Poor Angelique Cottin was evidently not an “electric girl”. In the middle of the XIXth Century, electricity still appeared to some as a subtle and mysterious ether, a slightly occult power, a “fairy”. Long considered as a curiosity of physics cabinets, electricity enters the laboratories of the scholars, in 1800, with the leyde bottle and the discovery of the electric battery by Volta. From static, electricity then becomes dynamic. From then on, it suscitates prodigious interest everywhere.
The scholars construct machines which produce work, heat, and soon, light. Arago, one of the inventors of the electro-magnet, will build “turning machines”, the ancestors of dynamos and alternators. The scholars multiply “experimental conferences” on the subject, and they are booked out by all that Europe and America count in scholars and cultured people. By naive people too, and snobs, who then credit electricity with all sorts of mirifical powers.
This is why Faremont and Tanchon, who have read and badly assimilated the studies of the epoch, absolutely want to explain this phenomenon by the powers of electricity.
Numerous scientific observations have since been made on the movements of objects accompanied by strange noises.
It is the classic phenomenon of the poltergeist. The exact definition given by Science to the phenomenon is: “haunting without a ghost”. In fact, these manifestations are also connected to the presence of young adolescents, in the places where they happen.
In the March 1951 number of the Annales de medicine legale et de criminology, Professor Christiaens evokes a similar story whose heroine is called Josiane.
Because of the repetition of noises and the moving of objects in a house, the young girl is sent three hundred kilometres away. Everything immediately returns to normal.
Soon, however, the phenomena begin again in the bedroom that she had previously occupied. This renewal of the manifestations corresponds to an attempt made by the young girl to clandestinely approach her house. Professor William Barret has even described the role of “heart”, or “determining factor” of an adolescent, for a similar phenomenon. There is also the famous case of Matthew Manning. But the one that has been the most rigorously observed occurred in 1968 in Rosenheim, Germany, in the office of a lawyer named Adam. Up until the filing of a complaint against X, all sorts of unlikely phenomena were produced there. Objects changed places, others broke. Engineers from the Max Planck Institute then made a very detailed enquiry, and it was noted that the phenomena ceased completely after the departure of a young female secretary.
Nothing happened when the Academie des Sciences tested Angelique. But the poor girl was very impressed by the laboratory apparatus, and nothing proves that these phenomena can be produced at will. The test was also directed by Babinet, a Member of the Academy who had every reason to contradict Arago, for political motives. At this time, it was the Left who believed in unknown forces, and the Right which supported rationalism. Poor Angelique Cottin’s case therefore rapidly took on a political aspect… and, also, a sordid one, since her godfather wanted to exploit her gifts unscrupulously.
We know about this story from the newspapers of the epoch which were full of it…, because the whole of Paris was also talking about Arago and the “electric girl”. Finally, because the story of Angelique, the gymnote, is mentioned in the reports and controversies of the Academy of Sciences that everyone is able to consult…