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Brazil. Medium Carmine
Brazil. Medium Carmine
Medium Carmine Carlos Mirabelli
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on January 2,
1889. D ied April 30,
South American Physical Medium born on January 2, 1889, in Botucatu, Sao Paulo, Brazil, of Italian immigrant parents. Mirabelli was a Spiritist of the school of Allan Kardec, which had become popular in Brazil after its importation from Europe.
Such extraordinary accounts of his phenomena spread through psychical research circles in England and the United States that, if they could have been proved to the satisfaction of psychical researchers, he would have had to be ranked as the greatest Medium of all time. Such phenomena included automatic writing in more than thirty different languages, materialisation of persons and objects, levitation, impressions of Spirit Hands, and paranormal musical performances. He also normally produced phenomena in the light of day.
The first description of Mirabelli's feats was published in a booklet, O Medium Mirabelli, written anonymously by R. H. Mikilasch, general secretary of The Academia de Estudos Psychicos de Cesar Lombroso. Mirabelli had applied to the academy for experiments in trance speaking, automatic writing, and physical phenomena. The booklet was published in 1926. It reported 392 sittings in broad daylight or in a room illuminated by electric light. In 349 cases the sittings were held in the rooms of the academy and were attended by a total of 555 people. The summary was as follows: "The committee carried out with the first group (trance speaking) 189 positive experiments; with the second group (automatic writing) 85 positive and 8 negative; with the third group (physical phenomena) 63 positive and 47 negative experiments. The Medium spoke 26 languages including 7 dialects, wrote in 28 languages, among them 3 dead languages, namely Latin, Chaldaic and Hieroglyphics. Of the 63 physical experiments 40 were made in daylight, 23 in bright artificial light."
A second report, based on the first, appeared in a publication of the Academia de Germany, The Zeitschrift fur Parapsychologie, in August 1929. Fearing a hoax, the German periodical made inquiries first from the Brazilian consul at Munich as to the standing and reputation of Mirabelli's witnesses and supporters. The information was verified, and the consul added that 14 persons on the submitted list were his personal acquaintances, to whose veracity he would testify. He said he had no reason to question the statements of other people on the list, known to him not only as scientists but also as men of character. Thereupon the Zeitschrift fur Parapsychologie published a summary of the case. (It was later discovered that the Academia de Estudios Psychicos de Cesar Lombroso, named for the famed Italian psychical researcher, was founded and headed by Mira-belli, and hence the objectivity of its report is very much in question.)
The newspapers picked up the story. They wrote of telekinetic movement, of apports, of a miraculous teleportation of the Medium from the railroad station of Da Luz to Sao Vicenti--90 kilometers distance in two minutes; of his levitation in the street two meters high for three minutes; of how he caused a skull to float toward an apothecary; of making an invisible hand turn the leaves of a book in the home of Dr. Alberto Seabra in the presence of many scientists; of making glasses and bottles at a banquet play a military march without human touch; of causing the hat of Antonio Canterello to fly off and float ten meters along a public square; of making and quelling fire by will in the home of Alves Lima; of making a cue play billiards without touching it; and finally of having the picture of Christ impressed on plaster in the presence of Dr. Caluby, director of police.
A conjuring magician imitated some of Mirabelli's phenomena, but this did not lessen his reputation as a wonder-worker. Owing to the heated controversy that grew up around him, an arbitration board was instituted for the investigation of the medium. Among the members were Dr. Ganymed de Souza, president of the Republic; a Dr. Brant of the Institute of Technology; and 18 other men of high position and learning.
After the investigation and the testimony of witnesses, the board established that the majority of the manifestations occurred in daylight, that they occurred spontaneously and in public places, that the manifold intellectual phenomena could not easily be based on trickery, and that the statements of persons whose integrity was reputed could not easily be doubted.
Mirabelli's automatic writing was reportedly inspired by the Spirits of historical figures. Fifteenth-century reformer John Huss influenced Mirabelli to write a treatise of nine pages on the independence of Czechoslovakia in 20 minutes; French psychical researcher Camille Flammarion inspired him to write about inhabited planets;14 pages in 19 minutes in French. "Muri Ka Ksi" delivered 5 pages in 12 minutes on the Russian Japanese War in Japanese. "Moses" wrote in Hebrew on slandering; "Harun el Raschid" made Mirabelli write 15 pages in Syrian, and an untranslatable writing of three pages came in hieroglyphics in 32 minutes.
