Eusapia Palladino.

Science is asked to conceive complicated apparatus to measure the fluid emitted by Eusapia Palladino:  notably a manometric dispositive with a Marey cylinder, which inscribes on paper the lightest pressure exercised on a little, wooden plank.  To make all fraud impossible, not only is the apparatus placed out of Eusapia’s reach, but the plank is also entirely covered in soot.  So any direct contact would leave a very visible trace…  It could be asked, why so many precautions when simple, direct observation would have been enough?

“It is customary to say that one must resign oneself to being tricked by all mediums and that surprising them in the act must not make us doubt their sincerity at other moments… “

The words which introduce this report are surprising and rather like a warning:  our scholars appear to be saying that, as astounding as the phenomena which we have seen may be, none of us would dare to draw a scientific law from it.

“Although we are all ready to allow our throats to be cut to affirm their reality, none of us would dare assure that this reality will ever be proven one day… “

As prudent as their conclusions are, they are still significant, and will have considerable impact throughout the whole world.  After fifty tightly-written pages in which they expose the draconian psycho-physiological conditions of control and observation that they had put in place around the medium, they come to the description of the phenomena.

At the fourth seance of 1905, the report indicates

“a table weighing seven kilogrammes and carrying a weight of ten kilogrammes is twice completely raised for several seconds.  It is again raised at the sixth seance of the same year while the table’s legs were wrapped”.

This chapter of the report concludes:

“We defy a person of average strength to try to reproduce this phenomenon!”

The scholars actually do try;  Yurievitch and Courtier, both of above-average strength, try to succeed in this exercise by putting themselves in all imaginable positions.  The raising of the table is absolutely impossible when they respect the conditions which had been imposed on Eusapia.

The report in fact underlines that, when the table had started to float “for a fairly long number of seconds”, Eusapia’s feet and knees were being very firmly held  by Messieurs d’Arsonval and Baillet, and that at this moment, absolutely no contact had been exercised on any part whatsoever of the table.  Several other raisings are noted, some of which are up to one metre from the floor…  Even better.  On an order from Eusapia, a side-table starts to advance towards her.  Pulled by an invisible string?  Our scholars think so, and scramble to verify it…  Of course, they find nothing, and to punish them, the medium makes the side-table move away from her, also.

Pierre Curie saw a side-table rise to the level of his shoulders and turn over in the air.

On 6 April 1906, during a particularly impressive seance, the side-table rises as high as Pierre Curie’s shoulders, turns over in the air, and comes to rest, top against top, on the experimental table, in front of Eusapia.

A collective hallucination, perhaps?  Not at all, for all of the little table’s movements are registered on the Marey cylinder…

During these very many seances, diverse prodigies occur – mysterious imprints, apparitions and the unexplained touching of the witnesses, divisions of Eusapia into two, the movement of veils and cords placed above or in front of her, etc.  But the scholars are unable to agree on the quality of the controls which had been exercised, and prefer not to place them among the number of those which they qualify as true and authentic, deplacements and upraisings, intense molecular vibrations (raps, sound vibrations) which she manages to produce at a distance, from diverse objects, and spectacular emissions of sparks which occur around her.

The roll of thunder which this report produces throughout the scholarly world and in public opinion leads the medium to receive a series of other invitations from French metapsychists, and on 10 February 1908, in the presence notably of Monsieur Rene Warcollier, President of the Institut metapsychique, and the engineer Archat, the imprint of a face suddenly appears on a block of putty placed opposite Eusapia.

The English, always more sceptical than others, regret having scorned the Eusapia phenomenon.  A commission composed of the best observers of physical phenomena, Fielding, Baggaly and Carrington, go to Naples and control, according to their report,

“four hundred-and-seventy paranormal phenomena, many of which occurred in full light, while the medium’s hands and her whole body were fully visible”.

On 10 November 1909, Eusapia debarks at New York, preceded by a considerable reputation.  Her arrival in the country of spiritists and blossoming publicity produces enormous enthusiasm, despite the fifty dollars charged at the entrance to the room.  Is it all this noise, or the enormous efforts that Eusapia has to make during these parades, that wear her out, probably prematurely?  Others incriminate menopause and her now world-wide celebrity, which modify her psychism…  Whatever the reason, Eusapia will very rapidly lose her gifts.  She, whose main fear is to fall back into her former milieu, notices with consternation that the prodigies, which she had been accomplishing before with relative facility, are no longer occurring.  She will then start to cheat, openly and with pitful clumsiness.  From 1910, Fielding easily unmasks these poor ruses.

Ill, more and more decried, she hangs on for another few years, without accepting to put away her more and more tattered robe of guardian of the spirits.  So she, more than any other medium much less gifted than herself, will thus contribute to discrediting psychical research.  In the face of her lamentable failures, the few friends who remain to her can only sigh:

“Ah!  If only you could have seen her in the old days… “

***

To be continued.

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