Eusapia Palladino,Medium Eusapia Palladino,Eusapia Palladino medium,
Medium Eusapia Palladino Italy.
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Eusapia Palladino Medium Italy.
Eusapia Palladino (alternate
spelling: Paladino; January 21, 1854 – 1918) was a Spiritualist Medium from
In Italy, France, Germany, Poland and Russia, Palladino seemed to display extraordinary powers in the dark: levitating and elongating herself, "apporting" flowers, materializing the dead, producing Spirit hands and faces in wet clay, levitating tables, playing musical instruments under the table without contact, directly communicating with the dead through her Spirit Guide John King, etc. It was expensive to watch one of her performances.
Many Europeans regarded Palladino as a genuine Spiritualist Medium, claiming that she did not employ the standard deceptions used by fraudulent Mediums. As late as 1926, eight years after her death, Arthur Conan Doyle in his History of Spiritualism praised the psychic phenomena and spirit materializations that she had produced. In the United States, she was described as a medium who resorted to trickery when her alleged talents failed her.
Palladino was born into a peasant family in Minervino Murge, Bari Province, Italy. She received little, if any, formal education. Orphaned as a child, she was taken in as a nursemaid by a family in Naples. In her early life, she was married to a traveling conjuror.
Cesare LombrosoIn 1892, 17 seances held in Milan with Eusapia gave evidence of paranormal events. In his book After Death -- What? Researches in Hypnotic and Spiritualistic Phenomena (1909; Aquarian Press edition 1988), turn-of-the-century scientist Cesare Lombroso recounts the experiments that led him from a strictly materialist worldview to a belief in Spirits and life after death. The most extraordinary was a phenomenon that Lombroso titles "The Levitation of the Medium to the Top of the Table."
Among the most important and significant of the occurrences we put this levitation. It took place twice, -- that is to say, on the 28th of September and the 3rd of October. The Medium, who was seated near one end of the table, was lifted up in her chair bodily, amid groans and lamentations on her part, and placed (still seated) on the table, then returned to the same position as before, with her hands continually held, her movements being accompanied by the persons next her.
Charles Richet On the evening of the 28th of September, while her hands were held by M M, Richet and Lombroso, she complained of hands which were grasping her under the arms; then, while in trance, with the changed voice characteristic of this state, she said, "Now I lift my Medium up on the table." After two or three seconds the chair with Eusapia in it was not violently dashed, but lifted without hitting anything, on to the top of the table, and M. Richet and I are sure that we did not even assist the levitation by our own force. After some talk in the trance state the Medium announced her descent, and (M. Finzi having been substituted for me) was deposited on the floor with the same security and precision, while M M, Richet and Finzi followed the movements of her hands and body without at all assisting them, and kept asking each other questions about the positions of the hands.
Moreover, during the descent both gentlemen repeatedly felt a hand touch them on the head.
On the evening of October 3 the thing was repeated in quite similar circumstances, MM. Du Prel and Finzi being one on each side of Eusapia.
The details that are given strongly imply that the levitations were not actually seen. There are no references to "we saw." It was totally dark. The sound of Palladino's chair landing on the table ("it was not violently dashed, lifted without hitting anything") and references to her hands ("[they] kept asking each other questions about the position of the hands" and "repeatedly felt a hand touch them on the head") are important to the interpretation of action and movement. There is confusion.
Julian Ochorowicz.Palladino visited Warsaw, Poland, on two occasions. The first and longer was when she came at the importunities of the psychologist, Dr. Julian Ochorowicz, who hosted her from November 1893 to January 1894. Regarding the phenomena demonstrated at Palladino's seances, he concluded against the Spirit hypothesis and for a hypothesis that the phenomena were caused by a "fluidic action" and were performed at the expense of the medium's own powers and those of the other participants in the seances.
Bolesław Prus Ochorowicz introduced Palladino to the journalist and novelist Bolesław Prus, who attended a number of her seances, wrote about them in the press, and incorporated several Spiritualist-inspired scenes into his historical novel Pharaoh.
On January 1, 1894,
Palladino called on Prus at his apartment. As described by Ochorowicz,
In the evening she visited Prus, whom she always worshipped. Though their conversation was original, because the one did not know Polish and the other Italian, when il Prusso entered she went mad with joy and they somehow managed to communicate with one another. So she saw it as her obligation to pay him a New Year's visit.
During Palladino's subsequent visit to Warsaw in the second half of May 1898 on her way from St. Petersburg to Vienna and Munich, Prus attended at least two of the three seances that she conducted (the two seances were held in the apartment of Ludwik Krzywicki).
Pierre CurieIn 1905 Eusapia Palladino came to Paris, where 1903 Nobel-laureate physicists Pierre Curie and Marie Curie and, again, future Nobel laureate Charles Richet were among those who investigated her.
Other members of the Curies' circle of scientist friends--including William Crookes; future Nobel laureate Jean Perrin and his wife Henriette; Louis Georges Gouy; and Paul Langevin--were also exploring Spiritualism, as was Pierre Curie's brother Jacques, a fervent believer.
The Curies regarded mediumistic seances as "scientific experiments" and took detailed notes. According to historian Anna Hurwic, they thought it possible to discover in spiritualism the source of an unknown energy that would reveal the secret of radioactivity.
On July 24, 1905, Pierre Curie reported to his friend Gouy: "We have had a series of seances with Eusapia Palladino at the [Society for Psychical Research]."
It was very interesting, and really the phenomena that we saw appeared inexplicable as trickery--tables raised from all four legs, movement of objects from a distance, hands that pinch or caress you, luminous apparitions. All in a [setting] prepared by us with a small number of spectators all known to us and without a possible accomplice. The only trick possible is that which could result from an extraordinary facility of the Medium as a magician. But how do you explain the phenomena when one is holding her hands and feet and when the light is sufficient so that one can see everything that happens?
Pierre was eager to enlist Gouy. Palladino, he informed him, would return in November, and "I hope that we will be able to convince you of the reality of the phenomena or at least some of them. Pierre was planning to undertake experiments in a methodical fashion.
Marie Curie also attended Palladino's seances, but does not seem to have been as intrigued by them as Pierre.
On April 14, 1906, just five days before his accidental death, Pierre Curie wrote Gouy about his last seance with Palladino: "There is here, in my opinion, a whole domain of entirely new facts and physical states in space of which we have no conception."
Charles Richet, who would later win the 1913 Nobel Prize in physiology and who carried out decades of research into psychic phenomena, participated in the Curies' investigations of Eusapia Palladino and left an account of a séance:
It took place at the Psychological Institute at Paris. There were present only Mme. Curie, Mme. X., a Polish friend of hers, and P. Courtier, the secretary of the Institute. Mme. Curie was on Eusapia's left, myself on her right, Mme. X, a little farther off, taking notes, and M. Courtier still farther, at the end of the table. Courtier had arranged a double curtain behind Eusapia; the light was weak but sufficient. On the table Mme. Curie's hand holding Eusapia’s could be distinctly seen, likewise mine also holding the right hand. . . We saw the curtain swell out as if pushed by some large object. . . I asked to touch it . . . I felt the resistance and seized a real hand which I took in mine. Even through the curtain I could feel the fingers … I held it firmly and counted twenty-nine seconds, during all which time I had leisure to observe both of Eusapia’s hands on the table, to ask Mme. Curie if she was sure of her control . . . After the twenty-nine seconds I said, 'I want something more, I want uno anello (a ring).' At once the hand made me feel a ring . . . It seems hard to imagine a more convincing experiment . . . In this case there was not only the materialization of a hand, but also of a ring.
Mandolin (striped instrument, top, right) levitates during Palladino's seance in Munich, Germany, March 13, 1903.In 1908, the Society for Psychical Research appointed a committee of three to examine Eusapia Palladino in Naples. The committee comprised Mr. Hereward Carrington, investigator for the American Society for Psychical Research and an amateur conjurer; Mr. W. W. Baggally, also an investigator and amateur conjurer of much experience; and the Hon. Everard Fielding, who had had an extensive training as investigator and "a fairly complete education at the hands of fraudulent Mediums." They were convinced that Palladino possessed unusual powers. Note: In August 1906 Everard Fielding and his brother Basil were boating. The boat capsized and Basil drowned. It was at this period Everard became noted in the affairs of The Society for Psychical Research.