The phenomena of materialization were astounding, if real. The figures were not only complete, and photographed, but medical men made minute examinations that lasted for sometimes as long as 15 minutes and stated that the newly constituted human beings had perfect anatomical structure. After the examination was completed, one figure began to dissolve from the feet up, the bust and arms floating in the air. One of the doctors exclaimed, "But this is too much!" He rushed forward and seized the remaining half of the body. The next moment he uttered a shrill cry and sank unconscious to the ground. On returning to consciousness, he only remembered that when he had seized the phantom it had felt as if his fingers were pressing a spongy, flaccid mass. Then, he said, he received a shock and lost consciousness.
Reportedly, for 36 minutes in broad daylight the materialization of the young daughter of Dr. Souza, who died of influenza, was visible to all the sitters. She appeared in her burial clothes. Her pulse was tested. Father and child were photographed. Then the phantom raised itself and floated in the air. At the third sitting, supposedly a skull inside the closet began to beat the doors, came out, and slowly grew to a full skeleton.
In another sitting Mirabelli announced that he saw the body of Bishop Dr. Jose de Carmago Barros, who had lost his life in a shipwreck: "A sweet smell as of roses filled the room. The Medium went into trance. A fine mist was seen in the Circle. The mist, glowing as if of gold, parted and the bishop materialized, with all the robes and insignia of office. He called his own name. Dr. de Souza stepped to him. He palpated the body, touched his teeth, tested the saliva, listened to the heart-beat, investigated the working of the intestines, nails and eyes, without finding anything amiss. Then the other attending persons convinced themselves of the reality of the apparition. The Bishop smilingly bent over Mirabelli and looked at him silently. Then he slowly dematerialized."
At the sixth sitting, Mirabelli, tied and sealed, disappeared from the room [apported] and was found in another room still in trance. All seals on doors and windows were found in order, as well as the seals on Mirabelli himself. Once, among 14 investigators, his arms dematerialized. On the photograph only a slight shadow is visible.
In 1930 the British psychical researcher Eric J Dingwall reviewed and summarized the original Portuguese documents, and stated, "I must confess that, on a lengthy examination of the documents concerning Mirabelli, I find myself totally at a loss to come to any decision whatever on the case."
However, as early as the November 1930 issue of Psychic Research, Hans Driesch threw cold water on all such marvels on the basis of a personal investigation in Sao Paulo in 1928. He saw no materializations, no transportation, and heard only Italian and Esthonian, which Mirabelli may have normally known. But he admitted seeing some remarkable telekinetic phenomena that he could not explain, involving the movement of a small vase and the folding of doors in daylight without any visible cause.
In 1934 Theodore Besterman, a researcher with the Society for Psychical Research in London attended some of Mirabelli's seances in Brazil. Upon his return he wrote a brief, private report claiming that Mirabelli was a fraud, but that report was never published. In his published report, he stated only that he had seen nothing extraordinary. More recent examination of a picture of Mirabelli levitating that the Medium gave to Besterman has been shown to be a possible fraud.
Reports of mediumistic phenomena continued throughout Mirabelli's life. Given the general opinion today that apports and materializations do not occur except as magic tricks, it is difficult to believe that Mirabelli can escape broad charges of practicing legerdemain, however extraordinary some of his mental feats may have seemed. Unfortunately, all of the positive reports came from people closely associated with him. Possibly because of the negative nature of the early reports, especially that of Besterman, no conclusive study was ever made.
Mirabelli died April 30, 1951, in an auto accident. For a modern discussion of Mirabelli see Gordon Stein's insightful article from Fate and the chapter "Mirabelli!!" in Guy Play-fair 's study. The former had the opportunity to examine the Mirabelli records in England, and the latter met and interviewed individuals who had known Mirabelli, including living relatives.
Playfair, Guy Leon. The Unknown Power. Reprinted as The Flying Cow. New York: Pocket Books, 1975.
Stein, Gordon. "The Amazing Medium Mirabelli." Fate 44, 3 (March 1991): 86-95.
on January 2,
1889. D ied April 30,
orn on January 2,
ied April 30,
From Occultism & Parapsychology Encyclopedia
Carlos Mirabelli was,
according to Inglis, 'the most remarkable physical medium in recent history,
outshining even D D Home in his ability to produce phenomena'. Playfair says
much the same thing: 'Mirabelli was surely the medium to end all mediums. You
name it, and he is said to have done it'.
