Eusapia Palladino.

Is it possible to know with certainty when Eusapia was cheating and when she wasn’t?

Camille Flammarion liked to remark:

“I am able to say that over the last forty years, almost all of the famous mediums have passed through my salon and I have surprised all of them cheating”.

By taking this remark at face-value, it could be concluded that mediumnity and trickery are synonymous.  This would be a great error.  Eusapia’s answer to the lawyer Mirando who had asked her one day if it was true that all mediums cheated, sheds good light on the question.  She replied:

This photograph was taken at Camille Flammarion's home. Eusapia is hidden by a cushion.

“Yes!…  For when a phenomenon must occur, I feel an interior force which pushes me to produce it!”

This signifies two things:  that true mediums nearly always work in a trance (the interior force) and that they make it a sort of imperious obligation to produce the phenomenon, often not to disappoint the expectations of their entourage.  The trance, or the fatigue which mediums impose upon themselves, often make them execute their exercises unconsciously…  This includes the frauds.

***

Damiani presented Eusapia to the famous scholar Lombroso.  He was a positivist and, in his eyes, she could be only a simulator or an hysteric.  At this epoch, because of the work of the great French doctor Charcot, most paranormal phenomena were explained by hysteria.  But Lombroso was rapidly convinced, and later, he even converted to spiritism.

***

Eusapia once made this imprint of a face appear in a block of putty. It was done at a distance while she was surrounded by observers.

The famous report of the French scholars was re-published in extenso in 1957 in a complete and very rigorous book by Robert Amadou, entitled Les Grands Mediums.

One phenomenon was noted with absolute guarantees of authenticity:  that of the side-table which moved backwards and evolved in space while Eusapia was perfectly bound.  It is this really prodigious phenomenon which no illusionist could ever perform, that set off the research movement, known at the time as “metapsychical”, at the beginning of the XXth Century.  In France, the pioneers of this research were Dr Osty and Pr Warcollier.  The methods of the metapsychological institutes were still very empiric;  it is in America, with Rhine’s work, that scientific parapsychology was truly created.  Research there has been totally disencumbered by spiritist superstition, which has permitted important progress, notably in the domain of telepathy.

In passing from the observation phase of exceptional cases to the experimental phase, parapsychology has begun to acquire a hearing and credibility.

***

This photograph of Eusapia shows a clear resemblance between her face and the imprint above.

There are certainly more spiritist circles than ever throughout the world, but very few great mediums.  There are no satisfactory explanations for this.  Some maintain that most of the great mediums came from countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain.  Others that the appearance of great mediums obeys cyclical laws a bit like years of rain or great wine millesima.  Others again, that parapsychology is now less interested in mediums, thereby condemning them to disappearance.

It is possible that the appearance of great mediums coincides with a state of custom, ideas, and the particular sensitivity of an epoch.  Would it be possible for us to imagine France’s ten greatest scholars of today assembling with the most distinguished philosophers, flanked by our most recent Nobel prize-winners in Medicine, to play at “flying side-tables” with an unknown woman, who had debarked the day before from her native Pouilles?  Probably not, and it is certainly a shame.

***

Advertisements