In 1910 psychic investigator Everard Fielding returned to Naples, without Hereward Carrington and W.W. Baggaly. Instead, he was accompanied by his friend, William S. Marriott, a conjuror of some distinction who had exposed psychic fraud in Pearson's Magazine. His plan was to repeat the famous earlier 1908 Naple sittings with Palladino. Other members of the Society for Psychical Research had called attention to the failings of Fielding's 1908 notes. Unlike the 1908 sittings which had baffled the investigators, this time Fielding and Marriott detected her cheating, just as she had done in the USA. Her deceptions were obvious. Marriott stated, "When one knows how a feat can be accomplished and what to look for, only the most skillful performer can maintain the illusion in the face of such informed scrutiny." Fielding saw the second visit as totally worthless.
Carrington, who became Palladino's manager, contends that far from having been exposed in America, as the public imagined, Eusapia presented a large number of striking phenomena which have never been explained and that only a certain number of her classical and customary tricks were detected, which every investigator of this medium's phenomena had known to exist and had warned other investigators against for the past 20 years. No new form of trickery was discovered and Carrington warned the sitters against the old and well-known methods in a circular letter in advance. This is why the American exposure did not influence the European investigators in the least.
Howard Thurston (poster) Indeed, Eusapia did not depart from America without making one interesting convert. Howard Thurston (1869–1936), world-famous magician and investigator of spiritualism, declared:
I witnessed in person the table levitations of Madame Eusapia Palladino ... and am thoroughly convinced that the phenomena I saw were not due to fraud and were not performed by the aid of her feet, knees or hands.
On another occasion, Thurston offered this more detailed endorsement of Palladino's supernatural ability:
I do not believe that ever before in the history of the world had a magician and a sceptic been privileged to behold what I then looked upon. I saw Eusapia replace her hands on that table I had examined so carefully. I saw it lift up and float, unsupported in the air; and while it remained there I got down on my knees and crawled around it, seeking in vain for some natural explanation. There was none. No wires, no body supports, no iron shoes, nothing--but some occult power I could not fathom. ... I demanded more proof, and with bewildering willingness the strange old lady agreed. Mrs. [Grace] Thurston held her feet, I held her arms. And even then, thus guarded and a prisoner, the table rose again!
When it finally crashed back to the floor again before my very eyes I was a defeated sceptic. Palladino had convinced me! There was no fake in what she had showed me. ... If after reading what I have said of this adventure into the realm where my magic cannot penetrate, the reader doubts, not my word, but my observation, let me say this: My career has been devoted consistently to magic and illusions. I believe I understand the principles governing every known trick. ... In all my seance examinations I train all my faculties against the Medium, watching for the slightest evidence of trickery. I am willing to stake my reputation as a magician that what this Medium showed me was genuine. I do insist that woman showed genuine levitation, not by trickery but by some baffling, intangible, invisible force that radiated through her body and over which she exercised a temporary and thoroughly exhausting control.
Tricks, Or were they?
Table levitates during Palladino's seance at home of astronomer Camille Flammarion, France, November 25, 1898.Palladino dictated the lighting and "controls" that were to be used in her mediumistic seances. The fingertips of her right hand rested upon the back of the hand of one "controller." Her left hand was grasped at the wrist by a second controller seated on her other side. Her feet rested on top of the feet of her controllers, sometimes beneath them. A controller's foot was in contact with only the toe of her shoe. Occasionally her ankles were tied to the legs of her chair, but they were given a play of four inches. During the sitting in semi-darkness, her ankles would become free. Generally she was unbound. In one instance, a controller cut her free so that phenomena might occur.
Frank Podmore. Palladino normally refused to allow someone beneath the table to hold her feet with his hands. She refused to levitate the table from a standing position. The table being rectangular, she must sit only at a short side. No wall of any kind could stand between Palladino and the table. The weight of the table was seventeen pounds. The table levitated to a height of 3 to 10 inches for a maximum of 2-3 seconds. When the table levitated, there was also movement from Palladino's skirt. (Frank Podmore, 1910.)
In France, the United Kingdom and the USA, she had allegedly been caught using tricks. Palladino was expert at freeing a hand or foot to produce phenomena. She chose to sit at the short side of the table so that her controllers on each side must sit closer together, making it easier to deceive them. Her shoes were gimmicked and unbuttoned in such a way that she could remove her feet without disturbing a "control." Her levitation of a table began by freeing one foot, rocking the table, and then slipping her toe under one leg. Since she sat at the narrow end of the table, this was made possible. She lifted the table by rocking back on the heel of this foot. A total levitation was produced by now switching the support of the table to her knees. She made light Spirit rappings by pressing the tips of her fingers on the table top and moving them. Louder raps were made by striking a leg of the table with a free foot. She could do these tricks in full light and not be caught. All the sitters at the table viewed her from different angles. Where one might catch her trick, another could not. This confusion greatly aided her. (W.S. Davis, 1910.)
Hugo Munsterberg, A photograph, taken in the dark, of a small stool behind her, that moved and levitated, revealed the stool to be sitting on Palladino's head. After she saw this photo, the stool remained, immobile, on the floor. A plaster impression taken of a Spirit hand matched Palladino's hand. She was caught using a hair to perform "controlled" scientific experiments. In the dim light, her fist, wrapped in a handkerchief, became a materialized Spirit. Hugo Münsterberg, who succeeded Professor William James at Harvard University, attended some sittings later on and explained the blowing out of the cabinet curtains when all the windows were closed and doors were locked was accomplished by a rubber bulb Palladino had in her hand.
As time passed, Palladino's amazing powers began to diminish. Her supporters claimed that it was because she was growing older, not because of the tighter controls demanded by conjurors (magicians) and the scientific community, or the many times she was eventually caught cheating.
A worthwhile read of an article from the New York Times. September 28 1909. just click below to follow link
^ Joseph Jastrow, The Psychology of Conviction: A Study of Beliefs and Attitudes, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1918.
^ William Kalush and Larry Sloman, 'The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero, Atria Books, 2006, ISBN 0743272072.
^ Mysteries of the Unexplained. Readers Digest Association. 1990. p. 300. ISBN 0-89577-146-2. "It was said that she would resort to trickery when her gift faltered, but Carrington was convinced that she could indeed perform supernatural acts."
^ Polidoro, Massimo (June 2009). "Eusapia Palladino, the Queen of the Cabinet". Skeptical Inquirer 33 (3): 30.
^ Radcliffe, 1952, page 321.
^ Cesare Lombroso, William Sloane Kennedy (1909). After Death--what?. Small, Maynard & Company. http://books.google.com/books?id=TIDJVcMpfh8C&pg=PA101&lpg=PA101&dq=%22after+death+what%22+lombroso&source=web&ots=shqVPyEZxI&sig=Ezi7TCQ6DW0n0WP_k_pbghLhU88#PPP1,M1.
^ Krystyna Tokarzówna and Stanisław Fita, Bolesław Prus, pp. 440, 443, 445–53.
^ See External links: "Julien Ochorowitz, 1850–1918."
^ Krystyna Tokarzówna and Stanisław Fita, Bolesław Prus, p. 448.
^ Krystyna Tokarzówna and Stanisław Fita, Bolesław Prus, p. 521.
^ Barbara Goldsmith, Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie, p. 138.
^ Barbara Goldsmith, Obsessive Genius, p. 138.
^ Susan Quinn, Marie Curie: A Life, p. 208.
^ Susan Quinn, Marie Curie: A Life, p. 208.
^ Susan Quinn, Marie Curie: A Life, p. 208.
^ Susan Quinn, Marie Curie: A Life, p. 226.
^ Charles Richet: Thirty Years of Psychical Research. New York: Macmillan, 1923, pp. 496-97; cited in Michael Schmicker: Best Evidence. iUniverse, 2002, ISBN 0595219063, p. 92
^ a b Everard Fielding, Sittings with Eusapia Palladino & Other Studies, University Books, 1963. Proceedings: Society for Psychical Research, XXV, 1911, pp. 57-69.
^ * Christopher, Milbourne (1970). ESP, Seer & Psychics: What the Occult Really Is. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co.. pp. 268. ISBN 978-0-690-26815-7. OCLC 97063.
^ Polidoro, Massimo; Rinaldi, Gian Marco (December 12, 2000). "Eusapia Palladino's Sapient Foot". CICAP. http://www.cicap.org/en_artic/at101008.htm. Retrieved July 29, 2009. (On Eusapia's use of foot during séances)
^ Report on Further Series of Sittings with Eusapia Palladino at Naples by Everard Fielding and W. Marriott, Proceedings Society for Psychical Research, Volume 15, Pages 20-32, Dec 5, 1910
^ Muldoon, Sylvan (1947). Psychic Experiences of Famous People. Chicago: Aries Press. pp. 55–56. Text of entire book also available at google.books.com
^ William Seabrook, Doctor Wood, Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1941, chapter 17: Wood as a Debunker of Scientific Cranks and Frauds — and His War with the Mediums."