Carlos (Originally, Carmine), a Brazilian of Italian parentage (ironically, his father was a Lutheran clergyman), was born in Botucatu, and after leaving school, worked in a shoe shop where he found himself in the midst of poltergeist activity: 'The shoe boxes took to leaving their shelves and flying around the shop, sometimes even accompanying him out into the street'.
Consequently, and regrettably, he was incarcerated in an asylum. However, those who cared for him decided to carry out tests and discovered his ability to move objects without physical contact with them. It appeared there was an excessive nervous activity in Carlos that prompted such activity, and while this in itself was abnormal, he was not found to be insane and was duly released."
What phenomena was he reported to be able to produce?
"In 1919 the Academia de Estudos Psychicos "Cesar Lombroso" was founded. Mirabelli submitted himself for experiments in trance speaking, automatic writing and physical phenomena. The report was published in 1926. It speaks of 392 sittings in broad daylight or in a room illuminated by powerful electric light, in 349 cases in the rooms of the Academy, attended by 555 people and the summary is as follows:
'The committee carried out with the first group (medical speaking) 189 positive experiments; with the second group (automatic writing) 85 positive and 8 negative; with the third group (physical phenomena) 63 positive and 47 negative experiments. The Medium spoke 26 languages including 7 dialects, wrote in 28 languages, among them 3 dead languages, namely Latin, Chaldaic and Hieroglyphics. Of the 63 physical experiments 40 were made in daylight, 23 in bright artificial light.'
The automatic writing was inspired by celebrities. Johan Huss impressed Mirabelli to write a treatise of 9 pages on the independence of Czechoslovakia in 20 minutes, Camille Flammarion inspired him to write about the inhabited planets, 14 pages in 19 minutes in French, Muri Ka Ksi delivered five pages in 12 minutes on the Russo-Japanese war in Japanese, Moses wrote in Hebrew on slandering, Harun el Raschid made him write 15 pages in Syrian and an untranslatable writing of three pages came in hieroglyphics in 32 minutes."
"As a Physical Medium, Mirabelli once materialized the Spirit Bodies of a marshal and a bishop, both long deceased, and both of whom were instantly recognizable to many who had assembled for the seance. Levitation seemed almost to be a specialty of the medium, and witnesses once observed him levitate an automobile to a height of six feet, where it was suspended for a period of three minutes. Once when Mirabelli visited a pharmacy, a skull rose from the back of the laboratory and came to rest on the cash register. Before a gathering of doctors, who lent their names to a deposition, Mirabelli caused a violin to be played by Spirit Hands. To exhibit Spirit control, Mirabelli caused billiard balls to roll and stop at his command."
"The phenomena of materialization were astounding. The figures were not only complete, they were not only photographed, but medical men made minute examinations which lasted sometimes as long as fifteen minutes and stated that the newly constituted human beings had perfect anatomical structure. After the examination was completed the figure began to dissolve from the feet upwards, the bust and arms floating in the air. One of the doctors exclaimed: 'But this is too much,' rushed forward and seized the half of the body. The next moment he uttered a shrill cry and sank unconscious to the ground. On returning to consciousness he only remembered that when he had seized the phantom it had felt as if his fingers were pressing a spongy, flaccid mass of substance. Then he received a shock and lost consciousness.
For 36 minutes in broad daylight the materialisation of the little daughter of Dr. Souza, who died of influenza, was visible to all the sitters. She appeared in her grave clothes. Her pulse was tested. Father and child were photographed. Then the phantom raised itself and floated in the air. At the third sitting a skull inside the closet began to beat the doors, came out and slowly grew to a full skeleton In another sitting Mirabelli announced that he saw the body of Bishop Dr. Jose de Carmago Barros who lost his life in a shipwreck.
'A sweet smell as of roses filled the room. The Medium went into trance. A fine mist was seen in the Circle. The mist, glowing as if of gold, parted and the bishop materialised, with all the robes and insignia of office. He called his own name. Dr. de Souza stepped to him. He palpated the body, touched his teeth, tested the saliva, listened to the heart-beat, investigated the working of the intestines, nails and eyes, without finding anything amiss. Then the other attending persons convinced themselves of the reality of the apparition. The Bishop smilingly bent over Mirabelli and looked at him silently. Then he slowly dematerialised.'"
