will at once feel the swelling up of the muscles and divine the movement that would result from it were the change of shape made very rapid.

Such is the report of the learned physicist. It is thus that fraud once more hindered the recognition of the reality of phenomena that had been duly proved before. Accompanying this there was also a weakening of the faculties of the performer. But it is absurd to conclude from this

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that the observers of the earlier days in this case (including Arago and his colleagues of the Observatory,---Mathieu, Laugier, and Goujon,---as well as the examiner Hebert, Dr. Beaumont Chardon, and others) were poor observers, and were deceived by movements of the foot of this child.

We may allow for the fraud, conscious and unconscious of Mediums. We may deplore it, for it throws an unpleasant gloom upon all the phenomena; but let us render justice to incontestable facts, and continue to observe them.

Quaere et invenies! Seek and thou shalt find. The Unknown, the science of to-morrow.

This is a classic case where an infra red or ordinary video camera would have convinced the skeptics whether it was fraud or not. We in our time now ahead of the events of yesteryear cannot say for certain, we can only look inbetween the lines of the writers and draw our own conclusions.


This was taken from 'Mysterious Psychic Forces by Camille Flammarion' with very slight additions.

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