D.H. Radcliffe, Occult and Supernatural Phenomena, chapter 21: "Eusapia Palladino," Dover Publications reprint of Psychology of the Occult, Derricke Ridgway Publishing Co., 1952.
Frank Podmore, Mediums of the Nineteenth Century, vol. 2, book 4, chapter 1: "Some Foreign Investigations," University Books, 1963 (reprint of 1902 edition).
Frank Podmore, The Newer Spiritism, book one, chaps. 3 ("Eusapia Palladino") and 4 ("Eusapia Palladino and the S.P.R"), Arno Press, 1975 (reprint of 1910 edition).
W.S. Davis, "The New York Exposure of Eusapia Palladino," Journal of the American Society of Psychical Research, vol. 4, no. 8 (August 1910), pp. 401-24, gives detailed information from conjurors who were prepared for her skills and watched her closely. At one point, at the total levitation of the table in full light, everyone applauded. This seemed "to go over her head."
Krystyna Tokarzówna and Stanisław Fita, Bolesław Prus, 1847-1912: Kalendarz życia i twórczości (Bolesław Prus, 1847-1912: a Calendar of [His] Life and Work), edited by Zygmunt Szweykowski, Warsaw, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1969.
Barbara Goldsmith, Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie, New York, W.W. Norton, 2005, ISBN 0-393-05137-4.
Susan Quinn, Marie Curie: A Life, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1995, ISBN 0-671-67542-7.
Harry Price and Eric J. Dingwall, Revelations of a Spirit Medium, Arno Press, 1975 (reprint of the 1891 edition by Charles F. Pidgeon). This extremely rare, forgotten book gives an "insider's knowledge" of 19th-century deceptions.
Joseph Jastrow, Wish and Wisdom: Episodes in the Vagaries of Belief, D. Appleton-Century Co., 1935. Chapter 12, "Paladino's Table," contains a photo of a mysterious spirit face in clay, compared to Palladino's face. The similarity is striking.
Joseph Jastrow, The Psychology of Conviction: A Study of Beliefs and Attitudes, chapter 4: "The Case of Paladino," Houghton Mifflin Co., 1918.
Nandor Fodor, An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science, 1934.
Hereward Carrington, Eusapia Palladino and her Phenomena, B.W. Dodge & Company, 1909. Carrington's detailed descriptions and analysis of experiments conducted in European cities between 1891 and 1908.
Massimo Polidoro, Secrets of the Psychics, Prometheus Books, 2003.
Massimo Polidoro, "Eusapia Palladino, the Queen of the Cabinet". (June 2009), Skeptical Inquirer 33 (3): 30.
Source from wikipedia.org/wiki/Eusapia_Palladino
Eusapia Palladino was famous for her "third arm," which issued from her shoulders and receded into them. This arm was often seen independently and well materialized.
Signora Raphael Delgaiz by marriage,
the first Physical Medium who stood in the crossfire of collective scientific
investigation for more than twenty years all over Europe and in America. It is
in large measure due to this strange woman that the reality of physical
phenomena and the psychological complex of fraud was, at the close of the last
and in the first decade of the 20th century, vividly brought home to an array of
She was born at Minervo-Murge, near Bari, Italy, on January 21, 1854. Her birth cost her mother's life. Her father was assassinated by brigands in 1866. As a little girl she heard raps on the furniture against which she was leaning, she saw eyes glaring at her in the darkness and was frequently frightened in the night when invisible hands stripped off her bedclothes. When she became orphaned a family of the upper bourgeoisie received her in Naples as a nursemaid. They soon detected that she was not an ordinary girl, but her real discovery and mediumistic education is due to Signor Damiani, a noted Italian psychic investigator. His wife, a British lady, went to a seance in London. John King manifested and spoke about a powerful medium in Naples who was his reincarnated daughter. He gave her address, street and number. Damiani went to the house and found Eusapia Palladino of whom he had never heard before. This was in 1872. The development of Eusapia Palladino's powers progressed at a rapid rate. In the first five or six years she devoted herself mainly to phenomena of movements without contact. Then came the famous spectral appearances, the phantom limbs so often noticed to issue from her body and materialisations of full but incomplete figures.
Her control, John King, communicated through raps and in trance spoke in Italian alone. Eusapia Palladino was always impressed what phenomenon was going to take place and could warn the sitters. She suffered extremely during the process and exhibited a very remarkable synchronism between her gestures and the movement without contact. If she glared defiantly at a table it began to move towards her, if she warned it off it backed away. A forcible motion of her head was accompanied by raps and upward movements of her hand would cause the table to lift in the air.
Another peculiarity of her seances was that any particular phenomenon had to be wished for and incessantly asked. Strong desire on the part of the sitters present always brought about the occurrence.
The first scientist who boldly proclaimed the verity of her extraordinary phenomena was Dr. Ercole Chiaia. His opportunity to invite public attention to Eusapia Palladino came when Cesare Lombroso published an article on The Influence of Civilisation upon Genius and concluded it:
"Twenty or thirty years are enough to make the whole world admire a discovery which was treated as madness at the moment when it was made. Even at the present day academic bodies laugh at hypnotism and homoeopathy. Who knows whether my friends and I, who laugh at Spiritualism, are not in error, just as hypnotised persons are?"
On August 9, 1888 Chiaia addressed an open letter to Lombroso and challenged him to observe a special case, saying:
"The case I allude to is that of an invalid woman who belongs to the humblest class of society. She is nearly thirty years old and very ignorant; her appearance is neither fascinating nor endowed with the power which modern criminologists call irresistible; but when she wishes, be it by day or by night, she can divert a curious group for an hour or so with the most surprising phenomena. Either bound to a seat, or firmly held by the hands of the curious, she attracts to her the articles of furniture which surround her, lifts them up, holds them suspended in the air like Mahomet's coffin, and makes them come down again with undulatory movements, as if they were obeying her will. She increases their height or lessens it according to her pleasure. She raps or taps upon the walls, the ceiling, the floor, with fine rhythm and cadence. In response to the requests of the spectators something like flashes of electricity shoot forth from her body, and envelop her or enwrap the spectators of these marvellous scenes. She draws upon cards that you hold out, everything that you want - figures, signatures, numbers, sentences - by just stretching out her hand towards the indicated place.
"If you place in the corner of the room a vessel containing a layer of soft clay, you find after some moments the imprint in it of a small or a large hand, the image of a face (front view or profile) from which a plaster cast can be taken. In this way portraits of a face at different angles have been preserved, and those who desire so to do can thus make serious and important studies.
"This woman rises in the air, no matter what bands tie her down. She seems to lie upon the empty air, as on a couch, contrary to all the laws of gravity; she plays on musical instruments - organs, bells, tambourines - as if they had been touched by her hands or moved by the breath of invisible gnomes. This woman at times can increase her stature by more than four inches.
"She is like an India rubber doll, like an automaton of a new kind; she takes strange forms. How many legs and arms has she? We do not know. While her limbs are being held by incredulous spectators, we see other limbs coming into view, without her knowing where they come from. Her shoes are too small to fit these witch-feet of hers, and this particular circumstance gives rise to the suspicion of the intervention of mysterious power."
It was not until two years later that Lombroso found time enough to visit Naples for a sitting. His first report states:
"Eusapia's feet and hands were held by Professor Tamburini and by Lombroso. A handbell placed on a small table more than a yard distant from Eusapia sounded in the air above the heads of the sitters and then descended on the table, thence going two yards to a bed. While the bell was ringing we struck a match and saw the bell up in the air."
A detailed account of his observations and reflections appeared in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques in 1892. He admitted the reality of the phenomena and, on the basis of the analogy of the transposition of the senses observed in hypnotic cases, suggested a transformation of the powers of the Medium as an explanation. He continued his researches for many years and ended in the acceptance of the spirit theory.