"The most amazing aspect of Mirabelli's events was the number of witnesses present and the analysis of photographs and films that have subsequently been conducted. In some instances up to 60 witnesses were present including [a total of] 72 doctors, 12 engineers, 36 lawyers, and 25 military men. The President of Brazil once witnesses Mirabelli's talents and immediately ordered an investigation. In 1927, scientific assessments were conducted in a closed environment. Mirabelli was bound to a chair and examined before and after the tests. Tests were conducted outdoors or if conducted indoors, they were lit by bright lights. The tests resulted in over 350 "positives" and less than 60 "negatives"."
"By 1926 Mirabelli had produced phenomena before a total of nearly 600 witnesses, most of whom had been recruited from the ranks of Brazil's leading scientists, medical doctors, administrators, and writers, with an occasional learned visitor from abroad."
"At a party with more than a thousand guests in attendance, the Medium conducted an invisible orchestra of trumpets and drums which entertained the astonished partygoers with a lively march. During numerous seances, Mirabelli caused such inanimate objects as books, bells, chairs, and chandeliers to move at his command. The list of doctors and other witnesses who attested to Mirabelli's psychic abilities include the names of many well-known persons. Time and again, psychical researchers subjected the Medium to the most rigorous examinations, but none ever caught him in an act of trickery."
Source with slight additions from Unexplained-Mysteries
Physical Medium Carmine Carlos Mirabelli levitating during a seance.
The look of alarm on the part of Dr Carlos de Castro (right) is accounted for by the fact that a deceased poet (centre) has just materialized between him and the entranced Mirabelli (left), in the course of a test seance at the Cesare Lombroso Academy of Psychic Studies.
Science and Parascience, p. 225.
Realizing his remarkable talents, Carlos put them to use
and in the early stages, usually demonstrated them for entertainment purposes.
News of his abilities eventually reached Europe by virtue of a Portuguese
leaflet entitled, O Medium Mirabelli.
This was followed by an account in the German parapsychological publication,
Zeitschrift fur Parapsychologie,
in August 1927; the publishers were initially sceptical about the claims being
made and sought confirmation about the witnesses from the Brazilian consul in
Munich. The consul confirmed the integrity of the witnesses, further adding that
fourteen of them were personally known to him. When reports about Carlos reached
Britain, the SPR's overall stance was to reject them as being absurd; in its
it referred to some of Carlos's feats and despite having been attested by over
five hundred persons, they were considered as being 'far too good to be true'.(4)
However, the following month, reference was made again to Carlos, and while
admitting 'the numberless disappointments which physical phenomena have brought
Psychical Research', the writer agreed that 'such evidence as this cannot be
Certain persons, e.g. Count Perovsky, believed that Carlos should be brought to Europe; however, apart from a number of prominent researchers already being occupied, the resources to do this were not available. The following year, yet another note was made that two investigators, Prof. and Frau Driesch, had witnessed phenomena produced through Carlos's mediumship, and while they were less than that reported earlier, Prof. Driesch had 'signed a statement not unfavourable to the genuineness of some of them', e.g. they had witnessed object movement at some distance from the Medium, and in a good light.(6)
The situation was problematic as European researchers did not have confidence in Brazilian researchers whom they believed lacked the necessary expertise. Therefore, an impasse ensued: European researchers could not investigate Carlos first-hand, but they would not rely upon the findings of their colleagues in Brazil. Indeed, as Beloff points out, the reports of Carlos's mediumship involving the full materializations of known persons in the full light were 'altogether too far out to gain credence outside Brazil'.(7) Although researchers did eventually travel abroad and meet Carlos, this was at the end of his mediumistic career by which time his powers had waned. Unfortunately, there was the further factor that the SPR was still very much suffering from its sceptical opinion about physical mediumship, and it is evident that the Europeans lost a possibly unique opportunity to witness a level of mediumship that had not been seen before.
It is because of this, comparatively little was said about Carlos in Europe, and certainly so when considering his spectacular mediumship, although a limited amount of discussion does arise very occasionally. In 1992, Guy Playfair (who in 1973 interviewed witnesses of Carlos's mediumship) raised the matter of a photograph of Carlos levitating, and discussed how fraud must have taken place in view of the markings on the photograph. He repeated the opinion expressed earlier, that he believed Carlos indulged in this simply through his 'anxiety to put on a good show' for foreigners, and it is unlikely that he relied upon fraud in view of what was witnessed by so many people.(8) As Dingwall related, such levitations, sometimes to a height of two metres and lasting several minutes, had been 'in the presence of a number of people and in full view of the public'.(9) The most detailed work about Carlos's mediumship was that by Eurico de Goes who investigated Carlos, and believed that through this, he had communicated with his wife; this was apart from witnessing over a hundred materializations, some of which were able to be present with sitters for lengthy periods of time.(10)
During the peak of Carlos's activity, Europeans either
scoffed at the reports crossing the Atlantic, or called for investigation that
could not actually be funded. Meanwhile, Carlos continued to demonstrate his
abilities in Brazil that resulted in an investigation being organized.