In After Death - What? he gives the following character sketch of his Medium:
"Low-cultured, frequently fails in good sense and common sense but has subtlety and intuition of the intellect which make her, in spite of her lack of cultivation, just, and appreciate at their true worth the men of genius whom she meets, without being influenced by prestige or the false stamp of wealth and authority. She is ingenuous to the extent of allowing herself to be imposed on, but sometimes exhibits a slyness that goes as far as deception. Possesses a most keen visual memory to the extent of remembering five to ten mental texts presented to her during three seconds. She is almost illiterate and spells a printed page with difficulty. She has the ability to recall vividly, especially with eyes shut, the outlines of persons precisely. But she is not without morbid characteristics which sometimes extend to streaks of insanity. She passes rapidly from joy to grief, has strange phobias (for example the fear of staining her hands), is extremely impressionable and subject to dreams, in spite of her mature age. Not rarely she has hallucinations, frequently sees her own ghost. As a child she believed two eyes glared at her behind trees and hedges. When she is in anger, especially when her reputation as a Medium is insulted, she is so violent and impulsive as actually to fly at her adversaries and beat them. These tendencies are offset by a singular kindness of heart which leads her to lavish her gains upon the poor and protect animals that are being maltreated."
It is interesting to add here the description of M. Arthur Levy in his report on a séance held in Camille Flammarion's house in 1898:
"Two things arrest the attention when you look at her. First, her large eyes, filled with strange fire, sparkle in their orbits, or, again, seem filled with swift gleams of phosphorescent fire, sometimes bluish, sometimes golden. If I did not fear that the metaphor was too easy when it concerns a Neapolitan woman, I should say that her eyes appear like the glowing lava fires of Vesuvius, seen from a distance in a dark night. The other peculiarity is a mouth with strange contours. We do not know whether it expresses amusement, suffering or scorn."
Lombroso made a thorough psychologic study of Eusapia. He wrote:
"Many are the crafty tricks she plays, both in the state of trance (unconsciously) and out of it - for example, freeing one of her two hands, held by the controllers, for the sake of moving objects near her; making touches; slowly lifting the legs of the table by means of one of her knees and one of her feet, and feigning to adjust her hair and then slyly pulling out one hair and putting it over the little balance tray of a letter-weigher in order to lower it. She was seen by Faifofer, before her seances, furtively gathering flowers in a garden, that she might feign them to be 'apports' by availing herself of the shrouding dark of the room."
Similar observations were made by Prof. Enrico Morselli and later investigators. Her penchant to cheat caused Eusapia no end of trouble in her later years.
The sittings in Naples which started Lombroso on his career as a psychical researcher were followed by an investigation in Milan in 1892. Prof. Schiaparelli, Director of the Observatory of Milan, Prof. Gerosa, Dr. G. B. Ermacora, Alexander Aksakof, Dr. Charles du Prel and Prof. Charles Richet were among the members of the Milan Commission. Part of the report, based on a series of 17 sittings, said.
"It is impossible to count the number of times that a hand appeared and was touched by one of us. Suffice it to say that doubt was no longer possible. It was indeed a living human hand which we saw and touched, while at the same time the bust and the arms of the medium remained visible, and her hands were held by those on either side of her."
At the end of the report the conviction was expressed 1. That in the circumstances given, none of the phenomena obtained in more or less intense light could have been produced by the aid of any artifice whatever. 2. That the same opinion may be affirmed in a large measure with regard to the phenomena obtained in complete darkness. For some of them we can well admit, strictly speaking, the possibility of imitating them by means of some adroit artifice on the part of the Medium; nevertheless, according to what we have said, it is evident that this hypothesis would be not only improbable, but even useless in the present case, since, even admitting it, the assembly of facts clearly proved would not be invalidated by it."
In the following year a series of séances took place in Naples under direction of Prof. Wagner of the University of St. Petersburg, next in Rome in 1893-94 under the direction of M. de Semiradski, interrupted by a visit to Warsaw where Dr. Julien Ochorowitz made many important experiments. He worked out the hypothesis of a "fluidic double" which, under certain conditions, detaches itself and acts independently of the body of the medium. In 1894 at the house of Prof. Richet on the Be Roubaud, Sir Oliver Lodge and F. W. H. Myers had their first opportunity to witness genuine physical phenomena of an unusual order. Lodge reported to the SPR that as regards the fact of movement without contact there is no further room in his mind for doubt.
Dr. Richard Hodgson, who was then resident in Boston, criticised the report and pointed out that the precautions described did not exclude trickery. He suggested explanations for various phenomena on the theory that Eusapia could get a hand or foot free. Lodge, Myers and Richet each replied. Richet pointed out that he attended fifteen séances with Eusapia in Milan and Rome and held forty at Carquieranne and in the Ile Roubaud over a period of three months under his own supervision. He finished by saying:
"It appears to me that after three months' practice and meditation one can arrive at the certainty of holding well a human hand."
As an outcome of the critical reception of this report Eusapia was invited to Britain. In August and September, 1895, at the house of Myers in Cambridge, twenty sittings were held. Dr. Hodgson came from Boston to be present and J. N. Maskelyne, the conjurer, was also invited. The sitters' attitude was not so much to prevent fraud as to detect it. Dr. Hodgson intentionally left Eusapia's hand free. She was given every opportunity to cheat and she availed herself of this generosity. In communicating the findings of the Cambridge investigation to the SPR, Myers, who on the Isle of Roubaud was convinced of having witnessed supernormal phenomena, stated:
"I cannot doubt that we observed much conscious and deliberate fraud, of a kind which must have needed long practice to bring it to its present level of skill. Nor can I find any excuse for her fraud (assuming that such excuse would be valid) in the attitude of mind of the persons, several of them distinguished in the world of science, who assisted in this inquiry. Their attitude was a fair and open one; in all cases they showed patience, and in several cases the impression first made on their minds was distinctly favourable. With growing experience, however, and careful observation of the precise conditions permitted or refused to us, the existence of some fraud became clear; and fraud was attempted when the tests were as good as we were allowed to make them, quite as indisputably as on the few occasions when our holding was intentionally left inadequate in order to trace more exactly the modus operandi. Moreover, the fraud occurred both in the medium's waking state and during her real or alleged trance. I do not think there is adequate reason to suppose that any of the phenomena at Cambridge were genuine."
In the very month of the exposure a new series of experiments was made at I'Agnelas, in the residence of Col. Rochas, president of the Polytechnic School, Dr. Dariex, editor of the Annales des Sciences Psychiques, Count de Gramont, Dr. Joseph Maxwell, Prof. Sabatier and Baron de Watteville participated. They all attested that the phenomena produced were genuine. On the result of the observations Col de Rochas built up his theory of "Externalisation of motricity."
The Cambridge report was not well received by psychical researchers.
Sir Oliver Lodge only attended two of the sittings and declared that he failed to see any resemblance between the phenomena there produced and those witnessed on the Ile Roubaud. He stated that his belief in what he there observed remained unshaken.
Dr. Ochorowitz remarked that Eusapia frequently released her hand for no other reason than to touch her head which was in pain at the moment of the manifestations. It was a natural reflex movement and a fixed habit. Immediately before the mediumistic doubling of her personality her hand was affected with hyperaesthesia and, consequently, the pressure of the hand of another made her ill, especially in the dorsal quarter. The medium acted by auto-suggestion and the order to go as far as an indicated point was given by her brain simultaneously to the dynamic hand and the corporeal hand, since in the normal state they form only one. It sometimes happened that the dynamic hand remained in place, while her own hand went in the indicated direction. Dr. Ochorowitz concludes that:
"not only was conscious fraud not proved on Eusapia at Cambridge, but not the slightest effort was made to do so. Unconscious fraud was proved in much larger proportion than in all the preceding experiments. This negative result is vindicated by a blundering method little in accordance with the nature of the phenomena."
"I cannot help thinking," writes Maxwell in his Metapsychical Phenomena, "that the Cambridge experimenters were either ill-guided, or ill-favoured, for I have obtained raps with Eusapia Palladino in full light, I have obtained them with many other mediums, and it is a minimum phenomenon which they could have and ought to have obtained, had they experimented in a proper manner."
"The Italian Medium, Eusapia Palladino," writes Miss Goodrich Freer in Essays in Psychical Research (1899), "may have been a fraud of the deepest dye for anything I know to the contrary, but she never had a fair chance in England. Even her cheating seems to have been badly done. The atmosphere was inimical; the poor thing was paralysed."
It appears plainly from the Journal of the SPR that the dynamic hands of which Ochorowitz speaks created a strong presumption against Eusapia. The paper said:
"It is hardly necessary to remark that the continuity of the spirit limbs with the body of the medium is, prima facie, a circumstance strongly suggestive of fraud."
The reality of these phantom limbs was later sufficiently proved. Also the fact that Eusapia would resort to fraud whenever allowed to had gained a wider recognition. Flammarion threw an interesting light on the problem in saying:
"She is frequently ill on the following day, sometimes even on the second day following, and is incapable of taking any nourishment without immediately vomiting. One can readily conceive, then, that when she is able to perform certain wonders without any expenditure of force and merely by a more or less skilful piece of deception, she prefers the second procedure to the first. It does not exhaust her at all, and may even amuse her. Let me remark, in the next place, that, during these experiments, she is generally in a half-awake condition which is somewhat similar to the hypnotic or somnambulistic sleep. Her fixed idea is to produce phenomena; and she produces them, no matter how."
On December 1, 1898, a seance was arranged in Prof. Richet's library in Paris for the purpose of assisting Eusapia to regain her reputation. The seance took place in good light, her wrists and ankles were held by the sitters and before each experience she warned the sitters what she was going to do in order that they might establish the phenomenon to the best of their faculties and observation. She did not cease to admonish Myers to pay the closest attention and to remember exactly afterwards what had happened.
"Under these conditions," writes Prof. Theodore Flournoy, "I saw phenomena which I then believed, and still believe, to be certainly inexplicable by any known laws of physics and physiology."
When Myers was solemnly adjured by Prof. Richet to state his view he avowed his renewed belief in the supernormal character of Eusapia's mediumship. Many other distinguished converts were made as the years rolled by Prof. Lombroso finally adopted the spirit hypothesis and Flammarion became firmly convinced of the reality of Eusapia's phenomena. In 1901 Genoa was the scene of important experiments in the presence of Enrico Morselli, Professor of Psychology at the University of Genoa and the astronomer Porro, director of the observatories of Genoa, Turin and later La Plata in the Argentine. Much instrumental investigation was carried on by Doctors Herdlitzka, Charles Fob and Aggazotti, assistants of Professor Mosso, the distinguished physiologist, in Turin and by Professor Philippe Bottazzi, Director of the Physiological Institute at the University of Naples, with the assistance of six other professors.
The Institut General Psychologique of Paris carried on extensive experiments in 43 sittings from 1905-07. M. and Mme. Curie were among the investigators. Fraud and genuine phenomena were observed in a strange mixture. The report drawn up by Courtier admits that movements seem to be produced by simple contact with the medium's hands, or even without contact, that such movements were registered by automatic recording instruments which rules out the hypothesis of collective hallucination and that molecular vibrations in external objects at a distance can be positively asserted. They explained the fraud by suggesting that Eusapia was growing old and that she was strongly tempted not to disappoint her clients when genuine power failed. On the whole the phenomena were much less striking and abundant as the years passed. They theorised that Eusapia influenced the ether in some way. On one or two occasions she succeeded in discharging an electroscope without anybody being able to find out how it was done.
In consequence of this report and under the effect of a growing number of testimonies to the genuine powers of Eusapia the Council of the SPR reconsidered its attitude and delegated in 1908 a committee of three very capable and sceptical investigators; Mr. W. W. Baggally, a practical conjurer, Dr. Hereward Carrington, an amateur conjurer whose book, The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism, is the standard authority on fraudulent performances and the Hon. Everard Feilding, who also brought many a fraudulent Medium to grief. They held eleven sittings in November and December in a room of a member of the committee at the Hotel Victoria in Naples. At the end they admitted that the phenomena were genuine and inexplicable by fraud. Their report was published as Part LIX. of the Proceedings, SPR, and even Frank Podmore, the most hardened sceptic feels compelled to say:
"Here, for the first time perhaps in the history of modern Spiritualism, we seem to find the issue put fairly and squarely before us. It is difficult for any man who reads the Committee's report to dismiss the whole business as mere vulgar cheating."
Nevertheless, Podmore tries his best. It is sufficient, however, against any outside criticism to quote the opinion of the Hon. Everard Feilding as expressed after the sixth seance:
"For the first time I have absolute conviction that our observation is not mistaken. I realise as an appreciable fact in life that, from an empty curtain, I have seen hands and heads come forth, and that behind the empty curtain I have been seized by living fingers, the existence and position of the nails of which were perceptible. I have seen this extraordinary woman, sitting outside the curtain, held hand and foot, visible to myself, by my colleagues, immobile, except for the occasional straining of a limb while some entity within the curtain has over and over again pressed my hand in a position clearly beyond her reach. I refuse to entertain the possibility of a doubt that it could be anything else, and, remembering my own belief of a very short time ago, I shall not be able to complain, though I shall unquestionably be annoyed when I find that to be the case."
By this verdict the standing of Eusapia Palladino was enormously enhanced, and not without reason. "There have perhaps never been," writes Prof. Richet, "so many different, sceptical and scrupulous investigators into the work of any Medium or more minute investigations. During twenty years, from 1888 to 1908, she submitted, at the hands of the most skilled European and American experimentalists, to tests of the most rigorous and decisive kind, and during all this time men of science, resolved not to be deceived, have verified that even very large and massive objects were displaced without contact."
In discussing materialisations he adds:
"More than thirty very sceptical scientific men were convinced, after long testing, that there proceeded from her body material forms having the appearances of life."
The most extraordinary seance recorded with Eusapia is probably the one described in full detail by Prof. Morselli in Psicologia e Spiritismo (Vol. II, pp. 214-237). The séance was held in Genoa on March 1st, 1902. Besides Morselli, Ernesto Bozzano, Dr. Venzano and six other persons were present. The cabinet was examined by Morselli. He himself tied the medium to a camp bed in a manner defying attempts at liberation. In fairly good light six phantoms presented themselves in succession in front of the cabinet, the last one being a woman with a baby in her arms. Each time, after the phantom retired, Morselli rushed into the cabinet and found the medium tied as he left her. No doubt was left in Morselli's mind of the genuineness of the phenomenon, yet his materialistic attitude remained unshaken.
Still one final blow was in store for Eusapia. Owing to the success of the Naples sittings, the story of which is ably told in Carrington's Eusapia Palladino and her Phenomena, she was invited, in 1909, to visit America. She landed in New York on November 10, 1909, and left on June 18, 1910. Her first twenty seances were comparatively good ones. In the later sittings at Columbia University and at the house of Prof. Lord she was caught in the use of her old bag of tricks. The Press made a tremendous sensation of the exposure.
The authenticity of the published account, however, is questioned by Carrington. It said that at a sitting held on December 18, a young man crept under the cover of darkness into the cabinet and during the movement of a small table, while Prof. Munsterberg was controlling the left foot of Eusapia, he grabbed a human foot, unshod, by the instep. It proved to be Eusapia's foot pulled out of the shoe. Later she was watched from a concealed window in the cabinet and from a bureau provided with a secret peephole. She was seen to achieve the desired effect by gradual substitution, making one foot do duty for two as regards the control of her limbs, and acting freely with the liberated foot.
It has not been emphasised that Eusapia, at this stage, was so apprehensive of her investigators that she did not allow herself to go into trance for fear that an injury might be done to her. The psychological attitude of her sitters is reflected by the following statement of Eusapia to a newspaper man:
"Some people are at the table who expect tricks - in fact they want them. I am in a trance. Nothing happens. They get impatient. They think of the tricks - nothing but tricks. They put their minds on the tricks and I automatically respond. But it is not often. They merely will me to do them. That is all."
Carrington contends that far from having been exposed in America, as the public imagined, Eusapia presented a large number of striking phenomena which have never been explained and that only a certain number of her classical and customary tricks were detected, which every investigator of this medium's phenomena had known to exist and had warned other investigators against for the past twenty years. No new form of trickery was discovered and against the old and well-known methods Carrington warned the sitters in a circular letter in advance. This is why the American exposure did not influence the European investigators in the least.
When her power was strong the phenomena began almost at once. When it was weak, long waiting was necessary. It was on such occasions that she was tempted to cheat. She did this so often that, as Carrington states:
"practically every scientific committee detected her in attempted fraud, but every one of these committees emerged from their investigations quite convinced of the reality of these phenomena, except the Cambridge and American investigation which ended in exposure."
Nevertheless, Eusapia did not depart from America without making one interesting convert. Howard Thurston, the famous magician, declared:
"I witnessed in person the table levitations of Madame Eusapia Palladino ... and am thoroughly convinced that the phenomena I saw were not due to fraud and were not performed by the aid of her feet, knees, or hands."
He also offered to give a thousand dollars to a charitable institution if it could be proved that Eusapia could not levitate a table without trickery.