One such instance that prompted the desire to consider his abilities was when Carlos dematerialized in daylight, and reappeared ninety kilometres away: the event being witnessed by many people. Furthermore, through automatic writing, various personages communicated in their native tongue, about specific matters with which they had been involved, and Carlos would write many pages at a truly remarkable speed in the language of the communicator. Additionally, he also drew portraits of people who had died, 'which were identified by surviving relatives'.(11)
The statements that exclaim Carlos's mediumship are surely not exaggerated; his mediumship also included healing and even musical phenomena when those nearby would hear different types of music. Dingwall referred to an amusing instance when 'many persons' heard drums beating and trumpets blaring, and 'bottles and glasses which were standing together then began to move and strike one the other...producing perfectly harmonious sounds'.(12) In the case of his healing work, in which he had a number of successes, he was prosecuted for practising medicine but not being qualified to do this. It was by virtue of so many people, including many respected academics, coming forward to support him and testify to his abilities, that it was decided a formal investigation had to be carried out.
The investigation was conducted by the Cesar Lombroso Academy of Psychical Studies founded in 1919, and commenced with the different investigators considering various aspects of the phenomena: the report of Carlos's mediumship, published in 1926, include how: 'the medium spoke 26 languages, including 7 dialects; and wrote in 28 languages, among them 3 dead languages'. Of this, Inglis added, 'this was remarkable enough, as Carlos had had so little formal education; but the physical manifestations surpassed any that had ever been reported, anywhere'.(13) Indeed, Carlos's ability to facilitate materializations, as witnessed by the investigators, was surely one of the most marvellous demonstrations ever seen.
The investigation that was conducted into Carlos Mirabelli's mediumship involved three hundred and ninety-two sittings for different types of phenomena, and in sixty-three of these, physical phenomena was produced: the sittings were held in daylight, or with bright artificial lighting. In one, Carlos was levitated and remained so for some minutes; furthermore, in a sealed room, raps were heard together with a voice that was recognised by Dr Souza, one of the investigators, as being that of his daughter who had recently died. If this was not enough, the girl materialized and embraced her father. Her pulse was felt by a doctor who was one of the sitters, and she responded to questions asked of her; moreover, she was photographed with her father before she dematerialized in front of the ten investigators who were there. During this time, Carlos, 'lay as if dead in his chair'.(14)
In one of the seances, after the room was filled with the odour of roses, a bishop, Camargo Barros, who had died only recently, materialized and was carefully examined by the doctor. During these events, Carlos was secured to his chair, in trance, and fully visible. The bishop told the sitters to witness his dematerialization which duly occurred, after which the room was filled with the odour of roses again. Another instance of recognition was when a person materialized and was recognized as Prof. Ferreira who had recently died. He was examined by the doctor, and 'a photograph was then taken after which the form became again cloudy and disappeared'.(15) During the seances, the investigators also noted the drastic changes in Carlos's physical state, i.e. his temperature would vary, as would his pulse rate and respiration.
A further example that demonstrates the spontaneous
nature of Carlos's mediumship was the occurrence of the materialization of Dr de
Menezes. On this occasion, a bell on the table levitated and began to ring in
the air; Carlos awoke from trance and described a man whom he could see.
Suddenly a man, as described, materialized, and two sitters recognized him as de
Menezes. When the doctor present attempted to examine the materialization, he
fainted when the form decided to float away. Fodor refers to how, 'the figure
began to dissolve from the feet upwards, the bust and arms floating in the air'.(16)
One incident that provides some idea of the sheer marvel of witnessing Carlos's mediumship was when an Arab appeared above the table and 'then the form descended and took its place among the observers'. He was then closely examined by three doctors for over half an hour and photographed: 'The sitters thereupon surrounded the table and watched the figure slowly rise into the air, remain floating for ten or twelve seconds and then suddenly disappear'.(17) A further example of Carlos's proficiency was when in 1934, during one of his seances, flowers materialized, and bottles, a chair and keys moved about the room, and a picture was lifted from the wall, floated in the air and then hit one of the sitters on the head. Meanwhile, Carlos wrote an essay, in French, of nearly two thousand words.