Writing of the Naples and of the American investigation, Carrington sums up his views in The Story of Psychic Science:
"To sum up the effects of these séances upon my own mind, I may say that, after seeing nearly forty of her seances, there remains not a shadow of doubt in my mind as to the reality of the vast majority of this phenomena occurring in Eusapia Palladino's presence ... I can but record the fact that further study of this Medium has convinced me more than ever that our Naples experiments and deductions were correct, that we were not deceived but that we did, in very truth, see praeternormal manifestations of a remarkable character. I am as assured of the reality of Eusapia Palladino's phenomena as I am of any other fact in life; and they are, to my mind, just as well established."
Mme. Paole Carrara, the daughter of Prof. Lombroso, published a biography of Eusapia in 1907.
A complete bibliography of Eusapia is to be found in Prof. Morselli's Psicologia e spiritismo, Turin, 1908. To mention some important books and reports: Hereward Carrington: Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena; Col. Albert de Rochas: I'Exteriorisation de la Motricite; G. D. Fontenay: A Propos d'Eusapia Palladino, Paris, 1898; Camille Flammarion: Mysterious Psychic Forces, 1907; Cesar Lombroso: After Death - What? 1909; Report of the General Psychological Institute Paris Journal SPR, Vol. VI and VII, Proceedings SPR, Vol. XXIII and XXV; Bottazzi: Nelle Regioni inesplorate della Biologia Umana, 1904; Luigi Barzini: Mondo dei Misteri, 1907.
Source (with minor modifications by Survival After Death): An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).
A mandolin being levitated in the Home Circle by the Spirit World, while Eusapia Paladino, who is being used as a catalyst, is in a trance state.
Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918) was a Medium whose name continues to be associated with both spectacular mediumship and fraud; the impact made by her activity is clearly demonstrated by the continuing debate. Some might consider the occurrence of fraudulent mediumship automatically excludes her from any attention, but as will be shown, her mediumship was of a type that actually demands serious consideration.
After being orphaned in Bari, and having received virtually no education, Eusapia moved as a young girl to Naples, and worked in a household where seances were held. It was during one when she was present, that her mediumistic abilities became evident, and in time, attracted attention. Her demonstrations received favourable reports that resulted in her being investigated by Prof. Lombroso, an enthusiastic sceptic. On witnessing the phenomena produced by her in Naples, he was sufficiently impressed to arrange a series of seances that took place in Milan. In these, a number of academics were also present; to their amazement, there was levitation in the full light, and partial-materializations. As was recorded: 'It is impossible to count the number of times that that hand appeared and was touched by one of us; suffice it to say that doubt was no longer possible; it was, indeed, a living human hand which we saw and touched, while at the same time the bust and arms of the Medium remained visible and her hands were held by those on either side of her'.(1) The effect of Eusapia's mediumship on Lombroso was significant; he felt it necessary to write, and admit: 'I am filled with confusion and regret that I combated with so much persistence the possibility of the facts called Spiritualistic'.(2) He continued to investigate mediumship and eventually accepted the concept of survival and that communication was possible: he published his findings in, After Death - What?
In view of the success, more researchers examined Eusapia's mediumship, e.g. Dr Ochorowicz's at Warsaw during 1893-94, and Prof. Richet at his island home in 1894. In the case of the tests by Ochorowicz, he and others present, were convinced of the genuineness of the phenomena. Nonetheless, some remained unconvinced, as Eusapia was undoubtedly, as Beloff says, 'a slippery customer'.(3) Inglis's view is no less uncomplimentary: 'that given a chance to try to cheat, by distracting their [the investigators'] attention and freeing a hand or foot, Eusapia would take it'.(4) The problem that arose in the investigation of Eusapia's mediumship was the occurrence of phenomena that were not genuine, and the occasions when these could not have been produced through such means. Sadly, the instances when Eusapia resorted to trickery made the matter of her marvellous mediumship extremely problematic and a source of continuing controversy. Additionally, many researchers found her behaviour somewhat uncomfortable, i.e. she 'was liable on awakening from her trances to throw herself into the arms of the nearest male sitter with unmistakable intent'.(5)
In the case of the tests at the home of Richet, these were important in view of the hypothesis that Eusapia had accomplices to assist her; in this location, the island of Ile Roubaud, the only other residence was a lighthouse, and the possibility could not arise. A number of other experienced researchers attended, e.g. Myers and Lodge of the SPR, and Ochorowicz. A record was made of the seances that were held with some light present; in one, there was levitation of the table (that had been specially made, and weighed forty-four pounds), psychic winds, loud noises and water being levitated and taken to Eusapia. Richet and Myers were both grasped by unseen hands. While there were reservations about the conditions, 'no fraud was actually discovered'.(6)
After this, the Sidgwicks of the SPR became involved; they represented the more sceptical element of the SPR, and certainly so in the case of physical phenomena. They attended seances at another of Richet's homes, near Toulon, as did Ochorowicz and von Schrenck-Notzing. Although the phenomena were less than had been witnessed earlier, some did occur, e.g. the movement of heavy objects. Despite the sceptical Sidgwicks being satisfied with what they had seen, Hodgson of the SPR was not content and it was arranged that Eusapia come to England. She did this in the Summer of 1895 and stayed at Cambridge. The seances were attended by a number of members of the SPR, and it appears that being unable to produce the phenomena as before, Eusapia attempted to deceive those present. Naturally, the Sidgwicks were distressed and measures were taken to withdraw anything resembling a recognition of Eusapia's mediumship. Beloff refers to Dingwall's opinion concerning the atmosphere prevailing at Cambridge, i.e. the wide gulf between Eusapia, the peasant from Naples, and the academics who were there to investigate her abilities, and how the situation was anything but congenial.(7)
An important point emerges here: Gratton-Guinness comments on how the SPR 'has had a tendency to reject all evidence from a psychic if some of it turned out to be fraudulent, thus ignoring the argument that since repeatability is so hard to achieve in the subject, there is no reason to assume that fraud is always repeated'.(8)
In fact, matters at Cambridge were not quite as simple as have been maintained. While there were certainly occasions of fraud by Eusapia, there were also the instances when the explanation of fraud for the phenomena is hardly tenable. As Gauld comments: 'Not all the the phenomena which occurred could be explained on any such simple hypothesis. There were, for instance, the curious protuberances from Eusapia's body which some sitters occasionally observed'. Moreover, in view of the behaviour of the SPR's Hodgson in which he deliberately 'made his own control as lax as possible', it was hardly surprising that there 'were however not a few people, especially among the continental investigators, who felt that all the trickery had not been on Eusapia's side'.(9)
Despite what had happened in Cambridge, Eusapia travelled to Paris in 1898 and was monitored during a number of seances by Richet again, and other researchers. Richet was satisfied with what he saw and contacted Myers and suggested that he sit with Eusapia again. On doing so, he was persuaded and openly declared that Eusapia had produced genuine phenomena.
Seances were then conducted in Italy during 1901-1902 and 1906-07, where despite the precautions taken, phenomena occurred, including materializations. One of those attending was Prof. Morselli who made a detailed record of the events; these were published in his book that was reviewed by the SPR that referred to the view that 'the great majority of the phenomena that occur...are genuine manifestations'. Although these were less than in earlier years, the seances included 'touches, grasps, movement of objects, appearances of hands...and occasionally lights', together with partial materializations that were some distance away from Eusapia. The review includes Mrs Sidgwick's cautious stance throughout, although she agreed there were events that could not be accounted for by Eusapia simply freeing her limbs, e.g. materializations, table levitation and the movement of objects in a lighted environment; she also related how other academics had accepted the genuineness of Eusapia' mediumship. She concluded her review by saying that Eusapia had been studied by investigators in 1908 who were 'all experts in the tricks of physical mediums', and they had 'come substantially to the same conclusion as Professor Morselli'.(10)
Before the 1908 experiments, there were further investigations, including those held at Turin and Naples during 1907-1908, details of which were supplied by Carrington.(11) These included a further examination by Lombroso with members of the medical profession, and the results were impressive.
Following this, the 1908 series of tests to which Mrs Sidgwick referred, were conducted between 21 November and 19 December, in the Hotel Victoria, Naples. The investigators, were according to Beloff, 'all experienced, not to say jaded'; in these seances, strict precautions were applied and a careful account was made of the events: 'the Feilding Report'. Beloff adds the note that this report has been 'one of the mainstays of the case for the paranormal and a stumbling-block for sceptics'.(12) The three investigators represented a considerable amount of experience: Carrington, an amateur conjurer, who had worked for the American SPR, and carried out an extensive study of fraudulent mediumship; Baggally, also an amateur conjurer who had a keen interest in physical phenomena, and who, before meeting Eusapia, had a very sceptical view of physical mediumship; and Feilding, who was familiar with physical phenomena. The details of the conditions imposed during the seances indicate the methodical arrangements made: electric lights were installed and the curtain and table were carefully examined, with various objects brought in, e.g. tambourines, a trumpet and bell. A person to take shorthand notes concerning events during the seances was also employed.
At the beginning of the seance, one of the researchers sat on either side of Eusapia, holding or being held by her hand, his foot on or under her foot, and his leg pressed against hers: Eusapia sat outside the cabinet, usually about a foot away, rather than inside it. When phenomena occurred, the researchers would report exactly what the contact with the medium was. During the seances, Eusapia would either be fully conscious, in a semi-trance, or a deep trance when her control, John King, was apparent. In the case of John King, as so often happens, a number of researchers viewed him as little more than a secondary personality, i.e. part of Eusapia's own mind. Nonetheless, Eusapia's account hardly coincides with this. She explained how an English woman in Naples, during her own Spiritualist activity, was advised by a communicator calling himself John King, about a medium in Naples, supplying details of where she lived. The woman then visited the address and found Eusapia there. When Eusapia next held a seance, the person who communicated was John King, who from that day remained her control. It is worth noting that as 'John King' controlled a number of different mediums, it is possible those 'prominent Spiritualists [who] came to feel that "John King" was a pseudonym for a group of Controls', were correct.(13)
In the 1908 tests, certain actions by Eusapia that allowed her to deceive were noted and the investigators believed that she would produce phenomena by such means if provided with the opportunity; however, it was agreed that such behaviour could not account for what was witnessed during the seances. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that it was observed, 'we did not find the reduction of light, and the consequent increased facility for fraud had any effect'. It was also stated that the amount of control exerted by the researchers over Eusapia's freedom of movement did not unfavourably influence the phenomena.(14)
In the record of the eleven seances, it is apparent that the phenomena improved; in the first, there was only object movement and noises, but by the fifth, there was complete and partial but lengthy levitations together with partial materializations. During the third, it appeared that Eusapia had substituted her hands; however, it was not viewed as an intention to deceive, apart from the fact that in previous seances, accompanied by phenomena, there was sufficient light to prevent this happening. Shortly afterwards, Eusapia, being aware of the dissatisfaction caused, asked for her hands to be tied, and this was done; nonetheless, different phenomena continued in the seance.
The record made of the fifth seance related the incidents that occurred:- After it began, the phenomena began almost immediately; firstly, the repeated movement of the table, and raps; then, the appearance of a hand and a face; this was followed by further table movement, the materialization of a hand, and a cold psychic breeze. Throughout the seance, those present meticulously reported what they were witnessing and their control of Eusapia at the same time. At the end of the seance, Eusapia volunteered to be searched. This was also carried out after the sixth seance when Eusapia agreed to be closely searched and the sitters reported, 'nothing was concealed about her person or her clothes'. This seance was no less eventful and Baggally made the interesting note that just before any phenomena occurred, Eusapia would advise them of what was to happen; this of course is the absolute opposite of a conjurer who needs to distract the audience's attention away from what is to occur and avoid giving any warning beforehand.
Of this particular seance, Carrington reported that it 'has left on my mind an indelible impression of the reality of at least some of the phenomena occurring in the presence of Eusapia'. With regard to the production of the phenomena, he stated that, 'It is almost impossible to conceive the elaborate apparatus that would be necessary to produce all the effects observed by us'. The researchers noted that in the case of touches in the seances: 'Although the light might be sufficient to see the medium's head and hands clearly, and we might be looking in the direction from which the touch came, whatever it was that produced the touches remained unseen. In the case of faces seen: 'On the occasions when they appeared, they emerged from the side of the curtain, came right across the table... bowed two or three times with deliberation, and then retired'. Additionally, the seances were accompanied by the appearance of different-coloured lights.(15) Of the hands that materialized during Eusapia's seances, Carrington remarked on how: 'Sometimes they would be large, sometimes small. Sometimes they would be white, sometimes black, and sometimes invisible altogether. Yet they were solid and substantial, and had every appearance of being true physiological structures...I myself have held a hand such as this in my grasp, and had it slowly dissolve as I was holding it'.(16)
In addition to the remarkable physical phenomena produced by Eusapia Palladino, her seances could sometimes be rather eventful, to say the least: one example was one held in 1907 in Turin for a number of academics. In this, Eusapia adopted her usual custom of sitting outside the cabinet. In an earlier seance, Dr Foa, one of those present, had seen the profile of John King and had attempted to seize it. Therefore, the events that occurred in the second seance are hardly surprising; furthermore, the sitters decided to use a photographic plate in the session to test for any radiation, to which the next-world visitors apparently took exception. With Eusapia monitored throughout, numerous instances of phenomena occurred, e.g. complete levitations (in full light), that were followed by Dr Arullani wishing to approach the curtain; at this point, the seance table moved towards him, and pushed him away. He then felt hands forcefully pushing him away (Eusapia's own hands were held by the controllers at this time). On his second attempt, he was struck on the head. A bright light then appeared and it was decided that Dr Fo… use the plate for a test, but a hand materialized that attempted to seize it and then struck him. He made a further attempt, resulting in the hand struggling with him and making the plate fall on to the table. Dr Aggazzotti then sought, somewhat unwisely, to conduct the test and held a plate over Eusapia's head and a further struggle ensued. The table then levitated and passed over one of the sitters' head.
Once again, Dr Arullani went towards the table but it blocked his way and went behind the curtain; Dr Fo… followed it and saw it being wrecked inside whereupon it came out of the cabinet and continued to be pulled apart in front of all the sitters. Dr Arullani asked if he could shake hands with the materialized hand and on nearing the curtain was hit by hands and the pieces of wood that were left behind from the now-disintegrated table. When Dr Arullani said that Eusapia's power appeared to be limited to only a few inches' distance, Eusapia requested that he place himself on the seance table. On doing so, he was then struck by one of the pieces of wood and the table began to forcefully move, and he fell off. Admittedly, this was hardly a typical Palladino seance but is a demonstration of what she could produce; clearly, no one ever fell asleep during one of Eusapia's seances.
Naturally, Eusapia fulfilled the purpose of mediumship and Spiritualism, i.e. to provide comfort and reassurance through evidence of survival; one such occasion was that recorded by Dr Venzano in Annals of Psychical Science (September, 1907). With someone controlling Eusapia on each side, and her being visible, Venzano recorded being aware of someone behind him weeping and kissing him; he saw and felt the face, and raps spelt out the visitor's name; this being a relative who had died earlier, and was known to no one present except himself. The relative, who had been part of a family dispute, requested forgiveness for her part in this, giving relevant and personal information about the matter, this being audible to the other sitters. After Venzano accepted her apologies and began to offer his own, he stated that, 'The form then said to me, "Thank you," embraced me, kissed me, and disappeared.'
In 1909, Eusapia travelled to America and received extensive publicity; she was tested by academics and investigators, and possibly because she felt apprehensive as she had been in Cambridge, she resorted to trickery. When she left in 1910, 'she was thoroughly discredited'.(17) Muensterberg, a Harvard psychologist, who had vociferously denounced any such thing as physical phenomena and was involved in Eusapia's downfall, made a report of his findings. It was Krebs, also a sceptic, who later pointed out that the report was unsatisfactory; and after Eusapia died, a number of those who had been associated with the report admitted they had witnessed phenomena that were inexplicable and genuine, and one admitted that he only agreed with the report begrudgingly.
Despite all the problems in America, Carrington supplied details of Eusapia's mediumship there and how, during the different seances, remarkable phenomena were manifested: 'Levitation of the table...raps...the curtains of the cabinet would blow out...the bell would be rung, the tambourine played upon..."touchings" would ensue, and occasionally visible hands and faces would be seen'. Carrington also explained that in the case of when she could not produce any phenomena and resorted to fraud (that he believed was only 'occasional'): 'She felt in duty bound to produce phenomena. Here she felt was a group of sitters who had come to see her: she must not disappoint them; they must see something!'. He considered that by the time of her American visit, her powers had declined and she was not able to produce the phenomena of earlier years.(18) In dealing with the occasions of Eusapia's trickery, he believed that it was a simple matter of the sitters showing their displeasure and on her realizing this, 'she will settle down, pass into trance, and genuine phenomena will be obtained'.(19) When Eusapia was accused of cheating, she did not deny it. Nicol mentions how, 'On one occasion she cried out in her Neapolitan dialect, "Hold me tight or I'll cheat"'.(20) In such instances, it appeared that she was aware that something was about to happen to her that would make this possible or likely. However this strange behaviour is interpreted, it is hardly the behaviour of someone whose sole intent is deceiving those nearby.