There were also instances of Carlos dematerializing from
the sealed seance room to another room, and the seals on his bonds being found
untouched. When he disappeared, some of the sitters remained in the seance room
while others went to search for him: 'He was soon discovered in a side room
lying in an easy chair and singing to himself'.(18)
It cannot go unnoticed how Dingwall mentioned that Carlos 'submitted himself to
the severest tests of...investigators, passively suffered being tied and
stripped, until doubt was excluded'.(19)
It was this type of activity that prompted some investigators outside Brazil to believe that Carlos's mediumship could not be ignored; Dingwall was one such person. Faced with so many reports of spectacular phenomena, witnessed by hundreds of people and sometimes photographed, an answer was clearly required. In 1930, Dingwall wrote of Carlos's mediumship in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, the contents of which have already been cited above. He said that the phenomena was 'so extraordinary indeed that there is nothing like them in the whole range of psychical literature'. Relevant in view of what the Europeans were saying, he also argued that, 'It would be easy to condemn the man as a monstrous fraud...But I do not think that such a supposition will help even him who makes it'. Despite this, the best that Dingwall could say on his own behalf was that he could not make any decision; he said that Carlos could be a fraud and the materializations were his confederates but admitted 'confederates are human beings and human beings do not usually rise into the air, dissolve...and float about'.(20)
The possibility of fraud seemed improbable in view of
the many witnesses and photographs, and that seances were conducted in the
light. Hallucination would not provide a this-worldly explanation either, as the
events were photographed. Dingwall realized, much to his discomfort, that
Carlos's mediumship would pass by without any European investigation as, 'The
chaos in which psychical research finds itself at present prevents any really
valuable systematic work being done'.(21)
It cannot go unnoticed that Dingwall's report was published by the American SPR
rather than the British SPR. It was in 1933 when Carlos was seen by Mary S.
Walker of the ASPR, and she was impressed by what she saw, although by this
time, Carlos's powers had diminished.
The following year, Theodore Besterman visited Carlos and then produced a very negative appraisal of the mediumship in the SPR's Journal; however, Playfair points out that in respect of some of the things stated, Besterman 'overstated his case'.(22) Indeed, as Besterman was forced to admit, while suggesting all manner of 'explanations' for Carlos's mediumship, in one case he was unable to do this and said that his most likely explanation for the feat witnessed was 'practically impossible', and 'any other fraudulent method is difficult to conceive'.(23) A typical example of the behaviour of some researchers is well illustrated by Beloff's note: he states that he corresponded with both Dingwall and Besterman in 1972, and 'neither was willing to stand by his original endorsement yet neither could offer any coherent reason for changing his mind'.(24) When Barrington comments on Besterman's stance, she observes: 'having witnessed phenomena he could not explain (a substantial blackboard about 2 ft 6 in square revolved several times when placed on top of a bottle) he decided in the end that it had to be, somehow, fraudulent'.(25)
In contrast to what the British researchers were saying,
the effect of Carlos's mediumship on those who saw it was decisive. One example
is when in 1933, Carlos was handcuffed and bound, and flowers floated into the
seance room through a locked window, and a statue promptly pursued them. During
this time, Carlos spoke in Arabic to one of the sitters who realized that it was
the voice of his mother who had died nearly thirty years earlier: the sitter, an
investigator, 'became a Spiritist on the spot'.(26)
When the time came for the secretary, a German man, to read the minutes, he
realized that he had not brought his spectacles with him. A German voice then
spoke, saying that he was the man's father and would get them for him and, 'the
spectacles promptly appeared in the secretary's hands'. At another seance,
Carlos was held by two sitters, whereupon he began to glow in the darkness,
'lighting up the whole room'.(27)
Playfair notes that while Carlos received payment in some instances, 'it is also quite certain that he gave a lot of money away and was a generous and kind-hearted person'. Although Carlos was a Spiritist, the possibility that he sometimes 'helped things along', the often bizarre type of phenomena that occurred, and his extrovert behaviour, did not always endear him to his fellow Brazilian Spiritists: 'He led a somewhat Bohemian life...He was a big spender, who would think nothing of buying ten suits or a dozen pairs of shoes at a time, only to give most of them away.(28) Some Spiritists would therefore not associate themselves with Carlos, and Playfair comments on how one of the leading Spiritists was always apprehensive about meeting Carlos; this was because 'everything seemed to get smashed up when he was around', i.e. a reference to how objects would suddenly start to move and fly about in Carlos's presence.(29) In fact this type of activity affected Carlos's personal life: '[his sons] in fact led lives somewhat remote from their father, since their mother did not greatly appreciate having the table cutlery flung across the room by unseen hands or having the furniture pile itself on top of her, so she and the children lived apart from Mirabelli by agreement'.(30)
Carlos was particularly fond of animals and opera, and
involved in the foundation and running of the Sao Luiz House of Charity. As is
typical in a country dominated by the Roman Catholic church, Brazil suffers from
the extremes of immense wealth for the few, and widespread severe poverty for
the many, and this charitable organization was constantly used by those needing
Carlos also suffered the consequences of practising his mediumship in a Catholic country by having to appear in court on fifteen occasions to answer charges that were raised against the work that he did. Notwithstanding these problems, he successfully demonstrated the reality of survival to many people in a truly extraordinary way.
Despite the reservations expressed in this country, there seems to be no valid reason why the monitoring by the Brazilians should be seen as unsatisfactory. Moreover, in view of the number of witnesses involved, the phenomena observed, and the mode in which these occurred, there can be little doubt that Carlos Mirabelli was a physical medium of very considerable ability.
(1)B. Inglis, The Paranormal: An Encyclopedia of Psychic Phenomena (London: Grafton/Paladin, 1985), p.306.
(2)G. L. Playfair, The Flying Cow (London: Souvenir, 1975), p.78.
(3)B. Inglis, Science and Parascience: A History of the Paranormal, 1914-1939 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984), p.221.
(4)'Notes on Periodicals', JSPR, October 1927, p.127.
(5)'Notes on Periodicals' JSPR, November 1927, p.144.
(6)'Notes on Periodicals, JSPR, December 1928, p.407.
(7)J. Beloff, Parapsychology: A Concise History (London: Athlone Press, 1993), p.261.
(8)G. L. Playfair, 'Mirabelli and the Phantom Ladder', JSPR, 58 (1992), p.202.
(9)E. J. Dingwall, 'An Amazing Case: The Mediumship of Carlos Mirabelli', JASPR, 24 (1930), p.296.
(10)De Goes's work was Prodigios de Biopsychica obtidos com o medium Mirabelli (1937). Another detailed writing by someone who had witnessed Carlos's mediumship was that by Carlos Imbassahy entitled, O espiritismo a luz dos fatos (1935).
(11)The Flying Cow, p.87.
(13)Science and Parascience: A History of the Paranormal, 1914-1939, p.223.
(16)N. Fodor, Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science (London: Arthurs Press, 1933), p.244.
(23)T. Besterman, JSPR, 29 (1935), p.148.
(24)J. Beloff, Parapsychology: A Concise History (London: Athlone Press, 1993), p.260. See also Beloff's The Relentless Question: Reflections on the Paranormal (1990), where he refers to the opinion of Dingwall as 'a tortured soul in whom an irresistible fascination with the paranormal alternated with an abject disillusionment compounded by a deep contempt for his fellow investigators' (p.37). The situation is surely revealed in Dingwall's lengthy essay in A Century of Psychical Research, ed. by A. Angoff and B. Shapin (1971), in which he throws scorn on Spiritualism that he likens to medieval superstition. However, the principal target for his contempt are parapsychologists whom he accuses of being involved in deception and crass stupidity.
(25)Mary Rose Barrington, 'Book Reviews', JSPR, 61 (1996), p.170.
NB. In South America, Spiritism differs from British Spiritualism, with the Kardecists, and the followers of Umbanda, or Candomble. The first group follows the teachings of Allan Kardec, with a belief in reincarnation, and lays great emphasis on the necessity for charity and healing.
Although Playfair refers to widely varying figures for the number of adherents, a census in 1972 revealed nearly a million people claiming to adhere to one of the three groups. He also notes how in 1971, a 'staggering 68% of all those interviewed were prepared to admit the existence of Spiritism as a valid faith, while 49% had visited a Spiritist centre' (Ibid, p.13). Possibly there are some important lessons here that British Spiritualists could learn from their South American cousins.
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