It was the sitting by Howard Thurston, a renowned professional magician, that demonstrates an excellent example of Eusapia's behaviour and supports Carrington's view mentioned above. Carrington took Thurston to Eusapia for a seance and as soon as it began, the two men observed Eusapia had lifted the table with her toe. Carrington shook his head and said, 'Not good, Eusapia'. Then: 'She thereupon smiled also, settled down in her chair, went into a light trance, and soon produced a series of perfectly magnificent genuine levitations, which so convinced Thurston that he came out in the papers the next day with a thousand-dollar challenge to any magician who could produce table levitations under the same conditions. The challenge was never accepted'. The reality was: 'The mischievous, impish self of the medium trying to "pull something", just for fun, and when she saw that she could not get away with it with impunity, she then produced the genuine article.(21) Nonetheless, by this time, Eusapia' powers were clearly on the wane. The decline in her powers is illustrated by the fact that when Baggally, who witnessed her mediumship in 1908 and with the others, accepted this as genuine, saw her again in 1910, he found no sign of genuine phenomena; he recorded the 'spurious nature' of what happened and how Eusapia pleaded ill-health to explain the lack of phenomena, but drily concluded, 'She nevertheless accepted her full fee'.(22)
An example of the continuing controversy regarding Eusapia is Wiseman's 'A Reconsideration' of the Feilding Report in 1992, in which he discusses the possibility of Eusapia having an accomplice during the seances that were held in the hotel, by which the phenomena could have been fraudulently produced, mentioning a trap door, a hidden access into the loft, and false door panels.(23) This was answered by Barrington and Fontana; appropriately, Barrington entitled her response as 'Palladino and the Invisible Man Who Never Was'; Fontana rightly notes that Wiseman's case is essentially based on 'the ambiguities and omissions in the Report', and in view of what is suggested, we have to consider that all three investigators 'left their critical faculties (indeed their brains) behind them in Britain when they set off for the hotel in Naples'.(24) In fact, Wiseman actually agrees that the investigators were highly experienced, and refers to Carrington's 'extensive investigations', how Feilding had been referred to as 'one of the most astute critics', and Gauld's note that the sceptical Baggally 'had sat with every notable physical medium since Home and had found them all wanting'. But challenges such as this often arise, resulting in lengthy, speculative, and invariably unproductive discussions. Sceptics will scour through reports of many decades ago for anything that appears to be an omission of detail, sometimes very minor, and from this, construct an imaginative, if not an entertaining, theory. In sum, producing an argument from silence. For example, Wiseman says that it is 'interesting' that Baggally, whose room was next to the seance room, only mentions that he locked his door, but not that he bolted it....
Many readers may, justifiably, have serious difficulty in deciding whether Wiseman is even being serious here. Nonetheless, he is clearly surpassed by Kurtz; one suggestion to explain away the events during the 1908 Naples sittings is by proposing that Carrington might have been in league with Eusapia. Better still, the researchers were taken in by Eusapia who was, after all, 'a woman, voluptuous and erotic to boot'.(25)
In respect of researchers opting for the explanation that fraud 'could' take place in certain episodes, Gratton- Guinness makes the salient observation that, 'if all scientific work were treated this way, then science would disintegrate rather quickly into a collection of scientists rejecting all evidence except their own'.(26) The reality is that a unique set of rules and conditions are applied to psychical research, which are not found elsewhere, and the obvious reason is that the subject represents the ultimate challenge to most spheres of thinking. As Beloff so rightly remarks of attributing fraud to all that Eusapia produced: 'Trickery is, of course, another of those convenient open- ended and slippery concepts that...can be invoked to explain anything whatsoever'.(27)
It is of course those who met and sat with Eusapia whose opinions carry the most weight: Carrington cites the comment of Paola Carrara, the daughter of Prof. Lombroso, that Eusapia, 'has been carried on the wing of universal renown and yet she has never cast off the swaddling clothes of illiteracy...She knows nothing of all the rivers of ink which have been spent upon her'. She continued by adding that Eusapia's face was marked by suffering, caused through the effort that was required to produce physical phenomena. Possibly relevant to her willingness to 'help things along' on occasions, Carrington remarked that after a successful seance, Eusapia became unwell, 'shrunken together, weak, nauseated...her face deeply lined and sallow'.(28) One only has to read a history of Eusapia's mediumship, and the lengthy list of academics who monitored her in so many seances (only some of these being detailed here), to realize the full extent of what she did, in a comparatively short period of time.
In 1918, Eusapia Palladino, the rotund, almost illiterate and coarse peasant from Naples, who delighted, confounded and disappointed so many investigators, died. She was surely the medium who was more investigated than any others during this period, and whose feats will surely continue to provoke controversy and heated debate. But the last word on the matter may be stated by Feilding, a sceptic until his encounter with Eusapia: after commenting on having to abandon his initial scepticism, he declared: 'I have seen hands and heads come forth, that from behind the curtain of an empty cabinet. I have been seized by living fingers...I have seen this extraordinary woman sitting visible outside the curtain, held hand and foot by my colleagues, immobile.'(29)
(1)Cit., E. Feilding, W. W. Baggally, H. Carrington, 'Report on a Series of Sittings With Eusapia Palladino', PSPR, 23 (1909), p.313.
(2)Ct., P. Tabori, Companions of the Unseen (London: Humphrey, 1968), p.145.
(3)J. Beloff, Parapsychology: A Concise History (London: Athlone Press, 1993), p.115.
(4)B. Inglis, Natural and Supernatural (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1977), p.383.
(5)A. Gauld, The Founders of Psychical Research (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968), p.240.
(6)'Report on a Series of Sittings With Eusapia Palladino', p.314.
(7)Beloff, Op. Cit., p.117.
(8)I. Gratton-Guinness, ed., 'Psychical Research versus the Established Sciences', Psychical Research, (Wellingborough: Aquarian, 1982), p.350.
(9)Gauld, Op. Cit., pp.236,238.
(10)Mrs H. Sidgwick, 'Reviews', PSPR, 21 (1909), pp.516,518,519,523-524,525.
(11)H. Carrington, Eusapia Palladino and her Phenomena (London: Werner Laurie, 1909), pp.89-126.
(12)Beloff, Op. Cit., pp.119,120.
(13)R. G. Medhurst and K. M. Goldney, 'William Crookes and the Physical Phenomena of Mediumship', PSPR, 54 (1964), p.34.
(14)'Report on a Series of Sittings With Eusapia Palladino', pp.323-324.
(15)'Report on a Series of Sittings With Eusapia Palladino', pp.336,338, 456-458,460.
(16)H. Carrington, The World of Psychic Science, rev. (Cranbury, NJ: A. S. Barnes, 1973), p.31.
(17)J. Beloff, Op. Cit., (London: Athlone Press, 1993), p.120. (18)H. Carrington, The American Seances with Eusapia Palladino (New York: Garrett, 1954), pp.3,5,8,9.
(19)H. Carrington, The Story of Psychic Science (London: Rider, n.d), p.27.
(20)J. F. Nicol, 'History of Psychical Research: Britain', in Psychical Research, ed. by I. Gratton-Guinness (Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1982), p.27.
(21)H. Carrington, Op. Cit.,, rev. (Cranbury, NJ: A. S. Barnes, 1973), pp.32-33.
(22)Baggally and Others, 'Report on a Further Series of Sittings with Eusapia Palladino at Naples', PSPR, 25 (1911), p.59.
(23)R. Wiseman, 'The Feilding Report: A Reconsideration, JSPR, 58 (1992), pp.129-152.
(24)JSPR, 58 (1992), pp.324-350.
(25)P. Kurtz, 'Spiritualists, Mediums, and Psychics: Some Evidence of Fraud', in A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology, ed. by P. Kurtz (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1985), pp.201,204.
(26)I. Gratton-Guinness, Psychical Research, (Wellingborough: Aquarian, 1982), p.350. (27)J. Beloff, 'What is Your Counter-Explanation? A Plea to Skeptics to Think Again', in A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology, ed. by P. Kurtz (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1985), p.372.
(28)H. Carrington, Op. Cit., (London: Werner Laurie, 1909), pp.21,315.
(29)E. Feilding, W. W. Baggally, H. Carrington, 'Report on a Series of Sittings With Eusapia Palladino', PSPR, 23 (1909), p.462.
The tester, M Aksakop making sure that Eusapia was not moving the table by any bodily contact, he is holding Eusapia's hand and knees.
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